Research shows that, at least for some people, homosexual attraction, also known as same-sex attraction, can be reduced and opposite-sex attraction can be increased using various methods of treatment (NARTH, 2009). This article: (1) affirms clients’ rights to seek change, (2) outlines effective treatment paths, and (3) describes what successful treatment is like for clients. If you have unwanted homosexual attraction that seems unwavering, then this article can provide new hope of change for you.
Right to Seek Change
God has created us as free persons, each with his or her own right to self-determination. A person whose religious beliefs oppose living a gay lifestyle, yet who experiences same-sex attraction (SSA), has the right to reject the “gay” label and to determine that his or her SSA is “unwanted.” Such a person, while primarily attracted to the same sex, may have dreams of someday marrying someone of the opposite sex and having children. These dreams are in accordance with God’s original plan for us to “be fruitful and multiply” as outlined in the first chapter of Genesis.
However, for various “reasons,” the American Psychological Association (APA) opposes psychotherapy that aims to reduce same sex attraction in those for whom it is unwanted (Bansal). Thankfully, there is an organization of psychotherapists who defend and promote a client’s right to seek change in this regard. This organization is called the National Association of Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH).
NARTH members put their money where their mouths are by paying a membership fee and using the combined funds to hire lawyers to fight for client rights. NARTH members not only defend the rights of clients seeking to reduce their SSA, they are typically specialists in the psychotherapeutic treatment of unwanted SSA.
Effective Treatment Paths
A scholarly journal released by NARTH in 2009 provided results of a research study showing the most effective treatment paths for those seeking to reduce their SSA. According to the journal, the average success rate of “recent reports of assisted sexual reorientation” was 31% (NARTH, 2009, p. 15). The journal shows that all of the following treatment paths either have historically been or are currently effective to a lesser or greater extent:
Behavior and Cognitive Therapies
Other Interventions (Experiential Weekends, etc.)
One of the most popular treatment methods, Reparative Therapy, as practiced by the author of this article, utilizes several of the aforementioned treatment paths in combination to increase the probability of treatment success. In the first reparative therapy session, male clients will often be referred to the following resources:
Journey Into Manhood (JIM) Weekend Experience (www.peoplecanchange.com)
The book entitled, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality (Nicolosi, 1997)
The book entitled, Shame and Attachment Loss (Nicolosi, 2009)
Reparative therapists also utilize the highly-effective treatment modality called EMDR to facilitate the healing of past traumas in those with unwanted SSA.
In addition to reparative therapy, clients often benefit from the companionship of others who struggle with unwanted SSA, thus they may join the Catholic spiritual support group called Courage, which was started by Fr. John F. Harvey, O.S.F.S (www.couragerc.net). The focus of this group is not necessarily to help individuals reduce their SSA, but to help one another to effectively lead pure lives regardless of the intensity of one’s SSA.
What Successful Treatment Is Like for Clients
Successful treatment begins with motivation to change. This often involves daring to keep your dreams of marrying the opposite sex alive and being willing to face the feelings that accompany working towards these dreams.
Motivated clients often begin by scheduling a first session with a therapist who specializes in treating unwanted SSA. Most clients will feel some anxiety at the beginning of the first session, but with a compassionate therapist, the anxiety is usually replaced by a sense of relief accompanied by renewed hope.
Typically in the first session, the therapist will take the time to get to know you and your goals for therapy. Your goals become the shared goals of the therapist for and with you. Together, you will proceed in therapy on a weekly basis, addressing current conflicts and linking them to the past.
Under the reparative therapy treatment modality, in the first phase of treatment, any past emotionally traumatic events will be treated using EMDR, a technique which has proven very effective in reducing an individual’s level of disturbance related to past traumatic events.
The second phase is focused on resolving current same-sex attraction issues and the final phase attempts to increase opposite-sex attraction.
During the first phase of treatment, even though the focus is on memories of the past, clients will often notice that if they entered therapy hypersensitive to the slights of others, that they are now beginning to remain in a state of peace and confidence in spite of such slights. During the second phase of treatment, clients often notice that their attraction to the same sex seems more brotherly or sisterly than sexual. At this point, they often renew their ability to form solid, pure friendships with the same-sex.
During the last phase of treatment, clients will often naturally develop opposite sex attraction. Sometimes this is an entirely new experience for clients and they especially relish falling in love with someone of the opposite sex for the first time. While no therapist can promise change for a particular case, many motivated clients who are willing to stick with therapy, typically for up to 2-3 years, later send postcards back to their therapists with a picture on it of their opposite sex spouse and beautiful children, all looking quite happy.
If you struggle with unwanted SSA and you are motivated to change, then you may find hope in the fact that there are others who have changed after being treated for their condition. Many have broken their homosexual compulsions. Others have become attracted to the opposite sex. Others have dated, married, and had children from an authentically heterosexual stance. Treatment worked for them and it could potentially work for you too. With God all things are possible!
Thomas Schmierer has a Master of Arts in Moral Theology and also in Marriage and Family Therapy. Specializing in treating unwanted same-sex attraction, OCD, and scrupulosity, he counsels individuals by phone, internet (Skype), and in person. For more information, visit his profile at vaticanvalues.com
Bansal, M. (date unknown). Psychologists disagree over therapy for homosexuals. Retrieved on
February 24, 2011 at http://www.crosswalk.com/1415533/.
National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) Scientific Advisory
Committee (2009). What research shows: NARTH's response to the American Psychological Association's (APA) claims on homosexuality. Journal of Human Sexuality, 1, 1-128. Journal available through www.NARTH.com at http://www.shop.pilgrimageresources.com/product.sc?productId=40&categoryId=2.
Nicolosi, J.J. (1997). Reparative therapy of male homosexuality: A new clinical approach.
Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Nicolosi, J.J. (2009). Shame and attachment loss: The practical work of reparative therapy.
Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.