Looking at Ex-Gay Harm

Dr. Jack Drescher writes about Sexual Conversion Therapies in a series of articles posted over at  Fr. Marty Kurylowicz’ blog Early Childhood Development and Growing Up Gay. In part 4 of 6 Dr. Drescher addresses the issue of harm and conversion therapies.

One significant issue is how conversion therapists establish a situation that leads to patient-blaming. Rather than emphasizing the skill of a particular therapist or the efficacy of treatment, patients are frequently told that their own motivation (or faith) is the primary factor leading to change. These therapists often label a patient’s difficulties as “resistance” to change. Then, when treatment fails—and based on their own reports, most treatments do not lead to change—even if the therapist does not overtly blame the patient, in many cases patients blame themselves. Again, according to anecdotal reports, after treatment fails, patients feel worse than when they started. In such cases, patients report a worsening of depression, onset of anxiety, and feelings of suicide. Significantly, these results are not reported in any of the published reports or on the websites of sexual conversion therapists

In an in a bizarre overlap of surreal worlds, this video supplies narratives of former high level members of Scientology who speak about their experiences of self-hypnotising and getting blamed for not reaching the levels of healing promised. Much like the ex-gay world, this is a world within a world with its own language and reality.
(hat tip to Daniel Gonzales)

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This post has 2 Comments

  1. Ann on November 17, 2008 at 10:39 pm Reply

    Recently I was watching a report on CNN about Jim Jones. It was the earnestness of his followers that struck me. Just today I was asked about my time in the ex-gay, “Did you REALLY believe everything you were saying…I mean, did you really believe that you had changed…that people could change?” Yes, I earnestly believed because I truly believed this was what God wanted, what God demanded of me. It had to be true. If it wasn’t true. then I would lose God and everything that I understood as God’s truth would fall apart. Once when asked if I was 100% heterosexual, I did struggle with the answer and I felt deceptive when I finally said yes, but I said yes because I knew the right answer. I said yes since I believed that to be God’s truth, regardless of my own questions. The struggle came from my wondering how one could ever know what being “100% heterosexual” felt like since prior to the ex-gay movement, I had only understood my self to be lesbian? How was one ever really sure one had actually arrived? When was a person finally healed, fixed, changed period? Surely, I had seen dating, marriage and even having kids wasn’t a guarantee. So what was the proof? Now the ex-gay movement has really made it a moving target for folks. Easier to explain don’t really “change” when you simply eliminate the question altogether, but I imagine it may be even more crazy-making for those who have to follow a God who is playing a never-ending game of “Hot ‘n Cold” with believers.

    In the ex-gay movement, many of us earnestly believed. It had to be true. So if I wasn’t a heterosexual, it wasn’t the program that didn’t work…I didn’t work the program. The spin: It remains true, but you couldn’t handle the truth.

  2. p2son on November 18, 2008 at 1:05 am Reply

    Ann, Thank you for weighing in. I always appreciate hearing your voice and your story.

    A moving target indeed.

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