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Babette Francis, May 1, 2010

Last week I was privileged to meet "Catarina", who prefers to omit her last name because of aggressive opposition and death threats she has received from a range of organisations that oppose reparative therapy for same-sex attraction (SSA). Married with four children, Catarina is an Italian psychologist, based in Spain, but currently living in Melbourne.

She is a marriage and family counsellor with 10 years' training and experience in reparative therapy, and is a member of NARTH, the United States-based National Association for Research & Therapy for Homosexuality. NARTH upholds the rights of individuals with unwanted homosexual attraction to receive effective psychological care, and the right of professionals to offer that care.

Catarina who counsels via the internet, is also a member of the International Federation for Therapeutic Choice (IFTC), NARTH's international division formed to give a greater voice to therapists, academics and interested individuals located outside the US who are members of NARTH, and to defend the rights of therapists to treat unwanted homosexuality throughout the world.

And those death threats? Well, they emanate from militant homosexuals who are very vocal about "choice", but vehemently oppose any efforts by psychologists - or anyone else - to help those who want to be free of same-sex attraction (SSA), a term Catarina prefers to use rather than "homosexuality". In California, homosexuals have targeted the businesses and homes of citizens who signed petitions opposing same-sex marriage.

Inspired by the work of Dr Joseph Nicolosi (founder and one-time president of NARTH) and Spanish psychiatrist, Dr Aquilino Polaino, Catarina became interested in the subject of SSA. The first time she met Dr Nicolosi in Italy he taught her that helping people who were suffering from unwanted SSA could be a very rewarding vocation. (Not financially, of course - Catarina's work is totally free of charge). For many years she has been giving free reparative therapy to men, women and young teenagers who desire to change their same-sex feelings and behaviours. She also works with family members who have a child or a spouse with SSA.

Reparative therapy respects the right of all people to choose their own destiny and provides psychological care to those who desire to change. As Dr Nicolosi writes in his latest book, Shame and Attachment Loss: The Practical Work of Reparative Therapy (Dallas: InterVarsity Press, 2009), change cannot be motivated primarily by social or religious guilt. Rather, it must be a commitment from within. The person must have an internal conviction that SSA will never satisfy his or her inner longings.

The primary work of reparative therapy is to move the person from chronic pain and isolation to a renewed and stronger self. Although many health specialists believe a person with SSA is unchangeable, there is abundant scientific evidence proving the contrary. Reparative therapy can not only change sexual behaviour and SSA feelings, it can also help clients assimilate their past traumas and develop healthier relationships.

Researchers have not yet discovered a biological basis for SSA. Not a single scientific study has proved that genes or hormonal influence trigger the appearance of SSA.

Social-psychological aspects play a mayor role in the development of SSA. According to American psychiatrist Dr Richard Fitzgibbons, the most important risk factors for the development of SSA in men are weak masculine identity, mistrust of women and narcissism; the three major conflicts leading to SSA in women are a mistrust of men's love, a weak feminine identity or intense loneliness.

SSA is not about sex, but rather about sexual identity confusion. Identity is established within the family context. When a young boy has a distant father and an overly protective mother, he will not be able to mirror his father's masculinity and will grow up insecure about his own sexual identity. When a little girl is unable to establish an emotional connection with her mother, and has a father that is not supportive, she will be more likely to develop sexual identity confusion.

The failure to understand the causes of SSA has impacted on the way our society views and deals with this issue. Catarina's advice for parents, counsellors and educators is to inform themselves and to study the origins, causes and treatment of SSA.
The web pages www.narth.com and www.couragerc.net offer information and help to those who are struggling with SSA.

Catarina respects the right of a person to claim a homosexual identity, but she also acknowledges the right of a client to seek treatment for unwanted SSA feelings. She has seen and felt the pain of many people struggling with SSA. She honours and admires them. They are survivors of tremendous emotional hurt and her heart goes out to them.

Babette Francis, B.Sc. (Hons), is national coordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.



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