Sunday, June 2, 2013

#579: Richard Cohen

The absolutely marvelously insane Roger Coghill is British, and his attempts to link all sorts of ailments to cell phone use is decently discussed here – but he has to be disqualified from our Encyclopedia.

The considerably more insidious Richard A. Cohen is qualified by a relatively good margin. Cohen, a former Moonie, is one of America's best known conversion therapists. In fact, he is not actually licensed as a therapist, but avoids state licensing requirements by asking for donations to his foundation instead of payment. He also gives lectures, and runs seminars and workshops on his ideas about the causes of homosexuality – which he calls “same-sex attachment disorder” – and how to cure them. He claims to have converted even himself at one point, as well as plenty of others, and his International Healing Foundation offers commercial teleconferencing classes on his cherished topics. Cohen has also been president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, and sits on Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools’s for some inexplicable reason – the upshot being that some Maryland Middle Schools have been promoting ex-gay therapy to its students. (The district’s recently retired supervisor for health education, Betsy Gallun, thinks students deserve to learn about ex-gay therapy and she “feels very badly that it’s coming under scrutiny.”)

Cohen was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association in 2002 after six violations of its ethics code, which bars members from actions that “seek to meet their personal needs at the expense of clients, those that exploit the trust and dependency of clients, and soliciting testimonials or promoting products in a deceptive manner.” He still got an opportunity to advance his theories on Penn & Teller, which may not have helped his cause. Neither, presumably, did his appearance on Rachel Maddow.

Since heterosexuality is the natural state, according to Cohen, same-sex attraction is caused by traumatic experiences and the lack of male role models. His (unresearched) theories to this effect have become popular for instance in Uganda, though back in the US even Exodus is slightly wary of him (though the relationship seems to be a little back and forth).To achieve his results as a therapist, Cohen employs (among other things) Wilhelm Reich’s bioenergetics, which is, of course, pure vitalist woo, and holding/touch therapy, which isn’t better supported than bioenergetics as a treatment for anything. In other words, even if Cohen’s theories about homosexuality had been correct, he wouldn’t have had the faintest chance of curing it. His theories and methods are described in a series of books, including the children’s book “Alfie’s Home”, possibly the most disturbing children’s book of all time.

One ex-gay activist disciple of Cohen is Alan Downing of the organization JONAH (run by convicted felon Arthur Abba Goldberg). Downing is portrayed here and here, portrayals that should be illuminating with regard to the efficacy of gay therapy.

There is a hilarious post on the strange world of gay-to-straight conversion therapy here.

Cohen should not be mistaken for the liberal columnist for the Washington post and ardent advocate for ignorance, Richard Cohen, who is also a serious loon, and has aptly been described as “a 21st century man insisting that an 18th century education is too much for our poor students.”

Diagnosis: Bigotry combined with altmed crankery is always charming, and Cohen is no exception. Monster.

1 comment:

  1. When I saw this guy's picture, I immediately thought of a three dollar bill!