Melvin W. Wong was the lead speaker at a group of ex-gay seminars organized by Focus on the Family in Singapore last week. Wong is affiliated with the Exodus International referral network.

A blogspot blogger, Rabelaisian Rebel, uncovers professional criticism of Wong’s credentials. Here is an e-mail sent by a group of gay-affirming psychologists, explaining its discoveries regarding Wong:

To: “AFFIRM Network”
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2003 6:41 AM
Subject: [affirm] RE: HELP!: Reparative Therapy Seminar in Singapore

Psychologists Affirming their Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Family

Hi and thanks to all who weighed in on this issue and contributed facts and ideas!

Today the AFFIRM Advocacy Committee has sent “official” letters expressing concern about this seminar to:

1.) Dr. Wong (via his website email contact address)
2.) the California Psychological Association Ethics Committee (via fax)
3.) the Straits Times Forum Desk and Life Desk (this is the largest circulation newspaper in Singapore), via fax;
4.) the Singapore Psychological Society (via their website email address).

If anyone would like to disseminate this letter further, please feel free to contact me (backchannel preferred) and I will email you the letter as an attachment. The text of the newspaper (Straits Times) letter is copied below (minus addenda which quote the APA resolution on reparative therapy). The text of the CPA Ethics Committee letter is quite similar.

— Karen

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is to alert the public to serious ethical and scientific concerns about the “reparative therapy” seminar to be presented by Melvin Wong, Ph.D, in Singapore, 25-28 November 2003 (see attached copy of the email announcement of this event). Dr. Wong, under the auspices of James Dobson’s group “Focus on the Family,” apparently is importing a highly controversial, ethically and scientifically questionable “treatment” to Singapore, playing on the public confusion and prejudices as Singaporean laws regarding homosexuality are changing. Contrary to misleading representations of his qualifications in published announcements, Dr. Wong is not a member of the American Psychological Association, nor is he on staff of the University of California at San Francisco. His approach to working with homosexual clients is not congruent with that of mainstream American psychologists or psychiatrists. Indeed, “reparative therapy” has been largely discredited in America as discriminatory, disrespectful, ineffective, and often harmful to the patient.

There are three serious problems with this seminar, of which the Singaporean public should be aware if they are considering attendance at this event:

First, the description of Dr. Wong’s qualifications is misleading. The announcement states that Dr. Wong is “affiliated with” the American Psychological Association (APA). In fact, Dr. Wong is not a member of the APA, and is not even eligible to become a member, because he did not graduate from an APA-accredited institution. Although Melvin W. Wong is licensed as a psychologist in California, his degree is from the “Center for Psychological Studies” in Berkeley, CA, an educational institution that is not regionally accredited and not even eligible for APA accreditation as a doctoral program in psychology. He is not on the staff of the University of California.

Second, Dr. Wong’s advocacy of “reparative therapy” is highly questionable in light of the APA Code of Ethics to which all psychologists licensed in California are expected to conform, whether or not they are APA members. The APA Code of Ethics states:

“Psychologists are aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role differences, including those based on ..sexual orientation.. and consider these factors when working with members of such groups. Psychologists try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on those factors, and they do not knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices.”

Third, there are serious scientific as well as ethical concerns about “reparative therapy” that have been raised by organizations such as the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association (see postscript below). It is ineffective, provides no demonstrated benefit, and can be harmful.

It is to be hoped that Dr. Wong will become aware of these ethical and scientific problems and work towards eliminating his apparent biases and prejudice, and towards putting his energy into treatments that actually work to relieve psychological suffering, instead of those that create psychological harm.

Sincerely Yours,

The AFFIRM Network Advocacy Committee
Miriam Ehrenberg, Ph.D.
Marvin R. Goldfried, Ph.D.
Norman Weissberg, Ph.D., Chair
Karen Wills, Ph.D.

Karen E. Wills, Ph.D., LP, ABPP
Pediatric Neuropsychology
Department of Psychology
Children’s Hospitals and Clinics
2525 Chicago Avenue South (mailcode 17-301)
Minneapolis, MN 55404
(612) 813-6344

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