Therapy stories

change Aug 05, 2019

What follows are various experiences that others have shared with me that illustrate real help that people have received from therapy, or cases where people are not allowed to get therapy for reducing same-sex attractions and how that has affected them. All of them are real stories from real people. To protect themselves and their families from ridicule many have chosen to remain anonymous. All names below have been changed.

James from Utah:

I was fired from my job back in 2011 for looking at inappropriate material on a work computer.  That was a devastating blow to me, a married man and father of six children.  How was I to provide and what was I to do?  What complicated things was that the reason I was fired was directly related to my same sex attraction.  I now had to face this struggle and stop running from it because it was now causing big problems in my life.

So I sought help and was directed to a therapist who had done extensive work with the late Dr. Nicolosi who was the leader of the organization of NARTH.  Their work was directly geared towards those who have same sex attraction.  I was so lucky to have found my therapist.  He was incredible and a huge blessing in my life.  I have struggled with same sex attraction my whole life.  He really helped me to find myself, my true self.  I can’t say that I no longer struggle with same sex attraction, but I know how to manage my struggles and have been given tools and awareness to be able to live happily as I choose.  I don’t want to live the gay life.  I have chosen to love my wife and family despite my attractions.  It would be a tragedy for people like me to not have access to help.  The gay agenda wants everyone to believe that if you feel like you are gay then you only have one option- to live their lifestyle.  I believe we as human beings have a choice.  Some of us don’t believe homosexuality is the path we want our lives to take.  We have the right to get help in our decisions as much as anyone else does.

Sam from the US:

Through the many years that I have been on this earth, there have been times when I have needed help to get through life.  I have major depression and I have chosen to have therapy to help me deal with it and resolve it.  All have helped and there were ones that could only take me so far and not help me to move past the pains and hurts in my life.  Some have even caused more trauma.  When I was a child, I learned to cope with the trauma by shutting down instead of facing the hurt and pain, like I have learned from a trained therapist.

Recently, I have found a therapist who could help me and work through the trauma that has plagued and festered for many years.  For me these traumas have contributed to my unwanted sexual attractions and unhealthy sexual behaviors towards other men.  When I talked to my therapist, he gave me hope that I would be able to manage my unhealthy sexual behaviors towards other men.  The goal for me of going to therapy was to lessen the desires for men and to help me heal my wounds that are manifesting themselves as same sex attraction.  His knowledge and compassion have helped.  He developed a game plan for me and has assigned me homework, which I have chosen to do, to reinforce what I’m experiencing and working through.

One of the techniques my therapist uses is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).  You can find more at https://www.emdr.com/.  For me this has been a huge benefit in my life.  It has allowed me to take negative beliefs about myself and turn them into positive beliefs.  It has helped me reprocess the traumas in my life and the items that bring me distress.  It helps me to feel good about myself and know that the effects of the trauma from the past is behind me and I’m able to move forward.  It is my understanding that EMDR is use for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  There are a number of studies that show that EMDR can help patients with mental traumas in their life.  For me, EMDR has helped me so much and has helped me to develop healthy relationship with men.  By using it and working with a therapist, it has helped me to be more confident in myself and to be in a better position to face the complex world we live in.  I don’t use EMDR each time that I see my therapist, but it is a tool in his bag and for me to use when I have a trauma come up that I need to process.

Therapy has helped me to be more aware of my emotional state I’m in so that I can make better decisions, even if it hurts, to keep me healthy.  To deny me or anyone else of the opportunity to heal and change is wrong.  That would be taking my ability to choose my path for my life, which isn’t right.  That is telling me that I don’t know what is best for me, when I’m the best person to know what is best for me.

Carl from the US:

I began experiencing same sex attraction when I was 11. It was confusing, shaming and unwanted. I did not like these new feelings and did not know what to do with them. As I grew older, the SSA continued to be present; however, I did not identify as gay. I did not want to be attracted to men. Guys that I knew were gay expressed their desire to be gay, or at least accepted it. I could not accept something that I did not feel was a part of me. Being a Christian, it also did not align with my deeply held convictions.

I fell in love with a woman after college and got married. We started having children and I knew this was the life I wanted. The unwanted SSA was always present, but I had reconciled that despite those feelings, I was happy with my family and my life. Unfortunately, I could not find any counselors/therapists that knew much about unwanted SSA. They knew how to help those who were transitioning to being gay. That is not what I wanted. I wanted someone who could help me understand these unwanted sexual desires and to help me deal with them.

After 30 years of praying, seeking help, and struggling with the unwanted SSA, I interviewed a therapist who worked with men who had unwanted SSA. I did not believe that he could help me after all the years of dealing with the intrusion of these feelings. I was jaded, but my wife and I thought I should give it a try and see if he could help.

I started seeing him about a year and a half ago. He walked me through issues from my childhood, including a Dad who loved me, but who was emotionally and physically distant. As a father of two adult boys, I have seen how important it is for boys to have an intimate and physical relationship. They needed me to be present in their lives. They needed to be held, hugged, and to experience unconditional love from me. They still do as adults.

My therapist began to peel back the onion for me. I began to realize the deficit I had developed as a boy and how I tried to find my own masculinity through other boys. This led to an attraction to the same sex which became eroticized as I went through puberty. This discovery helped me to understand that my need for intimacy with other men was normal and the sexual component was just an idolization of the male body.

My therapist suggested I attend a Brother’s Road weekend called Journey into Manhood. Walking through the powerful processes at this retreat, I started to radically change inside. I no longer saw men as objects, but as men. As I stopped objectifying men, my same sex attraction began to fade. I walked out of the retreat a truly changed man. The beginning of my journey into manhood began a year ago. My unwanted same sex attraction is no longer a struggle for me. I have continued therapy to dig deeper and receive more healing. In July I attended the Brother’s Road Journey Beyond, and I have received even deeper healing that I am processing today. It continues to be so liberating.

I never thought I would ever be able to say this, but I am now free from my unwanted same sex attraction and lust. I no longer have the same feelings and desires that I had for men. I now have healthy relationships with men that understand me and love me. I see attractive men as men, and I do not experience the sexual desires that I once experienced. I know men who have been greatly helped by good, safe therapy and through groups like Brother’s Road who offer an alternative. Not all are completely free of the SSA, but they have better marriages, better relationships with their kids, and healthy connection to men.

This journey has truly been an answer to prayer. It is important to understand that not all men who have same sex attraction want to live a gay lifestyle. There are many of us who never “wanted it” nor “accepted it” as being part of who we really are.

Blake from the UK:

I encountered JiM in 2013 and have been in group talk therapy with Rich Wyler and for last couple of months one on one talk therapy with Rich and have been grateful to see the growth I've seen in myself with regards to a greater sense of wholeness with my gender which has then had an impact on my sexuality change. There is no such resource for me in UK. The therapy helped me build self esteem, challenge negative beliefs by doing things I thought I couldn't, by connecting to my wounds from the past and addressing them, by constantly evaluating what my needs are from my wants, by learning golden traits of masculinity and seeing the gold and potential in me.

Jim from Australia (from an audio transcript):

I've been speaking to Stephen for a while now, and many other individuals from Utah or some other individuals from Utah who have been assisting me on the topic of same-sex attractions.

Unfortunately after many years of therapy here in Australia, going back from Melbourne to Sydney, it has been quite severely disressing. I mean gay affirmation therapy has utterly destroyed me to my very core. I know that sounds direct and some might say "how is that possible?" It's because I have, I know deep within my conscience that I don't want to live a gay lifestyle and I don't want to act upon these urges which I believe are not in conformity with my religion, my values, and my morals.

So basically, Victoria and other states have now introduced and passed legislation to ban all types of therapies that are non-gay affirmation therapies. And this has been utterly destructive for people like us who are suffering in silence, who want assistance, who need assistance, but do not want to accept the gay lifestyle. We are not intolerant, we are not homophobic, we are just individuals that don't want to accept that narrative.

Me personally, it [gay affirmation therapy] has affected me in the worst of ways. I'm now suffering through severe consequences. I now suffer from PTSD, from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, due to the gay affirmation therapy that I've gone through due to the fact that they have pushed this upon me that the only way I'll be happy is to accept the lifestyle. I have seen numerous therapists and the therapists have told me time and time again, and I will quote them directly, that "you will live a miserable life, you will continue to be distressed, you will continue to hate yourself, you will continue to feel shame and guilt, depression, other mental health issues, until you accept the fact that you are gay, and you need to come out as gay and find a gay partner, otherwise you can continue to suppress yourself." I've been told this time and time again and I suffer from OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and when I am in an emotional state I have some obsessive thoughts and obviously PTSD as well. So all of these thoughts that were told to me, all theses statements that were expressed to me two years ago are still in my mind now and I still suffer enormous distress from them, enormous distress. At times it feels like because of the fact that there's no support groups for people like us here in Australia, we're almost non-existent. It's either you accept that [the gay] narrative or you go and suffer in silence or you repress yourself.

All these statements have severely distressed people like us. So I get these thoughts, I get these statements popped in my head on a constant basis when I'm suffering through an emotional or a manic period and it's really distressing to deal with.

Going to gay affirmation therapy, for people like us, is destructive. For others, it's great. For people that want to choose to live that lifestyle, I have no problem with them doing that, but for people like us who have no option here, and it's become incredibly difficult to live the way we want to live based upon our morals and values that we have chosen.

