"We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice,
we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself." Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (1943-1945)

Reminder of the Issues with the ACC's ban of therapeutic support for those seeking to change sexual patterning

Alliance Statement on the ACC’s Removal of Core Issues Trust from Membership

Approved by the Alliance Board of Directors on January 21, 2015

The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (hereafter referred to as Alliance) is compelled to express in the strongest terms our consternation at the Association of Christian Counselor’s (ACC) recent decision to remove Core Issues Trust (CIT) from their organizational membership.  We register this dismay particularly in light of statements made by ACC to justify their decision, statements that mimic the talking points of gay activists and clearly misrepresent CIT’s counseling practices. 

In his recent correspondence with ACC members on this subject1, ACC executive chair Tony Ruddle indicated that the primary basis for the decision to remove CIT from membership was that “…counselors should not impose or assume pre-determined outcomes in counseling, including sexuality, and that client autonomy is of first importance.”  The Alliance agrees with this statement wholeheartedly and requests that Mr. Ruddle provide evidence that CIT has in fact violated this guiding principle.  We wish to point out that the Alliance’s own practice guidelines for the treatment of unwanted same-sex attractions and behaviors2, to which CIT subscribes, state explicitly that, “In treatment settings, professionals respect the autonomy and right of self-determination of individuals who seek change interventions for unwanted same-sex attractions and behavior, as well as those individuals who do not desire such interventions” (p. 21).  It appears that CIT’s sole crime is to believe that some individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions and behaviors can experience change on a continuum of change and offer to provide therapeutic care for clients who autonomously choose to pursue goals that include the potential for change.

We would also remind Mr. Riddle of the rapidly developing literature on sexual fluidity and the frequent occurrence of spontaneous change in same-sex attractions, behaviors, and identities among non-heterosexual men and women3.  Given that such change is occurring all around us, the Alliance is disappointed that ACC leaders seem to believe the professional counsellor’s office is the only setting where change should not be allowed to occur.

Mr. Ruddle later implicitly accuses CIT of poor practices by stating, “ACC counselors are expected to approach every client with respect and show no discrimination.”  This is a serious charge and deserves unambiguous and specific examples where CIT has been disrespectful and discriminatory in a counselling context.   We again would ask Mr. Ruddle to provide such evidence so as to avoid the appearance of slandering CIT. 

We are also confused by Mr. Ruddle’s seeming to blame “the furore created around these issues” for the difficulty in conducting ethically sound research.  The Alliance concurs that further research in change-oriented psychological care is needed but is unsure how Mr. Ruddle intends to advance the research he purports to value by making it impossible to conduct, which would be the precise effect of a formally prohibition on its practice. 

In light of the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) against change-supportive counselling4, for which the ACC was a cosignatory, we again address the MoU’s central charge that such care is “potentially harmful.”  This is a remarkably low scientific standard on which to restrict the sexual self-determination of potential clients and professional counsellors who might assist them in their goals toward change.  We remind the ACC leadership that the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation5 concluded, “[T]here are no scientifically rigorous studies of recent SOCE that would enable us to make a definitive statement about whether recent SOCE is safe or harmful and for whom” (p. 83; cf. p. 67, 120).  We also note that at least one of ACC cosigners on the MoU, Pink Therapy, promotes resources that encourage sadomasochism and anal sex, practices that are associated with established harms6 far outweighing any alleged harms of professional counselling that supports the possibility of change.  We are thus perplexed as to why the ACC leadership was so willing to align itself with organizations such as Pink Therapy, a group that appears to share little of the historic Christian sexual ethic, while removing from its membership CIT, an organization that only wishes to assist individuals who seek to live within that same Christian sexual framework.

