Men that seek counseling from Warren Throckmorton are often deeply conflicted. They have read Scripture and prayed with considerable dedication, but they continue to be sexually attracted to other men — a desire that, according to their religious beliefs, is immoral.
Throckmorton, a PhD, teaches psychology at Christian-oriented Grove City College in Pennsylvania. He once was the president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association.
He advises such clients that their impulses are not indicative of mental illness, nor do they represent punishment for a lack of religious faith. And he tells them he can’t make them straight.
But he also advises them they don’t have to be gay. They can divert their sexuality, or hide it, he says. They can live celibately.
Throckmorton has given such advice for years knowing it ran contrary to the now widely accepted “gay affirming” therapy which encourages folks to embrace their sexuality.
But last month, the American Psychological Association changed course on the mater, stating that it can be ethical for counselors to help selected clients repress or reject gay or lesbian desires if they conflict with their religious beliefs.
The APA has 150,000 members. Its new guidelines call for counselors to assure clients that homosexuality is not an illness and that gay people can lead happy, productive lives. Counselors are also supposed to emphasize that therapy can’t change sexual orientation.
But, the APA adds, for clients who believe that affirming gay orientation is sinful, counselors should help them reject, to the extent possible, those attractions. This might mean learning to deflect sexual impulses, living celibately, or reshaping one’s struggle with sexual desire into an opportunity to grow closer to God.
“We have to acknowledge that, for some people, religious identity is such an important part of their lives, it may transcend everything else.” said Judith Glassgold, who chaired the APA’s task force on the issue.
The task force had been formed in response to the growing prominence of sexual orientation “change therapists” who state it’s possible to alter sexual preference. After reviewing the literature, the task concluded that such claims are bogus.