Hypnotherapy and Homosexuality: "Can Hypnotherapy Cure My Homosexuality?"


Oh how the field of hypnotherapy has changed in the last 40 years, and how lucky I feel to live in a part of the world where we accept people and are welcoming of fellow humans regardless of their sexuality… At least, it is law to offer equal rights and though I appreciate some may not find it to be absolutely as they wish just yet, most of the people I encounter in my circles are welcoming of others regardless of their sexuality… Why am I saying this?

Upon my arrival at my office yesterday, I received an email from someone asking if I ever used hypnosis to “help my clients overcome homosexuality.”

I had to re-read it.

I answered professionally and politely and stated that for ethical, moral and professional reasons, I do not use hypnosis for this sort of thing, I stated that I believed homosexuality was not something that could be ‘cured‘ and that me having such beliefs would hinder any therapeutic gain – though my own ethics and morals would not permit me being open to it in any way.

That said, there is much misinformation and soul searching for some people with certain backgrounds, cultures, eras and so on… And may not want to accept who and how they are… Though I’d say that there are many other professionals (as well as members of the gay community) better suited to help them deal with the reality of being homosexual.

There is a part of me that wanted to dismiss it out of hand, maybe it was even a prank email as we do tend to get from time to time… But it did include a research reference, so had clearly been explored to some extent:

This article by Peter Roper was originally published in September 1963 in the Journal of the National Medical Association. You can read and download the entire article if you wish.

Despite being published in the 60s, it reads like something from the dark ages. It states that in the past the reason hypnosis was not deemed appropriate for treating homosexuality was because hypnosis;

1) tends to make male homosexuals more passive; 2) tends to further infantile regression        and dependency; 3) tends to further homosexual attachments between hypnotist and           patient; and 4) tends to lessen the patient’s feelings of responsibility.

As Meares stated the position, “The passive male homosexual enjoys the hypnotic trance          and obtains erotic satisfaction in the intensity of hypnotic rapport with the therapist.”‘ Such        a patient, in Meares’ opinion, may report improvement in his homosexual condition in order     to mislead the therapist into continuing the hypno-therapy which affords him erotic       satisfaction.

This is disturbing, isn’t it? Though is not untypical of the thought process fo the day in psychiatric circles whereby homosexuality had been considered a mental illness in some quarters!

The author contests that in light of this, the best way to use hypnosis to overcome homosexuality is to ensure that full-on emotions are employed:

The homosexual patient must come to feel resentment, disgust and aversion to invert practices and he himself come to consciously reject homosexuality, as well as develop positive heterosexual feelings and desires.

The author decides then that aversion is the way forward and explains his reasons that homosexuals should be treated with aversion to overcome their homosexuality:

Pavlov has demonstrated how conditioned reflexes can be established and how reactivity can be so intensified that a slight stimulus can produce a marked and quite complex response.

It is known that the phenomenon of hypnosis resembles a conditioned response in that the     subject becomes increasingly susceptible to hypnotic induction (phenomenon of “dressage”). It is similarly possible to “sensitize” and accelerate conditioned response by means of hypnosis. In the case of alcoholism and nicotinism, the author developed procedures whereby the odor or taste of an alcoholic beverage or of cigarette tobacco would be sufficient to trigger a marked aversion reaction.

It was found possible to condition in patients under hypnosis such an aversion to these             substances that even the thought or the word “alcohol” or “tobacco” could elicit feelings of          revulsion. [... cut...]

The author’s decision to experiment with hypnosis in attempting to create aversion reactions     was based on a number of considerations. First and foremost, it was felt that one of the greatest weaknesses of treatment in the non-hypnotized state is that resistance to suggestion and conditioning is often overwhelming. It appeared likely that the aversion and disgust reaction could be prolonged and intensified if a conditioned reflex reaction could be established in the subconscious mind of the patient and, furthermore, that in order for this aversion to occur and be fixated it must be established beyond the reach of conscious resistances and ego defenses.  Furthermore, the conditioned association and aversion reaction is more prolonged because of post-hypnotic amnesia.

The author found that the aversion response could in addition be made more intense and       lasting to the patient because of the greatly increased state of suggestibility, concentration,   affectivity and reactivity of the individual in the hypnotic state.

It seemed preferable to be able to create a conditioned aversion reaction so that the patient not only experiences immediate revulsion on physical contact with a homosexual but also comes to anticipate such contact with feelings of disgust, displeasure and dread.

There is a lot I find offensive here, though tolerate due to the ideological climate of therapy fields at the time. Though I am saddened that this is a reference people find and consider to be something that is widely employed.

Rather bizarrely, the article makes recommendations for the most appalling smells to use with the aversion – including urine!

So our esteemed academic author promotes hypnosis due to its ability to enhance the effectiveness of aversion therapy… Well, I suppose it is better than suggesting the clients go to Religious Camps to ‘Pray The gay Away’ as Butters had to do in one episode of South Park!

