There has been an ongoing discussion as to whether the clinic of Marcus Bachmann, the husband of presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), practices “reparative therapy,” the discredited technique that aims to turn gay people into heterosexuals. When asked, Marcus Bachmann said that his clinic did not take part in such therapy.
According to a June 15th article in The Daily Beast:
“In November 2005, Marcus Bachmann delivered a presentation called “The Truth About the Homosexual Agenda” at the Minnesota Pastors’ Summit. According to a gay activist who attended and spoke to the City Pages, Bachmann’s presentation ended with testimony from three people who claimed they’d been gay and had been “cured” and become straight. “If someone is interested in talking to us about their homosexuality, we are open to talking about that,” he told the newspaper. “But if someone comes in a homosexual and they want to stay a homosexual, I don’t have a problem with that.”
During a week-long Truth Wins Out undercover investigation inside Bachmann & Associates, Truth Wins Out discovered that the clinic actually does practice textbook “reparative therapy.” With two hidden cameras in tow, TWO’s Director of Communications and Development, John Becker, attended five private sessions with Bachmann & Associates counselor Timothy Wiertzema, MA LMFT.
The explicit goal of the sessions was transforming Becker from homosexual to heterosexual. To his credit, the counselor did not promise that change would be instantaneous or even complete. However, he did explicitly promise that sexual conversion could occur as a result of prayer and therapy at the clinic.
Undoubtedly, people will want to know what criteria Truth Wins Out used to define “reparative therapy”? Here are six indicators that taken together leave no doubt that Bachmann & Associates engages in this discredited practice:
1) False promise of healing: During the sessions, Wiertzema claimed that it was possible to change from gay to straight through prayer and therapy. During the third session Wiertzema said, “…it’s possible to be totally free of [same-sex attraction]. For sure.” and that “It’s happened! It really has happened to people.” In the fifth session, Wiertzema says, “…obviously your goal is not to have any feelings of attraction for men…And I really am going to recommend that we start working on how you can develop your attractions towards women.” This contradicts the advice of every respected medical and mental health organization that claims that the efficacy of such therapy is unproven and is often harmful.
2) Homosexuality portrayed as unnatural: At no time during the therapy was homosexuality portrayed as a natural variation of human sexuality. It was portrayed as a treatable condition at odds with a normal and healthy sexual orientation.
3) The risks of reparative therapy downplayed: Becker was never told that every professional medical and mental health association rejects “ex-gay” therapy including theAmerican Medical Association, American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, and the American Counseling Association, or that the treatment he was seeking was totally unsupported by research. He was never informed about possible alternative treatment options such as gay-affirmative therapy. Nobody ever told Becker about the potential for harmful side effects like depression and suicidal thoughts. And although he was asked to sign a treatment plan outlining his problem, desired outcome, and treatment strategy, he was never given nor asked to sign any kind of informed consent document that disclosed the above information about “ex-gay” therapy. As such, we believe Bachmann & Associates to be practicing unethically, even by the standards of the American Association of Christian Counselors.
4) Homosexuality blamed on environment: At no point during the therapy did Wiertzema say that homosexuality might be caused by genetic or biological factors. Instead, he put forth the classic reparative therapy idea that being gay was environmental. Specifically, he relied on the discredited idea that homosexuality could be the result of neglect, abuse, trauma or poor parenting.
As a result, Wiertzema went on a fishing expedition looking for possible reasons that Becker turned gay.
5) Accountability Partner: During the sessions, the counselor urged Becker to find a heterosexual “accountability partner.” Christians use accountability partners for a number of issues, not just homosexuality. However, such partners are a key part of reparative therapy. The theory is that non-sexual same-sex friendships will demystify the same sex. As a result, the struggling gay person will no longer see the same sex as mysterious and alluring. Once this occurs, feelings for the opposite sex will supposedly develop.
6) Focus on developing masculinity: During session 5, Wiertzema advised Becker to “further develop your own sense of masculinity.” Reparative therapy reinforces strict gender roles and works to erase outward appearances of femininity in men and masculinity in women. Because these programs do not genuinely change sexual orientation, much focus is placed on changing behavior so an individual can “pass” as heterosexual, even if the gay person has not changed on the inside.
The totality of the evidence incontrovertibly proves that Bachmann & Associates, contrary to Marcus’ denials, does practice reparative therapy.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”