What is SSA?

What About Therapy for Our Same-Sex Attractions? (“Conversion Therapy”)

Brothers on a Road Less Traveled is NOT a mental-health clinic of any kind. We are not a therapy organization. We don’t do counseling.

We are a non-profit, peer-led, peer-support community that offers workshops, support groups, webinars and group coaching sessions (via Skype, for instance) — not therapy — to other adults with similar goals.

In essence, we represent the perspective and experience of the CLIENT, not the clinician.

So we have a highly vested interest in our right to voluntarily seek professional counseling and life coaching and to attend workshops and support groups, if we wish, in pursuit of our goal to minimize, to the extent possible — or at least manage — our same-sex attractions in ways that align with our faith, our values, our beliefs, morals and life goals.

The term “conversion therapy” was made up by gay activists who oppose the practice. In our experience as past and current clients, almost all the criticism about so-called “conversion therapy” is based on lies. An actual psychological modality called “conversion therapy” doesn’t even exist! It’s really just talk therapy but for people like us who aren’t completely comfortable with a gay identity or living a gay life, people who want to consider our options and address underlying issues related to our sexuality. Everyone should have the same right.

Our Own Experience As Clients

And a great many of us — not everyone, obviously, but many or maybe even most — have found this kind of counseling to be highly effective:

“It was one of the best choices I have made for my life. Even though I entered therapy wanting to ‘resolve’ my homosexuality, what I really got was a shift in perspective in which I learned to love and accept myself just as I am — and that I don’t need to change to be a good person who is whole and loved.

“This outcome came as a surprise to me, and even 5+ years after terminating therapy, I believe that I am the happy and well-adjusted person I am for having had this particular therapeutic experience.” — “Allen,” age 34, Rhode Island, USA

“Therapy changed my life dramatically. I was sexually ‘acting out’ uncontrollably, and it was not the life I wanted. As I did the work that I needed to heal, I realized that, for me, SSA is just a symptom and not a cause. When I began to heal my wounds toward my father and other men, my sexual attraction toward men diminished. I will always need to have strong non-sexual relationships with men, but I no longer need to have sex with men.” — “Brady,” age 49, Virginia, USA

“Although there are some men who have experienced a reduction of same-sex attractions to the point of almost non-existence, the majority of men that I have known who sought reparative therapy continued to experience those attractions after counseling, but were were no longer distressed by them, and were able to function in a healthy way in both their heterosexual relationships, and in their same-gender relationships in general.” — “Charles,” age 32, Utah, USA

“Reparative therapy helped me tremendously in reducing my unwanted same-sex attractions.” — Dennis, age 54, Texas, USA

“I feel better about being able to share with someone else this part of me that is so private, which for many years I kept only to myself out of shame and confusion. I felt honored that my counselor accepted and respected me, but at the same time challenged me on certain behaviors that I agreed were not proper for me. I feel loved by someone else, and that has allowed me to grow in my self-esteem and confidence.” — “Daniel,” age 37, Iowa, USA

“I have never regretted my counseling once. It has had a huge positive effect on my life. It is improving and re-shaping the way that I perceive myself and others. My counselor has treated me with such love and respect and has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. I will forever be indebted to him and I continue to keep seeing him.” — “Eric,” age 31, Utah, USA

“It has been absolutely beneficial for me. My therapist has helped me work on forgiving myself for the things I felt were against my moral standards. He has also helped me develop tools and mechanisms to transform my sexual energy into a creative energy. As a result, my sexual encounters have diminished and my self-esteem and love for myself have increased.” — “Gary,” age 27, Canada

“Counseling for SSA brought me great understanding of myself and allowed me to see how much I am loved and accepted just the way I am. Due to my counseling and other group programs I am involved in, I am at peace.” — “Jeff,” age 49, Texas, USA

“Most helpful was individual counseling with a licensed mental health professional that was open to my choices. He was non-judgmental and would have supported me in whatever choice I made.” — Kevin, 29, Idaho

“My first step was making the personal decision that I wanted to change.

“Through counseling, I was able to look in towards myself and see the things that were keeping me so fixated on men and wanting to be with them. The personal healing that took place helped to fix and increase the bonds I have with my heterosexual friends.

“My counselor specialized in helping same-sex-attracted men. He told me he would not force me to change, and that any path I chose he would help me with it. Every counselor should do the same. I let him know the path that I desired, and after a year and a half of sessions, coupled with the amazing weekend programs that I had the privilege of attending, I can say that my same-sex attractions have been greatly diminished and no longer have such a gripping hold on my life. I know I can have and live the life that I choose.” — Jason, age 22, Utah, USA

“I was at a point of despair before going to counseling as a young adult. I wanted to die and hated myself and where things were going. These change efforts were a lifeline to me that gave me hope, meaning, purpose, and helped me to live the life I want to live. My kids would not be here without these change efforts. I am so thankful for the people who are willing to help guys like me to live the life they want to live freely and with confidence.” — James, 30, Canada

A Survey of Our Members’ Experience in Counseling

In 2012, we conducted our own survey of our members and others who are indirectly affiliated with our community. We asked them about their own personal experience with professional counseling for unwanted or incongruous same-sex attractions. (The survey referred only to professional counseling, not to Journey Into Manhood or any other Brothers Road program).

