Joseph Nicolosi

Monday, Psychotherapist Joseph Nicolosi writes: “The Traumatic Foundation of Male Homosexuality” for the orthodox Catholic outlet, Crisis Magazine. Nicolosi is a past president of NARTH and clinical director of the aptly named Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic. The name not only exposes the fact that Nicolosi is a faith healer but also his commitment to 13th century thinking as a Defender of the Faith™. Indeed, Nicolosi’s own professional organization has thoroughly rebuked him and his methods.

In their admonition the APA points out that there are no studies of adequate scientific rigor to support any of Nicolosi’s claims. Yet he persists without offering evidence of efficacy. He is a quack.

Nicolosi’s promotion of pseudo-science is not just an attempt to reconcile religion with medicine. Nicolosi is also a charlatan who profits from desperation. It is not a very sophisticated con. The Church shames people for having a natural variant of human sexuality and Nicolosi is there to fix them. In the current article, according to Nicolosi:

The basic conflict in most homosexuality is this: the boy—usually a
sensitive child, more prone than average to emotional injury—desires
love and acceptance from the same-sex parent, yet feels frustration and
rage against him because the parent is experienced by this particular
child as unresponsive or abusive. (Note that this child may have
siblings who experienced the same parent differently).

Were having a distant parent really the answer, what percentage of the population would be gay? Moreover, sexual orientation is probably formed before a child would experience any of this. Prior to California’s ban on conversion therapy for minors, imagine parents marching their gay kid into Nicolosi’s office with the directive to fix the child. Nicolosi would inform those parents that they caused the problem and now they must pay. Convenient.

Nicolosi’s quackery is expressed in generic terms. These would apply to a vast array of people including some who are gay:

For the homosexually oriented man, sexuality is an attempt to incorporate, “take in,” and “master” another male. It functions as a symbolic “possession” of the other person that is often more aggressive than loving. One client described his sexualization of fear-provoking men as “the victory of the orgasm.” Another, as the “orgasmic painkiller.”

There are some exceptions to the trauma model of homosexual development. We have found at our clinic another form of homosexuality that is characterized by a mutual, affectional attachment, most often seen in our adolescent clients …

Nicolosi has a built-in selection bias. He is seeing people who are unable (or whose parents are unable) to accept their natural sexuality. They and their parents feel guilt and shame. At the same time, Nicolosi is giving cover to the religious crackpots who induce the same guilt and shame. Nicolosi’s practice is a self-propelled vehicle.

This all goes on … and on at considerable length. Nicolosi eventually comes to a startling conclusion. The quackpot writes:

No wonder we see so much dissatisfaction in the gay world; not just because of society’s disapproval, but because the man who lives in that world, senses the futility of a gay identity. It represents the termination of that long line of his ancestors who were once linked together, through the ages, in natural marriage.

I have no doubt that Nicolosi sees dissatisfaction among his patients. That is a function of who he sees rather than what is experienced by the gay community. It is not society’s disapproval that drives people to seek a cure from a charlatan who cannot produce empirical proof that his methodology is sound. Those days are declining. Rather, it is the disapproval that comes from the Catholic Church and other religions. Absent the religious opprobrium Nicolosi would be out of business. I suppose that he could always caddy.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.