Friday, 7 August 2009

A New Therapy on Faith and Sexual Identity

The men who seek help from evangelical counselor Warren Throckmorton often are deeply distressed. They have prayed, read Scripture, even married, but they haven't been able to shake sexual attractions to other men -- impulses they believe to be immoral.

Dr. Throckmorton is a psychology professor at a Christian college in Pennsylvania and past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. He specializes in working with clients conflicted about their sexual identity.

The first thing he tells them is this: Your attractions aren't a sign of mental illness or a punishment for insufficient faith. He tells them that he cannot turn them straight.

But he also tells them they don't have to be gay.

For many years, Dr. Throckmorton felt he was breaking a professional taboo by telling his clients they could construct satisfying lives by, in effect, shunting their sexuality to the side, even if that meant living celibately. That ran against the trend in counseling toward "gay affirming" therapy -- encouraging clients to embrace their sexuality.

But in a striking departure, the American Psychological Association said Wednesday that it is ethical -- and can be beneficial -- for counselors to help some clients reject gay or lesbian attractions.

The APA is the largest association of psychologists world-wide, with 150,000 members. The association plans to promote the new approach to sexuality with YouTube videos, speeches to schools and churches, and presentations to Christian counselors.

According to new APA guidelines, the therapist must make clear that homosexuality doesn't signal a mental or emotional disorder. The counselor must advise clients that gay men and women can lead happy and healthy lives, and emphasize that there is no evidence therapy can change sexual orientation.

But if the client still believes that affirming his same-sex attractions would be sinful or destructive to his faith, psychologists can help him construct an identity that rejects the power of those attractions, the APA says. That might require living celibately, learning to deflect sexual impulses or framing a life of struggle as an opportunity to grow closer to God.

"We're not trying to encourage people to become 'ex-gay,'" said Judith Glassgold, who chaired the APA's task force on the issue. "But we have to acknowledge that, for some people, religious identity is such an important part of their lives, it may transcend everything else." Read more

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Thursday, 6 August 2009

Psychologists repudiate gay-to-straight therapy

The American Psychological Association declared Wednesday that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments.

Instead, the APA urged therapists to consider multiple options - that could range from celibacy to switching churches - for helping clients whose sexual orientation and religious faith conflict.

In a resolution adopted on a 125-to-4 vote by the APA's governing council, and in a comprehensive report based on two years of research, the 150,000-member association put itself firmly on record in opposition of so-called "reparative therapy" which seeks to change sexual orientation.

No solid evidence exists that such change is likely, says the report, and some research suggests that efforts to produce change could be harmful, inducing depression and suicidal tendencies.

The APA had criticized reparative therapy in the past, but a six-member task force added weight to this position by examining 83 studies on sexual orientation change conducted since 1960. Its comprehensive report was endorsed by the APA's governing council in Toronto, where the association's annual meeting is being held this weekend.

The report breaks new ground in its detailed and nuanced assessment of how therapists should deal with gay clients struggling to remain loyal to a religious faith that disapproves of homosexuality.

Judith Glassgold, a Highland Park, N.J., psychologist who chaired the task force, said she hoped the document could help calm the polarized debate between religious conservatives who believe in the possibility of changing sexual orientation and the many mental health professionals who reject that option.

"Both sides have to educate themselves better," Glassgold said in an interview. "The religious psychotherapists have to open up their eyes to the potential positive aspects of being gay or lesbian. Secular therapists have to recognize that some people will choose their faith over their sexuality."

In dealing with gay clients from conservative faiths, says the report, therapists should be "very cautious" about suggesting treatments aimed at altering their same-sex attractions.

"Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome," the report says.

"We have to challenge people to be creative," said Glassgold. Read more

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Sunday, 2 August 2009

Six Christians burned alive in Pakistan riots

Six Christians were burned alive in Pakistan yesterday when hundreds of Muslims attacked and looted their homes, sparked by rumours that pages from the Qur'an had been desecrated.

The dead, including four women and a child, were killed when Christian homes were torched by hundreds of supporters of a banned Muslim organisation in the Punjabi village of Gojra, in eastern Pakistan.

Tensions have been running high between the two communities over allegations that Christians had defiled pages from the Muslim holy book, despite authorities insisting that the rumours were unfounded.

