Thursday, April 21, 2005

Magellan Fires Quack: Quack Whines

This is a strange story, and I don't know exactly how to tell it.

Warren Throckmorton, Ph.D., is an ... unusual ... psychologist. He is an assistant professor at a unique Christian college, and his specialty is a kind of therapy that tries to cause gay people to become straight. He also picks up a pretty penny talking to right-wing religious groups about it; the publicity seems to keep him very busy. The treatment of homosexuality as a disease is considered unethical by all professional psychotherapy and counseling organizations; further, the success rate for that kind of therapy is extremely low. For certain intolerant groups, though, it is important to believe that sexual orientation is a choice (it would mean gay people don't deserve civil rights guarantees, protection under hate speech statutes, the right to marry, etc.), and so someone like Throckmorton finds an eager market for bigotry blessed by a Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Throckmorton and a friend wrote a rather long "evaluation" of the new MCPS curriculum, and of course found that it was not sufficiently conservative. The evaluation is featured prominently on the Ex-Recall group's web site. Interestingly, the paper is dated December 3rd, 2004 -- so this appeared before the first Recall organizational meeting, and less than a month after the MCPS Board of Education signed off on the curriculum. It is a very curious thing -- Throckmorton says he was not paid for the work, but he sure didn't waste any time getting around to it! I wonder what the IRS estimates is the value of Throckmorton and Blakeslee's donation to the Ex-Recall group back in 2004?

Throckmorton has also written things that were posted on their blog. He's sort of their pet shrink, you might say, because he says things they like for free.

For some reason, and now we're getting into the strange stuff, this Throckmorton was a member of Magellan Health Services' National Provider Advisory Committee. As far as I can tell, the board advises Magellan on the latest trends in medicine and occasionally advises them on terminology, methods, etc. So the first question is, why was this guy on a board like this in the first place? News reports say he joined it in 1999.

News reports also said, last month that he was kicked off the board. Here's how AP played it:
BALTIMORE -- A Pennsylvania psychologist, who counsels people who want to change their homosexual orientation, has been removed from an advisory board for the nation's largest managed-care behavioral health company.

Grove City College psychology professor Dr. Warren Throckmorton said Thursday that he would like to be reinstated to the National Provider Advisory Council for Magellan Health Services, a Farmington, Conn.-based company that has offices in Columbia, Md.

Throckmorton, who served on the council from 1999 until earlier this year, said the company's action demonstrates an "insensitivity" to counselors such as him and their patients.

"I believe people have the right to pursue heterosexual affirming therapy if they want to do that," Throckmorton said.

Magellan spokeswoman Erin Somers said Throckmorton was removed from the board because controversy surrounding his views would be a distraction.

Somers said the company supports Throckmorton's "right to express his views and we hope he supports our right to make a business decision that is in the best interest of our organization."

Somers said the decision did not affect care provided by the company. Psychologist who helps people change homosexual orientation removed from advisory panel

Well, the headline writer seems to approve of Throckmorton -- just about every rightwing web site that carried this story used that same headline. Of course there is a question about whether this guy has "helped" anybody, never mind whether anybody's sexual orientation has been changed -- this headline doesn't pass the smell test.

According to the Dobson funded Family News In Focus,
"The American Association of Christian Counselors has vowed to pressure Magellan until it reinstates Throckmorton.... 'Certainly, we are constantly being challenged by a militant gay minority who hates the appearance of any idea that change is possible,'" said AACC spokesperson George Ohlschlager.
And according to the Cybercast News Service News, Throckmorton himself thinks he was fired because "of political pressure applied by homosexual advocacy groups who felt threatened by his 2004 film 'I Do Exist,' which documented the stories of several 'ex-gays.'"

Got that? Christian counselors will fight for Throckmorton to be reinstated at Magellan and Throckmorton blames "homosexual advocacy groups" for his dismissal. The truth is that Throckmorton insists on employing reparative therapy with gays even though such therapy is dangerous and unethical and even though homosexuality has not been considered a disease for over 25 years. The CNS story said,
"In a May 2000 'Fact Sheet,' the APA stated that 'efforts to repathologize homosexuality ... are often not guided by rigorous scientific or psychiatric research.' It also recommended that 'ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals' sexual orientation.'"
So Throckmorton persists in trying to "change individuals' sexual orientation" and then wonders why his services are no longer desired by a medical company?

The second weird thing about this story is Throckmorton's presentation of it on his web site.

First thing he does is write a letter to the company, asking them why they'd "retracted their invitation" for him to serve on the board, and asking them to reinstate him. Apparently they'd told him on the phone that his views on homosexuality were too controversial.

OK, when you get fired, do you normally post your letter begging for another chance on the Internet? And then, he's got a whole web page of links to news stories about him being fired, with the full text of a Washington Times article about it. Do you do that? I think he liked The Times story because it gave him a chance to be quoted defending himself.

What's wrong with this picture? First of all, try this out. Let's say you're a shrink, and a guy comes in and says he's gay and he doesn't want to be. His church rejects homosexuality, and he would rather change than leave the church. He wants to know, can you please help him learn to be interested in girls, and stop acting so ... gay. What do you do? Well, ethically you can't treat his homosexuality as a sickness, but on the other hand you might feel an obligation to help the guy, and maybe his idea will work. So it is possible that you work with him, help take the sway out of his walk, help him develop a taste for Miller Lite, show him how to pull a treble hook out of a largemouth's lip, you know, stuff like that. (Of course I'm being facetious, but if you read about these therapies, they're worse than that.)

All right, so that's not completely out of bounds, is it? A patient comes in and you try to help them.

Now, let's imagine you're a shrink and a hundred guys come in saying they're gay and they want to change. Now what are you? You're a specialist. They're seeking you out because they've heard you will do this kind of therapy. You're the shrink-equivalent of a back-alley abortionist. And now guess what: you're violating the ethics of the American Psychological Association (of which Throckmorton is not even a member) and every other mental health organization in the country. And be clear: these groups have determined that homosexuality is not a disease; gay people think just as well as straight people, their lives are just as fulfilling and rewarding, they contribute to society just as much as straight people -- these were not political decisions, there just wasn't any reason to call it a disease.

Still shaky, is it? I mean, it could just be that word gets around.

OK, so say you go on TV, and you go to Christian rallies, you start a web page, you go to the newspapers, and you write reports for local activist groups, you travel around the country, and you tell everybody, "Sexual orientation can be changed, we see it all the time."

Now what are you?

Now you're an unethical quack. And Magellan doesn't want you any more. Montgomery County never did.


Blogger Christine said...

I couldn't help but notice at Dr. Throckmoron's site that he has provided information needed to contact Magellan, "if you want to express your views on this matter."

The toll free number he posted on line got me connected with Suzanne, and she was very glad to pass along my message that "I am very happy Magellan has gotten rid of the quack."

If you'd care to call in your support to Magellan, you can reach them at 1-800-410-8312.

April 22, 2005 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thought you might like to read that Magellan has reinstated Dr. Throckmorton, effective this week.

Your use of insults to describe people with whom you do not agree are so typical!

April 22, 2005 11:49 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Bianca, Throckmorton's "therapies" are unethical, and unacceptable. The fact that he continues to promote them and presumably actually treat people in this way does say something very bad about his character. And makes him a quack.

April 22, 2005 12:08 PM  

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