May 24, 2012

Times Calls Reparative Therapy "Pseudopsychiatry"

MAY 24, 2012

In an editorial in today's edition, the New York Times condemns as dangerous so-called reparative therapy, which its adherents claim can change homosexuals into heterosexuals, labeling it "absurd, potentially harmful, pseudopsychiatry."

The paper published the editorial in response to its article a few days earlier describing psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, M.D.'s, renouncing of a widely publicized—and widely condemned—study a decade ago in which he said he found evidence that reparative therapy can indeed change sexual orientation. Spitzer gained fame as one of the lead architects behind APA's 1973 deletion of homosexuality as a mental disorder from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and became a hero of the gay-rights movement, thus making his claims about reparative therapy especially shocking. However, he recently admitted that his study was flawed, relying solely on the personal accounts of people who said they had successfully changed their sexual orientation and whose names were supplied by organizations promoting reparative therapy. There was no control group or standard definition of what the so-called therapy involved. In its condemnation of the practice, theTimes stated that evidence exists showing that "reparative therapy can lead to depression or suicidal thoughts and behavior.... It should have been rejected long ago."

Read an account of Spitzer's original study in Psychiatric News, and for a comprehensive review of mental health issues related to sexual orientation, see The LGBT Casebook, new from American Psychiatric Publishing.

May 21, 2012

Spitzer Reportedly Recants Controversial Reparative Therapy

MONDAY, MAY 21, 2012

The “patina of scientific credibility” to which leaders of the so-called “ex-gay” movement have been clinging in their embrace of a deeply controversial 2001 study on “reparative therapy” has been taken away.

   That’s what psychiatrist Jack Drescher, M.D., told Psychiatric Newsabout reports that Robert Spitzer, M.D., the author of the study that concluded that some “highly motivated” individuals could change their sexual orientation through so-called reparative therapy, had essentially repudiated it. “There’s very little scientific evidence that people can change their sexual orientation, but individuals in the ex-gay movement try to lend their beliefs a patina of scientific credibility,” Drescher said. “Spitzer’s study seemed to give them that patina, which he himself has just taken away.” 

An article appearing Friday in the New York Times reported that Spitzer—who is well known to APA members as a leader in the development of DSM-III and DSM-IV, and renowned as one of those most responsible for getting homosexuality removed from the DSM in 1973—had renounced his 2001 study. The study had been presented at the 2001 annual meeting of APA and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2003.

 “I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy,” Spitzer wrote in the letter to Ken Zucker, M.D., editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior.“I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some `highly motivated’ individuals.”

Psychiatric News could not reach Spitzer for verification. But Drescher, who is a friend and colleague of Spitzer's, said he has spoken many times with Spitzer over the years and that he has long acknowledged the study’s failures. “I don’t think Spitzer realized at the time how his name, which is well known, would be used by people for purposes with which he didn’t agree,” Drescher told Psychiatric News.  The Times article is here. The letter to Zucker is here.  For coverage of the original study seePsychiatric News here

May 10, 2012

Does transcendental meditation to help veterans with PTSD?

By Steve Vogel

Seeking new ways to treat post-traumatic stress, the Department of Veteran Affairs is studying the use of transcendental meditation to help returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The reality is not all individuals we see are treatable by the techniques we use,” said W. Scott Gould, deputy secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, told a summit on the use of TM to treat post traumatic stress Thursday in Washington.
The VA is spending about $5 million on a dozen trials involving several hundred veterans from a range of conflicts, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Results from the trials will not be available for another 12 to 18 months.
But Gould said he was “encouraged” by the results of trials which were presented at the summit.
Two independent pilot studies of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans showed a 50 percent reduction in symptoms of post-traumatic stress after eight weeks, according to the summit’s sponsor, the David Lynch Foundation, a charitable organization founded by the American filmmaker and television director.

Results from the initial phase of a long-term trial investigating the effects of Transcendental Meditation on 60 cadets at Norwich University, a private military college in Vermont, have been encouraging, school officials said at the summit, held at The Army and Navy Club.
Students practising TM showed measurable improvement in the areas of academic performance and discipline over a control group. “The statistical effect we found in only two months was surprisingly large,” Carole Bandy, an associate professor of psychology who is directing the study at the university, said at the summit.
“For us, it’s all about the evidence,” said Richard W. Schneider, president of the university, who added that he was a skeptic before the trial began.
“Conventional approaches fall woefully short of the mark, so we clearly need a new approach,” Norman Rosenthal, a clinical professor of of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School.
Operation Warrior Wellness, a division of the foundation, is providing TM training to troops recovering from wounds at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Troops report “dramatic improvements” in sleep, according to the foundation, as well as significant reductions in pain, stress and the use of prescription medications
Lynch, the director of “Blue Velvet,” “Mullholland Drive” and the television series “Twin Peaks,” is a longtime practitioner of TM, a meditative practice advocates say helps manage stress and depression.
By Steve Vogel  |  02:45 PM ET, 05/03/2012