Some conversion therapy practices appear to be driven by the (scientifically inaccurate) view that homosexuality is caused by overly strong attachments to women or insufficient platonic male friendships. In the complaint, Downing is accused of asking Unger to beat an effigy of his mother with a tennis racket, “as though killing her.” Unger was also allegedly encouraged to spend more time naked with his father. (Gallagher, JONAH’s chairwoman, would not comment on Downing’s tactics, saying she is not a therapist.)
Chris Doyle is a licensed counselor and the director of the International Healing Foundation, a Maryland organization that works on all issues related to sexual orientation, including conversion. He was also going to be an expert witness in the JONAH trial until the judge barred him and several others because they planned to bring scientifically refuted testimony, The New Jersey Star-Ledger reported.
Doyle said he uses mostly experiential, talk, and cognitive-behavioral therapies in his practice and doesn’t “necessarily” use the approaches Downing is accused of employing. It’s not the media’s place to analyze therapy techniques, he said, before adding that the undressing session “was actually fine for what [Downing] was trying to do.”
Doyle, who considers himself a former homosexual, is now married with children. He was a sensitive child, he said, and he had trouble bonding with his father. He was later abused by an older female cousin, and “that caused me have a disdain toward women because of the abuse.”
“When I resolved those issues in my early 20s ... my same-sex attractions really went away,” he said. “I realized that for some people, this wasn’t simply just something that they had to accept, they could actually work through these issues if they wanted to and go on to live a heterosexual life. I don’t have any disdain for the LGBT community, but I chose a different path.”
Most of his clients who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions are male, and are “almost always over-attached to their mothers. That's created wounding for them. They want to be like regular guys, but they don't feel like regular guys,” he said.
Doyle believes these men sexualize their need for friendship with other men, and that he can help them with this just like a therapist might help a patient overcome her depression. “We’re helping the client get those ... unmet love needs and healthy same-sex relationships that aren’t sexual,” he said. “When they do that, they experience freedom, they experience who they really are.”
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The medical establishment is not sympathetic to perspectives like these. In addition to the APA, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, and other groups have all condemned conversion therapies. The APA encourages practitioners not to try to change their patients’ sexual orientation, “keeping in mind the medical dictum to First do no Harm”