Recent MercatorNet Article by Melinda Selmys

Melinda Selmys is the author of Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism. It is a particularly thoughtful reflection on the complexities surrounding sexual and religious identity conflicts. She recently wrote an article on the Mercator website that deals with the CA ban on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) for minors.

What I appreciate about the article is that it attempts to lay out the issues in terms of difficulties. The first difficulty is what change means, followed by misrepresentations of the likelihood of success by some proponents of SOCE. In particular, I appreciated this line: “Clients must, however, have the right to receive accurate information about treatment in order to form realistic expectations and goals.”

In the mental health field, we refer to this as informed consent. It is essentially what the average person needs to know to make an informed, self-consciously chosen decision about participating in an approach to therapy. In my previous writing (tracing back to 1998), I argued that those who provide SOCE obtain advanced or expanded informed consent given the complexities and controversies surrounding change efforts.

In my own clinical practice, I do not provide SOCE; rather, I address sexual identity in a model of therapy referred to as Sexual Identity Therapy (SIT). This is an approach to therapy that is client-centered and identify-focused. It was noted in the 2009 APA Task Force Report on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation as a “third way” approach to addressing sexual identity among those who are religious and experience a conflict between their sexual and religious identities.

In the Sexual Identity Therapy Framework (SITF), we also advocate advanced informed consent to SIT, even though this model is about identity formation and personal congruence (not change of sexual orientation).

Selmys address another issue that I think is important: services to minors. Here is what she shares:

Even if young people are theoretically seeking treatment under their own power, many feel intense pressure to overcome homosexual desires in order to please their parents, and some fear punishment or recrimination if they fail. Unscrupulous therapists often market their services primarily to parents and guardians, preying on the hopes and fears of those who have the ability to place adolescents in treatment.

As I’ve shared in previous posts, I do not see that many minors seeking reorientation therapy. Perhaps they do not come to my office because that is not the therapy I provide; but I think it is more likely the case that most minors who present for therapy do so because of the distress their parents feel (as opposed to personal distress). There have been exceptions, but that is generally what I have seen.

That does not mean I am in support of the CA ban. In fact, I am against it for several reasons I’ve outlined here and here.

But interested readers will find in the article by Melinda Selmys a thoughtful reflection on the issues that are raised by those who provide SOCE. Her own story of being in a mixed orientation marriage adds another dimension to her reflections that I hope are elaborated upon in future articles, as the study of people in mixed orientation marriages has been an interest of mine.


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.

Defining Exodus: A Letter from Alan Chambers

Update: Here is an interview with Alan Chambers that appeared in The Atlantic.

Here is a letter from Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International. It is his attempt to define Exodus as a ministry in light of the public relations challenges they face as an organization in light of a rapidly-changing cultural context around LGB issues. Let me encourage you to read the letter in its entirety, but here are a few nuggets that stood out to me:

Exodus International is repeatedly accused of seeking to make gay people straight through conversion therapy and prayer. As the media and culture rage around us, drawing battle lines in the sand and seeking to fuel the debate about homosexuality, my team and I have been working diligently to clearly state the calling of this great ministry and focus solely on that work. We want to reiterate that our mission is, first and foremost, to serve, support and equip the Church in providing refuge to individuals or families impacted by same-sex attractions (SSA).  Quite simply, our goal is to make the Church famous for loving and serving people as Jesus would and pointing them to Him.

People seeking this encouragement and guidance do so because they have decided to pursue an identity or life based on their relationship with Christ over their same-sex attractions.

We believe that in Christ we have been given completely new hearts and the ability to have power over the sin that remains confined to our earthly flesh.  While believers absolutely can fall to temptation, the mark of a maturing believer is finding increased victory in areas that have, at times, overwhelmed us. …

We respect everyone’s right to pursue their own course as it relates to seeking resolution for struggles. No one is ever coerced, forced into therapy, nor do we seek to ‘pray away the gay’ as many have suggested.  In fact we are no longer an organization that associates with or promotes therapeutic practices that focus on changing one’s attraction.  I found the greatest amount of freedom when I stopped focusing on my sin and struggles and started focusing on the grace and peace found only in Christ and the man He created me to be.  This life isn’t most about sin management but about living daily as the sons and daughters of God.  In part, it is the peace and rest found in that identity alone that transforms us daily.

Exodus does not believe SSA is sinful.  However, sexual expression resulting from SSA is. Making such clear distinctions has been a failure of the Church that is slowly being realized and changed. …

We must all recognize that behavior resulting from SSA is not easily overcome. Many may struggle for the rest of their lives with some form of temptation or unwanted feelings. That is the nature of human experience on earth. However, we do believe God’s grace can give us the ability to live beyond the power of our temptations as we acknowledge and yield our weakness to Him.  Change is possible for every human being who has a destiny-altering encounter with Jesus Christ.  But, change isn’t the absence of struggle but rather the freedom in the midst of struggle to choose differently.