2012 NARTH Conference Report
The NARTH Conference was held this year in Orlando, Florida, on November 2-3 at the Renaissance Orlando Hotel. The conference theme was entitled “ProtectingSelf-Determination: The 20-year Legacy of NARTH.”
There were 25 presentations and two keynote addresses. The first keynote address was given by Matthew Staver, J.D.., the Dean of Liberty University Law School and the President of Liberty Counsel, a charitable legal organization which is representing NARTH and several other plaintiffs in the challenge to California’s new law (SB-1172) prohibiting reorientation therapy with minors. The second keynote address was given by Paul Copan, Ph.D. of Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Mr. Staver, founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel spoke on “Critical Threats to Change Therapy and Christian Counseling.” California Senate Bill 1172 prohibits any counseling for under-18 clients designed to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction. “Such broad language will prohibit any counseling that does not encourage experimentation with or acceptance of same-sex attractions, regardless of whether those feelings and attractions are unwanted by the counselee,” Mr. Staver said. “This law places the state between the client and the counselor. It intrudes on a client’s fundamental right of self-determination to seek counseling that aligns with his religious and moral values. The law also forces counselors to overrule the will of their clients who choose to prioritize their religious or moral values above their sexual feelings.” The counselor will, therefore, be forced to disregard the client’s religious beliefs or else encourage the minor client to change them.
“This law and the ethical codes of all of the licensing boards are, however, on an inevitable collision course,” Mr. Staver told the audience. “If counselors obey the law and refuse to help their clients with unwanted homosexuality, they will violate existing mental-health ethical codes because they will be forced to contradict their clients’ right to self-determination. On the other hand, if counselors violate the law and do provide counsel (or even referral) to the client seeking to diminish or manage his same-sex sexual attractions, they will be in violation of SB-1172.” Counselors will therefore be “damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.” “Minor clients will suffer irreparable harm,” Mr. Staver said, “because they will no longer be able to receive the kind of counseling which they have chosen” and which has been demonstrated to helped others, including some of the same plaintiffs who are now challenging the law. “The licenses of countless mental-health professionals hang in the balance with the outcome of this legal appeal,” he added.
Dean Staver was optimistic that the reasoning provided above will prevail with the California Supreme Court and if not with them, then with the Federal Appellate Courts.
The second keynote address featured noted philosopher and ethicist Paul Copan, Ph.D., who has written more than twenty academic books. He spoke on “Truth, Freedom, and Social Constructions: Why Truth-Seeking Ought to Guide Scientific Research.” Dr. Copan told his audience that political considerations now drive much of what is published (or even investigated) by our once-reliable social-science institutions. Research has become skewed, unscientific, and propagandistic, in part because scientists often fail to define their operational terms and explain their underlying assumptions and worldviews. Researchers ought to have freedom to investigate subjects and publish research in the pursuit of truth–that is, in the search for what corresponds to reality. This, he said, should be considered commonsensical and self-evident.
“Today the authority of science is somehow taken for granted,” he said, “yet we find that the pursuit of scientific truth is being suppressed in the name of science by ideologues who don’t like the direction or outcomes of research projects that disagree with their own agendas. Our culture hails the courage of a Galileo or an Einstein who stick their necks out in the name of science, challenging the status quo. Yet when it comes to the question of homosexuality, many within the scientific community
are suppressing or ignoring relevant scientific findings. This isn’t to say we don’t have our own individual biases or perspectives. But when these override research pursuits and their verifiable results, this becomes an ideology that refuses to change, no matter what the evidence may show. And thus science becomes corrupted.”
In another presentation, accompanied by high-tech visuals, David Pickup, M.A., M.F.T. offered a well-attended workshop entitled, “Therapeutic Threats to Self-Determination: Seven Therapeutic Mistakes Made in SOCE.” Mr. Pickup was able to provoke and engage his audience by challenging many of the assumptions made by uninformed psychotherapists who are relatively new to SOCE. Most of these errors, Mr. Pickup emphasized, are made by well- intended psychotherapists and they include the following: misunderstanding the nature of homosexuality, over-religiosity introduced into the counseling process, counter-transference problems, and lack of technical training.
Mr. Pickup offered a second presentation entitled, “Sexual-Orientation Change Efforts, Seen through the Lens of Pastoral and Parental Care.” He discussed ways to overcome the client’s basic resistance to discussing the issue; counteracting his irrational fears; and correcting simple misinformation and misunderstandings. He then noted the importance of following correct spiritual principles and developing attitudes of patience and forgiveness. He discussed the common developmental patterns of homosexuality in males, including a history of shame-based experiences, unmet emotional needs such as lack of male approval, and defensive detachment from males starting in the early developmental years. He then spoke of the process of working through these issues to dissipate the shame and begin to see oneself as equal to other men. He gave many practical suggestions about how others can support a struggler. Social support was noted as valuable, as well as helping the client to see the opposite sex in a new light. He noted that the client’s shame, judgmental attitudes toward himself, and failure to assume personal responsibility are often barriers to growth. Establishing healthy boundaries with family, church and friends is also a pivotal area of growth. The therapist should consider conducting informative workshop, he said, to appropriate professionals within the church.
