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Researcher Retracts Study Behind ‘Ex-Gay’ Therapy

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The author behind an infamous 2001 study that validated the use of ‘ex-gay’ therapy is now retracting his controversial report.

Dr. Robert Spitzer initially said that “highly motivated” gays and lesbians could change their sexual orientation through counseling. He based his conclusion on 200 interviews with reparative therapy patients, the largest sample size at the time. His findings were published in the prestigious ‘Archives of Sexual Behavior.’

Spitzer’s report surprised both the LGBT and scientific communities since the psychiatrist had led the effort to DECLASSIFY homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973. He was also the only researcher to produce a favorable study on ‘ex-gay’ therapy who WASN’T a social conservative.

But Spitzer is now backtracking on his decade-old study, telling ‘The American Prospect’ that critiques of his work are “largely correct.” He also admits that the results are probably only “evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy” SAY about the experience, and nothing more.

Spitzer says his main goal in conducting the study was NOT to urge gays to pursue reparative therapy, but to see if it actually worked on those who sought treatment.

Wayne Besen of the ex-gay watchdog group Truth Wins Out calls Spitzer’s retraction “monumental.”

BESEN: With the fall of this study, the ‘ex-gay’ ministries and reparative therapy groups have nothing to really back their claims other than religious groups, who claim that miracles can happen. So this puts them in a real difficult situation and undermines the very core of their message.

Besen says if given the chance, he would thank the 80-year-old scientist for “doing what’s right” in admitting that he made a mistake.


Written by Xorje Olivares

April 12, 2012 at 7:45 AM

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