From the White House to the Courthouse, Reparative Therapy Is Under Attack
Doctors discuss the uphill battle they face in treating men, women and children for disorders related to same-sex attraction.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Thomas Schmierer thought he was just a normal marriage and family therapist “flying under the radar” in Riverside, Calif.
But Schmierer’s work with clients who seek him out for therapy for their unwanted same-sex attraction landed him in the crosshairs of homosexual-rights groups.
The Human Rights Campaign, which lobbies for same-sex “marriage” and homosexual causes, wrote a letter to Psychology Today in February demanding that the magazine remove Schmierer from its professional referral service. The magazine complied, and it no longer accepts advertising from Schmierer, who says the listing is essential for his private practice, Vatican Values Counseling, to be competitive.
“Of course, there are financial consequences for me that I fear, but it’s more than just the money,” Schmierer told the Register. “What’s really sad is what can happen to the clients who need help. How horrible it is to have something you consider to be a sickness or illness, and you can’t receive healing.”
Schmierer said he asked himself, “Why is this happening to me?” But he is hardly alone. The homosexual lobby is aggressively attacking therapy for same-sex attraction, with the argument that such therapy harms people who identify themselves as homosexual and that it fills them with shame and increases their chances of depression, anxiety, drug use and suicide.
Organizations like the Human Rights Campaign are pushing legislation in at least 18 states to ban reparative therapy for minors. California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have already passed laws that ban “gay-conversion therapy” for young people.
President Barack Obama’s administration has also condemned the practice. Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama, wrote the administration’s statement last month in support of a petition posted on the White House website that calls for a ban on all “LGTBQ+ Conversion Therapy.”
“Mr. Obama will not explicitly call for a federal law banning therapists from using such therapies on their patients, but he is open to conversations with lawmakers in both parties, White House officials said on Wednesday,” The New York Times reported April 8. “Instead, he will throw his support behind the efforts to ban the practice at the state level.”
New Jersey Lawsuit
In New Jersey, the Southern Poverty Law Center is using a state anti-consumer fraud law to sue a Jewish nonprofit organization that counsels adults who have same-sex attraction. Charles LiMandri, the attorney who is representing Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), says the trial, scheduled to begin June 1, will be an important battle for religious liberty.
“The SPLC’s lawsuit violates the basic right to self-determination, and it sets the stage for outlawing counseling that the left does not like, including counseling by the clergy,” said LiMandri, who is founder and chief counsel for the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund.
LiMandri also told the Register, “We have to stop them here, or we are going to be fighting them all over the country. They are poised to take this nationwide.”
Walt Heyer, an author and public speaker who underwent a sex-change operation and lived for eight years as a woman until he underwent therapy, told the Register that the homosexual lobby opposes reparative therapy because it would “expose the fraud that the whole gay-activist movement is built on.”
“Therapy is harmful to the gay movement because if you don’t ban them, then therapists and their clients will find the comorbid [two or more] disorders, and people are going to realize that they are not gay,” Heyer said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2006 document “Ministry to Persons With a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care,” touches briefly upon the issue of therapy for homosexual inclinations. The document acknowledges, “There is currently no scientific consensus on the cause of the homosexual inclination” and further recognizes, “There is no consensus on therapy.”
Nevertheless, the document highlights the experience of some persons with same-sex attraction who have found therapy helpful and recommends that qualified mental-health professionals who understand and support Church teaching on homosexuality be available to those who seek psychological counseling related to their sex attraction.
Unwilling to Answer ‘Why?’
Joseph Nicolosi, founder and clinical director of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic in Encino, Calif., told the Register that the “Achilles heel” for the homosexual movement is the question “Why?”
“They want to outlaw inquiry. Because when you open up the question of ‘Why are you gay?’ you go into the subject of trauma, and they do not want to go there,” said Nicolosi, who originated reparative therapy and works with men and women to reduce their homosexual attractions and develop their heterosexual potential.
Nicolosi and other Catholic therapists who counsel male clients with unwanted same-sex attraction say the underlying factors are nearly identical: an overbearing mother and a father who was distant or critical. Sexual abuse can also be a factor. The therapists said their experience has shown them that a male client who engages in homosexual acts is subconsciously trying to compensate for a lack of confidence in his own masculinity.
“The most common thing we treat in men with same-sex attraction is the issue of male confidence. They latch themselves onto ideal forms of the masculine to fill a void,” said Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, the director of the Institute for Marital Healing outside Philadelphia.
