Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Repairing things

My therapist told me once that the therapy we had undertaken was not appropriately called "conversion" therapy. That, he explained, suggests conversion from one sexual orientation to another and obscures the actual internal processes taking place. The term he prefers is "reparative" therapy, not because your sexuality is broken and needs to be repaired, but because your development is incomplete and in need of repair. The repair takes place in inter-personal relationships that may seem to have no bearing on sexuality whatsoever. Relationships with parents, with others of the same gender, with friends who love and support you....

The oft publicized problem with reparative therapy is 1) that it hasn't been rigorously proven or disproven (and yes, I know there are those who disagree and I can forward you to the current body of evidence to decide for yourself if you want), and 2) the success rate is quite low even in the best case scenarios.

Any particular therapy should have a good therapeutic ratio to be useful to anyone--the chance of benefit must be high enough to justify the risks of harm. The risks of reparative therapy get a lot of press, but they are just as unverified as the supposed successes.

So, despite that I have a number of friends who have undergone reparative therapy and are still as gay as a pink tie, I wonder to myself whether there is still some benefit. What if the social relationships "repaired" during the therapy really needed to be repaired apart from any sexual consequences?

That's pretty much where I am these days. Still undergoing reparative therapy (although not intensively right now) because I see lots of ancillary benefits that have nothing to do with my sexual orientation. I've really looked at the way I view myself. I've looked at the way I view my family members. I've carefully considered what intimidates and attracts me and why. And that sort of insight is really valuable no matter how you look at it. I'm completely okay with the prospect that my sexual orientation may not budge from this exercise. And I think that sort of attitude is a far better way to mitigate the risks and increase the therapeutic ratio than to avoid the therapy altogether.


Samantha said...

I haven't posted an extensive comment on your blog for awhile, so I hope you'll agree with me that I'm entitled to one? If not, skip this...

First, I have to tell you that your attitude toward reparative therapy is incredibly healthy. Many of those I've known who have tried this have done so with the firm belief that this would bring about some miraculous change that would permanently "straighten" them. Without exception, they were wrong. However, those who were able to view the therapy as a means to improve their mental health, to bring maturity to parts of their emotional development, and to help them learn social norms that somehow escaped their notice, were able to find more peace internally, and their self-esteem and self-worth increased dramatically. Perhaps these results came about because of their individual attitudes, rather than the therapy itself, but regardless, those changes were good.

Second--because there was little available to women when I was working through my own challenges, I latched onto all that I could find about male reparative therapy and tweaked it in any possible way to that it could have application to me. And I found amazing help in what I was using (books, workbook, etc.). Perhaps that's why some of my friends in the bloggosphere have dubbed me an honorary gay man, rather than a lesbian and I'm flawed for life, but honestly, I've found much truth applicable to my life in the things I've read that are associated with RT.

I believe that if you're on the path to living as you choose, rather than being compelled by feelings and impulses, you owe it to yourself to investigate every help avenue available, and I applaud your efforts and open mind. The therapy may not deliver all that has been promised--but something good will come of looking at the overall picture, just as you have been doing.

No wonder you're The Great -L-.

Master Fob said...

I second Samantha's assessment of your attitude toward reparative therapy. My experience with reparative therapy has produced the positive results you refer to--overall, I am a happier, healthier person than I was ten years ago, and I owe a good deal of that progress to the therapy I underwent in an effort to change my orientation. Apart from electroshock therapy, which for the most part has not been practiced in the last twenty years or so, it seems the primary danger of reparative therapy is that of false hopes. As long as the individual is willing to accept that he or she might not actually experience a miraculous change of orientation, I don't see the harm. (Though I'll admit, I'm speaking strictly from personal experience and anecdotal accounts, not scientific research.)

iovan said...

As someone who's never even looked into therapy, I am intrigued. Where do I find more about this. I guess I could start with google. If anyone has any good leads though, I'm interested.

By the way, therapy to me has always sounded like too much pressure. I like how you seem to have taken the stress out of it- probably a better chance of succes that way, whatever outcome you're hoping for.

Appreciate your posts!

Chris said...

I have been in therapy for over a year now. All of the benefits that you attribute to reparative therapy have come to me in a setting that places NO expectation of change on me. And since change is, at best, extremely unlikely, I'm glad I haven't bothered with that piece of the therapeutic puzzle.

Natasha said...

BRAVO! I can't wait to show this to my non-Mormon friends.