|Name Richard Cohen|
|Books Alfie's Home|
|Education Antioch University, Boston University|
Richard A. Cohen (born 1952) is an author and proponent of conversion therapy. Cohen founded Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays and was its president, and founded the International Healing Foundation, through which he promotes his theories on sexual orientation change efforts for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Cohen, who was gay in his youth, underwent years of psychotherapy in an attempt to heal childhood issues which he felt had led to his homosexuality. He says that his therapy and personal growth helped him to understand his same-sex attractions, and to eventually transition to heterosexuality.
- International Healing Foundation
- Expulsion from the ACA
- Media appearances
- Ideas regarding sexual orientation
- Books written
Cohen lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and has three adult children. His foundation, the International Healing Foundation, offers psychotherapy, coaching, teleconferencing classes, and healing seminars for members of the LGBT community and those with unwanted same-sex attraction.
Cohen has described a troubled childhood that he regards as the cause of his homosexuality later in life.
He belongs to a Jewish family which attended a Reform Judaism synagogue. He became a bar mitzvah and was confirmed in that synagogue. While attending Boston University, he became an evangelical Christian, and he later joined the Unification Church (which disapproves of homosexual behavior), where he says he remained celibate for long periods. In 1982, Cohen married Jae Sook, a South Korean woman suggested to him by church leader Sun Myung Moon. Cohen says that, during the first three years of his marriage, he underwent psychotherapy but was unable to find the help he needed, and therefore he found some healing with a boyfriend in New York City. Cohen describes this as a tumultuous period that led him to pursue healing from his past.
Cohen received a bachelor of arts degree from Boston University and a master's degree in counseling psychology from Antioch University.
International Healing Foundation
Cohen founded the International Healing Foundation in 1990, a nonprofit and tax-exempt organization that promotes conversion therapy.
He is not licensed as a therapist. In order to get around the licensing requirement, he asks for donations to his foundation instead of requiring payment. He has said: "I am not doing therapy per se. I'm coaching." Today, he trains therapists and clergy worldwide how to assist members of the LGBT community and those who experience unwanted same-sex attraction.
Expulsion from the ACA
In 2002, Cohen was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association (ACA), after it accused him of six violations of its ethics code, which bars members from actions which "seek to meet their personal needs at the expense of clients, those that exploit the trust and dependency of clients, and for soliciting testimonials or promoting products in a deceptive manner."
Cohen stated that the expulsion was for his efforts in the ex-gay movement, specifically for the book Coming Out Straight, and for one complaint. He did not appeal, and called the ACA "a biased organization" and "a totally gay-affirming club".
The ACA is the world's largest professional organization representing the counseling profession. None of the major mental health or medical professional organizations, including the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, or the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy believe reparative therapy is effective or necessary, and they caution that it can be very harmful to the patient, resulting in an increased instance of clinical depression and/or suicide. After his expulsion, Cohen did not seek licensure as he was transitioning into full-time teaching.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA) and numerous other professional health organizations, there is no conclusive evidence that sexual orientation can be changed through counseling or other means. According to a statement by the APA, they are "concerned about ongoing efforts to mischaracterize homosexuality and promote the notion that sexual orientation can be changed, and about the resurgence of sexual orientation change efforts." Their official statement goes on to state that clinicians should approach clients who express a desire to change their sexual orientation by "affirmative multiculturally competent and client-centered approaches that recognize the negative impact of social stigma on sexual minorities, and balance ethical principles of beneficence and nonmaleficence, justice, and respect for people’s rights and dignity."
Cohen has given numerous interviews in newspapers, on radio shows, and on television shows, including Rachel Maddow, 20/20, Larry King Live, The O'Reilly Factor, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Ricki Lake, and Paula Zahn Now. Cohen was also featured in an episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!. In 2014, Cohen appeared in a documentary by Blackstone Films entitled "The Third Way: Homosexuality and the Catholic Church."
Cohen was interviewed by Jason Jones on the March 19, 2007, episode of The Daily Show. Cohen was on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on June 28, 2006, was interviewed on The Rachel Maddow Show on December 8, 2009, and was on The Michelangelo Signorile Show on the Sirius radio network on April 17, 2010.
Ideas regarding sexual orientation
Cohen claims there were multiple causes of his same-sex attraction, such as abuse by his uncle, over-attachment to his mother, and lack of sufficient father-son bonding. He mentioned that repeated molestation by a male relative was just one factor that caused him to develop same-sex attraction. He says that dealing with the psychological damage that resulted from the abuse and from other factors allowed him to revert to his "natural heterosexuality". He believes that all homosexuals are actually heterosexuals who can find peace and self-esteem through healing and restoration of their natural heterosexuality.
In Cohen's 2001 book Coming Out Straight, he calls homosexuality a "same-sex attachment disorder", and details his methods of sexual reorientation therapy. He outlines his theory of the causes of same-sex attraction (among them lack of bonding between father-son and mother-daughter, over-attachment with the opposite-sex parent, lack of same-gender peer bonding, hypersensitive temperament, potential sexual abuse, and other factors) and his methods of changing sexual orientation, and relays stories of people who have undergone his therapies.
Cohen describes the "hidden meanings" of same-sex attraction as:
- need for same-sex parent's love
- need for gender identification
- fear of intimacy with the opposite sex
Cohen believes that there are temperamental, familial, and environmental causes for same-sex attraction in men and women. Cohen uses a variety of therapeutic techniques, including: behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, psychodynamic modalities and bioenergetics.
Cohen also uses holding therapy, which involves using physical touch and repeating affirming words to attempt to establish healthy, non-sexual bonding that may have been absent during childhood. In Cohen's counselor-training program manual, he states that only opposite-sex attracted mentors or same-gender parents should give holding therapy, and he quotes from his own 2000 book Coming Out Straight that the mentor should not be the same person as the therapist. However, in a televised interview with Paula Zahn on CNN, he is shown hugging a patient who is lying in his lap, and explaining that the patient didn't experience proper nurturing growing up.
Cohen has said, "If someone wants to live a gay life, that needs to be respected. If someone wants to change and come out straight, that too needs to be respected. Let us practice true tolerance, real diversity, and equality for all."