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September 28, 2011 Print

Study: Change Is Possible for Homosexuals

by Karla Dial

For the first time in a decade, a study showing sexual orientation change is possible for some homosexuals has been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

The October issue of the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy contains a longitudinal study of Christians seeking help from ministries associated with Exodus International for their unwanted same-sex attractions. Of the 98 subjects, more than half were reported as successful; 23 percent reported a complete change in orientation after six years. Also, 20 percent reported giving up the struggle to change.

Dr. Stanton Jones, a psychologist at Wheaton College in Illinois and the study’s lead author, said the opportunity to study sexual orientation change was too intriguing to pass up.

“At the time, the American Psychological Association (APA) prominently on its web page said sexual orientation could not be changed,” he said. “Very few people were looking into it.”

In 2007, Jones and his colleague, Dr. Mark Yarhouse of Regent University, published their three-year findings of the group in a book (Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, InterVarsity Press). It was rejected by peer-reviewed scientific journals for not following subjects long enough or tracking changes as they occurred — valid concerns the authors addressed in their latest work.

However, the APA also excoriated the authors for not using a laboratory model with a control group — and said in 2009 that the findings were “unpersuasive.”

That, said Jones, is not a valid concern.

“All methodologies have drawbacks,” he said. “The more rigorous you get, the further removed you get from real life. We followed more of a real-life model than a hyper-controlled experimental model. We think the results challenge the reigning mindset that change is impossible or is extraordinarily rare.

“It is a bit frustrating to me to see APA saying research shows it is impossible or rarely happens when in my mind, no such research exists,” he continued. “When anecdotes that people have changed are treated with cynicism, it’s fueled by the anecdotes of people who’ve had the opposite experience. To say (change is) impossible is an overstatement of the facts, in our opinion.”

Jones said the fact that the subjects were all Christians with strong convictions about moral behavior most likely played a pivotal role in helping the successful ones change their orientation.

“We were trying to address the basic question ‘Is change possible?’ The fact that anyone changed is what came out of this study,” he said.

Read more about Jones’ and Yarhouse’s study and previous work.