Sexual Identity Therapy

The Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS) National Conference came to a close this afternoon. I conducted a 3-hour post-conference workshop on Sexual Identity Therapy. We discussed ethical issues for Christian mental health professionals, as well as research and theory on sexual identity development and synthesis. The emphasis on research/theory on sexual identity was foundational for a discussion of a client-centered, identity-focused approach to clinical practice with Christians who are navigating sexual identity questions or confusion. We also discussed clinical challenges associated with mixed orientation couples and families in which an adolescent is experiencing same-sex attraction.

We had a good turnout for the session. It was especially interesting to discuss the topic with a theologian who attended. My experience has been that many theologians seem to resonate with the concepts I cover on sexual identity. I make a three-tier distinction between same-sex attraction, a homosexual orientation, and a gay identity. They tend to recognize the importance of identity in discussions of homosexuality. What is odd is that the broader church seems to focus almost exclusively on sexual orientation and change/healing rather than identity (whether to integrate same-sex attractions into a gay identity or not). In any case, it was a good discussion of the practical applications of these concepts in clinical practice.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Mark,

    I’m the theologian that you mention here. Thanks again for a very helpful workshop and discussion. My experience with seminary students is that it is also difficult for them (future pastors, church leaders) to also get their minds around the three-tier concept. That may simply reflect the current level of discourse regarding homosexuality. Keep up your very fine work. I hope to continue our dialogues in the future. Please email me if I can be of any help.

    Phil Jamieson

  2. Hi Phil. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciated speaking with you briefly at CAPS. It’s interesting your experience with seminary students; perhaps with younger students there is the increased exposure to the cultural message and related assumptions that collapses the three-tier distinction into one thing. I’ll have to give that some thought.

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