I have researched far and wide for other related works and can find virtually no documented evidence or people to support this use of hypnosis outside of extremist groups using misinformation to promote radicalism.

If you google the subject, one of the first things that comes up is a page where someone asked if hypnosis can be used this way here on Yahoo questions… And thank goodness for the torrent of replies stating that homosexuality is not something that can be ‘cured.’

If you look at this page at wikipedia about Conversion therapy (therapy to convert homosexual or bisexual people into hetrosexual),  it shows that Freud attempted to use psychoanalysis to help overcome homosexuality… Though even psychoanalysis is suggested as being impotent according to Roper’s article about aversion! The wikipedia entry states that Freud’s own work was influenced by;

Eugen Steinach, a Viennese endocrinologist who transplanted testicles from straight men into gay men in attempts to change their sexual orientation,

What, what, what??!!

Despite this seemingly ludicrous notion, there is a huge amount of publication and research and approaches that have been employed with the aim of overcoming homosexuality.

… Yet every gay friend I have and every gay person I have ever met, all realised it is the way they are and were born and learn to live their life accordingly (though not always without difficulty).

Homosexuality is not something that can be ‘cured’ is it?

Therapeutic efforts should be made to help with dealing with it, accepting who and how we are and not proliferating the notions born out of these seemingly antiquated times whereby therapists attempted to overturn biology with therapeutic intervention.

I hope that my response to the email enquiry I got helped the individual to find the right information, the right way forward and to help deal with their query in a far more realistic way.

Ok, I am flying to Manchester to run a packed out self-hypnosis seminar… Have a great weekend, I’ll be back on Monday… And here is a picture of two men ballroom dancing, I have no idea if they are gay or not, but you try illustrating a blog entry of this nature in a politically correct manner! :-)

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10 Responses to “Hypnotherapy and Homosexuality: "Can Hypnotherapy Cure My Homosexuality?"”

  1. Keith Watson

    Come on Adam I expected you to ‘cure’ my height – I hate being short :-)

    Posted by Keith Watson on 26th November, 2010 at 10:40 am.

  2. Andy Palmer

    Cure suggests that heterosexuality is “correct” and homosexuality is “wrong” and is therefore absolutely the wrong concept to be used.
    However, I don’t think it’s necessarily beyond the realm of possibility to change who one is attracted to.
    I have found that the people that I am attracted to changes as I change. People who I once found intensely attractive, I now find to be fairly average or plain, and vice versa.

    As with all hypnotic interventions, it is unlikely to be successful if the client is being coerced (“My son wants you to cure him of being gay”, “My wife wants you to make her lose weight”, “My boyfriend wants you to make him more courageous”).

    When someone genuinely comes to me and asks for help with losing weight, it is generally because there is a mismatch between their imagined ideal and their reality. I can help them to change their imagined ideal (and so become more comfortable with who they are), or I can help them to sculpt their reality (and bring themselves closer to where they would like to be)

    Equally, if someone comes to me and asks for help with being straight, it’s likely that there is a similar mismatch. I can help them to become more comfortable with who they are, or I can meet them at their map of the world, try to understand their motivations for the change and, perhaps, give them some useful techniques that may provide the result they desire.

    Surely, if I choose to reject clients who seek to change their sexuality, without first taking the time to understand their context and motivations, I am making a judgement that their existing sexuality is “correct” and that they just need to deal with it, aren’t I?

    I don’t think that this will be much of an issue though. If I understand correctly, this is the first such enquiry that Adam has had, and he’s a pretty big hypnotherapist (and ginger, but that’s not important right now). I suspect that the majority of LGBT people, having known that they were “different” for so long, have already become comfortable with who they are (just like gingers). And, I suspect that it’s generally other people who have problems accepting it (oh, bugger).

    Posted by Andy Palmer on 26th November, 2010 at 11:45 am.

  3. Adam Eason

    Andy, I loved reading that, thank you :-)

    Posted by Adam Eason on 26th November, 2010 at 12:05 pm.

  4. Marty

    “I don’t think that this will be much of an issue though. If I understand correctly, this is the first such enquiry that Adam has had, and he’s a pretty big hypnotherapist (and ginger, but that’s not important right now). I suspect that the majority of LGBT people, having known that they were “different” for so long, have already become comfortable with who they are (just like gingers). And, I suspect that it’s generally other people who have problems accepting it (oh, bugger).”

    Yes, Adam is a big star in the hypnotherapy world and one many can learn heaps from. But that doesn’t make this a non issue. The majority of LGBT people have already become comfortable with who they are? Can we really be sure of that enough to make a sweeping assumption about it? Have any of us become “comfortable” with who we are yet?