Television footage from the area showed houses burning and streets strewn with debris and blackened furniture as mobs ran at each other. There were reports in the local media of exchanges of gunfire between Christian and Muslim communities and that rioters had blocked a railway line. Read more
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'Dumbing down' row over value of degrees

Universities were yesterday embroiled in a furious row over dumbing down after a parliamentary inquiry revealed the number of first-class degrees had almost doubled in a decade. Amid the war of words, senior Tories vowed to publish data that they claimed would reveal the true value of degrees.

Different universities demand "different levels of effort" from students to get similar degrees, according to the report from the commons select committee on innovation, universities and skills, suggesting that top grades from some colleges were not worth the same as others.

It calls for the watchdog overseeing standards in universities to be radically overhauled or scrapped and new guides set for degree marking, noting that while 53% of students achieved a first or 2:1 in 1997, that had risen by last year to 61%.

Universities claimed that standards must be high because colleges remained popular with overseas students, but the committee said it was "absurd and disreputable" to justify academic prowess in that way. Phil Willis, chair of the committee, said it was "extremely concerned that inconsistency in standards is rife". Read more
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Gunman kills three in Tel Aviv gay nighclub

A black-clad gunman has killed three people and wounded several others in an attack on a Tel Aviv nightclub.

Israeli police said the gunman entered Cafe Noir, a youth club for gay teenagers in central Tel Aviv, and sprayed the interior with automatic rifle fire, killing three people and injuring 11.

Yaniv Weisman, who witnessed the incident, said: "This was a hate crime, a premeditated attack. Those hurt were very young."

A police spokesman confirmed the deaths at the gay club, describing the incident as "criminal, rather than nationalistic". Read more
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'Whip me if you dare' says Lubna Hussein, Sudan's defiant trouser woman

Lubna Hussein, the Sudanese woman who is daring Islamic judges to have her whipped for the "crime" of wearing trousers, has given a defiant interview to the Telegraph.

As the morality police crowded around her table in a Khartoum restaurant, leering at her to see what she was wearing, Lubna Hussein had no idea she was about to become the best-known woman in Sudan.

She had arrived at the Kawkab Elsharq Hall on a Friday night to book a cousin's wedding party, and while she waited she watched an Egyptian singer and sipped a coke.

She left less than an hour later under arrest as a "trouser girl" - humiliated in front of hundreds of people, then beaten around the head in a police van before being hauled before a court to face a likely sentence of 40 lashes for the "sin" of not wearing traditional Islamic dress. Read more
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Home Secretary: I can't stop Garry McKinnon's extradition

The judgment handed down by the High Court on Friday on the Gary McKinnon case was clear. It upheld the decision of the Home Office — that extraditing McKinnon did not constitute a breach of his human rights as defined by the European convention. It emphasises the fact that it would be unlawful for the home secretary to intervene to prevent his extradition.

The court was equally clear that he should be tried in the United States because the crimes he is accused of committing — although they were conducted from a computer in his bedroom in the UK — did not remotely affect people in this country. They affected critical government security systems in America.

This case has provoked strong feelings — and it is understandable why many are sympathetic to the cause of someone who appears simply to be a misguided, vulnerable young man who has Asperger’s syndrome. I can make no pronouncement of McKinnon’s guilt or innocence. But the crimes he is accused of are far from trivial and he should be tried fairly for them in a court of law and in the country where the impact of those crimes was felt. As the High Court judgment makes clear, McKinnon will not, if convicted, serve any of his sentence in a “supermax” prison. Read more
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Harriet Harman: you can’t trust men in power

HARRIET HARMAN has demanded that one of Labour’s two top posts should always be held by a woman — because she believes men cannot be trusted to run organisations on their own.

Labour’s deputy leader secretly tried to change party rules two years ago to ensure that it could never again be led by an all-male team, but she was foiled.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Harman reiterates her belief in the principle and says her role as Gordon Brown’s second-in-command has changed for ever the way the party will be run.

“I don’t agree with all-male leaderships,” she said. “Men cannot be left to run things on their own. I think it’s a thoroughly bad thing to have a men-only leadership.” Read more
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