Reflections on the APA Session

The APA presentation on the Exodus study went well. The session itself was respectful and professional. I would say about 40-45 people were there, which was in some ways remarkable given the early hour (8am start time [!] on the last day of the conference). It was a 2 hour symposium. There were a number of folks from both “sides” of the issue (although it may not be helpful to frame the topic in terms of “sides” – I would like to think that what we all hold in common is a desire to provide the best options for those requesting help – too often, however, we seem to be talking past one another).

The chair of the symposium, Dr. Dean Byrd, opened the session with an overview statement and then introduced each of the presenters and the discussant. My co-author (Dr. Stanton Jones) and I presented our paper, which was 6 to 7 year follow-up data on attempted change of sexual orientation through involvement in Exodus affiliated ministries. Then Dr. Nicholas Cummings, past president of APA, presented his paper. (He was actually ill and asked a colleague to give his paper for him.) The Cummings paper covered a lot of ground, including concerns about APA governance, political correctness, and other topics, some of which are covered in his edited book Psychology’s War on Religion. So those were the two actual papers in the symposium. The discussant was Dr. Frank Farley, who is also a past president of APA. He reiterated some of the concerns raised by Dr. Cummings, although he was more restrained. Dr. Farley also raised concerns he had about the misuse of the ethics code within the APA, which was interesting. He also offered his thoughts on our study. He seemed to appreciate the challenges in conducting such a study (politically or ideologically), but he offered some suggestions that might be quite difficult to do in a similar project. Dr. Byrd then distributed packets with the two papers included.

We then took questions from the audience. Dr. Jones was able to respond to one question on how the recent APA Task Force report dealt with our previous report on attempted change. I thought he offered important counterpoints to that specific review. Other questions dealt with a range of topics, such as methodological considerations (e.g., what about the use of a control group), but each of these exchanges was appropriate and professional. It was a good session from that standpoint.

I think everyone will need time to digest both the APA Task Force report and findings from this study, as well as other relevant resources. It is important to think about what is appropriate to make available to those interested in either professional or paraprofessional or ministry services, as well as how to communicate what can be expected from what is available. It is also important to reflect on how all of what is offered is understood within a broader framework of professional care based on an ever-changing understanding of what we know (and what we do not know) from the current research.

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