Dr. Satinover's Testimony about Change


This page presents a comparison of statistics that Dr. Jeffrey Satinover presented in his DOMA testimony with the analysis of research papers which was done by Rob Goetze, the director of New Direction for Life, a reorientation ministry in Canada. 

Goetze: Introduction
It is these research studies, published in scientific journals and books, which this paper examines and summarizes. Our purpose is to clarify what evidence exists for changes from homosexuality to heterosexuality.
Through our review of the literature, we have found evidence for real change of sexual orientation. It is important to be clear that the possibility of change and the fact that some people have changed does not mean that all people can change, want to change or should change. It simply means that an individual who desires to change may find it possible to do so.

Goetze: What Does "Change" Mean?
When some people hear the word "change," they only think of a person who is 100% gay becoming 100% straight.
In this paper, we are looking for various kinds and degrees of change.

  •        #We are interested in change that happens in all areas of a person's sexuality. An example would be a woman who was formerly exclusively homosexual. She now no longer has homosexual behaviour, fantasies and attractions. Instead, she identifies herself as heterosexual, and has heterosexual behaviour and attractions.
  •       #We are also interested in changes that happen in one area of a person's sexuality. One example would be an exclusively homosexual man who is now also sexually involved with women. However, he is not strongly attracted to women, nor does he fantasize about them. As well, his homosexual behaviour, attractions and self-identity have not changed.
  •      #Change can be an increase of something. A woman who was only occasionally attracted to other women, might find the frequency of those attractions increasing. Or, it can be a decrease. A man who was very sexually active, may decrease his sexual activity.



    Change can also mean acquiring something one has not had before. A lesbian woman may find herself acquiring a sexual attraction to men. And it can mean eliminating, or no longer having, something which one used to have.

    From Satinover's DOMA statement:


    Indeed, a dispassionate examination of more than 50 years of research in homosexual change confirms that it is changeable in just the way that deeply embedded impulses are: with difficulty, and in the absence of a consistent long-term program of unbiased research, with less than 100 percent but very significant success. As the following studies suggest, many including long-term follow-up, success rates above 50 percent are already achievable. There is every reason to expect that a purposeful, well-supported program of research could achieve considerably more.
    Author Method  Number Treated Success Rate (%) 
    A. Freud Psychoanalysis 8 50
    Ovesey Psychoanalysis 3 100
    Schwartz et al Psychotherapy 54 65
    Mayerson et al Psychotherapy 19 47
    Bieber Psychoanalysis 106 27
    Ellis Psychotherapy 28 64
    Ross et al Psychotherapy 15 73
    Monroe et al Psychotherapy 7 57
    van den Aardweg Psychotherapy 101 65
    Composite   .. 341

    (TIDH note:  multiplying Satinover's numbers we get the following number of successfully treated patients:  Freud 4, Ovesey 3, Schwartz 35, Mayerson 9, Beiber 29, Ellis 18, Ross 11, Monroe 4, van den Aardweg 65.   The composite is 178 which is 52% of 351 patients treated.)

    Links to Rob Goetze's  review of 17 research studies (which has an addendum of 6 additional studies, including the 1997 NARTH study)

    TIDH note: 113 of the 178  patients, whom Satinover reports as being successfully treated,  were from the Bieber, van den Aaardweg, and Mayerson studies which are included in Goetze's analysis.

    The Ovesey, Ross, and Ellis papers are listed by Goetze in Appendix B: Excluded Articles. Goetze excluded articles which were not useful because of poorly defined categories of change. The Freud, Schwartz, and Monroe papers which Satinover cites are not refenced in the paper by Goetze. 

    TIDH  note: According to Satinover, the van den Aardweg study showed a success rate of 65%

    Goetze,  at

    Description of Method:
    Van den Aardweg used psychoanalysis, in particular "anticomplaining therapy," to treat 101 clients between 1968 and 1975. 58 of these stayed in treatment; 43 stopped treatment after 2-8 months. This book gives data from this work and describes his insights into the origins and treatment of homosexuality.
    Length of Treatment:
    Not clearly stated for those in the "radical change" category. At least two years for those in the "satisfactory change" and "improved" categories.
    For those in the "radical change" category: a minimum of two years ("For most of them, the follow-up period is considerably longer, for two of them up to eight years." p. 252).

    For the clients in the "satisfactory change" or "improved" categories, there was a minimum of one year follow-up.
    Summary of Results:

    (From Table 40.6, p. 253)

    Percentage of total group:
    Stopped treatment after 2-8 months
    Radical Change:
    Satisfactory Change:
    No Change:
    Discussion of Relevant Results:
      Our discussion of results will focus on the 58 persons who stayed in treatment.
    1. Eleven people experienced radical change in sexual orientation. Van den Aardweg reports that about half of these were exclusive homosexuals (p. 254).
    2. Thus, five exclusive homosexuals experienced a full shift in sexual orientation and are now heterosexual.
    Clear definition of change, except for the phrase "occasional and weak homosexual flashes," and fairly clear categories.
    Limitations and Shortcomings:
    1. Lacks detailed client data on Kinsey ratings, prior heterosexual experience, average length of treatment, follow-up, etc. Does not give percentage of radically changed clients who have "occasional and weak homosexual 'flashes' at most" and what these are.
    Information was based only on interviewing clients. The information given was not corroborated, nor were other measures used.

