The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice & Scientific Integrity
In 1992, three mental-health professionals—Charles Socarides, Benjamin Kaufman, and Joseph Nicolosi—founded the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) to continue the scientific study of homosexuality and its treatment. Socarides, a psychiatrist who had written extensively on the subject and foresaw that the gay-rights movement would undermine societal gender roles and the family, became NARTH’s first president. Kaufman, also a psychiatrist and Clinical Professor at the University of California School of Medicine, served as vice-president, while Nicolosi, a psychologist and director of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic, which specialized in clinical care of unwanted same-sex attraction and behavior, was the first executive director. Nicolosi, a Roman Catholic, was also a consultant for the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese.
In December of that year, a preliminary organizational meeting of about 25 therapists was held in New York City. These professionals were concerned about the increasing politicization of the mental-health field as it pertained to homosexuality and the threats that posed to the ability of professionals from diverse perspectives to study the issue scientifically. Kaufman explained:
NARTH came into existence in response to threats to take away the right of patients to choose therapy to eliminate or lessen same-sex attraction. NARTH defends the right of therapists to provide such treatment and provides a forum for the dissemination of research on homosexuality. Concerned that professional organizations and publications in the mental health field have fallen under the control of those who would use them to forward social constructionist theories, political agendas, and advocacy research, NARTH was founded for a return to established theoretical approaches, solid research, therapy that puts the patient first, and freedom to discuss, debate and disagree.1
These guiding principles remain at the heart of the organization today, and given the rapid cultural capture of not just the mental-health organizations but nearly all societal institutions in the West, they have only taken on more urgency since NARTH’s founding.
For Client & Therapist Autonomy
Early on, NARTH leaders simply wanted to protect the rights of clients to receive, and therapists to provide, the change-exploring psychological care that many individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions freely sought to pursue. However, the increasingly controversial nature of what should be an uncontroversial right to care meant that NARTH increasingly encountered threats to client and therapist autonomy from coercive professional and political maneuvers.
In 1998, NARTH board member A. Dean Byrd co-authored a letter criticizing the American Psychological Association (APA) for publishing an article in Psychological Bulletin that appeared to be a veiled attempt to decriminalize pedophilia, noting that one of the article’s co-authors had published other articles in Paidika, The Journal of Pedophilia. This drew attention to the article and ultimately led to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives (355 to 0 with 13 abstentions) to condemn the APA’s publication of it.
Also in 1998, the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles kowtowed to pressure from gay activists and allied local politicians (including the LA City Council) and abruptly pulled out of hosting NARTH’s annual conference the day before the event was to begin. Conference organizers scrambled; to the relief of approximately 150 registered attendees, some of whom had traveled from as far away as Germany, they were able to secure an alternate venue at the Biltmore Hotel, and the conference went on as scheduled.
However, on day two of the conference, protesters stormed in. After being removed by police, they continued protesting outside the hotel, to the extent that conference attendees had to be escorted by security personnel through the hotel kitchen and back door to avoid confrontations. Protests outside NARTH conference venues were regular occurrences until about 2010, perhaps signaling a realization that the protests were paradoxically bringing publicity to the conference and to NARTH.
Growth & Expansion
In 2014, NARTH expanded to include non-clinicians, such as clergy, religious counselors, families, and those involved in policy development. NARTH was subsumed into a larger organizational structure with a new name that better described its mission as the culture shifted, The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (ATCSI).
NARTH leaders had legally contested the first-in-the-nation ban on change-exploring therapies for minors in California and could see that the struggle to preserve therapy options, especially for religiously conservative individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction, was going to be a defining focus for the organization going forward. This, combined with an awareness of how increasingly politicized the social-science research had become, led to the new organizational identity.
For “A More Complete Truth”
The ATCSI structure expanded to comprise six divisions to give more opportunity for people with diverse backgrounds and interests to affiliate: (1) Ethics, Family, and Faith; (2) Public Education; (3) Client Rights; (4) Clinical; (5) Research; and (6) Medical. During this time, given the mounting legal entanglements surrounding change-exploring therapy, ATCSI also created an attorney position on the Board that continues to guide Board activities. In 2022, the ATCSI Board updated its mission statement to read:
The [ATCSI] exists to encourage human flourishing by promoting a more complete truth, informed by Judeo-Christian values and natural law, about the science of sexual orientation and biological sex through education, advocacy, clinical training, and therapy.
