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Can Homosexuals Change Their Ways?

“Like most psychiatrists, I thought that homosexual behaviour could be resisted—but that no one could really change their sexual orientation. I now believe that's untrue—some people can and do change,”1 announced Dr. Robert Spitzer in May 2001.2

Spitzer, distinguished professor of psychiatry at New York’s Columbia University, was introducing a new study of homosexuality to the annual American Psychiatric Association (APA) convention. For this study he conducted telephone interviews with a sample of 200 men and women who, as a result of reparative therapy (essentially a form of behavioural counselling), had experienced a significant shift from homosexual to heterosexual attraction, and had sustained this shift for at least five years. He found that 78% of the men and 95% of the women said that therapy had made them predominantly or exclusively heterosexual. By the time of the study interview, three-quarters of the men and half of the women had married.3

Spitzer’s study provoked a storm of media interest because it challenged what has become the politically-correct view that homosexuals can’t change their sexuality and that reparative therapy is, at best, unhelpful—if not downright harmful. It also attracted particular attention because it was Spitzer who had led the campaign which resulted in the APA’s 1973 decision to drop homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders, thereby discouraging therapeutic treatment of homosexuals.4

In the face of Spitzer’s study the APA has maintained its stance that “there is no published evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation.”5 This is very misleading. Spitzer’s study was, in fact, only the latest of a number of published studies all showing that it is possible for highly-motivated homosexuals to change their sexual ways.

Dr. Charles Socarides, clinical professor of psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has described, for instance, how about 35% of the overt homosexuals that he has treated were able to develop “full heterosexual functioning,” and he mentions a long list of psychoanalysts who, in the face of attacks by homosexual activists, published results of their work all showing the success of various therapies.6 Numerous other studies confirm his research.7

One of the best-known studies, published in 1962, was conducted by a team led by American psychotherapist, Dr. Irving Bieber, and looked at 106 male homosexuals/bi-sexuals over a 9-year period. By the time of publication 27% of the sample were exclusively heterosexual.8 Another study by American sex therapists, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, published in 1979, showed that of a group of 67 men and women whom they treated over a five-year period, two-thirds were able to achieve a long-standing reversal of their homosexuality.9

Although the numbers involved in these studies, compared with the total number of homosexuals, is admittedly small, they do undoubtedly show that for some homosexuals, at least, change is possible. Those involved in the therapeutic process say it is not easy because the nature of homosexuality is so complex, and nearly always involves psychological scars that go back to childhood.10 But Christians believe that nothing is too difficult for God and that Jesus can heal the deepest scars.11


See Kairos Journal articles, "The Church's Ministry to Homosexuals" & "And Such Were Some of You."


Linda Ames Nicolosi, “Historic Gay Advocate Now Believes Change Is Possible” (NARTH Website, 2001) May 9, 2001, Italics added for emphasis.


Roy Waller and Linda A. Nicolosi, “Spitzer Study Just Published: Evidence Found for Effectiveness of Reorientation Therapy” (NARTH Website, 2003) October 7, 2003, The full study is published in Archives of Sexual Behaviour 32, no. 5 (October 2003): 403-417.


Ronald Bayer, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987).


Doug Nave, “Medical and Professional Associations Unanimously Question ‘Conversion’ Therapies” (The Covenant Network of Presbyterians Website, 2003)


Charles W. Socarides, A Freedom Too Far (Phoenix, AZ: Adam Margrave Book, 1995), 102-103, 150-152.


See the New Directions for Life Website,


Irving Bieber et al., Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuality (New York: Basic Books, 1962). This is referred to in Enrique T. Rueda, The Homosexual Network: Private Lives and Public Policy (Old Greenwhich, CT: The Devin Adair Company, 1982), 101, and in Socarides, 151.


W. H. Masters and V. E. Johnson, Homosexuality in Perspective, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979).


See the work of Leanne Payne, particularly The Broken Image, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1981) and The Healing of the Homosexual (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1984); Michael Saia, Counseling the Homosexual (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1988); Bob Davies and Lori Rentzel, Coming Out of Homosexuality (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993); and Andrew Comiskey, Pursuing Sexual Wholeness (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 1989).


See Kairos Journal articles, "Soul-Saving Diagnostics" & "Male Prostitutes & Homosexuals."