The Battle Against the A.P.A. Resolution

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  1. 007
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    007 Charter Member Supporting Member

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    The Battle Against the A.P.A. Resolution


    INTERVIEW:
    E. MARK STERN, Ed.D.
    Mark Stern is a Diplomate in Clinical Psychology, Professor Emeritus of the Graduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Iona College (New York), and a member of NARTH's Scientific Advisory Committee.

    He is editor of the journal The Psychotherapy Patient, and co-author of the books Psycho-Theology, Holiness and Mental Health, and On the Other Side of the Couch.

    Dr. Stern is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society. He is presently in his second term as Council Representative, Division of Humanistic Psychology of the American Psychological Association.

    Last summer, gay activists within the Association had sought to have reparative-type therapies labeled "unethical." They did not succeed, but a modified version of their resolution was passed, stating that the A.P.A. opposes all portrayals of gay, lesbian and bisexual people as mentally ill, and cautioning that "appropriate informed consent" should be obtained by therapists when working with homosexuals. Signi-ficantly, the A.P.A. did admit that there was no body of evidence to prove that reorientation therapies are harmful.

    Mark Stern was pivotol in assuring that the original, more restrictive resolution did not pass. He is interviewed here by Joseph Nicolosi.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    JN: It's a small world--I very much enjoyed your book, Psycho-theology. By coincidence, it was the book I took along many years ago when I was on a trip to Europe.

    To begin, let me ask: You were a key player during the American Psychological Association's vote last August on the Resolution on Sexual Orientation. Should reorientation therapy be available to all clients?

    MS: It should be a client's right, totally and completely, to choose a therapy which is consistent with his goals and values. Psychotherapy which limits a client's right to decide where and how he is suffering, and how he wants to grow out of that suffering, is untenable for both parties--the therapist and the patient.

    JN: And what would have been the effect of the original version of the resolution?

    MS: The original resolution would have censured any psychologist who practices sexual-reorientation therapy. However, the version which passed allows for the full range of ethical and appropriate therapeutic approaches. I see this as a victory for those of us who do not see homosexuality as "just another lifestyle."

    We live in an "anything goes" society in which the growing demands of individualism are destroying the traditional family. Lifelong intimacy remains the last and most forbidding taboo. We are in danger of relegating human reproduction to technology, and childrearing to any bidder. Why now, then, this attempt by organized psychology and psychiatry to nullify a person's potentialities for heterosexuality? This is indefensible.

    JN: There is so much talk on the other side of the debate how much harm treatment does--it increases social homophobia, makes clients hate themselves, and leaves them depressed, because they are trying to alter something fundamental about themselves...What about these claims?

    MS: They miss the heart of the entire project of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is a search--both to discover oneself, and to construct oneself, insofar as these constructions lend value and purpose to one's existence. And heterosexual identity is a very dynamic construct--even in the face of so many attacks today on the masculine and feminine archetypes.

    JN: How is it possible that the Council of Representatives came so close to voting that the treatment of homosexuality should be considered unethical?

    MS: It came close because the Council of Representatives is very "politically correct." The idea was, they were going to pass a resolution which would prevent discrimination against homosexuality. What it turned into, however, was more than that--a resolution to label any effort to help individuals attain their heterosexual potential as grounds for malpractice. Fortunately, we were able to raise enough of a rumpus that the original resolution was not passed.

    JN: But that was managed in the eleventh hour. And I would give you a lot of credit for taking the leadership in countering that resolution.

    MS: Well, I think you could say I was the one who spotted the resolution, and took action right at the point where it was going to be rubber-stamped.

    The resolution that did pass, talks about what constitutes ethical practice--particularly the importance of informed consent. I've always told people right off that I can't guarantee any results, and that nobody can. As far as I'm concerned, that's the most important aspect of informed consent...I'm saying in essence, "Please don't expect there will be miracles coming out of this process, because what comes out of it, is what's put into it."

    JN: Of course. But isn't that something that should be said for any form of psychotherapy?

    MS: That's right. And I think that's what the resolution does: I think it just reiterates the general ethics of psychotherapy.

    JN: Exactly; so NARTH was not particularly concerned about the practical implications of the resolution that passed, because it just re-stated what we acknowledge about good practice anyway. But what frightened so many NARTH members is that the resolution came so close to passing in its original, really damaging form--which could have actually prohibited reorientation therapy.

    MS: Exactly.

    JN: Besides yourself, were there other individuals who fought to keep the right of treatment?

    MS: Yes. I would particularly mention Dr. Bertram Karon, who is a representative from the Division of Psychoanalysis. There were others; I don't know everybody on Council. It was a very quick vote, and after it was taken, hands went back down.

    JN: There's no record of how the representatives voted?

    MS: There's no record of that. Actual roll calls, by name, are rarely taken. They're only taken when the votes are so close that the Chair can decide.

