The Julea Ward Case Settled Out of Court

Julea_Ward-dismissed-from-East-Michigan-UniversityWard v. EMU has been settled out of court according to various new reports here and here. You will recall that this was a case in which Julea Ward was dismissed from her counseling program for not participating in a remediation program after making a referral of a gay client who requested counseling for relationship issues. That referral was made in consultation with her supervisor, but her program had insisted she go through remediation.

The settlement has EMU paying Julea Ward $75,000.

In my previous writing on the topic, I discussed my talk on value conflicts in counseling, so I will not reiterate all of what I wrote, but let me say this: I agree with Warren Throckmorton here that this case should not primarily be framed as a gay rights issue so much as a question about how value conflicts are handled in therapy. Value conflicts extend far beyond any one topic, as important as that topic may be. I believe the case is also an important lesson in professional mentoring of students who are training to function as licensed mental health professionals, who are essentially preparing to enter into fiduciary space, providing services to the public under a board of counseling.

There were many missed opportunities in this situation. Opportunities that have nothing to do with the culture wars but rather with how we identify superordinate goals and work together to provide the public broadly (and specific clients narrowly) with the best clinical services.

On Sexual Identity Therapy

Warren Throckmorton has a post up clarifying the differences between reparative therapy and Sexual Identity Therapy. He notes a difference recently in how some reparative therapists are presenting themselves in various venues. Those presentations are coming across differently than how the theory itself is discussed in professional meetings and in published writings.

My own experience with Sexual Identity Therapy (SIT) grew out of working with clients who had been through reparative therapy or a ministry with a focus on healing. What I was seeing was that the folks had not experienced as much change or healing as they would have liked. The question was: What else do mental health professionals have to offer them?

SIT is not for everyone. I’ve known of folks who have sought services elsewhere because SIT was not focused on change of orientation, and that is precisely what they wanted. Similarly, I suppose a person could want explicitly gay affirmative therapy, and SIT might be too exploratory to make much sense to them.

But for those who are exploring their sexual identity, or for those who experience a conflict between their personal beliefs and values and their experience of same-sex sexuality, SIT might be an attractive alternative, as it provides a place for the person to “navigate difficult terrain”, as I often put it. It is client-centered and identity-focused, lending itself more to a discussion of multicultural competence for working with these concerns, as emphasis is placed on healthy coping activities and broadening social support.

Ban on SOCE Blocked in One Ruling; Not in Another

A federal judge (Judge William B. Shubb) has blocked a ban in California that  made it illegal for licensed mental health professionals to provide sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) to minors. Here is the link. The ruling apparently only covers the three plaintiffs and not other mental health professionals. According to the LA Times, the judge noted that the ban was “based on questionable and scientifically incomplete studies that may not have included minors.” Here is the decision itself.

That was yesterday. Today, a different judge (Judge Kimberly Mueller) handed down a decidedly different decision (not to postpone the law) on a separate case brought by different plaintiffs – that story is here.

As I mentioned in previous posts available here and here, there are several problems with the ban, including the scientific evidence on this kind of therapy on teens, as noted in the first ruling mentioned above. As important as that may be, there are issues with venue, precedent, and scope in the language of the ban itself. In any case, it is interesting that the scientific evidence was apparently not a point of focus in the other ruling, and I am sure many stakeholders will be keeping an eye on the developments in this area.