“It’s a counterfeit way of soothing a childhood trauma,” said Schmierer, who has also counseled women with same-sex attraction.
“Sometimes for females with SSA, they view their mother as a weak victim and father as strong, so there is a motive not to identify with their mother,” Schmierer said. “They don’t want to see themselves as victims. Our mothers are symbols of femininity, so if we see our own mother as weak, then we view all women or femininity in general as weak. Sometimes their fathers have been emotionally or physically abusive to their mothers; thus, when they see another woman in need, they subconsciously desire to fulfill the role of the good, strong man for her. From puberty on, this desire can become sexualized.”
Therapists who offer reparative therapy for same-sex attraction are bucking a trend set by the American Psychological Association, which declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. The APA says that sexual-orientation conversion therapies “have a serious potential to harm young people” because they present a homosexual or bisexual orientation as a mental illness or disorder.
Other mainstream health and mental-health professional organizations — including the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics — have followed the American Psychological Association’s lead that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus not something that needs to or can be cured.
‘Travesty of Science’
Nicolosi said the American Psychological Association’s position on sexual-orientation conversion therapy was based on the flawed findings of a seven-member task force, six of whom were active homosexuals. Nicolosi said the task force virtually ignored the body of literature that showed such therapies to be effective.
“It was a travesty of science,” Nicolosi said.
Still, the homosexual lobby has effectively used the APA’s talking points to further its arguments to state legislators. On May 7, the Oregon Senate voted 21-8 to pass a bill prohibiting mental-health professionals and social workers from providing conversion therapy to minors who identify as “gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual.” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat who is the country’s first openly bisexual governor, is expected to sign the bill into law. On April 29, the New York General Assembly passed a similar bill, which has since been delivered to the state senate.
In California and New Jersey, legal efforts to overturn those states’ laws against sexual-orientation conversion therapies for minors have been rejected by the U.S. 9th and 3rd Circuits. Fitzgibbons told the Register he expects the U.S. Supreme Court to ultimately hear arguments on the issue.
“This is going to go to the highest court because this law says people do not have the right to treatment for something that is potentially very harmful to them,” Fitzgibbons said. “And people who know the literature know the long-term outlook for those engaged in the homosexual lifestyle is scary, and that includes infidelity, medical diseases and psychological diseases.”
However, the homosexual lobby’s argument that sexual-orientation conversion therapy is harmful has gained traction, even in Catholic circles.
“Catholics are telling me in casual conversations that this therapy is harmful, that it doesn’t work,” Schmierer said. “I’m seeing this on Catholic blogs: that the Church doesn’t approve of reparative therapy and that it has been shown not to work, and I’m like, ‘That’s not true.’”
“People’s attitudes are being formed by these laws and by the media attention,” said Schmierer, who disputed the homosexual lobby’s “horror stories” of people with same-sex attraction being driven to despair in therapy.
“It confuses our clients. We’ll be in the middle of a good course of therapy, and they’ll be bombarded with these messages in the media. They come in, and all of a sudden, they have doubts where they didn’t have any before,” Schmierer said.
Nicolosi said the relentless campaign against reparative therapy has had a chilling effect among prospective clients. He said a father of a 15-year-old boy with same-sex attraction recently called him to say his son didn’t want to be that way but that he also did not want to break the law in California.
“That kind of fear and intimidation is exactly what the law is designed to do. That’s exactly what they [homosexual activists who support the law] want,” said Nicolosi, who added that he receives hateful telephone calls after every news story where he discusses his work helping those with same-sex attraction.
‘We Know People Can Change’
“For two weeks, we’re getting hate calls; then it dies down,” Nicolosi said. “But we know people can change, and that’s what keeps us going. We know people can overcome their same-sex attraction if they are motivated to marriage and family. They all have a right to try.”
Schmierer said homosexual activists do not respect the religious beliefs of his clients who seek treatment for same-sex attraction.
“Chastity is the enemy of the devil and the gay-rights activists,” said Schmierer, who believes truth will win out in the long run.
Said Schmierer, “I agree with those who say: After society is utterly destroyed from our sexual attitudes, our hedonism, the Church will still be there to pick up the pieces, just like we’ve often done throughout history.”
Register correspondent Brian Fraga writes from Fall River, Massachusetts.