    JN: What is the future of this issue in the American Psychological Association? Do you think it's been resolved? Or will it surface again?

    MS: I don't think it's going to surface again. I think that was it. The American Psychological Association is now involved in outcome research--looking for ways that therapeutic effectiveness can be demonstrated. In fact, I think it's gone wild with outcome research. Any type of therapy is considered fair game---whether it's biofeedback or psychoanalysis--assessing whatever works, for whatever it is supposed to be working for.

    JN: You've said you don't believe homosexuality is "just another lifestyle." Do you believe a striving toward heterosexuality is inherent in all of us?

    MS: It has been my observation that individuals have distinct urgencies to become generative. To be generative is to reach out to the future, whether it be with one's emerging capacities, or with the gift of one's children. Through generativity, a man moves beyond the mental deformation of self-absorption, in which he is his own infant and pet. The homosexual often fears otherness, and in this fear, may beckon to an idealized image of himself--"Be me, and I'll be you." The world becomes an eternal playground, and growth is stymied.

    JN: And so you see homosexuality as representing a form of developmental immaturity...

    MS: Not having grown up...in certain ways, of course. In other ways, homosexual individuals have achieved great things in the world. But as far as any hope of reaching into the future--there is a stopping: something that says, "No, do not proceed."

    Homosexuality has to do with the inability to use the entire repertoire of one's being. If a person takes on a gay identity--seeing homosexuality as "who he really is"--then he is not able to play his full hand in life. And there will be a price paid--the relinquishment of the passion to procreate. So it is sadly deterministic for a mental-health professional to say there can be no change.


    JN: Because psychotherapy can help open up a person's fuller potential...

    MS: Psychotherapy can be a superb initiation experience into an understanding of the origins of one's homosexual and heterosexual feelings. It can extend a hand to those whose goals may have changed from wanting to be a "happier homosexual" to even more--wanting to affirm emerging heterosexual impulses.

    JN: And as psychotherapists, we have seen that change is possible.

    MS: Yes. In my 40+ years of psychological practice, a significant number of people who once labeled themselves as homosexuals, have moved on into committed marriages with the opposite sex. I freely discuss with my patients what change can mean. Does it mean that homosexual fantasies and temptations have been totally eradicated? In some cases, yes; in others, no. But within the patient there is now a dialogue between desire and meaning--an understanding of what those desires actually signify.

    JN: Exactly.

    What comments do you have about NARTH's direction?

    MS: I'm concerned about what appears to me as NARTH's psychoanalytic bias. Bridges need to built to humanistic and cognitive schools of thought. Some of us approach homosexuality more from the perspective that a repertoire should be extended--that people should have greater choice about their life direction.

    Most important of all, I think NARTH should provide an open platform of debate on human sexuality. To me, NARTH gives too much attention to reporting and reacting against the gay lobby. These people are struggling with their own fragilities, disappointments and hurts. Let's let them know that the therapy we offer respects their humanity. As William Penn said about laying the groundwork for peaceful strategies, "Endeavor to gain, rather than to expose, thy antagonist." We need discussion and debate from the point of view of working at extending potential.

    JN: You're saying, then, rather than countering the gay-advocacy position, we need to discuss more amongst ourselves how we can help the individual move on to heterosexuality.

    MS: Exactly.

    JN: Along that line, we recently submitted the results of our survey on change to a professional journal. In that survey, over 850 individuals claim to have experienced some degree of change, and over 200 psychotherapists claim to have been facilitators.

    MS: I have no doubt that people can become heterosexual, can function intimately with women on every level-- personal, sexual. I'm not really satisfied that somebody can become a Don Juan; but such an outcome would not be as important as the fact that there has been a real, substantial, qualitative change.

    JN: That's right.

    MS: And we have, I think, to really look at individual practitioners. We have to look at qualitative research--the record of what they've done. I don't think we will find all psychotherapists as making the same kind of contribution. I think there are very inexperienced therapists who say to their homosexual clients, "Well, behave; just stop doing it." There are many poor forms of therapy.

    JN: And that's exactly the kind of therapy that gay activists are opposed to, but that doesn't represent the therapy most of us do. We're not saying simply, "Stop your homosexual behavior and get a life!" We aim to help clients develop quality, loving, sexual fulfillment in their lives.

    MS: Yes. And most of all, to help them move beyond the construct of a very limited self. Humanistic-existential therapy, as Alan Wheelis said in How People Change, "begins with a vision of freedom, with an 'I want to become.'" And that vision is no less valid for patient who is homosexual.

    http://www.narth.com/docs/battleapa.html
     
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  2. musicman
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    musicman Senior Member

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    Hell of a find, PR. The entire article is great, but I think the following is one of the most profound truths I have ever read:

    "MS: It has been my observation that individuals have distinct urgencies to become generative. To be generative is to reach out to the future, whether it be with one's emerging capacities, or with the gift of one's children. Through generativity, a man moves beyond the mental deformation of self-absorption, in which he is his own infant and pet. The homosexual often fears otherness, and in this fear, may beckon to an idealized image of himself--"Be me, and I'll be you." The world becomes an eternal playground, and growth is stymied."