We understand the tremendous pressures the ACC leadership must be operating under and its desire to remain within the good graces of secular mental health associations in the United Kingdom and preserve their referral status with the NHS.  However, we believe that time is fast approaching, if not upon them now, when the ACC leadership will have to choose which sexual values they will serve.  Their treatment of CIT certainly gives the impression that the ACC leadership has chosen to side with a secular progressive sexual ideology and its advocacy-compromised reading of the relevant science. “Salt is good for seasoning.  But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again?” (Luke 14:34).

We are grieved at the ACC decision to remove CIT from its membership and encourage Mr. Ruddle and the association to rethink this decision as well as their general support for a position that dictates what counseling goals are to be off limits to clients in professional counselling.  In his correspondence Mr. Ruddle states that for those unhappy with their sexual orientation “there may be grounds for exploring therapeutic options to help them live more comfortably with [same-sex attractions], reduce their distress and reach a greater degree of acceptance of their sexual orientation.” This suggests that the only therapeutic support now permitted for ACC counselors is to affirm homosexual feelings as immutable—something unsubstantiated by research. Mr. Ruddle further states that “ACC’s Statement is…based not on scientific evidence alone but on the grounds of ethical and practical principles that have been used by Christians working in the field of counselling and psychotherapy for many years.”  Given the ACC’s clear support of CIT and the client’s right to pursue change-oriented counseling and therapeutic practices as recently as December of 20127, it is difficult not to interpret Mr. Ruddle’s current words as a disingenuous claim designed to re-write the ACC’s historical record on this subject.

We can only imagine the discouragement some non-heterosexual clients will experience when told by ACC counsellors that their association does not allow them to assist people toward change in their same-sex attractions and behaviors. The Christian married man who wants to preserve his heterosexual marriage and family or individuals whose new found faith motivates them to leave a gay or lesbian lifestyle and pursue their potential for change are just two real world examples of people the ACC leadership appears to have abandoned. 

The Alliance and CIT support the rights of individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions and behaviors to make scientifically informed, self-determined, and autonomous decisions that include the pursuit of change with the assistance of a professional counsellor.  This includes the necessity of informed consent and the absence of any hint of coercion.  Our professional counselors do not offer “cures” as the activist talking points allege, but rather find that some individuals respond to established psychological techniques and facilitated emotional processes by experiencing change of unwanted same-sex attractions and behaviors on a continuum of change. While we do not believe that change is the only acceptable outcome for professional counseling, we see no genuine religious, ethical or scientific barrier to simply allowing clients to pursue the possibility of change with a professional counsellor.  We believe the majority of ACC members agree with us and would support this type of counseling process. 


Footnotes

1E-mail from Tony Ruddle to ACC members dated 6 January, 2015.

2Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (2010). Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Unwanted Same-Sex Attractions and Behaviors. Journal of Human Sexuality, 2, 5-65.  Retrieved from http://www.scribd.com/doc/115506183/Journal-of-Human-Sexuality-Vol-2

3Katz-Wise, S. L. (2014). Sexual fluidity in young adult women and men: Associations with sexual orientation and sexual identity development. Psychology & Sexuality. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/19419899.2013.876445; Katz-Wise, S. L., & Hyde, J. S. (2014). Sexual fluidity and related attitudes and beliefs among young adults with a same-gender orientation. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10508-014-0420-1

4Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK (January 2015). Retrieved from http://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/UKCP_Documents/policy/MoU-conversiontherapy.pdf

5American Psychological Association (2009). Report of the APA task force on appropriate therapeutic response to sexual orientation.  Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/therapeutic-response.pdf

6Beyer, C., Baral, S. D., van Griensven, F., Goodreau, S. M., Chariyalertsak, S., Wirtz, A., and Brookmeyer, R. (2012, July 28). Global epidemiology of HIV infection in men who have sex with men. The Lancet, 380, 366-377.

7Association of Christian Counsellors (December, 2012). ACC Statement to its Members, e news, Issue 31. Retrieved from http://www.core-issues.org/uploads/acc-uk.org_Enews31_Dec12.pdf

 

 

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