- It doesn't work
- It is unethical
- It is harmful
It doesn't work
The efficacy of reparative therapy has never been shown in a scientifically rigorously way. Some have said (wrongly) that if change were really possible it would have been demonstrated long ago. I don't remember Drescher taking this stance, but he did criticize the theories and studies in support of reparative therapy. Perhaps the most widely known study is Spitzer's. Drescher edited an entire book of responses to Spitzer's work, all attempting to discredit the conclusions. Drescher's own opposition (again, based on my poor memory only) was centered around follow up and failure to document actual sexual orientation through objective testing. More specifically, these men who claimed to change orientation, did they stay changed or was it just temporary? Were they able to persist in their "new" orientation? Long term follow up was not measured, and that is a weakness in the conclusion that change is possible. However, to the extent that Spitzer acknowledged this limitation in his discussion, it doesn't make the study invalid, just limited. That's a big difference.
Drescher also asked Spitzer why he didn't verify orientation with plethysmography (what GayMormon calls a "boner-detector"), and he was unhappy with the candid answer Spitzer provided: he didn't have the funding. Drescher seemed to irrationally believe this was a personal failure on the part of Spitzer. I was quite confused. Again, plethysmography would have improved the study, but its omission does not make the study invalid.
It is unethical
You are probably familiar with the medical aphorism "do no harm." Doctors haven't done a very good job of following that advice without some regulation here and there. For example, regulation of research involving human subjects has greatly improved ethical practices. And "informed consent" is an important part of every medical or psychiatric therapy--research based or not.
Drescher had a list of 6 criteria that must be followed for a therapy to be ethical. I don't remember what they all were, but properly informing the patient about potential benefits and harms, respecting autonomy, etc., were central. Drescher went through the list point by point and made his case that reparative therapy did not meet the criteria. However, I was not convinced. I have actually been in reparative therapy sessions, and the way he described the dialog was simply not reflective of my personal experience. I was indeed given a thorough explanation of potential benefits and risks. My consent was documented carefully. Confidentiality and specific therapeutic goals were discussed. It was all quite professional. I wondered where Drescher was getting his information.
It is harmful
Drescher stated unequivocally that not a single reparative therapy book or practicing therapist was honest in disclosing the risks. Not one. My vast readership [hee] may remember a recent series of posts in which I reviewed a couple books on reparative therapy (Nicolosi and Parks). They were library books, so I can't go back to find pages, but I believe I recall a discussion of theoretical risks in both of them. Regardless, I know my therapist and I discussed the issue. Therefore, I had to restrain myself from standing up and calling Drescher a pig-faced liar. Actually, restraining myself wasn't hard, because the crowd had proven themselves to be completely tolerant of blatantly anti-religious hate-speech. I felt like a mole.
Despite the fact that his own handout specifically noted that the only data regarding risks in reparative therapy are anecdotal (i.e. not scientifically meaningful), he was standing there condemning anyone who would not discuss the harms as if they were real. His take became more and more clear: reparative therapy is an extension of conservative religious fanatics who speak of loving gays publicly, but call them an abomination privately. They have no interest in the individuals, only their own political agenda.
You can imagine how such generalized moral condemnation turned me off. But everyone else seemed to be eating it up. The picture was painted to show down-trodden gays hustled into therapy they didn't choose for themselves, psychologically abused by self-promoting "ex-gay for pay" quacks, and then condemned personally for any poor outcome. Such an exaggerated caricature was so far from my personal experience that I wondered if I would be able to tolerate the discussion. Had he cited examples as examples I would have had no objection, but vilifying an entire demographic whose views differs from your own? Generalizing motivations and unethical conscience?
If this is the national leader in opposing reparative therapy, I must admire the ingenuity of gay activists in getting medical professionals to swallow such swill. It was patently ridiculous. And I was impotent in commenting because of my concerns for personal privacy. It makes me rethink my desire for anonymity. But, not surprisingly, it did not make me rethink my decision to attempt reparative therapy.
And, no, I'm not worried about any other kind of impotence at the moment. :-)