Richard A. Cohen
Richard A. Cohen
|Alma mater||Boston University|
|Spouse(s)||Jae Sook Cohen (1980–present)|
Richard A. Cohen (born 1952) is a Christian psychotherapist and author associated with the ex-gay movement. He is a co-founder of Positive Approaches to Healthy Sexuality (PATH), and the past director of the International Healing Foundation. Cohen’s early work as an author and therapist was defined by his personal journey: identifying as a homosexual in adolescence, struggling early in his heterosexual marriage, finding personal and marital healing and with his wife, birthing and raising three children. This became the basis for his advocacy, writing and therapeutic practice with men and women with unwanted same-sex attraction, and ultimately all genders, orientations and relationship challenges.
Cohen maintains that gender orientation is a “human rights issue,” and that the choice to either identify or seek change is an individual one, a position that has generated controversy. In 2002, Cohen was expelled from the American Counseling Association for multiple violations. Opponents claimed that Cohen practiced a form of “Conversion Therapy,” which has been associated with coercion and labelled unethical. Cohen and PATH have publicly rejected Conversion Therapy, while insisting that "change is possible" and advocating for “equality, tolerance and diversity for all views of sexuality and gender identity.” 
Numerous medical institutions have warned that Conversion Therapy is ineffective and may be harmful, and that there is no evidence that sexual orientation can be changed by therapeutic treatments. In a 2000 position statement, the American Psychological Association (APA) opposed all clinical attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation, and stated that “…there are no scientifically rigorous outcome studies to determine either the actual efficacy or harm of "reparative" treatments.”
Cohen is also the author of Alfie’s Home, a controversial children’s book based upon Cohen’s own experiences and written as a therapeutic and teaching tool, which refers to his personal experience of sexual abuse. Opponents claim that recent scientific research demonstrates that gender nonconformity may cause a child to be targeted for sexual abuse, rather than the other way around.
Cohen was born into a Jewish family in Philadelphia. While attending Boston University, he became an evangelical Christian, and later joined the Unification Church. In 1980, Cohen married Jae Sook, a South Korean woman, and in 1995, Cohen and his family left the Unification Church. During adolescence, Cohen reportedly spent "years in intensive psychiatric treatment unsuccessfully trying to become straight".
Cohen identified as gay during his undergraduate years at Boston University. He sought counseling for his unwanted same-sex attractions. He says he has been heterosexual since 1987, to which he credits resolution of underlying issues. He became publicly involved in the ex-gay movement in 1990.
Cohen is the author of 6 books. His autobiographical recounting of his personal journey and healing process, Coming Out Straight, was first published by Oakhill Press in 2000, with three updated editions since. His guideline for parents and families, Gay Children, Straight Parents, was first published by InterVarsity Press in 2007. His most recent, Healing Humanity: Time, Touch and Talk was published in 2019.
International Healing Foundation / Positive Approaches to Healthy Sexuality
Cohen founded the International Healing Foundation (IHF) in 1990, a nonprofit organization, to counsel those who experience unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA) through Sexual Orientation Therapy. IHF was dissolved in 2015. In 2003, Cohen co-founded Positive Approaches to Healthy Sexuality (PATH), which promotes "the individual's right of self-determination, and equality, tolerance and diversity for all views of sexuality and gender identity." Cohen has said, "If someone wants to live a gay life, that needs to be respected. If someone wants to resolve unwanted same-sex attraction, that too needs to be respected. Let us practice true tolerance, real diversity, and equality for all."
While he was a psychotherapist in Washington State, Cohen was a registered counselor. During his therapeutic practice in Maryland, there was no licensure requirement for counselors until the time he was transitioning to full time teaching. Over the past twelve years, Cohen has trained over 6,000 psychologists, psychotherapists, physicians, and ministry leaders throughout the USA, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East.
Expulsion from the ACA
Noting that the ACA is a non-licensing trade organization, and that his expulsion was based upon a single complaint, Cohen did not appeal the ACA decision. He claimed that the action was entirely for his efforts in the ex-gay movement, specifically for the book Coming Out Straight. He called the ACA "a biased organization," and asked, "Why would I want to be in a totally gay-affirming club?"
Cohen was on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on June 28, 2006, and was a guest on The Rachel Maddow Show on December 8, 2009. Cohen was interviewed by Jason Jones on the March 19, 2007, episode of The Daily Show, and was on The Michelangelo Signorile Show on the Sirius radio network on April 17, 2010. Cohen has also appeared on Larry King Live, The O'Reilly Factor, and The Edge with Paula Zahn, as well as interviews on CNN, ABC News in Washington DC, and others.
Coverage by other figures
Cohen has several books published or re-published under his own PATH Press:
- Cohen, Richard A; Elizabeth Sherman. Alfie's Home (1993) ISBN 978-0-9637058-0-8, self-published.
- Cohen, Richard. Coming Out Straight: Understanding Same-Sex Attraction Third Edition (2016) ISBN 978-0-9637058-8-4, PATH Press,
- Cohen, Richard. Gay Children, Straight Parents: A Plan for Family Healing (2016) ISBN 978-0-9637058-6-0, PATH Press.
