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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Richard A. Cohen (born 1952) is an author and conversion therapist.[1][2] He has been called one of America's leading practitioners of conversion therapy.[3] Cohen gives lectures and runs seminars and workshops where he sells his books.[4] Cohen's theories differ from or conflict with mainstream medical views of sexual orientation. [5]

Cohen lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and their three children.[1] His foundation offers commercial teleconferencing classes on topics such as the causes of same-sex attractions and the process of healing.[6] He also travels on a lecture circuit discussing similar topics.[7]



According to Cohen, a family friend repeatedly molested him when he was 6 years old.[1] Cohen said that this provided the affection he craved from his father, and that he repressed the memories of molestation until he was 30 and in therapy. He was openly gay and had a boyfriend while attending Boston University as an undergraduate, but spent years in intensive treatment trying to change his sexual orientation,[1] beginning psychotherapy twice weekly with a traditional Freudian psychoanalyst.[8]

While in college he became an evangelical Christian and later joined the Unification Church, where he said, he remained celibate for long periods.[1] The Unification Church rejects homosexual behavior.[9] Cohen married in 1982. He and his wife, also a Unification Church member at the time, were introduced to each other by church founder Sun Myung Moon. Cohen says that during the first three years of his marriage he spent time "running around" with a boyfriend in New York.[1] Cohen describes this time as a period of turmoil that led him to pursue healing from his past.[10]


Cohen received a counseling psychology master's degree from a satellite campus of Antioch University.[1]


According to Cohen he works under the auspices of the International Healing Foundation, a nonprofit and tax-exempt organization founded by him in 1990 to "treat" same-sex attraction.[1]

He is not licensed as a therapist, because he said he "didn't want to jump through the hoops and deal with the heterophobia and anti-ex-gay attitudes." Cohen avoids State licensing requirements by asking for donations to his foundations instead of payment.[1]

Cohen was, for a time, the president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays.[11]


Expulsion from the ACA

In 2002 Cohen was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association, 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."[1][12]

Cohen said he believes 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, calling the ACA "a biased organization"[13] and "gay-affirming club".[1]

Media appearances

Cohen debated Wayne Besen, a gay rights advocate, on television in 2005. Cohen later advanced his theories on Penn and Teller's show Bullshit!,[14] on shock jock Howard Stern's radio program,[15] and on Paula Zahn's CNN program.[16]

Cohen was then interviewed by Jason Jones on the March 19, 2007 episode of The Daily Show.[11] Cohen was on Jimmy Kimmel Live on June 28, 2006,[2] and was interviewed on The Rachel Maddow Show on December 8, 2009.[17]

Beliefs about sexual orientation

Cohen's 2001 book Coming Out Straight calls homosexuality a "same-sex attachment disorder" and details his methods of sexual reorientation therapy, including his theory of the causes of same-sex attraction (among them, divorce, death of a loved one, and race [18]), his methods of changing sexual orientation, and stories of people who have undergone his therapies.

Cohen describes the "hidden meanings" of same-sex attraction as:

  1. need for same-sex parent's love
  2. need for gender identification
  3. fear of intimacy with the opposite sex[19]

Cohen uses a technique called bioenergetics.[1] He demonstrated this by smashing a tennis racket into a pillow while shouting the name of a person eliciting painful childhood memories.[20] Cohen also uses holding therapy, which involves cuddling and repeating affirming words to attempt to establish healthy, non-sexual bonding that may have been absent during childhood.[20] The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) states that holding therapy by a therapist is potentially dangerous and strongly opposes its use.[21] In Cohen's Counselor training program manual he states that only opposite-sex attracted mentors or same-gender parents should give holding therapy, and quoting from his 2000 book Coming Out Straight that the mentor should not be the same person as the therapist.[22]

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."[2]

Books written

  • Cohen, Richard A; Elizabeth Sherman. Alfie's Home (1993) ISBN 0-9637058-0-6, self-published.[23]
  • Cohen, Richard A; Laura Schlessinger. Coming Out Straight (2000) ISBN 1-886939-41-1, Oakhill Press, equity publisher.[24]
  • Cohen, Richard. Gay Children, Straight Parents: A Plan for Family Healing (2007) ISBN 978-0830834372, Inter-Varsity Press.[25]

