One reason why homosexuals are so rarely cured is that they rarely try treatment. Too many of them actually believe that they are happy and satisfied the way they are. Another reason, says Philadelphia's Dr. Samuel B. Hadden, is that too many psychiatrists are still inhibited by the 45-year-old pessimism of Freud, who was convinced that the condition was discouragingly difficult to treat. Even when psychiatrists do try to aid homosexuals, their efforts are likely to be ineffectual because they themselves have so little confidence of success. Both patients and doctors are wrong, Dr. Hadden told the American Group Psychotherapy Association in San Francisco last week.
Male homosexuals,* he said, are more treatable and curable than is generally believed. And the people who are the most effective therapists are other homosexuals who have been under treatment for a while. As a psychiatrist actively practicing group therapy for the treatment of neurotics and psychotics of all sorts, Dr. Hadden, 64, marshaled impressive evidence to support his case.
No Gay Clothes. Back in 1937, Dr. Hadden tried introducing homosexuals into a group of heterosexual patients. The homosexuals sensed the hostility of the others and soon dropped out. Ten years ago, Dr. Hadden had enough patients of better-than-average education to start an all-homosexual group of three. They had already accepted Dr. Hadden as a sympathetic figure, and felt no hostility toward him or from him. Secure in their own ingroup, the men soon convinced one another of the medical fact that homosexuality is not a physiological condition present at birth but an emotional maladjustment resulting from reactions to childhood experiences. They talked little about the physical aspects of their abnormal sex life but concentrated on the psychological and social aspects. Some quit jobs that they had taken to be with other homosexuals and, having lost their fear and dislike of heterosexual society, got better jobs elsewhere.
Dr. Hadden has now had increasing success with several groups of four to eight patients. An individual stays in an average of four to eight years; when he graduates, his place is taken by a newcomer. A new patient willing to try treatment (even though he may be skeptical or actually contemptuous) is inducted into a group that meets once a week for about l½ hours. He may show up flaunting gay clothes and gay mannerisms and is almost certain to insist that he was born a homosexual and is happy to remain one.
The more experienced patients in the group immediately challenge both his ideas and his behavior. They tell him that none of them want to be seen leaving the building with anyone dressed the way he is. They tell him that they, too, used to affect the same mannered speech that he does, and they are glad they quit. Most important, it soon becomes clear from discussion of their own problems that they never have been truly happy as homosexuals, and know they cannot be. Their anxiety is infectious, and this anxiety becomes the basis of a desire to change. The newcomers soon adopt "straight" clothing. One of the earliest behavior changes that Dr. Hadden sees is a less mannered way of speaking. And gradually the group knocks down all the rationalizations that homosexual propagandists have devised to justify themselves.