Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The cowardly APA on religion ('09)

In August 2009, the American Psychological Association issued a 138-page report on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation.

The press release said that the APA resolves that "mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments." About time!

But at the same time, task force chair Dr.Judith Glassgold told the Wall Street Journal, "[W]e have to acknowledge that, for some people, religious identity is such an important part of their lives, it may transcend everything else." That's a cop-out. See below.

The WSJ framed the message this way:

[T]he American Psychological Association said Wednesday that it is ethical -- and can be beneficial -- for counselors to help some clients reject gay or lesbian attractions....

[T]he therapist must make clear that homosexuality doesn't signal a mental or emotional disorder. The counselor must advise clients that gay men and women can lead happy and healthy lives, and emphasize that there is no evidence therapy can change sexual orientation.

But if the client still believes that affirming his same-sex attractions would be sinful or destructive to his faith, psychologists can help him construct an identity that rejects the power of those attractions, the APA says. That might require living celibately, learning to deflect sexual impulses or framing a life of struggle as an opportunity to grow closer to God.

In response, I wrote the following letter to the Wall Street Journal. It was not published.

Dr. Glassgold says there has been little research about the long-term effects of rejecting a gay identity, but there is "no clear evidence of harm" and "some people seem to be content with that path."

Bull. The APA are cowards. They refuse to make the obvious recommendation: [Some] religions are the problem here, brain-washing children with scientifically false crap, crippling their sexual and psychological well-being for life. If parents want all children to be able to live full and satisfying lives, they must spurn gay-bashing religions.

And if you agree with the APA that, "Oh, no, we couldn't say anything against someone's religion!" then you, too, are part of the problem. Stop giving religion undue deference. Religion is a choice. The APA and everyone should tell people which choices demonstrably help lives and which hurt lives.

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