from Clinical/Therapeutic Issues
by Jim Lewis
On Saturday and Sunday, November 18 and 19, 2000 NARTH held its ninth annual conference at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. This was the best-attended conference in NARTH's history, with 110 participants from all parts of the nation.
One-and-a-half days of intense, educational workshops were provided for therapists, religious leaders, spouses, parents, and others, as well as those struggling personally with same-sex attraction.
A wide variety of topics were covered. It was noted that although there is more research-based information about homosexuality now being accepted in professional journals than ever before, there is still a great need for more research that is unbiased by the values and poltical aims of the researchers, particularly in the area of gay parenting and adoption.
Presenters from broadly different disciplines came together at this conference to discuss their approaches. Some described work based on a spiritual approach, while others described work which deals with homosexuality from a secular perspective.
The presenters' work is directly opposed to those in the profession who are saying that not only is it impossible to change, but it is professionally unethical to treat someone who is homosexual who asks for help to overcome his or her homosexuality.
Dr. Benjamin Kaufman and Dr. Charles Socarides presented workshops on the early etiology of homosexuality in infancy and early childhood.
Psychologist Mark Yarhouse of Regent University suggested that professionals need to respect religious diversity with the same deference they grant to cultural diversity--especially for those who are religiously orthodox. Dr. Yarhouse was the organizer of the groundbreaking August 2000 symposium at the American Psychological Association Conference, which addressed the ethics and effectiveness of reorientation therapy.
Dr. Yarhouse is also the co-author of "The Use, Misuse and Abuse of Science in the Ecclesiastical Homosexuality Debates," co-written with Stanton Jones, which appeared in a book released last year, Homosexuality, Science and the Plain Sense of Scripture.
Dr. Richard Williams reported on his study of gay parenting. Some of his findings were that lesbian mothers had undergone more psychiatric counseling, children raised by lesbian mothers were more likely to be homosexual, and the range of difference in self-esteem of lesbian mothers' children was greater than that of children of heterosexual parents.
Counselor Richard Cohen, Director of International Healing Foundation, described the importance of mentoring and healing touch, said that we are a touch-deprived culture. He also explained the etiology of what he terms "Same-Sex Attachment Disorder (SSAD).
Dr. Harold Voth encouraged therapists to uncover the unconscious conflicts that lead to homosexuality, to allow themselves to feel compassion and love for their clients--becoming more than a therapist, but less than a friend--and to help clients distinguish between healthy and unhealthy behaviors.
Joseph Nicolosi described the Narcissistic Triadic Family model, a parenting style where the needs of the child are compromised by the parents' own narcissistic desires. This causes the sensitive, emotionally vulnerable child to surrender his authentic identity as a gendered, distinct individual and to develop a false self to please his parents. Because it is impossible to please them completely, he eventually concludes that he is unlovable. At this point, he develops a defense against emotional attachment (known as defensive detachment) and a narcissistic pride (of which the reverse side is shame) to allow him to cope with his pervasive sense that he is unworthy of love. Thus some children's autonomy and gender identity come to be compromised.
Dr. Shirley Cox made a presentation about a guidebook she has co-authored for women struggling with same-sex attraction. The book is entitled, "Developing Genuine Friendships; A Guide For Women Struggling With Same-Sex Attraction."
Rabbi Sam Rosenberg of JONAH (an acronym for "Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality") spoke about Reparative Therapy and Judaic biblical and Talmudic insights into the homosexual condition.
At the luncheon, Keynote Speaker Robert Knight of the Family Research Council provided his insight into the gay liberation agenda and described his personal experiences trying to defend the traditional family unit.
The NARTH Sigmund Freud Award was presented in absentia to George Rekers, Ph.D. of the South Carolina School of Medicine. Dr. Rekers is well-known as the author of several respected clinical works on childhood gender-identity disorder.
The NARTH Fellow Award was presented to Lynn D. Wardle, J.D., a nationally known family-law professor who has strongly urged clinicians writing from NARTH's perspective to contribute to the research now being used by legal experts in the same-sex marriage debate. Dr. Wardle made a compelling presentation at last year's NARTH conference, describing the "shunning" process that often accompanies the effort to speak up against same-sex marriage within the legal profession.
Joseph Nicolosi gave the following counsel in closing the meeting: we should study the literature, obtain good training, get to know the arguments (from both sides), and be aware that research indicates about one-third of those who persevere in therapy for unwanted homosexual attractions are successful in making a significant change in behavior and identity and developing heterosexual responsiveness. Even if the change may not be complete, there is substantial improvement along with greater life satisfaction, better self-esteem and improved relationships with others.
Many came away from the conference with renewed hope and belief that those suffering from homosexuality can be successful.