Further reading

Besen, W. Anything but Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies behind the Ex-Gay Myth, Harrington Park Press. ISBN 1-56023-445-8


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Boodman, Sandra G. (2005-08-16). "A conversion therapist's unusual odyssey". Washington Post. pp. HE04. Retrieved 2007-08-30.  
  2. ^ a b Cohen, Richard (2007-07-20). "Born gay? No way!". New Statesman. Retrieved 2007-08-27.  
  3. ^ Transcript of "USA - Gay Conversion, ABC TV Foreign Correspondent, 08-22-2006. Retrieved 04-07-2007.
  4. ^ "Gay Children, Straight Parents: A Plan for Family Healing: Books: Richard Cohen". Retrieved 2007-10-22.  
  5. ^ Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation & Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel, American Psychological Association, et al., 1999. Retrieved on 2007-02-23.
  6. ^ "Teleconferencing Classes". International Healing Foundation. Retrieved 2008-08-03.  
  7. ^ Calendar (from Cohen's website). Retrieved on 04-11-2007.
  8. ^ Cohen, Richard. "Richard Cohen's story: "Coming Out Straight"". Retrieved 2007-07-27.   excerpt from the book, Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexuality by Richard Cohen
  9. ^ THE UNIFICATION CHURCH AND HOMOSEXUALITY B.A. Robinson, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 2005
  10. ^ Cohen, R. Coming Out Straight. Retrieved on 04-07-2007.
  11. ^ a b "Richard Cohen’s Vanishing Act… Well Sort Of". Retrieved on 2007-04-11.
  12. ^ Notification of Results Letter, American Counseling Association. Retrieved 04-07-2007.
  13. ^ Najafi, Yusef (2005-03-04). "Activist calls ex-gay leader "dishonest". Besen criticizes PFOX president for not disclosing past". Washington Blade. Window Media. Retrieved 2007-08-30.  
  14. ^ website. Retrieved on 2007-04-07.
  15. ^ Exgay Richard Cohen + Howard Stern = Tawdry Circus (blog entry), Ex-Gay Watch, 2005-08-16. Retrieved on 2007-04-07.
  16. ^ New Therapy Claims to "Cure" Homosexuality, Paula Zahn Now, May 23, 2006, CNN. [1]
  17. ^
  18. ^ Quote from book (link to Maddow interview in which he defends quote). Retrieved on 12-10-2009.
  19. ^ Audio Tapes and CDs (order page from Richard Cohen's website). Retrieved on 04-07-2007.
  20. ^ a b Brown, J. Experts Split Over 'Bizarre' Sexual Orientation Therapy Techniques, Agape Press, 06-20-2006. Retrieved on 04-07-2007.
  21. ^ "Holding Therapy" as a Therapeutic Approach: NARTH Official Position Statement, NARTH, 2009-01-13. Retrieved on 2009-02-21.
  22. ^ Cohen, Richard (2008). "Healthy touch in the healing process, part I. Counselor training program manual". Change is possible. Newsletter winter 2008. International healing foundation. pp. 5, 7-8. Retrieved 2009-02-24. "only the OSA (Opposite-Sex Attracted) mentors or one’s same-gender parent (if s/he is capable, willing and available), should be the bearers of the gift of healthy touch for those with unwanted SSA. [...] “The therapist or counselor should not be the men-tor. The therapist may help train mentors; however, it is ill advised for him to stand in as the mentor” (p. 203)."  
  23. ^ Alfie's home by Richard A Cohen; Elizabeth Sherman WorldCat
  24. ^ Coming out straight: understanding and healing homosexuality by Richard A Cohen; Laura Schlessinger WorldCat
  25. ^ Gay children, straight parents : a plan for family healing by Richard Cohen WorldCat

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Richard A. Cohen is an American psychotherapist.


  • Now that you have seen how I help people transition from homosexual to straight, you can buy my new book or you can purchase my therapeutic tapes, and don’t forget my hope and healing videos. I’m also available for speaking engagements. And, of course, I take credit cards. God bless. Amen. Be straight.
    • Wayne Besen, Anything but Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies behind the Ex-Gay Myth, Harrington Park Press. ISBN 1560234458

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