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Yarhouse Study Published in Respected Scientific Journal

| October 7, 2011

Many professional voices proclaim that it is impossible to change homosexual orientation and that the attempt to change is commonly and inherently harmful. Dr. Mark Yarhouse, a distinguished professor at Regent University, along with psychologist Stanton L. Jones of Wheaton College, have recently published results from a study that shows the issue might not be so black and white.

Published in the respected, peer-reviewed Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, the final results show change to be possible for some and the attempt not harmful on average. These results stand in tension with the common professional consensus.

In prior studies, the American Psychological Association found that, "treatment outcome is not followed and reported over time as would be the standard to test the validity of any mental health intervention." Yarhouse and Jones assessed evolving sexual attractions and psychological distress levels of 65 individuals seeking sexual orientation change beginning early in the change process, and then followed them with five additional assessments over a total span of 6 to 7 years. The researchers used standardized, respected measures of sexual orientation and of emotional distress to test the study's hypotheses.

The longitudinal study followed individuals seeking sexual orientation change through involvement in a variety of Christian ministries affiliated with Exodus International. The results do not prove that categorical change in sexual orientation is possible for everyone or anyone, but rather meaningful shifts along a continuum that constitute real changes appear possible for some.

"This is a study about those who for personal and religious reasons want to know what they can expect from religious ministries of this kind," Yarhouse explained. "The results appear to challenge two claims: that sexual orientation is fixed for all people and that involvement in these kinds of religious ministries is intrinsically harmful. It's unclear if the shifts that are reported reflect orientation alone or perhaps also sexual identity—how a person thinks about and labels their experience of same-sex attraction—or even natural fluidity in sexuality that may vary from person to person."


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