A total of 474 people in 19 countries who had sought out counseling for incongruous same-sex attractions responded to our survey. We found:

  • Seven in 10 respondents said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their experiences with counseling for same-sex attractions.

And more than half — sometimes much more — reported that, as a result of their counseling experience:

  • they were more at peace overall.

  • their self-esteem had improved

  • they felt more self-accepting

  • their shame over their same-sex attractions had diminished

  • the frequency or intensity of their homosexual attractions had diminished

  • they had successfully reduced or stopped altogether their unwanted or troubling homosexual behaviors

  • whatever homosexual attractions remained had become less troubling

So clearly, this type of therapy can and does benefit a certain population. Not everyone, certainly, but many.

An Important Disclaimer

Now admittedly, this was not a broad-based survey with a representative sample of everyone who has ever seen a therapist or counselor to try to address dissatisfaction with same-sex attractions.

This was only a survey of people affiliated directly or indirectly with our Brothers Road community. It’s what professional researchers call a “convenience sample,” so the results are frankly going to be skewed towards those who feel more positively inclined towards concerted efforts to channel or alter one’s sexual attractions.

These findings — while reflective of common experiences within our own Brothers Road community — cannot be projected onto a larger, broader population. Neither are they predictive of what others are necessarily likely to experience.

What About Alleged Harm?

What about reports of therapy for same-sex attractions causing harm?

We address this question in some detail in our Q&A: What Professionals Say. So here, we’ll add just a little about our own experience personal experience as clients:

“I never treated my therapy and other personal work as an attempt at sexual orientation change. All I wanted was to be happy in my life and with the choices I made. I think it can be harmful but only when the person pursuing it does it with the wrong intention. The therapy I received and the experiences I made on all experiential weekends made me a better man. They ultimately helped me to step into my golden self. I don’t have any negative experiences with it.” — Stephan, Germany

“I have not experienced ANY negative aspects or effects of my treatment and therapy and group work for my unwanted SSA. In fact, my experience has been just the opposite. I was depressed and suicidal before discovering reparative therapy, not after. It has truly saved my life and brought me hope and support and healing that I never found when I was embracing a gay identity.”

“I cannot imagine how any aspect of sexual orientation change efforts could be harmful. Every aspect of reparative therapy and all of the SOCE programs I know of are aimed at improving self-esteem and self-acceptance. I have seen such an improvement in my self-esteem and confidence that I would have to say all of the SOCE has been worth it – even if I hadn’t experienced any change in my sexual orientation. Now I would say that the benefits to my emotional health are even more important than the benefits of reduced same-sex attraction.” — Jeremy, Texas USA

“The organizations that I am familiar with that deal with this issue deal with it in a very thoughtful, non-dogmatic, broad-minded way. There is absolutely no coercion of any kind—emotional, spiritual, whatever. The individual’s existential exercise of his free will to effect personal change is constantly emphasized at every turn. At the beginning of every process or exercise the individual is presented to opt out if he feels any contradiction with his personal wants or beliefs.”

“I keep hearing in the media that attempting to make any change in one’s homosexual orientation can cause harm or suicide. But when I was living the gay life, I hated myself. I hated my masculinity. I hated my life. I often didn’t want to live and medicated myself with alcohol, drugs and sex. Now, I like who I am. I like who I am as a man. I accept myself as a man. I know that in my heart and don’t turn to substances or sex to help me feel better.” — David, Ohio USA

“My entire experience has been a positive one. I no longer feel despair and hopeless like before. I no longer think of suicide as an option. I know I would not be happy living a gay life. Although the journey of healing has not been an easy one, it has been the best decision for me. I am happier, more confident, and enjoying life now more than I ever did before.”

“My work with change efforts has brought me true happiness. Living a gay lifestyle made me miserable. It was only after I decided to shed the label of being gay that I found freedom. I owe my life to my therapists and to organizations like Brothers on a Road Less Traveled.”

“There have been no negative effects. Sexual orientation change efforts have helped eradicate the sense of shame that used to define my life. I no longer feel depressed. I no longer think about killing myself; I can’t imagine doing so. Life is too wonderful!” — Aaron, California USA

“My experience has been opposite to the popular belief today that sexual orientation change efforts are harmful. I am now a happy person!!! I am at peace with myself. I am feeling fulfilled. Before I was depressed and at times suicidal. I am neither now.”

