Gay and Lesbian Connection

Support and Acceptance for the Gay and Lesbian Community

Archive for September, 2010

Does Reparative Therapy Work?

September 16th, 2010 by Admin

This was in response to an article that appeared in The Heritage in Orlando Florida.

I recently read Steve Lipman’s article in the Heritage; Controversy Stirs Over Therapy for ‘Curing’ Homosexuals, that tells of the goings on at the AOJS  (Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists) annual conference in Connecticut.  The AOJS gave Arthur Goldberg, director of JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), a “reparative therapy” organization for gay Jews, permission to speak at their annual conference after a telephone conversation where Goldberg cited supportive biblical verses.      

I couldn’t help but wonder if there are any members of our community who are gay and considering “reparative therapy.” If you are, you should know that “reparative” or “conversion therapy” is soundly rejected by virtually every mainstream medical and mental health organization in America.  My advice:  Save your money. It doesn’t work. 

While it was encouraging to know that AOJS is showing an interest in the subject of homosexuality, from the article it is apparent that there was a lack of knowledge about JONAH, Arthur Abba Goldberg, and  “reparative therapy.”

Goldberg’s credentials are questionable.  According to the Lipman article, Goldberg was disbarred in New Jersey and spent 18 months in prison in 1987 for investor fraud. described him as a mini-Madoff for defrauding people out of millions of dollars.  A simple search on Google would have revealed a wealth of information about Goldberg and JONAH that the AOJS should have known about before allowing him to speak, and, as the Lipman article suggests, give Goldberg and his organization a step toward respectability.  As far as the value of “reparative therapy”, suffice it to say that The American Psychiatric Association, The American Psychological Association, The National Association of Social Workers, and almost half a million mental health professionals have rejected and discredited “reparative therapy” programs.

“Reparative therapy” is not about teshuvah, as Goldberg would have people believe.  It is about trying to remake someone into something they are not, in order to “fix” them.   The trouble with that is I can’t help but wonder why anyone needs to repent or change his or her natural God-given sexual orientation in the first place. 

As a practicing psychotherapist for over 14 years specializing in gay and lesbian issues, one of the things I’ve learned is that we can change many things about ourselves—like the color of our hair, even the color of our eyes with contact lenses, and with plastic surgery we can change the shape of our nose.  But in my opinion, and in the opinion of the majority of psychotherapists what we cannot change is our sexual orientation.  That is part of our fundamental nature.  And that is what JONAH and other reparative therapy groups try to do. 

The reality is if someone is gay, he or she is gay. No matter how hard you try, you can’t change a bird into a fish because you don’t like the song it sings. You might teach a bird to swim, but eventually it will fly; that’s what birds do.

To purposely try to change someone who’s gay into someone who’s straight by attempting to change his or her natural sexual orientation is not only psychologically damaging, it’s downright Orwellian. 

Gay people do not need to be cured or changed. There is nothing wrong with being gay. Homosexuality is not the problem in our world today. 

Homophobia is—and it’s not a gay problem.  It’s society’s problem.

Enid Jackowitz is a licensed mental health counselor in private practice at the Center for Counseling & Consulting in Casselberry, Florida.  She is the author of, “The Rest of the Way: A Coming Out Story for Parents and Gay Children.”


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