Sexual reorientation efforts in dissatisfied same -sex attracted men: What does it really take to change?

Elan Yeshayahu Karten, Fordham University


This study investigated the psychological and religious characteristics of dissatisfied same-sex attracted men who pursue sexual reorientation interventions. In follow up to Spitzer's (2003) landmark study in which individuals reported reorientation success, it specifically examined what kind of relationship to one's father, type of sexual self-identity, quality of psychological relatedness to other men, and form of religious values---demonstrated the strongest relationship to success (defined here as an increase in heterosexual functioning, a decrease in homosexual functioning, improved psychological well-being, and a greater heterosexual self-identity). Participants were 117 adult men who had participated in any form of conversion intervention at least 6 months prior to participation in the study. The mean age was 39.7 (SD = 10.69). Participants were recruited by private psychotherapists (41%), secular (38.5%) and religious (20.5%) organizations and completed the following questionnaires: the Intrinsic Religious Orientation and Salience Scales, Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI), Restrictive Affectionate Behavior Between Men Scale (RABBM), Treatment Motivation Questionnaire, Sexual Feelings and Behavior Questionnaire, Psychological Functioning Measure, Reference Group Identity Dependence Scale (RGIDS), Therapeutic Interventions & Techniques Scale and Demographic Questionnaire. Perhaps the most robust finding was that a reduction in conflict associated with expressions of non-sexual affection toward other men was associated with treatment success. Significant differences in the perceived effectiveness of traditional psychotherapy, religious interventions, alternative approaches, and self-education did exist such that traditional psychotherapy was rated as the least helpful intervention category. Third, the psychological variables examined in the study as a group predicted treatment success even after the effects of marital status and religious affiliation were controlled for. Finally, a lack of psychological relatedness to other men at onset of intervention was partially associated with treatment success. This finding along with the one found for parental bonding suggests that problematic masculinity may be more amenable to sexual reorientation interventions than an absent/weak paternal bond. The results are discussed in terms of the Nicolosi's (1997) reparative model and Bowlby's (1988) attachment theory. The limitations of the study are then discussed, as are ethical implications, suggestions for future research and implications for practice with these oftentimes religiously identified/conflicted men.

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Recommended Citation

Karten, Elan Yeshayahu, "Sexual reorientation efforts in dissatisfied same -sex attracted men: What does it really take to change?" (2006). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3201129.