How many people resolve same-sex attraction?
Of those who make a serious commitment, most are able to resolve their problems and make significant, long-lasting changes in their lives.
Since same-sex attraction is the outward manifestation of unresolved issues that are central to your personality, deciding to work on these issues involves reevaluating your core person and working to change it. This may be a long and painful process, and not everyone who begins it sees it through.
For nearly two decades years, we have been involved with support groups for men with same-sex attractions. We participated for many years to work on our own problems and during the remainder of the time have served in leadership capacities. During those nearly twenty years, we estimate there have been more than a thousand men attend at least one meeting and we have personally met many hundreds. Their success has varied because of several factors, chief among which we believe is their level of commitment.
- Many attend only a few meetings, then drop out. They learn a little about the philosophy of change, but do not pursue it because they don’t believe that change is possible for them, they decide they don’t want to change, they are not ready for change, or they did not find the support group helpful to them.
- Others go to support groups because they enjoy the friendships they build with others who are likewise struggling with same-sex attraction. It is a great relief for them to find other men who understand their value system and empathize with their situation. But for them, it is a social meeting and they lack the commitment to do much beyond showing up at meetings.
- Still others attend because of feelings of guilt. They know they should change but they are not willing to put forth the effort to change. Without much commitment, they participate on a superficial level to pacify their conscience and appease their family.
Unfortunately, the majority of the thousand people who have attended support groups for one of these reasons have found only limited success. Their token efforts bring about some changes, but few make significant, lasting progress.
However, there is hope if you are committed to the process and put forth a significant effort. Although it was the hardest thing we have ever done, it was worth the effort. We no longer struggle with same-sex attraction. It no longer controls our life or dominates our thoughts. For us to get to that point, it required the following:
- personal study, prayer, pondering, and journaling over a period of several years.
- developing a closer relationship with God.
- reaching out and building important male relationships.
- individual therapy for at least several months.
- group therapy (for some of us).
- support group meetings for several years.
Of those who make this kind of commitment, most are able to resolve their problems and make significant, long-lasting changes in their lives.
Observations of others
Fortunately, you don’t have to rely solely on our word. Read the following opinions and studies by professionals in the field.
Dr. William Consiglio is an associate professor of clinical social work at Southern Connecticut State University who for more than seventeen years has worked with men and women who seek freedom from same-sex attraction. He finds that 40% of his clients find personal resolution and enjoy a full heterosexual life, with many entering marriage and parenthood. Another 40% achieve a functional resolution in that they are able to control their homosexual thoughts, attractions, and behaviors, and thus maintain consistent celibacy. The remaining 20% drop out of the process and eventually return to active homosexuality.61 He reports that even for those people who do not make a complete heterosexual recovery there is great hope. They can "achieve a significant degree of emotional healing, growth in self-esteem, and spiritual well being and are able to move on in life freed of the homosexual obsession and preoccupation. It allows them to form rewarding and fulfilling relationships and live more integrated and satisfying lives which are compatible with their spiritual values and convictions. And that’s powerfully good news in itself." (Consiglio, “Counseling Overcomers")
Dr. Reuben Fine, Director of the New York Center for Psychoanalytic Training, stated, "I have recently had occasion to review the results of psychotherapy with homosexuality, and been surprised by the findings. It is paradoxical that even though the politically active homosexual group denies the possibility of change, all studies from Schrenck-Notzing on have found positive effects, virtually regardless of the kind of treatment used. . . ." ( He further stated, "Whether with hypnosis . . . , psychoanalysis of any variety, educative psychotherapy, behavior therapy, and/or simple educational procedures, a considerable percentage of overt homosexuals became heterosexual. . . . If the patients were motivated, whatever procedure is adopted, a large percentage will give up their homosexuality. In this connection, public information is of the greatest importance. The misinformation spread by certain circles that ‘homosexuality is untreatable by psychotherapy’ does incalculable harm to thousands of men and women." (Fine, p. 84.)