As an individual I've spent many years researching this topic. I have no problem with anyone choosing what path they want to choose. But unfortunately we, as people who do not want to engage in same-sex relations, and do not want to engage in the LGBTQIA livestyle are not given an option, because we are not given support groups, we are not given any therapy that is supportive for us. Meaning therapy that can assist us in removing the shame of having these attrations. Reparative therapy that helps us remove the guilt and self-hatred. The only therapy we are offered is gay affirmation therapy, that these problems will be solved if you just affirm that you are gay and live that lifestyle and this has been incredibly depressing and distressing. My situation has become much, much, much worse, not because of the fact that I have same-sex attractions, it's because of the [gay affirmation] therapy that I have been offered that has been incredibly destructive.

Fred from the US:

Dear Governor Herbert,

I have experienced same-sex attractions (SSA) since I was an 11 years old boy. I started therapy at around 20 years old and am now 28, these years have not been easy and I definitely still do struggle with having SSA, but I can testify that I am in a much more stable and healthy place because of my therapy. I personally know well over a dozen men who are happily in heterosexual marriages despite their unwanted SSA, I know some who live celibate lives, and one or two who claim to now experience exclusively heterosexual attractions. These men credit the therapy they received with getting them to where they are today. I believe that while attempts to legislate a ban on therapy for those with unwanted SSA may be well intended, they are wrong and would ultimately cause much harm. I hope that sharing my experiences with such therapy, and insights into what it is and isn't, will be helpful in informing a fair and responsible decision regarding this proposed legislature.

I would like to preface by explaining my views. My upbringing in a devout religious community, and my firmly held beliefs about what G-d desires of me, make living a gay lifestyle totally incongruent with who I am. I know others who share a similar experience and chose to take a different path than me and have embraced a gay identity. While my religious views don't agree with their choices, I can definitely understand and empathize with them and I would not want to stand in the way of them living their personal truths. I also know that many, if not most, people will disagree with my views and see me as living in denial of my "true gay identity". I would hope that they too can be open-minded enough to understand my beliefs and respect my right to choose how I live my life and receive support in that choice even if they vehemently disagree. I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not driven by "homophobia", hatred, or ignorance. Such common accusations are hurtful and insulting as they imply a widespread disbelief that any rational, sane, or well-meaning person could possibly see homosexuality in any way other than the popular narrative.  Just as people with very different political views and opinions should be able to civilly share their respective views without being vilified, so too we should accept that not everyone sees an issue like homosexuality, especially how to live with one's own SSA, the same.

When I first started seeing a therapist to work around my SSA I can remember him asking me what my goals were and how I would gauge success. At that point my immature response was that I wished to be fully heterosexual and I envisioned myself being eventually married to a woman and living like all my other heterosexual peers. His reply was that it was possible that I could marry a woman and live a fulfilling life if that was what I really was aiming for, change to heterosexuality was less important and not a valuable goal in itself. I was at first disappointed by that but over time I came to realize that a more mature and realistic view is that SSA is not an enemy to conquer, rather it is an opportunity to deeply learn more about myself. We explored  the emotions, beliefs, and thinking patterns that were present in my life. Most of this had nothing directly to do with sexuality. I grieved my childhood experiences of being a "nerdy" sensitive boy who was bullied and excluded from the world of the "cool" guys. I saw how my fear of failure, displeasing others, and rejection all traced back to my school years but also how they played out in my adult lack of self-confidence, anxieties, and feelings of inferiority to other men.

Probably less than 10% of my time in therapy has dealt directly with my SSA itself. There was never any "aversion" or "conversion" techniques used, and among the men I know who are or have been in therapy for unwanted SSA I truly know of nobody who has ever experienced that.  Diminishing the SSA and even increasing attraction to the opposite sex are not the same as "conversion" and they usually are achieved through working on other issues. What I did learn was not to repress unwanted thoughts or feel guilty for them, instead I was urged to use them as a reminder and opportunity to introspect about how I view myself and what I truly admire about the subject of my attraction. Often I find that what I truly need is acceptance and acknowledgment from the masculine world that shunned me as the kid who wasn't picked for the baseball team. Building true and healthy relationships and friendships with other men has a profound effect on my emotional well-being and even on my experiencing attractions. When my attraction to men is based in lust I remain the inferior wounded little boy who idolizes the men who have what I don't see in myself, my responses to the attraction are compulsive, and never gain me the internal satisfaction that I really crave. When I put aside my lustful attractions and allow myself to befriend men as people and not objects of my desires, I gain the healing assurance that I can be accepted in my masculinity and the intensity of attractions to those same men greatly decreases. Other aspects of therapy have been processing traumatic experiences that involved peers in school and my early introduction to homosexuality using therapies like EMDR. Being able to safely embrace and express deep emotions that surround SSA is extremely freeing and vital to mental health. These are my experiences but I have heard them and similar experiences confirmed by dozens of other men with SSA who have gone through therapy.

