Students Attend Yarhouse Workshop

2 Commentsby   |  02.11.11  |  Uncategorized

ACU students and faculty were recently given another opportunity to learn from an accomplished researcher and author in the marriage and family therapy field. Dr. Mark Yarhouse presented a workshop for interested MFTs, counselors, and students Wednesday, January 26 entitled Sexual Identity Therapy: A ‘Third Way’ Model for Clinical Services to Sexual Minorities. As the title suggests, Dr. Yarhouse presented a new therapeutic model for addressing the clinical concerns of sexual minorities.

Gay affirmative therapy, a model which emphasizes that a homosexual orientation is reflective of the individual’s whole identity, and Reorientation therapy, also called conversion or reparative therapy, have been the go-to models for mental health professionals responding to client’s distress around sexual orientation issues. However, neither of these models allows room for clients to address the incongruence between their religious sexual identities, an issue that is especially important for many religious clients and Christians in particular.

Dr. Yarhouse presented his and other relevant research on sexual orientation, treatment models, and efficacy in addition to teaching the Sexual Identity Therapy framework. This model attempts to resolve sexual identity conflict by helping the client synthesize a wholistic sexual identity that promotes personal well-being and integration with other aspects of the individual’s personal identity such as cultural, ethnic, relational, and spiritual self.

Students were impressed by Dr. Yarhouse’s presentation as he offered an alternative framework that is respectful of the client’s unique position and viewpoints. Since so much of the research about homosexuality is often inconclusive, contradictory, and confusing, it was refreshing to learn about a model for working with sexual identity concerns that does not polarize sexual identity against religious beliefs, but instead offers clients a way to address this tension and create a holistic and more confident identity for themselves which can include both their religious and sexual identities.

Mark A. Yarhouse, Psy.D., is the Rosemarie Scotti Hughes Endowed Chair of Christian Thought in Mental Health Practice and Professor of Psychology at Regent University. He is also the director of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity. Dr. Yarhouse has written several books including Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate, Sexual Identity Synthesis: Attributions, Meaning-Making and the Search for Congruence, and Family Therapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal. For more information about Sexual Identity Therapy, visit:


  1. Emily Savage
    10:47 am, 02.12.11

    I was thoroughly surprised and impressed by this workshop with Dr. Yarhouse. I expected another discussion on how to identify gays and lesbians, and “deal” with that as a Christian therapist. Dr. Yarhouse completely changed and expanded the conversation, however, by approaching this issue not as an identity issue (i.e. “I AM gay”), but rather an attraction issue.

    It reminded me a lot of a workshop I went to about African American identity issues, where for the first time I was made aware that most of us define someone “African American” no matter how many other races are a part of their lineage. In the same way, people are often given (or put on themselves) the gay/lesbian identity when any kind of same-sex attraction or same-sex experience happens. The move here is not to quantify attraction or experience and thus to say “you are only gay/lesbian if more than 50% of your experience/attraction is with the same-sex”, but rather to say that identity (and attraction) is much more multifaceted than our labels, and thus it is perhaps the labels that are the problem.

    Obviously, identity is an important factor that must be taken into consideration when working with clients who identify as a sexual minority, or who are struggling with whether or not to do so. I think the beauty of this approach is that we can give our clients more control over their lives by opening up the possibility that their attractions are not their primary identity, but rather one part of themselves on which they can decide how much value to place.

    I deeply appreciated this workshop and would encourage any clinician interested in working with sexual identity issues to become familiar with Dr. Yarhouse’s work.

  2. brint
    7:30 pm, 02.16.11

    Sarah, conversion therapy hasn’t been a “go to” for more than 40 years.

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