In 1994, Dr. Houston MacIntosh reported in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association a survey of 285 psychoanalysts who treated 1,215 same-sex attraction patients. The psychoanalysts reported that 23% of the patients changed to heterosexuality and 84% received significant therapeutic benefit. (MacIntosh, pp. 1183–1207)
Dr. Charles Socarides, who teaches and serves as attending psychiatrist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, reports that in treating forty-five "overt homosexuals," 44% developed full heterosexual functioning. (Reported in NARTH Bulletin, National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, Encino, CA, Dec. 1994, p. 14.) These success rates are as good as, or better than, those for treating other conditions. Let us compare the success rate of overcoming same-sex attraction with that of overcoming problems from depression, one of the most commonly treated behavioral issues. Of those treated for depression, about one third get better, one third stay the same, and a third continually get worse in spite of treatment. This division of thirds holds true for the treatment of many conditions. If same-sex attraction is indeed a treatable, changeable condition, we would expect about the same success rates. In fact, we find much better. Clinical evidence shows that the recovery rate for same-sex attraction is even greater than for drug addiction and alcoholism. The professional community generally considers treatment a success if more than half the patients show improvement; the recovery rate for drug and alcohol addiction is about 50%. A Masters & Johnson study showed the recovery rate from same-sex attraction at 71.6% when there was motivation and support. (Masters, p. 400)
Dr. Irving Bieber, former president of the New York Medical College, lead a nine-year study of male same-sex attraction. His research team concluded that "many homosexuals became exclusively heterosexual in psychoanalytic treatment. Although this change may be more easily accomplished by some than others, in our judgment, a heterosexual shift is a possibility for all homosexuals who are strongly motivated to change." (Bieber, Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study, pp. 318–19) After following some of his patients for as long as ten years, he claimed success rates from 30–50%. (Bieber, “Male Homosexuality,” p. 416)
Dr. Gerard van den Aardweg made an extensive analysis of 101 people he had in treatment and found that 60% of those who continued treatment reached "at least a satisfactory state of affairs for a long period of time. By this is meant that the homosexual feelings had been reduced to occasional impulses at most while the sexual orientation had turned predominantly heterosexual, or that the homosexual feelings were completely absent, with or without predominance of heterosexual interests. Of this group, however, about one-third could be regarded as having been changed ‘radically.’ By this is meant that they did not have any more homosexual interests but had normal heterosexual feelings, and in addition that they showed a fundamental change in overall emotionality from negative to positive—from instability to reasonable, normal stability. . . ." (Aardweg, p. 105–6)
For her doctoral dissertation at Brigham Young University in 1978, Elizabeth James conducted perhaps the most comprehensive review of the literature on the treatment of same-sex attraction that had been conducted to date. In her analysis of 101 studies that had been published from 1930 to 1976, she found that approximately 35% of the clients recovered and 27% improved. She concluded that "significant improvement and even complete recovery are entirely possible." (James, p. 183) She noted an 81% recovery and improvement rate for bisexuals, 69% for long-term therapy clients, 53% for short-term therapy clients, and 42% for exclusively same-sex attracted clients. She noted that "there is certainly room for the development of new treatments and combinations of techniques that will enhance the effectiveness of those procedures already in use." (James, p. 99) Since 1978, a great deal has been done to increase the effectiveness of treatment techniques. New theories and methodologies have been developed and many therapists are receiving specialized training. Numerous books have been written to help both therapists and individuals seeking greater insights to their feelings. Today, the outlook for successful change is even more encouraging.
Drs. Thomas and Ann Pritt state that "freedom from homosexuality is truly available to men and women as they come to recognize the underlying causes of their attractions, and as they are able to realize legitimate, healthful, identity-securing affections with valued heterosexuals of their own sex." (Pritt, p. 55–56)
These are just a few of the many studies and experiences that show that many people are resolving their same-sex attractions. If you don’t personally know someone who has made these changes in his or her life, you might assume that no one has, because you don’t often hear accounts of people making such changes. People seldom appear on television or stand up in church meetings and admit that they used to be sexually attracted to the same gender but now are not. They typically keep these issues to themselves and when they make these great internal changes, people around them are often not even aware that anything has happened. Content with having put together the pieces of this internal jigsaw puzzle, they move on quietly with their lives. Psychologist Gerard van den Aardweg said, "I think these cases are perhaps more numerous than we would presume, because many of them prefer to stay anonymous and not be public examples of ‘the converted-and-cured-homosexual.’" (Aardweg, p. 96)