I have also experienced some negative reactions from the general trend of distancing from unwanted SSA therapy that this legislation would bolster. I was seeing a psychiatrist for a while for management of depression and anxiety which in many ways are interrelated with my SSA, or at least are compounded by it. I got the impression that she would not be so sympathetic or understanding of my choices regarding my SSA so I decided not to mention it. After some time I felt that by not being authentic and fully open about myself and my struggles I was hampering her ability to properly understand my situation and treat me accordingly. When I told her that I experienced SSA but was not looking for affirmation of a gay identity she told me that she had never heard of such a concept. She repeatedly referred to me as gay despite my explaining that that is not how I see myself or would identify as, and implied that all of my problems were the fault of my belonging to a repressive religious community. The irony is not lost on me that I freely choose to associate with my community and hold my religious beliefs while she couldn't seem to allow space for my choice, yet she labels others as repressive! I subsequently left that psychiatrist because I saw we would not be able to respectfully work together, although I doubt my disclosure of my SSA in any way would effect the treatment plan. I realize this is just one anecdotal experience of someone acting unprofessionally, but I fear that with increasing legislature and a very one-sided portrayal of SSA and therapy both in the media and mental health organizations this will not be an uncommon occurrence. I am also severely limited in who I would feel comfortable choosing as a therapist or psychiatrist if I disclose my SSA and my wishes to not live a gay lifestyle. Most therapists will promote a gay affirmative approach or would be afraid to offer services even if I expressly say we will only work on the other issues surrounding the SSA.

It is not only that this is unfair to those with unwanted SSA who seek help in resolving it, it is also potentially dangerous since these individuals are often left with little or no support. When I came closest to suicide it was because I felt abandoned by mental health professionals. Overly limiting the ability to seek professional assistance with unwanted SSA will likely lead some individuals, especially those with deeply religious beliefs, to find alternative "treatments" to deal with their SSA. I have discussed my SSA with several religious leaders and have seen that among clergy there is a widely varied amount of knowledge about SSA and differing attitudes to addressing it. There are some well-meaning people offering really bad advise to what would be a group of extremely vulnerable people if legislature is passed that limits their options for therapy. If one of the motivations for the proposed legislature is to prevent harm then I would argue that everyone should agree that the current therapy practices pose infinitely less danger than alternatives where there is no oversight or accountability. Whether we like it or not, these will become the only options for many people if professional therapy options are curbed. Unfortunately, all efforts to deal with unwanted SSA are often viewed as one regardless of whether the aim is changing to heterosexuality and the methods are to "pray the gay away" or if they are undertaken professionally and responsibly. A judgment of the efficacy or potential for harm in therapy for unwanted SSA should only be based on that, professional therapy.

With regard to therapy for minors, I understand the motivation for increasing protection for vulnerable children from coercion or being led by false promises to undergo therapy that they later will regret. Since children lack the ability to make fully responsible and informed decisions about their futures they do need to be protected to some degree from making bad choices. This should not mean, though, that all children with SSA are assumed by default to want to live gay identities. Many children, again especially in religious communities, will feel great inner turmoil regarding their SSA and their beliefs and sense of community. Therefore, a therapist for children with SSA will be crucial for their well-being. To decide for them and promote that they should sacrifice their beliefs and belonging within a community for the sake of embracing a gay identity is equally as wrong as deciding for them to sacrifice living a gay identity in order to stay in keeping with their beliefs or their communities. The same ethical and responsible guidelines that should apply to adult therapy for unwanted SSA should apply for children with added concern to determine the child is not being coerced or manipulated by others. The goal should not be stated as changing to heterosexuality since this is not commonly achieved and also not necessary for living a healthy and satisfying life within the beliefs of most religious communities. The amount of work and the struggle shouldn't be trivialized, it has to be clear that therapy will be a lot of hard work and no quick fixes should be promised. The reason that the child desires therapy should be explored both to establish realistic and responsible goals and to determine that the child is acting on their own volition and not influenced by others. It should be made clear that the child has control over the therapy, if the child decides to change their goals or choice of lifestyle this also will be allowed. Obviously no aversion techniques or shaming should ever be part of therapy and a child should not be forced to do anything they are uncomfortable with. However, if a child is presented with this information and freely wishes to pursue therapy to reduce any negative ramifications that they perceive in their experience of unwanted SSA, to withhold the option of therapy from them is truly unethical.

Thank you for giving me and others like me a chance to voice our opinions. It is not often that we are acknowledged or given voice and your efforts to provide a fair decision making process are commendable and greatly appreciated. I hope that what I have written is taken into account when considering the proposed legislation. I hope and pray for a just decision that truly protects the rights and well-being of all children in Utah in a way that allows them to live according to their truths.