As the political movement to legally ban “conversion therapy” gained momentum, ATCSI leadership responded by becoming increasingly involved in efforts to challenge this threat to ATCSI therapists’ work of non-coercive psychological and pastoral speech-based care. In 2019, ATCSI was instrumental in the first-in-the-nation overturning of laws banning therapy in Boca Raton and Tampa, Florida. Several current or former ATCSI board members were involved in these cases, which have subsequently been upheld by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Moreover, the defendants did not appeal the cases to the Supreme Court, no doubt out of the realistic fear that SCOTUS as currently comprised would likely uphold the decision, thus striking down all therapy bans across the nation. ATCSI leadership has continued to challenge laws restricting client and therapist freedoms, to provide legal briefs and expert testimonies, and to serve as plaintiffs in legal actions against a number of states and cities. There are currently discordant decisions among different Federal Circuit Courts regarding therapy bans, so there is hope among ATCSI leaders and many others that SCOTUS will soon find it necessary to address this issue.
Worth mentioning as well is the recent implosion of Sam Brinton, whose testimony of undergoing gruesome and tortuous “conversion therapy” practices became a high-profile media narrative and formed the foundation of therapy bans. The former Biden administration non-binary appointee faces grand larceny charges after being arrested for stealing women’s luggage in two airports. Moreover, Brinton’s sister has publicly refuted his claims of having been abused by their Christian parents and subjected to painful “conversion therapy.”2 Brinton, who happily recalled minute details of the abusive practices he supposedly experienced, nonetheless could not recall the name of his therapist or where his therapist worked, thus raising further suspicion that his story is a complete fabrication.
Guidelines & Research
Beyond having to play defense in challenging therapy bans, the ATCSI also engages in proactive scholarly and clinical pursuits that support the Alliance’s mission. In 2009 the ATCSI launched its own professional journal, the Journal of Human Sexuality, which serves as a forum for authors who approach homosexuality and gender dysphoria in a scholarly manner but from a traditional perspective that might be refused a hearing in other professional, social-scientific journals.3
In 2018, the journal published practice guidelines for sexual attraction fluidity exploration in therapy (SAFE-T), the Alliance’s preferred language for what ATCSI-affiliated therapists and counselors practice.4 ATCSI also hosts a monthly clinical discussion group on the latest treatment techniques and approaches for people dealing with unwanted same-sex attractions and behaviors and gender confusion.
Finally, the ATCSI has also been at the forefront of recent research providing a much-needed counterbalance to longstanding claims, by the APA and others, that speech-based clinical care is inherently harmful. Recent work by Fr. Paul Sullins, Ph.D., has brought into serious question the “harm” narrative on the grounds that studies used to allege harm (e.g., increased suicide rates) have universally failed to account for pre-therapy suicidality. Sullins’s reanalysis of one study found that therapeutic change efforts actually decreased suicidality, when pre-therapy levels of suicidality were controlled statistically, a finding which threatens to upend the entire “change-exploring therapy equals harm” narrative.5,6
In addition, other recent research has pointed out that most studies of “conversion therapy” are conducted with LGBT-identified participants and exclude by definition most traditionally religious Christian clients who do not identify as LGBT and who appear to have significantly different and more positive experiences with non-coercive, speech-based, change-exploring therapies.7,8
Faith & Hope in the Arena
Despite many successes and contributions to preserving clients’ rights to receive, and therapists’ rights to provide, change-exploring therapies, the ATCSI remains a veritable David to the Goliaths of the APA, established mental-health organizations, and their gay activist allies. ATCSI operates on a comparatively tiny budget supplied by generous donors and the goodwill of like-minded partners and supporters. Yet there is a sense within the ATCSI that God is at work in this arena and that, much like Gideon’s army of 300 against 135,000 Midianites (see Judges 7:1–15), he will give favor to the faithful efforts of the Alliance and like-minded organizations contending for the freedom of individuals to explore change in sexuality and gender.
1. Kaufman, B. (2001-2002). Why NARTH? The American Psychiatric Association’s destructive and blind pursuit of political correctness. Regent University Law Review, 14(2), 423-442.
7. Rosik, C. H., Lefevor, G. T., & Beckstead, A. L. (2021). The Pursuit of Change and Acceptance of Minority Sexual Orientation in Psychotherapy: Retrospective Perceptions of Helpfulness and Harmfulness. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 40(3), 185-203.
8. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fscp0000295, https://supp.apa.org/psycarticles/supplemental/scp0000295/scp0000295_supp.html.
, Ph.D., is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Oregon and earned his doctorate in clinical psychology from Fuller Graduate School of Psychology. He is currently a psychologist and director of research at Link Care Center in Fresno, California. Dr. Rosik has professional interests that include the psychological care of missionaries and clergy, the dissociative disorders, and homosexuality. He has published more than 60 articles in peer reviewed journals on these and other topics and has made presentations across America and in Europe. Dr. Rosik has served as President of the Western Region of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS) and the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity. He is a member of the American Psychological Association, International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, and the National Association of Social Workers.Get Salvo in your inbox! This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #66, Fall 2023 Copyright © 2024 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo66/my-therapy-my-choice