Watch Out When You See a Therapist Advertise “Treating” Same-Sex Attractions
The term same-sex attraction (or SSA) as it is often referred, is often codename for conversion or reparative therapy. If you see this term advertised by a therapist, you need to be very cautious. These practices are often built on shame and cause more harm than they do good.
Nowadays, the term conversion therapy for attempting to change those who are members of the LGBTQ+ community is rightly viewed as harmful. The term reparative therapy is more commonly used. People who aren’t as familiar with this term may fall for it being helpful and less shaming.
However, another term is being even more commonly used than conversion or reparative therapy, and that is SSA or same-sex attraction “treatment.” Don’t be fooled if it doesn’t come with terms such as conversion or reparative therapy. If the person is saying you need to “control” or “get rid of” LGBTQ+ identification, they are offering reparative therapy.
Some people are taken to treatment because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, and are put through treatment. These treatments have been shown to be based in zero science and are manipulating the shame that our society has about being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or other variances of sexual orientation or gender.
Why do people seek out treatment for same sex attraction if the treatment is harmful?
Unfortunately, although all major counseling and psychology boards have denounced this type of treatment, it is still legal to offer it in most states. Sadly, there is also a market for offering this treatment. There are a few primary reasons why this type of treatment is still being offered.
- Our culture still shames people for being non-heterosexual and non-cisgender.
- Poor sex education.
- Many religious organizations are struggling to connect with what science says on this issue.
But what about mixed orientation marriages?
There are some people who make sense of their sexual orientation or gender well after they have entered into a heterosexual marriage. Some people do decide to remain in these marriages. In therapy, I always recommend mindfully making personal decisions about the relationships that you’re going to be in. Openness and honesty are keys in any relationship. Reparative therapy actually decreases the likelihood of openness and honesty by increasing shame.
I won’t lie to you about this. Most mixed orientation marriages do not work out. I know that this may seem scary if you’re considering this type of relationship. I don’t say it to scare you. I simply think it’s important to know that it’s a struggle. If you look around on the internet, you’ll read about people who are “happy” in their mixed orientation marriages. Many of these relationships end up struggling over time. It’s important to make informed decisions, no matter how hard it is. If you’re wanting to read about these marriages, Joe Kort has a good list of articles about this topic: Joe Kort’s Mixed Orientation Marriages Articles. You might also want to read the experience of Josh Weed who was in this type of relationship and eventually came to some realizations about his journey.
What isn’t erased
Information doesn’t erase the challenges you may be facing. It doesn’t erase shame if you’re experiencing that. It doesn’t erase the fear of loss you might be experiencing. It doesn’t erase issues you may be having with your religion. Those are tough challenges. LGBTQ affirming therapy can help with those challenges. It takes time, it takes support. Over time, most people find some balance in their journey. Shame still usually lingers around, but it also often becomes less overwhelming over time. If you want to know why it lingers around for people in some fashion, check out information about the Box Seats in Brené Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability.
Ignorance is not bliss in a therapist
If you’re in a mixed orientation marriage, you’re concerned that you’re dealing with a sex addiction, or you’re simply scared of your gender or sexual orientation identification, some therapists may refer you to “support groups.” There are far too many of these groups to discuss them all in one article. You want to look for how they define healthy sexuality. For example, some 12 Step support groups define healthy sexuality as being between a man and a woman. You also want to look for groups who use the term Same Sex attraction as something that needs to be changed and avoid them. If a therapist refers you to any of these organizations, it likely means that they lack the appropriate training in working with LGBTQ+ people, or people who are questioning their gender or orientation. Search for “affirming” therapists in your area to find someone who may be better equipped to help.
Sex Addiction Treatment
Sex addiction is another controversial term. You can read a lot about sex addiction throughout this website on our blog. Some people do deal with compulsive sexual behavior. I have worked with people who in their compulsivity explore sex with various genders that are outside of their own defined sexual orientation. These people may change behavior patterns to focus on their marriage. That does not mean that sexual orientation is changeable. There is a wide range of sexual orientation and sexual expression with others. Good sex addiction treatment helps people accept all of who they are. It focuses on helping people define for themselves what healthy sexual behavior is. As long as the behavior is among consensual adults, clients are able to make their own decisions about what they want, who they are, and what is authentic to them.
Is there a place for you in therapy if you’re LGBTQ+, scared of coming out, and unsure of what you want to do?
Absolutely! Therapy is walking along side a client on their journey. It is accepting the client and their decisions. Affirming therapy is not about insisting that a client does anything. Instead, it’s supporting a client while they figure out what they want and need. If you have a therapist who insists on you making specific decisions, your therapist is not affirming.
What about partners of people who are questioning their orientation or gender?
A partner can be traumatized to find out that they are with a partner who is LGBTQ+. Some have some idea, while others are blindsided by this. Responsible therapy helps to support partners in their situations, without creating a delusion that sexual orientation and gender are changeable to conform to social rules. It’s absolutely possible to offer good sex education, while supporting partners in the trauma that they’re experiencing. Look for a therapist who knows how to balance this.