(CNSNews.com) - A Christian psychologist who advocates reparative therapy for homosexuals has been dropped from a prominent health advisory council following a documentary he made about ex-homosexuals. He tells Cybercast News Service that he believes political pressure from homosexual advocacy groups, upset over the film, led to his dismissal.
But no one either previously associated with Dr. Warren Throckmorton or opposed to his views is admitting responsibility for working to prevent Throckmorton's selection to the council.
Officials at Magellan Health Services, America's largest behavioral health care system, in September 2004 invited Throckmorton to serve on the company's developing National Professional Advisory Council, but in February 2005 rescinded the invitation, citing Throckmorton's views on the controversial therapy for homosexuals.
Throckmorton supports and provides what he calls "heterosexual affirming therapy," also known as reparative therapy, a form of counseling intended to change the sexual orientation of homosexuals who feel uneasy about their sexual preference.
Throckmorton, who is an associate professor of psychology at Pennsylvania's Grove City College, had served on a similar Magellan-sponsored council since 1999 called the National Providers Advisory Committee.
He told Cybercast News Service that he thinks he was removed from the council because of political pressure applied by homosexual advocacy groups who felt threatened by his 2004 film "I Do Exist," which documented the stories of several "ex-gays." His views were never an issue until after the release of the film, he said.
Throckmorton also wrote about the value of heterosexual affirming therapy in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling in 1998, before being invited to serve on the National Providers Advisory Committee.
In the article, "Efforts to Modify Sexual Orientation," Throckmorton stated that, "The available evidence supports ... that many individuals with a same-gender sexual orientation have been able to change through a variety of counseling approaches."
Throckmorton's 'potentially controversial views
Magellan spokeswoman Erin Somers confirmed that Throckmorton's invitation to the council was rescinded because of "certain of his publicly expressed views [that] could be potentially controversial to some of [Magellan's] stakeholders."
But Somers denied that Magellan was bowing to political pressure from homosexual advocacy groups. She said the company "had no discussion with anyone outside the organization about this matter.
"We don't take a position on [heterosexual affirming] therapy," Somers added.
Magellan's chief medical officer, Dr. Alex Rodriguez, who was in charge of assembling the National Professional Advisory Council, did not return repeated calls requesting comment for this article. In a letter to Throckmorton retracting the invitation to serve on the council, Rodriguez said, "I will not be following up with you to discuss either the decision or the circumstances under which the decision has been made."
Dr. Robert Gerst, a friend of Throckmorton and a board member of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, said he wouldn't be surprised to learn that Magellan Health Services acted out of pressure applied by homosexual activists.
"There [are] plenty of folks in outside groups that don't like Warren or his views at all and whether they had influence on this or not, I don't think anyone's going to know but Magellan," Gerst said.
Somers declined to cite an internal source of resistance to Throckmorton's presence. She also refused to release the names of the other council members because, she said, the final list had not been confirmed. But documents obtained by Cybercast News Service show that those council members scheduled a meeting in early March.
Dr. Paul Fink, one of the new council members, is a professor of psychiatry at Temple University School of Medicine and the past president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which has issued statements expressing skepticism about heterosexual affirming therapy.
In a May 2000 "Fact Sheet," the APA stated that "efforts to repathologize homosexuality ... are often not guided by rigorous scientific or psychiatric research." It also recommended that "ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals' sexual orientation."
Fink told Cybercast News Service that he did not know when Magellan became aware of Throckmorton's views, but expressed satisfaction with the decision to withdraw the invitation to Throckmorton.
"It's been 25 years or more since we got rid of the idea that homosexuality is a disease," Fink said. "There are still some psychiatrists around who are holdouts and who want to insist that it's a disease," Fink said in reference to Throckmorton.
Throckmorton's views "[don't] really fit with modern psychiatry," Fink asserted, adding that at the least, practitioners of reparative therapy should not publicize their views. "If Throckmorton wanted to be public about it," Fink said, "he must have an agenda that I don't know about."
Fink said he was not aware of anyone relaying Throckmorton's views about reparative therapy to officials at Magellan Health Services, but mentioned that there are "very strong homosexual activists who may have discovered that he has both this idea and he's a member of the council." Fink specifically mentioned Dr. Jack Drescher, editor of the "Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy," the official journal of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists (AGLP).
The AGLP was created as the Caucus of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Members of the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s, before changing its name in 1985. Voting members of the AGLP must also be members of the APA.
When contacted on Thursday, Drescher denied any involvement in the Throckmorton matter. "I only know what I read in the newspapers. I mean I know a little bit about his writing, but I don't know anything about what happened there."
Drescher, who said he treats former reparative therapy patients, echoed the concerns of Fink and the APA about Throckmorton's views. Many people who undergo reparative therapy, Drescher said, become depressed, suicidal or start heterosexual families that eventually fall apart.
Throckmorton conceded that Magellan Health Services was "certainly free to bring in advisors as they see fit." But he added that, "my concern here is the message that this sends to other people on their networks that do the actual work for them, that Magellan will put these political considerations ahead of provider relations."
Throckmorton said he believes Magellan's reputation could be harmed by the perception that the organization would remove a representative of a legitimate field of study. "When people seek help for their concerns and they want their counselors to work with them consistent with their religion," Throckmorton said, "it would seem like the managed care company would want counselors available and trained and knowledgeable in how to do that."
Gerst also said he was concerned about the future consequences of Magellan's actions. "He's the only one on the board who is a mental health counselor," Gerst said. "We think it's important that mental health counselors be represented in places like that."
Religious counselors are also likely to be discouraged by the actions to remove Throckmorton, according to Gerst. "If someone is a therapist [who] works in a faith-based setting someplace, are they going to be kicked out of Magellan's panel as a provider?" he asked.
Throckmorton's views "aren't extreme," Gerst insisted. Throckmorton is "not one of these people who says, 'you need to hospitalize homosexuals and call them mentally ill' or anything like that, but that's what he's accused of doing. His views are people ought to have the right to determine what they want."
Somers said Throckmorton's presence on the council will have no bearing on the services offered by member organizations of the Magellan Health Care Services network, even those that offer the heterosexual-affirming therapy that Throckmorton advocates.
"We don't get into the details of specifically what's troubling somebody or the specifics of what's happening in that therapy session," Somers said. The decision to remove Throckmorton from the advisory council would "absolutely not" alienate people seeking the kind of therapy he advocates, Somers added.
Cybercast News Service has published two guest commentaries written by Throckmorton - one in 2003, another in 2004 - however, he was not paid for either column.
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