    TIDH Note: According to Satinover, the Bieber study showed a success rate of 27%

    Goetze at

    Summary of Results:
  • Of the 72 patients who had been exclusively homosexual at the start of treatment:
    1. 42 remained exclusively homosexual
    2. 2 were sexually inactive
    3. 14 were bisexual
    4. 14 were exclusively heterosexual
  • Of the 30 patients who had been bisexual at the start of treatment:
    1. 2 were sexually inactive
    2. 13 remained bisexual
    3. 15 became exclusively heterosexual
  • Of the four homosexual patients who had been sexually inactive at the start of treatment:
    • 1 was exclusively homosexual
    • 2 remained sexually inactive
    • 1 was bisexual (all data from Table XI-1, p. 276)
    Thus, at the time of the study, 29 patients who had been bisexual or exclusively homosexual had become exclusively heterosexual. A five-year follow-up was done on 15 of these patients: 12 of these continued to be exclusively heterosexual, and three "remained predominantly heterosexual, with sporadic homosexual episodes under situations of stress" (Bieber 1967, p. 972; Bieber 1987).

    Discussion of Relevant Results:
    Our focus here is on the 72 patients who had been exclusively homosexual at the start of treatment. It is claimed that 14 of these had become exclusively heterosexual by the time of the study.

    We are not told whether patients who had become exclusively heterosexual still had homosexual fantasies and/or attractions. As well, the inclusion of the "inactive" category (Table XI-1, p. 276) puts the focus on behaviour rather than attraction and fantasy.
    Thus, we can only claim that 14 patients who had been exclusively homosexual were exclusively heterosexual in behaviour at the time of the study.

    As discussed above, twelve of the fifteen patients who were followed for five years remained consistently heterosexual. According to Bieber (1987, p. 424), seven of these twelve had been exclusively homosexual before treatment. Thus, seven persons who were initially exclusively homosexual, remained exclusively heterosexual in behaviour for at least five years. (Note: Bieber 1967 does not distinguish between those who were initially exclusively homosexual and those who were initially bisexual.)

    It is possible that some of the patients who were exclusively homosexual at the start of treatment experienced a partial or full shift in sexual orientation. However, based on the previous three items, there is no data to confirm or deny such a possibility.

    Good sample size.

    Limitations and Shortcomings:
    The questionnaires were filled out by the psychoanalysts who had seen the patients. The patient was not asked these questions directly, nor were outside sources used to confirm the answers.
    The questionnaire asked general questions about fantasies and dreams. It did not ask about changes in these, nor whether at the time of the study they were directed to the same sex and/or the opposite sex. To determine change, the questionnaire only asked about the patient's sexual status at last contact, using the categories of exclusively homosexual, bisexual, exclusively heterosexual, and inactive (p. 347). The questionnaire itself did not provide definitions of these terms.
    Bieber sometimes groups patients who initially were bisexual, together with those who initially were exclusively homosexual (see data about fantasy and dream content in Table IX-1B, p. 222, and follow-up statistics in Bieber 1967). Data should be separate for these two groups.

    TIDH Note: According to Satinover, the Mayerson study showed a success rate of 47%

    Goetze at

    Discussion of Relevant Results:
    1. Here we will focus on the 16 patients who were exclusively or mostly homosexual (classes 1 and 2) at the start of therapy. At the time of follow-up, two who had been exclusively homosexual and four who had been mostly homosexual were "heterosexual" (classes 4 and 5).
    2. Because the authors grouped class 4 and class 5 together under the heading "heterosexual," we do not know how many patients were actually rated as class 5 at the time of follow-up. We can only say that those in the "heterosexual" category were at least class 4.
    3. Thus, we can say that 6 patients who had been exclusively or mostly homosexual were by the time of follow-up (an average of 6.2 years later) "able to derive pleasure and satisfaction in [heterosexual] intercourse most of the time, with only minor difficulties and dissatisfaction" (p. 340).
    4. This study thus shows that some people who are exclusively or mostly homosexual are able to change to the point of finding heterosexual intercourse pleasurable and satisfying. It does not make any statements about change in attraction or fantasy.
    No particular strengths were noted.
    Limitations and Shortcomings:
    1. Though there significant differences in the definitions of Class 4 and Class 5, the authors grouped them together under the heading "heterosexual" in Table 17-3. The article does not give any data indicating how many patients were in each class at follow-up.
    2. At least four (and possibly more) of the "exclusively homosexual" (class 1) patients had had heterosexual intercourse before starting therapy. No explanation is given as to why patients who have had heterosexual intercourse are classified "exclusively homosexual." No information is supplied on the nature of these heterosexual experiences (i.e.., were they the result of family and cultural pressures? or an attempt to try to fit in?)

    3. Note, however, that the definition for class 1 clearly excludes those who are bisexual in behaviour.
    4. The psychiatrists who did the follow-up interviews accepted what the patients reported. No other evidence was sought to confirm or deny the patients' statements (Green, 1988). In other words, the patients could have been giving the answers which they thought the interviewers wanted to hear. (If this is the case, however, one might wonder why, of the 9 patients who were exclusively homosexual at the start of therapy, seven would give answers which would still place them as homosexual [classes 1 and 2]).

    5. While the authors used the term "sexual orientation," the definitions in classes 1-4 indicate that what is primarily being measured is a person's ability to interact sexually with the opposite sex.

    This page was compiled by Maggie Heineman on 9/26/99.
    Rob Goetze's research review is quoted with his permission.


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