Activist Researchers Misuse Studies Finding “Harm”
Shidlo and Schroeder are researchers who have sought to discredit efforts to modify sexual orientation (see their recruitment poster, reproduced here). Since their study was published, it has been used by other writers to indicate that “harm is likely” when a person attempts to reduce unwanted same-sex attractions.
The letter reproduced below, was written by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi to Dr.Julianne Serovich, the author of one such published paper that has misused the findings of the Shidlo study. A copy of Dr. Nicolosi’s letter was also sent to the editor of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, the journal that published the Serovich article. Neither Dr. Serovich nor the editor of the Journal chose to respond to Dr. Nicolosi’s concerns about research misuse.
On the Misuse of Scientific Research
An Open Letter to:Julianne Serovich, Ph.D. Department of Human Development and Family Science The Ohio State University.
Dear Dr. Serovich:
We recently came across your article in the April 2008 issue of the J. of Marital and Family Therapy, (vol. 34, no. 2, 227-238, ”A Systematic Review of the Research Base on Sexual Reorientation Therapies”) and we would like to point out a very serious error in your analysis of the research.
You report on the 2002 Shidlo and Schroeder study (p. 228 of your article) and say the authors noted that “a majority of those who sought reparative therapies perceived psychological harm” from their therapy. What you failed to note was that the Shidlo study did not use a random sample. In fact, the authors (who are in fact gay activists) specifically sought out subjects who felt they had been harmed by such therapy, and they advertised in gay publications to seek them out.
Their advertisement for subjects read as follows: “Help Us Document the Damage!”
Thus, the percentage of people who reported “harm” is in fact a meaningless number, relative to reorientation-therapy clients as a group.
You also cite Haldeman (2002) and say he noted “typical negative outcomes,” implying that he, too studied reparative therapy clients as a group. But like Shidlo and Schroeder, Haldeman has never conducted a randomized study. Your analysis (described in your article title as “systematic”) has therefore misled many readers. In fact, had you actually read the original Shidlo-Schroeder study, instead of relying on second-hand sources, you would have quickly perceived your error. You state that “the theory and practice of conversion therapy violates principles of…respect for individual rights and dignity” (p. 235). Yet you miss a grand irony: what about the rights and dignity of clients who believe they were designed for eterosexuality and gender complementarity?
Your paper fails to note that there is a large body of older research–before such research became nearly impossible to get into professional journals—which studied the results of psychodynamically oriented psychotherapy aimed at altering sexual response. While such change has always been acknowledged as difficult, it has been conclusively proven to occur. A number of such studies are cited in the Journal of Human Sexuality, vol., 2009, published by www.narth.com.
Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D.