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Inside 'ex-gay' therapy

Paula Zahn had infamous “ex-gay therapist” (or as he calls himself, “conversion therapist”) Richard Cohen on last night in a segment called “New Therapy Claims to “Cure” Homosexuality.”

The CNN correspondent on the piece is Deborah Feyerick (Video is here).

Richard Cohen, now married with three kids, is a leader in the so-called reparative therapy movement. With just more than 1,000 members it is not a particularly big movement, but because it’s so controversial and despised within the gay community it tends to get a lot of attention.

…FEYERICK (voice-over): Cohen, who had several boyfriends, spent years in various kinds of therapy searching for answers. It wasn’t until he remembered being sexually abused by a man when he was a child that what he calls his convergence process began,

COHEN: I knew it wasn’t for me. I knew it in my gut I wasn’t born this way.

FEYERICK: Cohen is an unlicensed therapist. He offers the theory that some kind of childhood trauma triggers homosexuality. All it takes is figuring out what it is, healing from it and moving on. One of his clients is a 42 year old program analyst who we’ll call Rob. Because it is such a sensitive subject, he asked us to shield his identity.

He began seeing Cohen three years ago after years of struggling with unwanted homosexual feelings.

“ROB”, CONVERSION THERAPY CLIENT: I had a mother that basically committed emotional incest with me because they had a very bad marriage. She used me as her husband, a stand-in.

FEYERICK: Cohen explains Rob’s same-sex attraction is typical of the men he treats. Cold, distant dad, overbearing mom and overly sensitive kid. He showed us some of his unconventional techniques like touch therapy, in which he encouraging Rob to seek out same-sex mentors to basically re-create a healthy father-son bond.

The transcript doesn’t describe what Cohen does next on the video to demonstrate his therapeutic “techniques.” I’ll let Steve @ A Tenable Belief, describe what he saw.

He sits upright on a sofa, his client sprawls lengthwise for a close chest-to-chest embrace. The reporter does a sanity-check, asking the client if he feels aroused. Nope, just safe.

Cohen, saying that another key technique is designed to release memories embedded deeply in one’s muscles, raises a tennis racquet above his head and bashes a pillow once for each word he screams at his mother.


What, exactly, is Richard doing with his clients (and they are almost all men…hmmm)? The reporter didn’t ask whether Cohen was aroused.

By the way, Cohen calls that pillow/tennis racket technique bioenergetics. Do you beat the gay away?

UPDATE: Dan at Ex-Gay Watch has a screenshot of the video with Cohen “therapizing” his client…

There’s also reaction from the “ex-gay” community at XGW as well.


Wayne Besen, author of the eye-opening book about “ex gay” movement, Anything But Straight, reported last year that Richard Cohen, also president of Parents and Friends of ExGays and Gays (P-FOX), was “expelled for life” out of the American Counseling Association for malpractice and unethical conduct. You have to read Wayne’s post about an unhinged mailing Cohen sent out after he and Wayne debated on a NJ television program.

Cohen also wrote Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexuality (with a forward by Dr. Laura, no less!). Where he elaborates on the “causes” of The Gay. Read and weep from this BS up at the NARTH site:

He lists the factors that predispose a person to homosexuality: “heredity, temperament, hetero-emotional wounds, homo-emotional wounds, sibling wounds/family dynamics, body-image wounds, sexual abuse, social or peer wounds, cultural wounds, and other factors: divorce/death/ intrauterine experiences /adoption/ religion.”

…Cohen is a second-generation reparative therapist who is as zealous about helping others find and facilitate healing as he was zealous to find healing for himself. Unlike the concepts used by first-generation reparative therapists who were trained largely in the psychoanalytic tradition, many of Cohen’s concepts and recommended techniques appear to reflect the influences of family systems therapy, the recovery movement, faith healing, and the holistic health movement in mental health and pastoral counseling.

Therapists more versed in psychoanalysis and traditional Reparative Therapy may find it challenging to translate some of Cohen’s ideas and language, such as the “adult-child” and “inner-child,” and what he describes as the need to “balance both light and dark energies” through fun and play into concepts with which they more familiar.

…Cohen acknowledges that it is more important to understand the process of recovery, as well as the causes and meaning of same-sex attractions, than to use any given technique. The “tools and techniques to be used in each stage of recovery may change,” he says, “but the tasks will remain the same” in overcoming what he clearly sees as a “developmental disorder.”

This man is dangerous.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding