(RNS) The American Psychological Association has announced that therapies aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation could be hazardous, but health professionals should respect the beliefs of patients who object to homosexuality on religious grounds.
Although the APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation concluded that “efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm,” the association also acknowledged that some people’s faith is strong enough to affect their sexual identity and behavior.
In the study released Wednesday (Aug. 5), the APA includes participants of conservative religious traditions whose beliefs conflict with same-sex attractions. Some participants who pursued practices to change their sexual orientation reported increased ability to control same-sex urges and reduced stress levels, according to the APA.
The report differentiates between sexual orientation and sexual orientation identity. While sexual orientation is unlikely to change, some participants who engaged in “reparative therapy” modified their sexual orientation identity — the group or label with which they identify — and their sexual behavior.
The APA report advises therapists to provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality “without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome” and calls health professionals to recognize that homosexuality is not a mental illness or developmental disorder.
Exodus International, a Christian organization that promotes reparative therapy, released a statement that expressed gratitude to the APA for promoting respect for religion but said, “Exodus does not fully agree with the APA’s criticisms of clinical techniques such as reparative therapy and its view of sexual orientation change.”
By S.J. Velasquez
c. 2009 Religion News Service
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