The questions raised by the clinical practices at Bachman & Associates in Minnesota have led to some interesting questions about whether sexual orientation can change. I was interviewed today on CBN news on that topic, which you can see here. Before that interview, they show a segment on my prior research, published originally in book form, which started with 98 participants attempting to change their sexual orientation through involvement in Exodus International, a Christian ministry. What we reported at Time 3 is probably the more helpful information in the sense that we had a larger number of peope still in the study. We reported that 15% indicated in their transcipts change of orientation (though some still reported some same-sex attraction), while 23% reported a sufficient reduction in same-sex attraction such that chastity was more achievable. Another 29% were continuing in the process but were not reporting sufficient reductions in same-sex attraction to classify as successful in their change attempt thus far. Fifteen percent reported non-response, while 4% ‘failed’ and were confused but had discontinued change attempts, and 8% ‘failed’ and adopted a gay identity. (We used ‘failed’ from the perspective of the original goal to change sexual orientation.) The percentages around ‘success’ and ‘failure’ increased at Time 6, which is what is reported on in the CBN news piece, but the numbers were also smaller at Time 6, so I just offer this as clarification.
You will note from the CBN news interview that the question is raised whether reorientation therapy is mainstream. I indicated that it is not but that there is some question as to how many people provide such therapy, and there is little research being conducted today by those who provide reorientation therapy. I thought later that what people want are fewer soundbites and hyperbole and more by way of realistic expectations for their experience in therapy (or in a Christian ministry). These are real people who often experience great conflict between their religious and sexual identities.
I also discussed what reparative therapy is. It is essentially a subtype of reorientation therapy that is based on the premise that faulty parent-child relationships cause homosexuality by creating an emotional need that later becomes sexualized. If you are familiar with my work, you know that I do not practice reorientation therapy; rather, I focus on sexual identity and how it develops and synthesizes over time. This is actually the primary area of research I am involved in through the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity. I think a focus on sexual identity is ultimately more client-centered and holistic. So toward the end of the interview I shared that sexual identity can be explored and discussed in therapy without practicing reorientation therapy. One expression of this type of therapy is Sexual Identity Therapy(SIT), which has as its focus helping a person achieve congruence so that the person’s behavior and identity is congruent with his or her beliefs and values. SIT is cited favorably in the 2009 APA task force report on appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation.