APA Task Force Report – Chapter 4 (Outcomes)

460The next chapter (Chapter 4) dealt with the outcomes from the studies that met the criteria for review set forth by the Task Force. They believed that the change efforts had several goals, and this chapter is organized around a discussion of the findings in each of the following areas:

  • Decreased interest in, sexual attraction to, and sexual behavior with same-sex sexual partners
  • Increased interest in, sexual attraction to, and sexual behavior with other-sex sexual partners
  • Increased healthy relationships and marriages with other-sex partners
  • Improved quality of life and mental health (p. 35)

The Task Force addressed much of the existing data on SOCE and organized the review in a way that I think is accessible to the reader. I thought that the critique of the Exodus study (or Ex-Gays? study by myself and Stan Jones) in a later footnote was particularly unusual, reflecting disproportionate methodological criticisms that may reflect to the reader a bias. The approach to this study was apparently due to a number of considerations, e.g., that the report did not appear in a peer-reviewed journal. However, the task force cited other studies that were presented in book format throughout their report (e.g., Kinsey studies, Laumann et al. study, which had spin off reports while the core of the material was presented in book format) and did not exclude them from consideration as valuable for informing the report. Also, the way the footnote was written appeared to throw the book at the study without really explaining the criticisms (as I mentioned in my previous post – without acknowledging ways in which it was an improvement in design to previous studies). This was particularly surprising given the attempt throughout much of the rest of the report to be evenhanded in responding to the literature in this controversial area.

I think that worldview commitments and assumptions impact how all of us reach and frame conclusions on this literature. The report used words like “limits claims for the efficacy and safety” (p. 42), which I think is accurate; but it also uses words like “very small minority” regarding “enduring change” and “rare” to describe “decreased same-sex sexual behavior and increased attraction to and engagement in sexual behavior with the other sex…” (p. 43). Again, regarding the older studies, they were conducted in ways that are comparable to how other studies were conducted at that time, and so we would not expect them to meet present-day standards for evaluation. The lack of methodological rigor does not disprove success but would rather suggest the need for better studies for those who are interested in continuing to offer such interventions.

The report concludes that “non-aversive and recent approaches to SOCE have not been rigorously evaluated” (p. 43). Again, I agree with this, but I think some studies (e.g., Jones & Yarhouse, 2007) have challenged the claim sexual orientation is immutable as modest gains through involvement in religious ministries (clinical meaningful and statistically significant changes to attractions, behavior, and identity over time, as noted above) were documented over time.

1 Comment

  1. I interpreteted this section as a systematic downplaying of any results indicating positive outcomes related to shifts in sexual orientation. If change occurs in the “wild”, as is suspected, that might indicate that there is all sorts of negative affect associated with sexual fluidity.

    Less change reported in true experimental design would be expected if there were increased controls for social desirability. There are serious problems with demand characteristics in the groups under scrutiny. If you think of narcisissm and impression management as a possible source of problems in the therapeutic alliance, just imagine what it does to uncontrolled responding in surveys. This is one situation where the structured interview fails. Increasing controls and boosting a feeling of anonymity in participants would reduce some of the differences observed in the non-experimental designs.

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