- Cohen, Richard. Straight Talk About Homosexuality (2016) ISBN 978-0-9637058-9-1, PATH Press,
- Cohen, Richard. Healing Humanity: Time, Touch and Talk (2019) ISBN 978-1-7338469-0-5, PATH Press
- Cohen, Richard. Being Gay: Nature, Nurture or Both? (2020) ISBN 978-1-7338469-2-9, PATH Press
- Boodman, Sandra G. (2005-08-16). "A Conversion Therapist's Unusual Odyssey". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-08-05.
- "Richard Cohen". Brothers on a Road Less Traveled. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
- Cohen, Richard (March 28, 2019). Healing Heterosexuality: Time, Touch and Talk. ISBN 978-1-7338469-0-5.
- "WHAT WE BELIEVE". pathinfo. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
- Yoshino, Kenji (2002), "Covering", Yale Law Journal, 111 (4): 769–939, doi:10.2307/797566, JSTOR 797566
- Haldeman, Douglas C. (December 1999). "The Pseudo-science of Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy" (PDF). Angles: The Policy Journal of the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies. 4 (1): 1–4. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
Conversion therapy can be harmful.
- Glassgold, JM; et al. (2009), Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation (PDF), American Psychological Association, retrieved 2009-09-24: "As noted previously, early research indicates that aversive techniques have been found to have very limited benefits as well as potentially harmful effects."
- Drescher, Jack; Zucker, Kenneth, eds. (2006), Ex-Gay Research: Analyzing the Spitzer Study and Its Relation to Science, Religion, Politics, and Culture, New York: Harrington Park Press, ISBN 978-1-56023-557-6
- "American Psychiatric Association". web.archive.org. 2011-04-07. Retrieved 2020-08-08.
- Xu, Yin; Zheng, Yong (2017-12-01). "Does Sexual Orientation Precede Childhood Sexual Abuse? Childhood Gender Nonconformity as a Risk Factor and Instrumental Variable Analysis". Sexual Abuse. 29 (8): 786–802. doi:10.1177/1079063215618378. ISSN 1079-0632.
Results suggest that non-heterosexuality may increase the risk of childhood sexual abuse
- Bailey, J. Michael; Vasey, Paul L.; Diamond, Lisa M.; Breedlove, S. Marc; Vilain, Eric; Epprecht, Marc (2016). "Sexual Orientation, Controversy, and Science". Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 17 (2): 45–101. doi:10.1177/1529100616637616. ISSN 1529-1006.
- "Richard Cohen". GLAAD. 2014-07-28. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
- "DIRECTOR". pathinfo. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
- "International Healing Foundation Apologizes to the LGBTQ Community on its 21st Anniversary" (Press release). International Healing Foundation. PR Newswire. Retrieved 2020-03-15.
- "Notification of Results Letter". Archived from the original on January 3, 2007. Retrieved January 3, 2007.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link), American Counseling Association. Retrieved 04-07-2007.
- "About the American Counseling Association". American Counseling Association.
- Najafi, Yusef (2005-03-04). "Activist calls ex-gay leader "dishonest". Besen criticizes PFOX president for not disclosing past". Washington Blade. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
- "Episode #4.279".
- NBC News Rachel Maddow: Debunking a 'cure' for homosexuality
- "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah".
- Larry King Live Part 1 (February 21, 2009). "IHF2008". Retrieved December 14, 2020 – via YouTube.
- Larry King Live Part 2 (December 10, 2008). "IHF2008". Retrieved December 14, 2020 – via YouTube.
- "IHF2008". The O'Reilly Factor. February 22, 2009. Retrieved December 14, 2020 – via YouTube.
- Paula Zahn Part 1 (February 22, 2009). "IHF2008". Retrieved December 14, 2020 – via YouTube.
- Paula Zahn Part 2 (February 22, 2009). "IHF2008". Retrieved December 14, 2020 – via YouTube.
- "IHF2008". CNN. April 7, 2010. Retrieved December 14, 2020 – via YouTube.
- "IHF2008". ABC News. February 22, 2009. Retrieved December 14, 2020 – via YouTube.
- Besen, Wayne R. (2003). Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-gay Myth. Psychology Press. p. 164. ISBN 978-1-56023-446-3.
- Alfie's home by Richard A Cohen; Elizabeth Sherman WorldCat
- Cohen, Richard (2016-06-02). Coming Out Straight: Understanding Same-Sex Attraction. ISBN 978-1533598578.
- Cohen, Richard. "Coming Out Straight: Understanding Same-Sex Attraction".
- Cohen, Richard (2016-02-19). Gay Children, Straight Parents: A Plan for Family Healing. ISBN 978-1530156641.
- Cohen, Richard. "Gay Children, Straight Parents: A Plan for Family Healing".
- Cohen, Richard (2016-03-21). Straight Talk About Homosexuality. ISBN 978-0963705891.
- Cohen, Richard. "Straight Talk About Homosexuality".
- Cohen, Richard (2020). Being Gay: Nature, Nurture or Both?. PATH Press. ISBN 978-1-7338469-2-9.
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