In this brief historical analysis, I compare and contrast two different American Psychological Association task forces, both of which were charged with reviewing the scientific literature regarding different but equally controversial clinical practices. Convened just over a decade apart, the first of these investigations involved recovered (repressed) memory therapy (RMT), and the subsequent review examined sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). I observe that the SOCE task force, unlike the RMT working group, was devoid of ideological diversity and strongly dissuaded clinicians from engaging in the practice under review, in spite of indications that far greater and more certain harms were occurring through RMT than through SOCE. These differences may be another symptom of organized psychology’s increasing lack of sociopolitical diversity, with accompanying risks for conservative clinicians and the public perception of psychology’s credibility when addressing contested social issues. I close with a brief discussion of this concern and note some recommendations that can begin to address it.
NARTH: On Track for the Future
This recently published comprehensive review article is worth reading for anyone with an interest in being up-to-date on the science and legal status of sexual orientation change. In this review of the work by Diamond and Rosky (2016), I attempt to outline and summarize the evidence they cite to support their belief that assertions of sexual orientation immutability are unscientific, legally unnecessary, and unjust. I then provide some observations about the authors’ perspective, with particular attention to their treatment of professional sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), the plausibility of which the authors summarily dismiss despite their affirmation of sexual orientation fluidity in most every context except psychotherapy. I also highlight the implicit and explicit acknowledgements by the authors of how the science of sexual orientation has been compromised when it is perceived to be at odds with advocacy goals. Finally, I provide educated speculation about the impact of the authors’ worldview on their treatment of the immutability question. The perceived ongoing political utility of immutability claims among gay activists likely ensures that such assertions will die a very quiet death within professional psychology, Diamond and Rosky’s admirable work notwithstanding.
Countering a One-Sided Representation of Science: NARTH Provides the “Rest of the Story” for Legal Efforts to Challenge Antisexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) Legislation
NARTH compiled science-based information in this document in response to the proposal, passage, and subsequent adjudication of legislation in California (SB 1171)
in 2012 and in New Jersey (AB 3371) in 2013 to prohibit the provision of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) to minors by licensed therapists. The information in this document is intended for use in various formats to counter the sometimes faulty and often incomplete presentation of science used to defend such anti-SOCE legislation. The information is presented in four sections under the following themes: I. The objectivity of the Report of the APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation (hereafter referred to as the Report) is demonstrably suspect; therefore, the Report’s representation of the relevant literature concerning the efficacy of and harm from SOCE is neither complete nor definitive. II. Nonheterosexual identities, attractions, and behaviors are subject to change for many people, particularly youth. III. There is no scientific basis for blaming SOCE for the harmful stigma and discrimination reportedly experienced by persons with a nonheterosexual sexual orientation. IV. Spitzer’s reassessment of his interpretation of the results of his 2003 study on SOCE does not invalidate the results he reported. Licensed mental health professionals (LMHP) who practice some form of SOCE care deeply about the well-being of sexual minority youth and see SOCE as a valid option for professional care, an option that deserves to be protected by state legislatures. LMHPs who do offer SOCE support the right of all clients to self-determination.