Dr. Joseph Nicolosi (1947-2017) died unexpectedly on March 8. He was a licensed clinical psychologist and a practicing Catholic known for his development of reparative or reorientation therapy, which, according to his website, has “helped many men reduce their unwanted same-sex attractions.”
David Pickup is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Reparative Therapist who studied under and previously shared an office with Dr. Nicolosi. He has offices in Los Angeles and Dallas and he, too, practices reparative therapy, which he has described as “assisting men and boys in healing their masculine wounds and helping them in their transformation out of homosexuality into heterosexuality.”
Pickup not only offers reparative therapy but, having been sexually abused as a child, has successfully undergone such counseling himself.
Pickup is also a board member of the National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (www.narth.com), which was organized by Dr. Nicolosi and two other psychiatrists in 1992. Pickup was also a leader in an unsuccessful court challenge to California’s SB 1172, which outlawed reparative therapy for minors in California. SB 1172 was authored by State Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown.
Why did you get involved in providing reparative therapy?
Because I had met so many men, mostly men of faith, who wanted to see a true change in their sexuality. And, with reparative therapy, that’s exactly what happens, because we go to the deep root causes of homosexuality. In reparative therapy, those feelings actually lessen or dissipate by themselves.
I’ve personally experienced many success stories with men who have undergone reparative therapy. It’s been an amazing thing to see these men grow and change. And, as we often do serve men of faith, what we do complements their belief systems.
I’ve observed these successes in the years I’ve offered the therapy; Dr. Nicolosi saw similar success in the more than 30 years he offered it.
You began training for your career many years ago. When you got started, homosexuality was not such a “hot button” issue as it is today.
In some circles it was, but only in recent years has it been one throughout the culture.
What are some of the common issues encountered by the men who come to you for therapy?
We see a severe case of gender identity inferiority. It stars at age 2-6, when a boy’s sexuality is being formed. As boys, our patients often have significant unmet emotional needs for such things as affirmation or affection. They develop a shame-based perception of their gender, and “dis-identify” with their own male genders. As they move into manhood, they objectify the bodies of other men. Men are a mystery to them; they become objects and sexualized.
Reparative therapy attempts to move beyond the men’s feelings to the source of the wounds which caused their homosexuality. As the men experience healing, they start to feel a sense of masculinity, their shame is lifted and their emotional needs begin to be met, perhaps by their fathers, uncles or peers.
How often do you meet with your clients?
We like to begin once a week; as they progress perhaps it becomes twice a month. As they achieve success, they come to us on an as-needed basis. The length of time it takes varies, depending on the man.
Any particular success stories come to mind?
Sure. I know, for example, a man I’ll call “Jim.” Jim was a typical example of a guy who had all the wounds. He was, for example, hurt by bullying as a boy. He was attracted to girls at times, but, he developed homosexual feelings he could not understand.
He went to seven other therapists. Some told him he should just be “gay.” Others told him that he didn’t really have a problem, and that he’d be fine—I call that “bunny therapy.”
But, he didn’t give up. He found the right therapist and has since made a major emotional change. He’s now dating a woman he’s attracted to, and never feels homosexual attractions. I think he and the woman are headed for marriage.
If people want to hear more stories of men who have benefited from reparative therapy, we have set up a website with many testimonials at www.voices-of-change.org.
What are your thoughts about California’s ban of reparative therapy for minors?
It’s always the children who get abused and hurt by these egregious laws. The people who attempt to pass them are either unaware of the harm they do, or don’t care about the group of children they hurt.
As this law is written, any therapy is banned if it helps a minor client reduce or eliminate homosexual attraction. Any therapist knows that a boy who has been molested or raped may afterwards experience homosexual feelings. If this law stands, it would be illegal to provide therapy to a boy seeking to reduce these feelings. This law furthers the abuse of this group of sexually molested boys.
Who is behind this law?
Certainly two major players are Governor Brown, who signed the bill into law, and Senator Lieu, who authored it. Behind the scenes are a variety of “gay” organizations which are funding a political push to preserve this law. Their efforts are not about helping children, but normalizing homosexuality in the fabric of every society on Earth. They want everyone to accept that homosexuality is normal and good.
Minors who live in California now have to go to other states to receive reparative therapy.
Yes, but how many families can afford that expense? Many children will fall through the cracks. It’s always the children who get abused.
Your work has been greatly politicized in recent years. How do the politicians react to you as you state your case?
I’ve talked to Senator Lieu personally about this issue, and I’ve corresponded with Governor Brown. But, they’ve chose to turn a blind eye.
When I met with Senator Lieu in his office, he listened intently, didn’t say much and thanked me for taking the time to see him. I told him, for example, that the law is an abuse of the separation of church and state. It prevents some people from practicing their religion, as many licensed therapists work under the auspices of a church, and this law interferes with those rights.
He was congenial, but as I said, turned a blind eye to my arguments.
Tell me about NARTH.
NARTH is the only secular organization of psychologists that believes that homosexuality has environmental causes and that change is possible. We have annual conventions. People can visit our website for details; there is also a wealth of information about who we are and what we do.
You believe that there is both good and bad reparative therapy.
Yes. We don’t do aversion therapy that is negative-based. We don’t try to associate a bad feeling with a homoerotic image; we don’t use shaming, bullying, coercing or any other aversion technique. What we do is through a series of conversations, we help boys and men discover their authentic selves and become more in line with who they are. They come to realize this in sessions. Behavior modification is great, but we try to get to the heart of what’s going on with our clients.