Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Motivational, Ethical, and Epistemological Foundations in the Treatment of Unwanted Homoerotic Attraction

Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Motivational, Ethical, and Epistemological Foundations in the Treatment of Unwanted Homoerotic Attraction

Article excerpt

A recent special section of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy (October, 2000)focusing on the mental health needs of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals neglected to address the clinical needs of homosexual persons who desire to increase their heterosexual potential. This article attempts to correct this omission by outlining common motivations for pursuing change, updating the current state of knowledge regarding the effectiveness of change efforts, and providing some ethical guidelines when therapists encounter clients who present with unwanted homoerotic attraction. Finally, to assist marriage and family therapists (MFTs) in more deeply understanding divergent perspectives about reorientation treatments, an examination of the role of moral epistemology is presented and some examples of its potential influence are described. MFTs are encouraged to recognize and accept, rather than ignore or deny the valid needs of clients who seek to modify their same-sex attraction.

There is a growing body of clinical literature that is designed to assist therapists in understanding and addressing the needs of gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) clients. A recent issue of Journal of Marital and Family Therapy (October, 2000) dealt specifically with these issues. However, the series of articles failed to recognize an important subgroup of homosexual clients, namely those individuals who present for treatment with unwanted same-sex attractions. Understanding these individuals is an important step in being able to provide treatment that respects their cultural and religious values. Typically what little scholarly literature that exists on these men and women is presented within an evaluative framework that is far removed from how they actually perceive their circumstances. By examining these individuals within a more conservative value schema, MFrs can come to a greater appreciation of the worldview of these clients. This, in turn, can enable a greater tolerance of values and beliefs that are normative within this subgroup but may be foreign or disagreeable to the clinician.

Such analysis is vital for many reasons. Redding (2001) has noted that conservatives and conservative views are vastly underrepresented in mental health professions, and presumably MFr. He contends that without sociopolitical diversity, the therapeutic community undermines its credibility in several ways. Research hypotheses or interpretations from a conservative viewpoint go unasked or unrepresented. Scientific findings are rendered suspect or disregarded altogether among a large portion of society, seen only as the product of liberally dominated mental health guilds. A lack of conservative representation may also impede the ability of therapists to serve conservative clients and communities, as in the present case of homosexual persons who do not wish to self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

This article will attempt to provide insight into clients who request treatment to further develop their heterosexual potential. Several motivations that lead individuals to seek such therapeutic goals will be presented and evidence will be outlined that appears to lend validity to these concerns. The issue of increasing heterosexual potential will be addressed and some guidelines for ethically conducting such treatment will be suggested. Finally, an analysis will be offered that makes sense of the controversies in this area of practice as representing a difference in moral epistemologies.

It should be mentioned at the outset that an increasingly vocal number of mental health professionals are on the record as favoring a complete prohibition of any therapeutic attempts to increase a client's heterosexual potential (Davison, 2001; Murphy, 1992). The perspective taken in this analysis is naturally more sympathetic to such a goal, provided that the therapy is conducted in accordance with well-recognized ethical standards. Ignoring the values and beliefs of these clients by prohibiting change-oriented therapies may lead these individuals to avoid the mental health system altogether. …

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