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Dueling Reports Make Differing Claims on Changing Sexual Orientation

One claims programs successful, another says they are not

A report presented today at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting says some people who participate in "sexual reorientation therapy" can change their sexual orientation.

At the same time, another report says many people who had engaged in the reorientation therapy weren't able to change and suffered harm in the process.

The dueling reports underline the controversial nature of reorientation therapy, which is designed to change people who are homosexual into heterosexuals, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

A report by Dr. Robert Spitzer, a psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, says that 30-to-40 minute interviews with more than 200 men and women showed that they were able to change their sexual orientation after engaging in reorientation therapy, the article says.

Spitzer says his report shows that the changes were valid and not "brain-washing or wishful thinking," which are often claims made by opponents of reorientation therapy. "We, therefore, conclude that some individuals who participate in a sexual reorientation therapy apparently make sustained changes in sexual orientation."

He adds that his findings should not be misused "to justify coercive treatment." The article says Spitzer, also a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, helped the psychiatric association in 1973 end the classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder.

The second study, by New York City psychologist Ariel Shidlo, found that 215 men and women who had been through counseling sessions said they had not only failed to change their sexual orientation, but had experienced significant harm while trying to do so. Shidlo presented a summary of his study and did not elaborate on it.

The American Psychiatric Association has stated its opposition to "reparative or coercive therapy." To find out more about the controversy surrounding reparative therapy, you can read this information from Dr. Gregory Herek of The University of California at Davis.

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