Dr. Stanton Jones and his research partner, Dr. Mark Yarhouse, were given the opportunity, on Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m., to present their findings on a study of sexual reorientation therapy, at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association (APA) in Toronto.
The paper titled, "Ex Gays? An Extended Longitudinal Study of Attempted Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation ," was presented as a part of an APA symposium titled Sexual Orientation and Faith Tradition Symposium.
The six year study concluded that there is evidence that homosexual tendencies can be controlled and redirected toward normal sexual attraction.
The research was based on a study of 98 men and women who sought help from Exodus International, a Florida-based evangelical ministry that provides sexual-orientation conversion therapy and counseling. The group seeks to help individuals troubled by their sexual orientation to achieve "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ."
Dr. Jones began his presentation by outlining the rejection of reorientation therapy for homosexuals by most professional mental health associations. Last week the American Psychological Association adopted a resolution urging mental health professionals to avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.
"I had met people in the religious community who claimed to have changed," said Dr. Jones, a professor of psychology at Wheaton College, a Christian college in Illinois. "And at the same time I saw a growing momentum behind the view that change is impossible. As a scientist it is an empirically interesting question when you see a growing momentum behind a view but you feel that you also see exceptions to that view. So I thought it would be an interesting thing to study."
Jones then noted an important limit and hypotheses of the study: "Our study addresses the generic questions of whether sexual orientation is changeable, and whether the attempt is intrinsically harmful, by focusing only on the religiously mediated approaches to change; this is not a study of professional psychotherapy."
In light of the newly accepted convention that homosexuality is not a mental illness, the researchers stated that, "We hypothesized that sexual orientation is not changeable, and the attempt to change is likely harmful."
However, the study found two forms of successful reorientation away from homosexuality in the study group.
Thirty percent of the study group categorized themselves as successful in chastity: "Subjects who reported change to be successful and who reported homosexual attraction to be present only incidentally or in a way that does not seem to bring about distress, allowing them to live contentedly without overt sexual activity."
23% of the group reported a successful conversion to normal heterosexuality: "Subjects who reported change to be successful by experiencing substantial reductions in homosexual attraction and substantial conversion to heterosexual attraction and functioning."
Drs. Jones and Yarhouse conclude that their findings contradict the APA position that homosexuality is not changeable.
"In conclusion, the findings of this study would appear to contradict the commonly expressed view of the mental health establishment that sexual orientation is not changeable and that the attempt to change is highly likely to produce harm for those who make such an attempt."
The report also stressed the need to keep "a range of professional and ministry options open to clients who experience same?sex attraction, are distressed by this because of their moral or religious beliefs, and who may benefit from hearing about a number of intervention modalities."
The full text of the paper presented by Dr. Jones yesterday at the APA convention is available here .