    It sums up not only homosexuality, but America's entire cultural meltdown. We are driven to have sex, but sex has consequences. We deal with these consequences by growing up, and accepting that something exists beyond our momentary desires. The enemies of our civilization have tried to sell us the idea of sex without consequences (you needn't grow or mature - just abort that baby and get on with that all-important center of the universe: YOU, YOUR life, and YOUR desires. Or, better yet, just screw your own gender and avoid any inconvenience whatever). But it's a lie. 40 million murdered babies and the AIDS epidemic stand as clear, unforgiving testimony.
     
  3. Kagom
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    Kagom Senior Member

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    Reparative therapies often are unethical. Not because of the motivation behind, but because of the methods used. I've met a few people who were in these reparative therapies and they are seriously more unhappy because of them.
     
  4. Nienna
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    Nienna Senior Member

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    Joseph Nicolosi rules!
     
  5. dmp
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    dmp Senior Member

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    Happiness..heh..

    People hate being confronted with 'truth' - Truth has been known to make people 'unhappy' if it convicts them of their behaviour. Nobody likes to be told "Ya know what? You are WRONG for doing that - here's how you can get help."
     
  6. Kagom
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    Kagom Senior Member

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    That's your interpretation. The people I know were unhappy because they were abused, mistreated, and above all: lied to.

    Your truth is subjective in the end without proof as is mine. We cling to what we want to be truth, though, and try to make people conform to our ideals because it just seems easier that way.

    I believe that your "truth" is nothing more than a rouse to make people believe that being themselves is wrong (and no crap about being yourself is okay, but what you do isn't, etc.). Reparative therapy centers are saying being yourself is wrong and you should change because we believe that it's right and we're supported by a book whose real backing is just as ambiguous as is the Koran's. We can argue a whole day over whether the Bible is right or wrong, whether the Koran is right or wrong, but we're not.

    On the flip side, you see my "truth" as nothing more than a hedonistic oriented ideal to put pleasures of the flesh over good moral judgement. I can only defend myself and say you are wrong. Why do I believe you're wrong? Is it some bias against your beliefs? Yes, I won't lie, but so is your's. My other reasoning is that I am putting equality into the mix. I believe that homosexuality is something many are born with and that very few "convert" or "change" or choose to be this way. You believe the opposite. We're not going to find a moot point and we'll only battle because of these differing opinions, agree?

    I believe these reparative therapy centers are lying to the youth and people who go and work there. I like the article in Wikipedia on reparative therapy centers, though: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reparative_therapy if you're interested.

    I also like Religious Tolerance.org's site too on NARTH: http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_nart.htm and http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_exst.htm#narth
     
  7. dmp
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    dmp Senior Member

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    Your truth or My truth is irrelevant. "Absolute Truth" is what's important. It's 'absolutely true' that you are killing yourself with your deviant behaviour. It's sad - you embrace the lie "Homosexuality is perfect and normal - one should DO how one FEELS".
     
  8. Nienna
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    Nienna Senior Member

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    The whole point of JN & MS's therapy is that it is voluntary. People should at least have the OPTION of seeking treatment for homosexuality if they so desire. The APA was trying to stop this.

    If it isn't voluntary, of course it isn't going to work. Nothing will change if a person doesn't desire it and commit to it. However, if they do, change and happiness with that change ARE possible.

    http://www.drthrockmorton.com/idoexist.asp
     
  9. Kagom
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    Kagom Senior Member

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    What is the real absolute truth? That's my point. We don't really know, we speculate. You infer that your Christian truth is the absolute truth and you don't really know that. You think you do and put it out as being true. I do the same with my beliefs. I have nothing to hide about that.

    I'm not killing myself with my orientation. I'm very clean, I'm very picky, and I avoid diseased infested guys. Do I need to sound off the broken record thing? It's natural and normal to me. You believe it's not natural or normal.

    I embrace my own truth because I believe my truth is the absolute truth like you cling to your own variation "homosexuality is wrong and an intrinsic evil." and claim it absolute truth.
     
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  10. Kagom
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    Kagom Senior Member

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    I have nothing against people wanting to get the option of seeking treatment. I say they're in for a rude awakening and nothing but self torture. That's an opinion, though. Maybe they can lie to themselves and make themselves believe they're straight or maybe they'll realize they're bisexual. Or maybe neither.

    I'm also going to be very skeptical of the movie simply because of the people I've met and have known. It's fishy from the very beginning as well. But that's me, the skeptic.
     

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