New Study Finds Christian Counseling Effectively Assists Leaving Homosexual Life-Style

By Meg Jalsevac

  NASHVILLE, September 18, 2007 ( - A new study, entitled the Exodus Project and conducted by two psychologists, has determined that, through "religiously mediated means", it is possible for homosexual individuals to leave their old lifestyle and embrace the heterosexual lifestyle.  The study also determined that, contrary to mainstream scientific thought, the effort to change one’s inclinations away from homosexuality does not appear to be psychologically problematic.

  In the words of the authors themselves, "The study is the first on the subject of sexual orientation change to be done in accordance with rigorous scientific and ethical standards, and it is the first to produce reliable hard data on whether it is possible to change sexual orientation through the interventions delivered by religious ministry organizations."

  The study authors are Mark A. Yarhouse, a professor of psychology at Regent University in Virginia and Stanton L. Jones, professor of psychology at Wheaton College in Illinois.

  All participants of the study received counseling through Exodus International, a Christian organization focused on ministering to individuals who want to or have left the homosexual lifestyle.

  The final results of the study show that, by the study’s conclusion, 38% of the participants had successfully left the homosexual lifestyle (either changed to a heterosexual lifestyle or embraced chastity despite their homosexual inclinations).  Another 29 percent demonstrated only partial success in departing from the homosexual way of life but vowed to keep up their efforts.  Of the remaining numbers, only 8 percent reverted to an active homosexual life.

  The timing of this study’s release is especially poignant as the American Psychological Association (APA) continues to appoint largely ‘gay-affirmative’ individuals to the newly formed Task Force on Appropriate Responses to Sexual Orientation.  According to the APA website, the official position of the APA is that homosexuality is neither a choice nor a changeable characteristic. 

  Dr. Jones expressed hope that the results of the new study could at least spark scientific discussion on the matter. "We hope our research will say to people, ‘Slow down. Let’s have a civil dialogue. Let’s talk about people who are making autonomous adult choices about what they do…. Let’s give people the opportunity to exercise their religious freedom."

  While the authors are adamant that no one can be forced to change their orientation, they claim that their study offers hope to those who do want to leave the active homosexual life. 

"The study goes to the heart of a debate that is raging today and that is not being investigated fairly. Is sexual orientation utterly fixed and unchanging for all persons, or is change possible for some? The strident argument that change is impossible seemed to us driven more by ideology than by science. As scientists, we were excited to tackle such a big, important question."

  According to the InterVarsity Press website, Dr. A.D. Byrd of the University of Utah School of Medicine commented on the work saying, "With this landmark study, Drs. Jones and Yarhouse have made a major contribution to a controversial area. The findings from their study support the importance of client autonomy and client self-determination as therapists provide a range of options to those who seek help for unwanted same-sex attraction. The book is required reading for those interested in the best practices and evidence-based care for this clinical population."

  Some critics have expressed doubt about possible bias in the study results since both authors are Christians themselves - possibly leading them to highlight only the positive results of their study.  Similarly, the website of the APA has previously dismissed all comparable studies that claim success in assisting homosexuals to leave the lifestyle for the reason, among others, that the results "come from organizations with an ideological perspective which condemns homosexuality[...]" 

  The authors of the Exodus study dispel such accusations by painstakingly explaining their research process and analysis within the book.  "We pledged from the beginning to publish the true findings of the study regardless of how positive or negative (for Exodus) the findings might be, and the written report is scrupulously honest about positive and negative findings, as well as about the strengths and limitations of the study."

 "This study is the most scientifically rigorous to date, focusing on ninety-eight subjects thought to be representative of those seeking change through Exodus, following them prospectively (from early in the process) and longitudinally (over multiple assessments), using multiple measures regarded as "industry standards," and reporting explicitly on all aspects of the findings. Previous studies have suffered from using idiosyncratic measures of change, from looking at selective samples and from looking at subjects only at one moment in time (a cross-sectional "snapshot"). No scientific study is perfect, but this study uses the most rigorous methods to date."

  Former APA President and current President of the Cummings Foundation for Behavioral Health, Nicholas Cummings said, "This study has broken new ground in its adherence to objectivity and a scientific precision that can be replicated and expanded, and it opens new horizons for investigation." 

  The full results of the study will be published in the coming months by InterVarsity Press in a book entitled ‘Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation.’  According to the publisher’s website, the professors "sought publication of their manuscript by nonreligious publishers, but found that those publishers would not consider the project due to ideological sympathies with the GLBT community and fear of negative repercussions of publishing a study that would likely be spun as ‘anti-gay.’"

  Jones and Yarhouse have indicated that they will follow the subjects of their studies to determine the long term outcome of their study.  They have expressed the hope that the scientific community will pay heed to their study results as authentic, verifiable data. 

"The present study produces significant scientific evidence that sexual orientation is in fact changeable for some, and this should trigger a considerable re-examination of many of the presuppositions about sexual orientation and sexual identity that hold sway in contemporary Western culture." 

  On the InterVarsity website, Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy, Dr. Warren Throckmorton affirmed the significance of this new study.  "While the authors fully acknowledge that change in sexual attractions did not occur for some individuals, they offer cogent and compelling reasons to believe that participation in religious ministry resulted in durable changes for others. The Jones and Yarhouse study will set the standard for all future work in this field and demands a serious reading from social scientists. For anyone interested in the study of sexuality, values and human change, this book is a must-read."

  Read reviews and to order the book from InterVarsity Press:

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