APA Task Force Report, Chapter 2 – A Brief History

460Chapter 2 of the APA Task Force report is titled “A Brief History of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts.” The authors provide a sense of the sociocultural and  historical context in which change approaches were offered (in light of how homosexuality was viewed in the broader culture and by the mental health professions). The highlight some important studies and related efforts that eventually led to the removal of homosexuality from the official diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association. They discuss the subsequent decline in research and interest in change of sexual orientation within the professions, as well as the increased scrutiny of those who continued to provide such services.

The report then notes that those who continue to seek out such change efforts are religious. They acknowledge the impact of religion-based ministries. They correctly acknowledge that the exchanges between both “sides” of this issue have often been heated and polarized. They offer that the way to move forward is with an accurate understanding of the potential benefits and harm of attempting change of orientation.

Overall, I found this chapter to be fairly accurate as a brief synopsis. I might only add that the emergence of religion-based ministries (as paraprofessional ministries) has been viewed by some as a response to what felt like a lack of resources and support within the secular mental health professions for those who wanted assistance in this area.

3 thoughts on “APA Task Force Report, Chapter 2 – A Brief History

  1. Throckmorton (1998) observes in response to a similar statement on sexual orientation released by the APA in 1997, “One impact of this openness to diverse sexual identities is the emergence of opposition to any form of counseling to modify or to attempt to change the sexual orientation of a client from homosexual to heterosexual.”

    When talking about Evelyn Hooker we are really talking about the validity of the Rorschach test. While I don’t cite Wiki’s in papers, it’s so darn convenient to do on the internet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rorschach_test#Validity

    Lippa (2005) explores some of the ways in which homosexual men and women differ from their heterosexual counterparts. There is some evidence of gender inversion in that data. It is overlooked in this report. I think there is need for more data on individual differences between heterosexually and homosexually identified individuals. Personality theory has changed so much in even the last 50 years that a lot of information gathered in the 60’s is somewhat stale.

    The phrase, “These changes within the mental health fields are reflected in the larger society” (APA 2009), should really say that changes in larger society are reflected in the mental fields.


    Lippa, R. (2005, December). Sexual Orientation and Personality. Annual Review of Sex Research, 16, 119-153. Retrieved August 28, 2009, from Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection database.

    Throckmorton, W. (1998). Efforts to Modify Sexual Orientation: A Review of Outcome Literature and Ethical Issues. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 20(4), 283. Retrieved August 28, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

  2. Interesting observation, James, about the relationship between society or sociocultural contexts and mental health considerations.

    As for Warren’s previous article, do you see the recent APA report as reflecting an openness to alternative approaches or closing the door on those options? Warren (at that time) seemed to be arguing for change of orientation approaches; I think today he would be more interested in sexual identity changes/labeling and congruence.

    • I don’t know yet… There is a real answer to be had to that question. As I understand the report right now (which is an incomplete understanding because there are references that I have not been able to track down in print and read myself yet), the report tries to close the door on reparative approaches and reads the litany of liberal arguments. The phrase describing interventions to same-sex behaviors where it says, shock, rubber bands, aversion, ect ect. I have yet to find those studies!! I have yet to read anything like that! Where is that coming from!?

      It reads like the shared argument against any therapeutic intervention which does not affirm same-sex sexual behavior! So predicatable!

      a.) homosexuality was removed from a book (APA & DSM in 1973)
      b.) a bunch of people agreed that it was removed from a book (lists a bunch of professional organizations
      c.) therefore, the world has changed, and now blue is green *wand wave*
      d.) competing arguments or dissention should see step a.

      I have to confess, I’m pretty wound up in the course of chasing real facts in the middle of all this. If you like to see a door opening because of this report, don’t let me spoil that for you. I’m more concerned about the interpretation of this report by people that have never fully engaged the foundational questions surrounding this debate. Is change possible? Does it happen in therapy? Does it happen out of therapy? Is it harmful to client for therapists to talk about sexual orientation with them?…….

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