An Exodus press release, not yet available online, tries to sound optimistic:
Leaders of the world’s largest outreach to those dealing with unwanted homosexuality commended recent research showing change in sexual orientation to be possible at a press conference today in Nashville. The study, released by InterVarsity Press yesterday, is the first longitudinal, peer-reviewed, scientific research of its kind on this topic to date.
The Exodus press release offers no specifics — no success or failure rates. And no evidence of genuine peer review.
Only 11 percent of the study’s original participants, or 15 percent of those who completed the study, claimed a substantial decrease in homosexual attraction and an increase of any sort in heterosexual attraction.
Exodus’ press release states:
Their findings indicate that religiously mediated sexual orientation change is possible for some individuals and does not cause psychological harm to the patient, on average. These conclusions directly contradict the claims of both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association that state that change in sexual orientation is impossible and attempting to pursue this alternative is likely to cause depression, anxiety or self-destructive behavior.
That’s not entirely true. By failing to track the 25 people (out of 98) who dropped out of the study, the study effectively failed to track those who were most likely to have felt harmed by ex-gay programs — or threatened by study questions that pry beyond superficial claims of undefined success. Furthermore, of 73 participants who were monitored to the study’s conclusion (according to Throckmorton), 12 percent reported unequivocal failure and 15 percent reported no change and great uncertainty about continuing in a program that wasn’t working.
Even among the study’s greatest success stories, as Kincaid and Christianity Today observe, the kind of success that is marketed by Exodus was elusive: The study’s successes reported themselves to be conflicted between homosexual and heterosexual attraction.
Exodus acknowledges that it funded the research:
In the absence of any scientific, peer-reviewed research on this topic, Exodus International funded the research conducted by Jones and Yarhouse.
Beyond the information and the questions that have emerged thus far, I am curious to know the answers to questions raised by two commenters at Box Turtle Bulletin:
1. Did the study attempt to measure the different success and failure rates of wildly different ex-gay “therapies,” or did it assume (as Exodus implies in its communications) that all conversion therapists agree on the causes and treatments for unwanted sexual orientation?
2. Did the study explore and measure the possibility of bisexuality in those who mistakenly believe themselves to have been solely gay in the past?
Addendum: I checked with Jack Drescher, M.D., who says that, contrary to Exodus’ claim, “It has never been the position of the American Psychiatric Association that change is impossible. I also do not believe that the American Psychological Association has issued a position statement saying that change is impossible.”