Ex-gay leader Richard Cohen has recently been criticized by gay activist Wayne Besen for not speaking more candidly about being expelled form the American Counseling Association in 2002. (Photo courtesy of Richard Cohen)
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Friday, March 04, 2005
A gay rights activist and columnist has released a letter he uncovered earlier this year from the American Counseling Association documenting the expulsion of a nationally renowned ex-gay leader.
Wayne Besen says despite the fact that Richard Cohen, president of Parents & Friends of Ex-gays & Gays, was expelled from the American Counseling Association three years ago, his nationally-based clientele, which includes metropolitan Washington, were kept in a dark about his termination.
The details of the reason behind the expulsion were not stated in the letter. Cohen claims it was because of his work in trying to help homosexuals become heterosexuals.
Besen is a former spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign and author of “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals & Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”
He holds Cohen accountable for not disclosing his expulsion to the public through the various media he uses to promote his practice of bringing people out of homosexuality, including his biography page on the International Healing Foundation’s Web site.
“This speaks to the very base of [Cohen’s] credibility, honesty and respect in the field,” Besen said. “He’s wronged the profession and community by not disclosing how he had a professional failure of this magnitude.”
“As president of PFOX, he had an obligation to inform people that he was discredited. It should have been news a few years ago, but it wasn’t because he hid it.”
Cohen, a psychotherapist who acquired a master’s degree in arts from Antioch University in Los Angeles, Calif., said he has not hid his expulsion from the ACA, and added that it in no way discredits his credentials as a health care professional.
“This happened three years ago,” he said. “It’s not an issue. You pay your dues, and you join the ACA. It’s not a big deal to be a member. ACA has nothing to do with my credibility, the concern is of one person — that is Wayne Besen. He has a vendetta against anyone who promotes sexual re-orientation because it threatens his entire existence.”
PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs agreed with Cohen.
“This is a personal issue with Wayne that has nothing to do with others,” she said. “He comes across as very unhappy and angry, and he bends the truth.”
Besen, who earned a B.S. in broadcast journalism from the University of Florida, said he has no personal vendetta.
“All I did was point out the truth, which points out Cohen’s loss of professional credibility, and I think this is a classic case of trying to kill the messenger because the message is destructive to his plummeting career.”
While officials from the ACA, a national counseling organization based in Arlington, Va., could not disclose details about Cohen’s expulsion, the organization’s Manager of Ethics & Professional Standards Larry Freeman, said expulsion, the highest sanction, from the group is a very serious matter, not to be taken lightly.
“If a person is sanctioned by the ACA code of ethics, it indicates that there’s been a practice of malpractice,” Freeman said.
“Once a person is suspended or expelled, we have to notify the public and if the state looks into the sanction and decides to investigate the individual, they can impose those sanctions onto that person.”
Cohen said he believes he was asked to leave for his efforts in the ex-gay movement, specifically his book “Coming Out Straight,” which claims individuals can successfully come out of homosexuality.
“That’s what really irked them,” he said, “rather than being straight with me and saying ‘We disagree,’ they hid behind one complaint.”
Cohen did not appeal his termination, which he claims was based on one complaint. “I didn’t want to waste my time and saw no benefit in staying with such a biased organization.”
Cohen said problems at ACA began in 2001, when he told a patient about the International Healing Foundation, an organization that proudly says, “We believe that no one is born with same-sex attractions,” on its Web site.
“ACA said that because I asked him to volunteer to assist the IHF, and because he contributed to the IHF’s work and because I suggested he read my book and attend healing seminars, that created dual relationships and therefore they determined permanent expulsion.”
“Shame on them, for lack of diversity, tolerance and respect for the client’s right of self-determination,” Cohen adds.
Griggs said she has no problem with Cohen’s dismissal.
“The homosexual community and ex-gay community need to be better friends,” she said. “If anybody wants to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions, they have the right to seek help. If you’re happy [being gay], no one has the right to make a suggestion.”
Still, Freeman said patients should always investigate the backgrounds of the caregivers.
“Do research to see if your counselor has been sanctioned or if complaints have been filed against him/her by contacting governing bodies including the ACA, the National Board for Certified Counselors and the licenser board they may belong to.”
Freeman, who has held his current position at ACA for the past five years, said he would feel uncomfortable seeing a counselor who has been expelled from the ACA, on any level.
Today, Cohen remains president of PFOX and psychotherapist for the IHF.