“Had I done nothing, or had I pursued a gay life, I am convinced that I would at best be depressed to the point of being suicidal because of the hurt I caused my wife and kids by rejecting my family, or I would actually be dead by now due to suicide.” — Scott, Iowa USA

Clearly, these kinds of experience show that for many people, counseling in support of minimizing or managing same-sex attractions instead of embracing a gay identity or lifestyle can be immensely healing and helpful for a certain population — and even, in some cases, life-saving.

It’s Not a Mental Illness

Oftentimes, the talking points and position papers of the counseling trade associations falsely assume that therapy for same-sex attractions must be based on the false idea that homosexuality is inherently a mental illness or mental disorder or disease. In our experience, that is not true at all. It is certainly not the case among any of the practitioners that we, as a community, are familiar with or whom we have engaged as professional therapists, counselors or life coaches.

And it’s not true for us as an organization, either. Brothers on a Road Less Traveled does not consider homosexuality to be a mental illness or mental disorder or disease.

That doesn’t mean that everyone who experiences SSA welcomes it or finds it constructive or something to be embraced or celebrated. Not everyone feels that “gay” fits their identity, their values or life goals.

There are many things in life — habits, thought patterns, feelings, whatever — that may feel incongruent. They may be unwanted. And we may have some capacity to alter, channel or at least manage them in some way. That doesn’t make those issues a mental illness or disorder. The same is true of SSA.

It’s Not Coercive, and It’s Not a ‘Cure’

Opponents of therapy for same-sex attraction love to speak of therapists or others supposedly trying to force change on someone else against their will. They often even use the pejorative term “cure,” which almost no one ever uses except enemies of therapy rights.

In our own experience, this almost never happens — and if it does, of course it is unethical, immoral and should perhaps even be illegal.

In fact, in our community, we’ve more often seen the opposite occur: Therapists and others who try to push us to accept a gay identity and engage in gay relationships against our stated values and therapy goals!

Our Right to Self-Determination

A great many men in our Brothers Road community have had very positive — even life-saving — experiences working with competent professional therapists and life coaches who have helped us work through some of the complex issues related to same-sex attractions, self-identity, sexual behaviors, family dynamics, sexual abuse, and faith and values.

So we stand firmly in support of the right of all others to make their own choices as well.

The American Psychological Association describes a client’s right to self-determination to as a critical ethic of the psychological professions. (Psychologists “respect the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, self-determination and autonomy…”)

And yet some gay-affirming therapists, politicians and gay lobbying organizations want to take that right away from those of us who experience our sexuality differently, or want to address it differently than the gay-affirming therapists, politicians and gay lobbyists think we should.

Many of community members have expressed grave concerns:

“One should not even have to defend one’s right to seek this therapy! It works for me. I am at peace with myself, my family and my God and would be in a horrible mental condition had this therapy not been made available to me.

“If one chooses to enter or remain in the gay lifestyle, that is his choice. This therapy is no threat to him. However, I chose a different path that brings me much sanity and peace of mind. NO ONE should attempt to take this choice from me or others.” — John, age 53, Texas, USA

“It is my right to process my same gender attraction in a manner that is true to my core self. I should not be judged or condemned for this path. While I respect another person’s decision to live a lifestyle in accordance with their beliefs, this same honor and respect should be afforded to me.

“To state that I am not allowed to process my same sex attraction in a manner that is consistent with my personal value system is political and in direct conflict with the message of acceptance that is prevalent in pro-gay communities.

“Prior to understanding my SSA, I had been incredibly repressed and conflicted by listening to pro-gay agendas, telling me that I need to act upon my same gender attractions to be whole. To the contrary, I have done nothing but blossom and become authentic to my deepest core self by accepting my SSA in a manner that is consistent with my values.” — Larry, 53, Ohio, USA

“Our volition is a God-given treasure. Anyone should have the right to choose any counseling on any matter that seem necessary for them. I would not trade mine for anything.” — Jesse, age 69, Alabama, USA

“I am extremely concerned about any legal efforts to deny me or any individual the right to choose for themselves whether or not they want to pursue therapy, counseling, group support, or other treatments or processes to help work through SSA.

“If these treatments and methods and support groups were not available to me, I do not believe I would be alive. I was so severely depressed and suicidal before pursing reparative therapy for my unwanted SSA.

“As an American, my choice to not embrace a gay identity and to seek help in my life-goals should be my undeniable right under our constitution. Any legal efforts to prevent me from doing that takes away my freedom of choice, speech, religion and denies me the opportunity to choose for myself what help and counseling I will seek and what path I will follow in my life.” — “Carl,” age 43, Texas, USA

Further Reading

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P.O. Box 412, Ruckersville, VA 22968  |  434-227-9346  |  richwyler@brothersroad.org