Mindfulness and Sexual Identity Therapy

Here is the abstract from a new article I co-authored with Dr. Erica Tan. It is on the use of mindfulness in Sexual Identity Therapy, and it was just published in Psychotherapy.

With the increasing relevance of sexual minority concerns, including the process of navigating sexual and religious identities, clinical practice has focused on helping sexual minorities address methods of self-expressio…n that are most congruent with the client’s values. Sexual Identity Therapy (SIT) (Throckmorton & Yarhouse, 2006) has been developed to assist individuals who are seeking to address potential conflicts between religious and sexual identities by focusing on personal congruence. To facilitate this process, the practice of mindfulness is applied. As an adaptation from its spiritual origins, mindfulness is used to facilitate the treatment of various disorders, such as chronic pain, substance abuse, and depression. It has also been the crux of several different third-wave cognitive and behavioral therapies that consider the “…context and functions of psychological phenomena” (Hayes, 2004, p. 5) for the purpose of helping clients to develop “…broad, flexible and effective repertoires” (p. 6). In this instance, mindfulness is applied to SIT to assist individuals with same-sex attraction to become nonjudgmentally aware of their thoughts and feelings related to same-sex attraction such that they are able to experience their attractions in an open and honest manner without feeling compelled to either dismiss or augment these attractions. Mindful awareness of same-sex attraction facilitates congruence because there is less emphasis on changing behaviors, thoughts or feelings, but rather, changing the relationship the individual has to their experiences of same-sex attraction so that they are experienced as neutral, as opposed to aversive.

3 thoughts on “Mindfulness and Sexual Identity Therapy

  1. The original study of Mark Yarhouse on orientation change report can be interpreted in many ways. The way I look at it, only a minority of highly motivated religious Exodus participants experienced a 1 point change on the Kinsey scale.

    Even this small amount of change is not consistent with most all other studies.

    Considering that –

    Warren Throckmorton, a psychologist and professor at the evangelical Grove City College recently surveyed 239 men in “mixed-orientation marriages,” in which the husband is attracted to other men and the wife is heterosexual. About half the men had been through some conversion therapy.

    Over the course of their marriage, the men’s “attractions to the same sex … increased” and “the attractions to their spouse decreased,” according to Throckmorton.

    Another study by Mark Yarhouse, a researcher at Regent University — which was founded by Pat Robertson — came to the same conclusion.

    It seems likely that the small amount of change does not last over time.

    So the goal of any therapy with people who want are uncomfortable with their same sex attractions and behavior
    need to be explored to help the patient to understand what they are likely to achieve.

    On the religious side and maybe this should be considered by the pastoral counselor, it seems to me that many people in this group have the belief that they may be evil or sick or demonic or outside of G-d’s love or will not go to heaven and so one.

    If these viewpoints are shared by the pastor or therapist, I would expect a harmful result.

    SIT approach is a big improvement to a condemnatory approach in that it gives a more positive support to the celibate choice.

    So although a gay identity affirming approach may not be compatible with what they are looking for, some re-conciliation or integration with their sexual orientation seems to be the best path to a fundamentalist religious/psychological success for everyone.

    But just like the previous attempts to change orientation, those that would choose celibacy for their souls sake does not address the large group of people, those that hold more worldly views, or see their predicament as cruel, who would not likely succeed.

    For these people it may be better to change their theology away from historical Biblical views that gay sex is always sinful to a revisionist or reformed view that G-d will still find a good place for them in this and the next life as people that love someone of the same sex.

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