Article Title:Obituary: Robert Spitzer (1932-2015)
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:6th January 2016 - 11:26 am
Internet Archive link:
NDHA link:
Note that the National Library of New Zealand (NDHA) website uses both cookies and frames. The first time you click on a link it first may take you to the archived front page of Close the window and try again. This is because the NDHA website uses cookies and you cannot access an indiviual page without visiting the front page first
Story ID:17750
Text:The late Professor Robert Spitzer (1932-2015) was a pivotal figure in the depathologisation of homosexuality within mainstream mental health practice, both within the United States and the rest of the western world. Spitzer studied at Cornell University (Bachelor of Arts, Psychology) and the New York University School of Medicine (M.D). He became a distinguished figure within the field of psychology, serving on a committee for comparative analyses of diagnostic categories in the United States which compared that nation with the United Kingdom, and also developed two core diagnostic tools- the Mood Disorder Questionnaire, which can be used to ascertain whether or not an individual has bipolar affective disorder, and the more generalised Patient Health Questionnaire, which detects whether or not an individual has mental illness; and if so, whether or not she or he has depression or related conditions (PHQ2 and PHQ9), which have become standardised tools in that diagnostic procedure. In the sixties, as a Columbia University Professor of Psychiatry, Spitzer became involved in updating the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual compendium of diagnostic categories. DSM-I had been released in 1952, but was caught in a growing professional and social controversy about whether homosexuality should be classified as a 'mental health disorder.' The origins of psychopathological designation of homosexuality began in the nineteenth century, when Krafft-Ebling, a pioneering sexologist, classified it as such in hisPsychopathia Sexualis(1886). By contrast, Sigmund Freud viewed homosexuality as a sign of "arrested development" when it came to psychological maturity, but also noted that once object choices had been made in early infancy, it was impossible to change them- a rebuttal of the Christian Right's 'exgay' reparative therapy backlash movement that arose in the seventies. Sandor Rado, Irving Beiber, Charles Socarides and Australia's John H.Court all argued that heterosexuality was a psychological 'norm' and that homosexuality and bisexuality constituted dangerous forms of deviance. However, Evelyn Hooker and other reformist professionals argued for depathologisation on the basis that all that antigay psychologists were doing was giving uncritical sanction to unsubstantiated social prejudices and folk myths, and that independent critical inquiry and analyses indicated that there was nothing in homosexualityper sethat predisposed one toward more legitimate psychopathologies. Finally, the tidal wave of evidence-based criticism became too great to ignore and in 1973, DSM-II removed homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders. Fundamentalist Protestants and conservative Catholics refused to accept this and established their 'reparative therapy' scams, although they never took significant root in New Zealand. Spitzer served as editor of DSM-II and DSM-III (1980). He later muddied the waters by providing a medical journal article that sanctioned 'reparative therapy', but later withdrew it from circulation and apologised to the LGBT community for its publication. Recommended: Jack Deutscher: "I'm Your Handyman: A History of Reparative Therapies"Journal of Homosexuality: 1998: 36:1: 19-42. Jack Deutscher: "Sexual Conversion/Reparative Therapies: A History and Update" in Billy Jones and Marjorie Hill (eds)Mental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Communities:Washington: American Psychiatric Press: 2002: 71-88. Joy Damousi:Freud in the Antipodes: Sydney: University of New South Wales Press: 2005. Ronald Bayer:Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis:New York: Princeton: Princeton University Press: 1987. "An Analysis of Dr. Spitzer's Study about Whether Adults Can Change Sexual Orientation" Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance:http://www. hom_spit.htm Not Recommended: Irving Beiber et al:Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study:New York: Basic Books: 1962. Sandor Rado: "A Critical Study of the Concept of Bisexuality:"Psychosomatic Medicine: 1940: 2: 459-467. Charles Socarides:Homosexuality: A Freedom Too Far:Phoenix: Adam Musgrave Books: 1995. Gerd van den Aardweg:The Battle for Normality: A Guide to Self-Therapy for Homosexuality:San Francisco: Ignatius Press: 1997.     Craig Young - 6th January 2016
Disclaimer:This page displays a version of the article with all formatting and images removed. It was harvested automatically and some text content may not have been fully captured correctly: access this content at your own risk. A copy of the full article is available (off-line) at the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand. This online version is provided for personal research and review and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of If you have queries or concerns about this article please email us
Reproduction note:Just before closed in May 2017, the website owners wrote this article about reproducing content from the website: "our work has always been available for glbti people to use and all we ask is that you not plagiarise it... if you use it anywhere please attribute it to and where there is an authors name attached please acknowledge that writer."