The Associated Baptist Press reports that both those who favor and those who doubt reorientation effectivity are skeptical about Ted Haggard’s newfound heterosexuality. On the pro side, Randy Thomas echoed Alan Chambers’ word on CNN.
“To be honest, I’m not aware of the specifics of what Mr. Haggard went through. But in my own personal experience that’s not the case — and in the experience of everyone I’ve talked to,” said Randy Thomas, vice president of the Florida-based group Exodus International.
Psychologist Lee Beckstead* provided an explanation for Haggard’s position.
Beckstead, like the majority of mental-health professionals, believes much of “ex-gay” therapy is psychologically harmful for people with homosexual orientations. However, he has done extensive research into the effects of sexual-reorientation therapy on people who have strong religious motivations for avoiding homosexual contact. Beckstead has argued among his peers for a more nuanced understanding of the psyches of such people before dismissing all aspects of “ex-gay” therapy.
People with religiously based antipathy toward homosexuality “need to see themselves as heterosexual, and their communities need to see them as heterosexual,” he said. “And so that kind of pressure kind of distorts the facts and distorts the information they present to other people.”
This need to be perceived both by oneself and one’s community as heterosexual could help us all understand some of the contraditory statements that seem the calling card of ex-gay leaders.
Thomas seemed to agree with Beckstead to some extent.
Exodus’s Thomas said that Haggard’s worldview may prevent him from confronting a sexual attraction to men head-on.
“There’s a lot of people who deal with same-sex attraction who never identified as gay, who would never adopt that worldview. That might be the perspective he’s coming from [but] I’m not positive,” he said.
Although the Associated Baptist Press presents Lee Beckstead as having a “differing opinion” on sexual-reorientation therapy, it should be understood that Beckstead is a defender of some change therapy (under certain circumstances) and
is a referred and presents himself as a source for from the LDS Church (the Mormons).
Beckstead has done some research and his conclusions are that while orientation (attraction) did not change in any of his study participants, some did report positive responses including reconciling self-identity, control of behaviors, and less intensity of same-sex attraction. He also reported that harm can result from the traditional forms or reorientation therapy (ie false expectations, internalized failures, and demonization of gays and lesbians).
Much of Beckstead’s thinking appears to me to be similar to the values-based counseling currently being discussed by Dr. Warren Throckmorton. We may discuss Beckstead further in that context.