Becky Dymond, MS, LMHC presented a speech entitled “Understanding and Assisting SSA Women.” She utilized a PowerPoint presentation on the building blocks of SSA for women, referencing Janelle Hallman’s book, The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction. She also drew upon her own personal experience of coming out of SSA. The presentation focused on unmet developmental needs, especially parent-child wounds. She cited possible precursors to female SSA as the same-sex parent being perceived by the daughter as either “unavailable” or “unsafe” as an identification object, as well as the emotional damage following early experiences of molestation. Other issues included boundary problems, emotional dependency, and irrational beliefs. Following the presentation she answered questions, mainly from family members dealing with daughters or spouses with SSA.
Floyd Godfrey, LPC conducted NARTH’s annual half-day workshop for students and therapists who are new to working with SSA clients. Mr. Godfrey presented some guidelines for setting up a clinical practice. This was followed by an overview of the development of SSA, with an emphasis on working with adolescents. In addition to presenting the classic factors in the development of SSA, such as parental relationship problems, detachment from peers, and self-esteem deficits, Mr. Godfrey discussed his clients’ sense of touch deprivation, their misperceptions about abnormal and normal adolescent feelings, and their emotional preoccupations.
Mr. Godfrey identified three key stages in therapy: education, behavioral modification, and emotional processing. Recommendations for successful recovery were offered including addressing addictions, developing endurance, avoiding SSA cliques, correcting motivations, and eliminating isolation. He also introduced his newly published workbook, A Young Man’s Journey: Healing for Young Men with Unwanted Homosexual Feelings (2012), as an adjunct to therapy. He suggested that the book can function both as a workbook for the adolescent male client, and as a treatment planner for clinicians.
Norman Goldwasser, Ph.D. presented a cognitive/behavioral approach to the treatment of SSA along with the use of EMDR Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) with clients who have trauma histories. Trauma experiences can often derail normal psychosocial/psychosexual development and sexual-identity formation, he explained, which at times can result in homosexual arousal patterns and same-sex attractions. Molestation can alter arousal patterns by creating an association with the original stimulus that results in addictive behavioral responses. Research indicates that at least one-third of the homosexual population has experienced sexual abuse as a minor.
In therapy, by identifying full trauma histories in a chronological fashion, the client can take ownership of the narratives he has developed to explain what happened to him, including all of the negative self- and other valuations which drive these patterns. He evaluates which are the primary self-destructive schemas which govern his thinking/feeling/behaviors and keep him away from paying attention to and internalizing subsequent life experiences. This helps the client make the choice to be governed less by the power of the past childhood schemas, and more by his present adult experience.
By placing these schemas, especially the preverbal ones, into an EMDR protocol as the Negative Cognitions, their power is reduced and the client develops the habit of reality testing in order to grow in personal autonomy. EMDR also facilitates clients in developing self-empathy and compassion for themselves and for what they have gone through in their lives. All of this increases the chances of a client experiencing a decrease in his SSA and an increase in his ability to have satisfying relationships with both males and females in his (or her) life. He also noted that anxiety, particularly in some form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, is frequently seen in SSA clients.
Thomas Coy, M.A., presented on the topic, “The Clinical and Political History of Division over the Treatment of Homosexuality.” His overview described the contributions of the main scholars on both sides of this debate dating back to the early 1900’s and continuing up to the present, with NARTH playing a highly significant role.
Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., discussed his approach to treatment in “Body Work and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing): Two Applications of Reparative Therapy.” Dr. Nicolosi described his therapeutic protocol with EMDR and
utilized a recording of an anonymous client in session to help attendees understand the process and rationale of his approach.
Phil Sutton, Ph.D., and Denise Shick gave a workshop on “Transgenderism and Adult GID: Understanding and Offering Pastoral/Professional Care.” Dr. Sutton provided some definition of terms and resources for care, while Ms. Shick shared many heart- wrenching stories gleaned from her years in supportive ministry to families who have been affected by gender confusion, gender-identity disorder, and transgenderism. Details of her ministry can be found at www.help4families.com.
Jerry Harris, Ph.D. and Justin McPheters, Ph.D. offered a presentation entitled, “Negative Outcome in Psychotherapy: Research and Review.” They reviewed factors which contribute to the success and/or failure of the therapeutic process. The most significant contributing factor is client characteristics (40%), followed by therapist-client alliance, (30%), and outcome expectancy/hope (15%) along with the model/technique used by the therapist (15%).
“Harm” is hard to define and hard to clearly attribute. Is lack of improvement, harm? Is termination before treatment resolution, harm? Are effects of a previous disorder, harm? Research suggests that on the average, about 10% of clients deteriorate while in therapy.
The presenters proposed a research project to measure the outcomes of SSA change therapy. The research instrument used will be the OQ/R45, a thoroughly validated instrument, which measures the well-being of the client during the process of therapy and is also quick and easy to administer. To be decided later by the researchers will be the frequency of the administration of the instrument, and the addition of some other questions more specific to change of unwanted SSA.
The participants in the workshop were asked to take the OQ/R 45 and the ones actively working with unwanted SSA clients also signed up to be research participants, awaiting the operational beginning of this project.
NARTH past-president Julie Hamilton, Ph.D., LMFT, offered “Time to Talk: For Family, Friends, and Ministry Leaders.” An enlightening discussion ensued regarding outreach, boundaries and unconditional love. Questions were posed such as “How
do I love my daughter, but set boundaries?” and “How do I relate to ministers who do not seem to want to deal with this issue?” The discussion encapsulated a mixture of science, professionalism and faith.