Ex-gay guru Richard Cohen has always taken what some would consider a freakish approach to ex-gay therapy, one that stands out in a field that is, by definition, unconventional at best. Cuddling with clients on the couch, swatting pillows while yelling about one’s maternal grievances — these are all part of the Cohen path to heterosexuality. But many have been willing to overlook his odd methods and instead trust his assurances that all homosexuals can become 100% heterosexual. None of this stopped Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays (PFOX) from making him their president and recommending his therapy and books with fervor. Their devotion to him has been solid, along with Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) and others.
Richard Cohen is one of the true pioneers in the field of healing homosexuality. Not only is he is an activist in the public media, but he has written several books which we at JONAH often recommend to our members. To those struggling with issues related to homosexuality, we suggest Richard’s Coming Out Straight. Parents, on the other hand, are recommended to read his most recent book, Gay Children, Straight Parents. [link]
When he appeared on CNN in May 2006, Cohen gave the world a front row seat from which to experience his strange ways. The secret engine behind so many ex-gay efforts was exposed and people reacted. In what smacked of damage control, NARTH and even PFOX quietly removed references to Cohen and his work. Without any fanfare, he was no longer president of PFOX (though XGW did confirm that they continued to refer people to Cohen’s organization long after). And Exodus actually placed a formal disclaimer about him on their website — a rare thing for them to do.
Exodus International does not endorse the work of Richard Cohen or the methods utilized in his practice. Some of the techniques Mr. Cohen employs could be detrimental to an individual’s understanding of healthy relational boundaries and disruptive to the psychological and emotional development of men and women seeking clinical counsel and aid.
Oddly enough, we later found out that Exodus had experienced a private preview of Cohen’s methods at their conference in 2000. A letter sent afterwards to “ministry friends” clearly expressed their disapproval. Yet this information was not shared with the general public, and no one from the outside would have known that Exodus had any issue with Cohen or his methods. They finally did at least make a public statement seven years later.
Now we are forced to wonder if the disapproval of Cohen is driven by principle or public relations. The policy statement mentioned above is now missing from the Exodus website and there is no explanation or clarification. The other statements remain, but the one about Cohen is edited out of the list. There was also a separate statement against “holding therapy” which seems to have gone missing as well (cuddling on the couch).
There are other troubling connections. As we have recently reported, Exodus is endorsing some rather questionable people — certainly a board membership qualifies as an endorsement. Jayson Graves and his Healing for the Soul website enlist the services of another bizarre personality, David Pickup. Pickup must be seen to be fully appreciated (video above). Aside from what seem to be his own serious issues, Pickup is steeped in Nicolosi psuedo-science and the pagan dogma of the Mankind Project. The entire group appears to make their money through “coaching” via telephone, speaking engagements and retreats of various sorts. Exodus would be wise to advise others to steer clear of these shallow outfits, but instead they invite the owner to serve on their board of directors. Why?
Then there is Janelle Hallman. For $125 you can have Hallman talk with you on the phone about how you or your daughter can leave lesbianism behind (Paypal accepted and the long distance charges are on you). Among her recommendations for those seeking such help is Cohen’s International Healing Foundation (IHF). She also recommends a couple of his books, and her endorsement is listed on the back of his book Gay Children, Straight Parents. Hallman also receives referrals from Exodus and is a member of their speaker’s bureau. She is not just part of the network, they send her out to speak on their behalf.
Exodus youth analyst Mike Ensley recently expressed his admiration for Hallman in an article for Focus on the Family’s Boundless Webzine.
Janelle Hallman, a professional counselor in the Exodus network and author of The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction, gave a presentation at an Exodus Freedom Conference that I’ll never forget. It was entitled “Flashes of Glory” and it was all about how the oneness we can experience in marriage — and in the bedroom — offers us a glimpse of God’s great, mysterious three-in-one personality, His selfless giving nature, His undying passion and intimate love.
Clearly, Hallman is a serious part of the Exodus organization, yet she is a true believer in Cohen and his methods. So what does all this mean? From the looks of things, Exodus has no official position on Cohen and is content to allow a Board member and Spokesperson recommend him to those who use Exodus services.
So we have to ask, does Exodus disapprove of Cohen or not?
In response to our inquiry, IHF Assistant Director Hilde Wiemann gave the following information concerning the relationship between Cohen and Exodus:
Richard explained more about his work and his position and methods to Exodus and they all made peace.