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Reason to believe

Report | Inside the spin of psych report is positive step for gays

Issue: "The ABCs of C Street," Aug. 29, 2009

The spin is more problematic than the American Psychological Association's latest report on therapy for homosexuals. The report looks at change therapy-which claims people with homosexual desires can switch to heterosexual desires instead-and says it's unlikely that a gay person can become straight.

But it also found that while people are unlikely to change their desires, they can change their identity and behavior; in other words, they can learn to tolerate same-sex attraction even if they don't act on it, and even identify as heterosexuals and have hetero­sexual relationships. While people may not be able to change their desires, the APA said, therapists can help them choose to live in a way that affirms their religious beliefs.

Considering the unbalanced makeup of the APA's division studying LGBT issues, this was a positive step, said David Pruden, vice president of operations for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH): "It would be like a bunch of atheists saying, 'You know, a lot of people believe in God and I think there's a good reason that they might.'"

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The panel surveyed 83 peer-reviewed studies, most of which occurred before 1978 and had methodological flaws, it said. But the 138-page report left out certain key studies, said Pruden. Pruden also objects to the way homosexual activists may spin the report. For instance, some interpret the report to say that the APA advocates changing religions if a religion conflicts with sexual orientation. (The APA says that some have found it helpful.) NARTH is also looking into the possibility that people could construe the report to limit a therapist's freedom to choose not to treat a client, if treatment means affirming his or her sexual behavior.

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