Several months ago, I told the Editor of Archives of Behavior that, because of my revised view of my study of reparative therapy changing sexual orientation (Spitzer, 2003a),Footnote 1 I was considering writing something that would acknowledge that I now judged the major critiques of the study as largely correct. After discussing my revised view of the study with Gabriel Arana (see Arana, 2012), a reporter for The American Prospect, and with Malcolm Ritter, an Associated Press science writer, I decided that I had to make public my current thinking about the study. Here it is.

Basic Research Question

From the beginning, it was: Can some version of reparative therapy enable individuals to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual? Realizing that the study design made it impossible to answer this question, I suggested that the study could be viewed as answering the question: How do individuals undergoing reparative therapy describe changes in sexual orientation? A not very interesting question.

The Fatal Flaw in the Study: There Was No Way to Judge the Credibility of Subject Reports of Change in Sexual Orientation

I offered several (unconvincing) reasons why it was reasonable to assume that the participants' reports of change were credible and not self-deception or outright lying. But the simple fact is that there was no way to determine if the participants' accounts of change were valid.

I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. 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.