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Joseph Nicolosi, developer of Reparative Therapy, is dead

Joseph Nicolosi, developer of Reparative Therapy, is dead

When I read the account of his death, I had one of those frowned upon thoughts, “Oh, thank God he’s dead, now he can’t do any more damage to any more lives!”

He was 70 years old. He died on 9 MAR 2017 from complications of the flu. He developed and published in 1991 his sham psychology theories in his first book, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach. (Reparative therapy is often referred to as conversion therapy.) Dr Nicolosi’s theories are based on outmoded ideas of homosexuality, and even bisexuality, being a condition he labeled gender-identity deficit caused by an alienation from and perceived rejection by individuals of the subject’s same gender. He claimed to be able to reduce an individual’s same-sex attractions and help them to explore their heterosexual potential. His ideas and theories of homosexuality and curing homosexual attraction are considered to be pseudoscience and harmful by every mainstream psychiatric, psychological and medical organization in the US and the UK.

Because of the overwhelming rejection of his theories by mainstream clinicians, he founded his own professional organization, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality. He also founded his own clinic to offer his theories to men and women who were convinced that their homosexuality was wrong, bad and to be avoided at all costs, the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic in Encino CA. Because the majority of legitimate clinicians and organizations rejected his theories, Dr Nicolosi’s major advocates and confederates were conservative/fundamentalist Christians, as well as fundamentalist adherents of other faiths.

In the final decades of his life, Dr Nicolosi witnessed the US Surgeon General,  David Satcher, state in 2001 that there was no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation could be changed. Movements also began promoting legislation outlawing the practice of reparative therapy, resulting in a CA law in 2012 that forbade using reparative therapy on minors. The law was upheld in a court case brought against the constitutionality of the law with Nicolosi listed as a plaintiff to the case and which resulted in the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic not offering reparative therapy to anyone under the age of 18. In 2015 Nicolosi was barred from testifying as an expert witness in a New Jersey case against Jews Offering New Alternative for Healing. All of the expert witnesses were barred from the case as they all held that homosexuality was a disorder or abnormal variation of human sexuality. The court ruled that the belief was a contradiction to generally accepted scientific theory.

A well known Christian organization which subscribed to reparative therapy was Exodus International. It was an umbrella organization for 250+ affiliated ministries which promoted reparative therapy. Exodus Int’l closed up shop in JAN 2012 with the President of the Board of Directors offering a public apology for the stated goals of Exodus and the harm done to others. The president, Alan Chambers, stated that he believed that 99.9% of the clients of Exodus ministries did not experience a change in their sexual orientation.

People have reported horrible experiences with reparative therapy. Some of the so-called ministries involved the involuntary kidnapping of minors, who were then held against their will and subjected to unfathomable atrocities aimed at making them heterosexual. Some were subjected to aversion therapies of all sorts, such as watching slides of both homosexual and heterosexual sex acts while receiving electric shocks when a slide with a homosexual act was shown. Or being given concoctions to make them ill, while being shown slides of homosexual sex acts. Others were shown heterosexual porn and encouraged to masturbate to develop an attraction to hetero sex.

As a result of these experiences, countless lives were ruined, families were damaged, parent’s relationships with their children were wrecked and many lives were lost as a result of suicide.

Other snake doctors carry on, but I am indeed happy that Joseph Nicolosi is no longer around to promote this sickness and to cause harm to LGBTQ folks.

Facts were gathered for this story from various Wikipedia articles and Huffpost.


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Stuart Kenny

Again, not to defend Dr. Nicolosi or my other counselors, but I think their intentions were good and everything I did was absolutely voluntary.

That being said, people with good intentions can do a lot of damage. I wanted people to shame me for the feelings I didn’t know how to handle. It was my own self-loathing that drove me to the kind of counseling which built on my low self-worth. So I don’t want to blame them for my choices.

On the other hand, providing heroin for adults who choose to remain addicts, even when your goal is to alleviate pain, doesn’t make it good or right.


For approval of future comments, please follow the comment policy and use your real first & last names. – ed

I underwent reparative therapy off and on from my early 20s to my late 40s. While not exactly wanting to defend it, I wasn’t electroshocked or given chemicals. I mainly talked to my counselors about my absent father and domineering mother–I was the textbook case for their theory of why people become gay.

For awhile, I did phone therapy with a very nice man who worked out of Dr. Nicolosi’s office in LA (I was in South Dakota). Again, not to defend it, but my counselor was very pleasant and we talked about my absent father and domineering mother.

No amount of looking at my family dynamics changed my gender-nonconforming orientation. Stuck with what God gave me, I came to terms with who I was. I left the Roman Catholic Church and Courage and am now in the UCC.

I currently identify as asexual. I wish I’d had that language to articulate my identity earlier. The nice thing about asexuality is no one has tried to cure me (yet). I wish that one of my many counselors had noticed that I never had sex and never wanted to have sex–maybe things would have been easier.

What makes reparative therapy wrong is not electroshock therapy or beating drums with naked men in the woods, but that it starts in a place of shame. In order to choose reparative therapy, I had to believe there was something wrong with me, something which needed to be “cured.” My current counselor points out that personalities are basically stable–nothing much about me is going to change. I just have to deal with it. I am what God made me to be.

At least with asexuality, I get cake.

Philip B. Spivey

I am profoundly moved by your journey through, and out of, shame. Nothing “kills” our sense-of-self and spirit like shame. First, shame forces us into a box; later, that box becomes a bomb shelter; finally, it become our tomb.

In this modern world, it’s an awesome feat of transcendence to “find God” on earth.

JC Fisher

The best thing I can say about Nicolosi, is that his suffering (assuming, at the very least, latent homosexual urges) has come to an end as well.

Philip B. Spivey

It still amazes me that Christianity continues to be a handmaiden to homophobia. Mr. Nicolisi caused suffering and pain to many gay folks at a time when many were still dying of HIV. Nicolisi offered “hope” for ‘cursed homosexuals who brought HIV on themselves’.

It was an awful time: “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.” SoS 2:15

Tim Lusk

As a gay man I am always glad when someone like him no longer has influence.
I will never celebrate the death of anyone. We are all children of G-d
Tim Lusk
Tucson Az

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