Advocacy organization aims to end ‘gay conversion therapy’

    A Philadelphia advocacy group has filed ethics complaints against some West Conshohocken therapists that the group says offer “gay-conversion” services.


    The Peace Advocacy Network, PAN, claims therapists at the Institute for Marital Healing offer therapeutic interventions to try to turn homosexual people into heterosexual people. This type of therapy has mostly been decried as ineffective and harmful by psychologists. The American Psychological Association, which formed a task force to explore this issue a few years back, has published an extensive report stating that conversion therapies have not been shown to have work, and can cause lasting harm in individuals.

    Ed Coffin says PAN, which pushes for change on a variety of issues, wants to end the use of conversion therapy.

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    “We know it doesn’t work, we know it can be damaging, and really all it’s doing it’s making people feel not OK being themselves,” said Coffin. “It’s really just promoting the stigma that there is something wrong with being homosexual.”

    Coffin, who is a nutritionist who serves as PAN’s campaign director, says his organization became aware that these therapies were being offered via anonymous emails and research.

    Therapists at the Institute for Marital Healing, which is an independent Catholic faith-based agency, declined to comment for this report or to confirm if they offer conversion therapy. It’s not mentioned on the institute’s website.

    Controversial as they may be, not all faith-based therapy services for homosexual people are about “conversion” says religious scholar Lynn Gerber.

    “It’s often the first time they get to talk about their homosexuality,” explained the research fellow at the University of California at Berkeley who has studied “ex-gays.”

    “People often come from contexts where that set of desires and attractions is so taboo that they have nowhere to even speak of it, so even having the space to speak of it relieves a certain amount of stress,” she added. Gerber said many seek therapeutic advice because they believe that their faith and sexuality are at absolute odds.

    “That there was not a reconciliation possible, in terms of them actually expressing their sexual desire with another person, and what they sought to do was to live life in alignment with their faith as they understood it,” she continued.

    The Peace Advocacy Network’s complaints are under review with Pennsylvania’s State Department and the American Psychological Association. PAN plans to stage a protest outside the Institute for Marital Healing.

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