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Former recipient of ex-gay therapy comments on Bachmann’s clinic

GOP Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and her Christian husband are undergoing increased scrutiny after a weekend report by national gay rights advocacy group Truth Wins Out (TWO).

The TWO report disclosed that the organization had sent employee John Becker into a counseling clinic owned by the Bachmanns. His complaint? He wanted to stop being gay. His counselor then told him that it was possible through prayer and Biblical recitations. This program is referred to as reparative therapy or ex-gay ministry. It is promoted by some fundamentalist Christian and Jewish faith groups as a “cure” for homosexuality. Those who push the counseling say it helps people become the heterosexual version of themselves that God intended them to be.

However, experts in counseling and mental health see the therapy as dangerous. In a 2009 report, The American Psychological Association had this to say about ex-gay therapy:

The limited published literature on these programs suggests that many do not present accurate scientific information regarding same-sex sexual orientations to youth and families, are excessively fear-based and have the potential to increase sexual stigma.

Patrick McAlvey, of Ann Arbor, knows about the dangers of ex-gay therapy first hand. As a 19-year-old he was subjected to the counseling concept by a Christian counselor in the Lansing area. That counselor, McAlvey says, subjected him to humiliation by demanding he rate his attractiveness as well as discuss the size of his genitals. He was also subjected to hour long “hug” therapy sessions with the counselor, himself an ex-gay.

McAlvey told his story to TWO.

“My heart breaks for the victims of Dr. Marcus Bachmann and his clinic’s “ex-gay” therapy. Truth Wins Out’s recent undercover operation proves without a doubt that Bachmann’s clinic is engaged in dangerous ‘ex-gay’ therapies – which have been discredited by every major medical, mental health and psychological professional organization,” McAlvey told Michigan Messenger via email. “I know first-hand how damaging it is to be misled to believe that your sexual orientation can and should change by those posing as experts on the issue.”

McAlvey expressed deep concerns about reports by Michigan Messenger’s sibling publication the Minnesota Independent, that the Bachmanns’ clinic is actually on the receiving end of federal and state monies for their counseling services.

“For years, Minnesotan taxpayers and the federal government have been footing the bill as Dr. Marcus Bachmann and his clinic have engaged patients in dangerous and unethical “ex-gay” therapy,” said McAlvey. “It’s time for the Bachmanns to answer for their actions and explain exactly what they’ve been doing with tax-payer money all this time. If Michele Bachmann is going to use her husband’s clinic as part of her qualification for the highest office in our country, it is shocking and more than a little damning that she has not been willing to discuss the details of what goes on at this clinic.”

Equality Michigan, an LGBT advocacy group, also expressed concern about the Bachmann clinic and “pray the gay away” counseling.

“The Bachmanns have repeatedly stated that they are very proud of the counseling business they created. The family has taken at least $137,000 in federal Medicaid funds to support a family business that claims to counsel gay clients in crisis by deeming them unacceptable and worthy of shame,” said Emily Dievendorf, policy director for Equality Michigan. “This approach can only serve to intensify the severity of cases of depression and suicidal tendencies and should not occur in therapy — much less be funded by taxpayer dollars. As we all become more familiar with the Bachmanns, supporters of equality nationwide only achieve a clearer understanding of the threat that Bachmann leadership poses to our children, families, and communities.”

The Bachmanns and the campaign have declined to discuss the ex-gay therapies offered by the clinic. The issue has been featured on ABC’s Nightline as well as the Today Show on NBC.

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