Treatment and PreventionSUSAN BRINKMANN
The theory that homosexuality is irreversible has become so politicized that almost no one heard the news story that broke in October, 2003.
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One of the two great pioneers of the irreversibility of same-sex attraction, Robert L. Spitzer, officially reversed his position. The release of his October, 2003 study (Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 32, No. 5, October 2003, pp. 403-417) revealed that therapy not only changed sexual orientation in a significant percentage of cases, but it also proved helpful in other areas of the person's life. He concluded that the mental health profession should not prevent people from this kind of therapy, should they desire it.
The other pioneer, the Salk Institute's Simon LeVay, had already reversed his position in another under-publicized event in the year 2000, in a Spanish homosexual publication, Reverso.
If a person does want to explore the possibility of a change in their sexual orientation, what kind of therapy is available and what are the success rates?
Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, who has practiced child and adult psychiatry for 27 years, reports that when people with same-sex attraction disorder (SSAD) are treated, a number of studies have found that one-third get better, one-third get mixed results and one-third do not get better.
"Frequently, young men come into treatment because they are troubled by the lifestyle and a fear of AIDS," Fitzgibbons writes in Origins and Therapy for Same Sex Attraction Disorder, "an inability to establish healthy committed relationships, sadness, weak confidence and the fear of an early death. They are tired of the lack of commitment they have found in the homosexual lifestyle and they do not want to continue to be used as sexual objects."
Fitzgibbons' practice has been in the nature and treatment of excessive anger. Because a large percentage of gay men, and a somewhat smaller number of lesbian women, suffer from the sadness and pain associated with either a father or peer rejection, which often results in anger, he found himself treating more and more people with SSAD.
"Many of the emotional conflicts that lead to SSAD begin very early and this may explain why some homosexuals feel they were born that way. . . .When a person is hurt in a relationship, a series of reactions occur. First, sadness develops, then anger accompanied by low self-esteem, and finally a loss of trust. It is essential to resolve the anger associated with all these types of betrayal pain. . . . The work of therapy is, in part, to understand and resolve the betrayal pain."
His goal is not so much to change their sexual orientation but to help them overcome their emotional pain. He does this by helping his patients let go of their anger through three levels of forgiveness: intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. As a result, many are helped in resolving their homosexual attractions and behaviors.
When he adds a spiritual component, the recovery rates are much higher. "My approach is very similar to the one used in addictive disorders," he writes. "Significant healing rarely occurs unless some form of spirituality is brought into the healing process by turning the emotional pain and compulsive behaviors over to the Lord."
Some of these compulsive behaviors are difficult to overcome, such as sexual addiction, which is a major problem with many in the homosexual lifestyle. This is especially true when the addiction is accompanied by extreme narcissism. "Sexual addiction with extreme narcissism causes serious illnesses and early deaths in many young men and we must take some steps to change a very dangerous trend," writes Fitzgibbons. "Prozac or other anti-depressants can help to a degree. They will cut down sexually compulsive behaviors, but they will not resolve the emotional pain leading to the attractions."
Children subjected to sexual abuse may often be predisposed to homosexual behavior and are difficult — but not impossible — to treat. "One can work at trying to help the client understand and resolve the anger against the abuser, if for no other reason than to alleviate the abusers negative influence," Fitzgibbons said. "We need to help those who have been abused before they become sexually addicted or involved in sado-masochistic practices. Only when, through forgiveness and God's grace and healing, they are free from the dark side of abuse will they be able to develop a healthy identity."
This is one of the reasons why Fitzgibbons and many other doctors who treat this condition warn against the dangerous practice some schools are taking in referring at-risk children and teens to groups that will lead them even further into the homosexual lifestyle. Many of these children are experiencing same-sex attractions because of serious emotional problems in their lives, problems that should be dealt with, not pushed aside at the urging of homosexual activists.
Prevention of same-sex attraction disorder remains largely with parents because the roots of this condition are laid early in life. Father John Harvey, the founder of Courage, a support group for people with same-sex attraction who are striving to live chaste lives, published a new book especially for parents entitled, Same-Sex Attraction: A Parents Guide.
First, he explains what Church teaching is — and what it isn't. "One must carefully distinguish between the condition of homosexuality and homosexual acts. The condition of same-sex attraction is not a sin, but it is an objective disorder in the adolescent or adult person. If one gives into the desire for same-sex acts, one always sins."
The Church takes no position on whether or not a person with same-sex attraction should attempt to change their sexual orientation. Her concern is chiefly with the soul of the individual, which is why She insists that unmarried persons, whether they have same-sex or opposite sex attraction, live chastely.
In the Catechism, the Church expresses the belief that people with same-sex attraction do not choose that condition. " . . . For most of them, it is a trial." (CCC2358) For this reason, she insists that they be treated with respect, compassion and especially sensitivity. "Every sign of unjust discrimination . . . should be avoided. These persons are called to . . . unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition." (CCC2358) The struggle to live chastely is one in which all unmarried Christians share, whether they are homosexual or heterosexual.
Parents should make themselves fully aware of Church teaching in order to properly guide their children. Father Harvey also suggests that "Parents need to talk to their children, give their child thorough instruction on the purpose and meaning of human sexuality, and the beauty of marriage as a union of a man and woman. . . . You can't talk to your kids about homosexuality alone — it needs a background. First you have to talk to them about theology and God's plan for the human person, then heterosexuality, then homosexuality."
He highly recommends the writings of Christopher West on Pope John Paul II's "theology of the body" for this purpose.
Children should learn how to relate well to both parents and should see them expressing affection for one another. "Youngsters need to see their father and mother embrace regularly. Often, children with same-sex attractions come from a home where they don't see their parents embrace. If a child comes from a home with no sign of affection between parents or siblings, it's difficult for a child with same-sex attractions to rightly order his affection and attractions.
Because a major cause of same-sex attraction can be an absent or distant father relationship, Father Harvey strongly recommends that single parents find a relative who can serve as a good same-sex role model for a child. "A single mother needs to find an uncle or someone in the family to relate to her son, and vice versa with a single father and his daughter."
Part five of the series will address the complex issue of homosexual marriage from both a sociological and theological point of view.
To read more about the information contained in this article,
visit the Courage Web site at http://couragerc.net
or the National Association for Research and Therapy on Homosexuality http://www.narth.com
Part 1 of 6: The Phantom Gene
Part 2 of 6: Known causes of same-sex attraction
Part 3 of 6: Health risks of the homosexual lifestyle
Part 4 of 6: Treatment and prevention
Part 5 of 6: Gay Marriage: Who's minding the children
Susan Brinkmann. "Treatment and Prevention." Catholic Standard & Times (May-June, 2004).
This article is reprinted with permission of the author and Catholic Standard & Times.
Susan Brinkmann is a correspondent with the Catholic Standard & Times.
Copyright © 2004 Catholic Standard & Times
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.