    What about a young Christian man who happens to be gay? His connection with the divine quite possibly speaks the truth to him about how okay it is to be him. After all, as I used to annoy certain bishops by stating over and over again: what kind of divine being discriminates like that or at all? Do not mistake the word of God for the word of men. The notion that a divine being loves everyone equally but somehow frowns upon men sleeping with other men is a big sack of nonsense. They are divine beings and are not, one would imagine, sat there reading Cosmo discussing the merits of sexuality of the mortals.

    And yet, the church he finds himself in is a church of men. It may be a house of God but men built it and men run it and men are vulnerable to insecurities, doubts and ridiculously motivated prejudices and…in this case…the misreading and false interpretation of one single passage in the bible. That Christian guy is gonna be in a lot of internal conflict and face a lot of external conflict. He cannot deny the calling of his God. Yet he cannot deny the calling of his heart either. Were I in such a situation, I’m not sure I would automatically make the leap to go on a long process of healing and becoming more comfortable with who I am. I can’t say I wouldn’t try and take the easy way out, seek out some sort of bonkers quick fix idea and then come to the church with the whole: “I’ve been cured by therapy stuff…”

    Such internal conflicts are not uncommon. I’m Pagan and straight. The feminine divine is…well…divine so even something small as “accidentally” catching a glimpse of a woman’s legs” and thinking: “wow, she’s got nice legs” can set off a chain reaction of thought whether I wonder whether such lust filled thoughts are acceptable given that the full manifestation of the female divine is technically speaking, my God and I just accidentally looked at an aspect of that divine as if she were defined by how shapely her legs were.

    Now, some say I overthink things just a tad and yes, okay, I do. But it is interesting nonetheless.

    Given that part of the human condition is the search for the self, the notion that any group of people have somehow “already become comfortable with who they are” doesn’t quite sit so well. If the sexuality were to be perceived as a fault or flaw…well…we’re all familiar with how we easily seek out ways to remove, reduce or cover up our supposed “flaws”.

    Posted by Marty on 27th November, 2010 at 2:52 pm.

  5. Liam Burford

    So much I could write here as always! The ‘gay’ jokes still seem to be going around in schools. What a great way to programme collective unconscious ….not. I did not realise how much this influenced me until I happened to work with a team of people where I was in the minority as a ‘heterosexual’. I loved those guys and girls and have so many happy memories. I remember listenening to some American preacher on the radio a few years back and thinking- this guy has something special, his message is very powerful- unusual in itself because so many such people tend to send me to sleep. I later found out that the preacher was a man by the name of The Right Reverand Gene Robinson- the first openly gay, non-celibate priest to be ordained a bishop in a major Christian denomination. Reports from the UK describe how Robinson has received death threats, had to wear bulletproof vests, and needed protection since his election and ordination. How powerful is such social conditioning. Long may such courageous indivdiduals walk the face of our Earth. As for the religious side of this- that’s between him and his God and those two alone. And as for all this ‘coming out’ rubbish, don’t even get me started! If someone can breath for more than 3 minutes aided or nor not, then I am interested in them as a fellow human being. Breathing aside, there is a huge amount to be learnt also from our late ancestors and how they led their lives. Why are people so obseessed with labels I wonder?

    Posted by Liam Burford on 27th November, 2010 at 7:57 pm.

  6. Adam Eason

    Interesting caveat article/mention related to ‘conversion’ therapy for homosexuals here at the Telegraph:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/8275159/Conversion-therapy-for-homosexuals-is-unethical.html

    Posted by Adam Eason on 24th January, 2011 at 2:41 pm.

  7. Tracy

    Can u get hypnotised not to “cure” being gay but to help with fear of others finding out if u were gay ?

    Posted by Tracy on 20th January, 2013 at 7:23 pm.

  8. Adam Eason

    Hello Tracy, hypnotherapy certainly can help with overcoming fears of a wide type and kind. Get in touch with me directly and I’ll happily explain in more depth.

    Posted by Adam Eason on 23rd January, 2013 at 10:11 am.

  9. shelley

    Hello Adam,

    Your website has given me a wealth of information but I have a question, can hypnotherapy find the “cause” of homosexuality as my parents want to know and they think by sending me to take it they can find out “why I’m gay”.

    Posted by shelley on 31st March, 2014 at 2:07 am.

  10. Adam Eason

    Hello Shelley,
    I don’t think this would be a good application of hypnosis, no. There are many far better ways for loving parents to learn to accept their daughter’s homosexuality. To find out ‘why’ – they could simply ask you, no? If they do not get the answers they want, then they ought to seek out the services of a therapist, not you.
    I don’t advocate the use of hypnosis for exploring root causes for any issue to be honest – you can read my opinions on using hypnosis for regression all over this blog – it is not always accurate, lacks evidence base and runs the risk of other issues such as retraumatisation.
    Most importantly, I wish you much luck and happiness going forward.

    Best wishes, Adam.

    Posted by Adam Eason on 31st March, 2014 at 4:56 pm.

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