Joseph Nicolosi, 70, therapist who fought to ‘cure’ gays

LOS ANGELES — Joseph Nicolosi, a psychologist and major figure in the ‘‘ex-gay’’ movement that promotes a therapy designed to ‘‘cure’’ people of their homosexuality, died Wednesday at age 70.

Mr. Nicolosi, who cofounded the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality in 1992, died of influenza-related complications, his personal assistant, Sara Trevino, said Friday. She did not say where he died.

Mr. Nicolosi was a major proponent of what he called ‘‘reparative therapy,’’ a treatment usually aimed at gay men that seeks to transform their behavior to that of heterosexual. It’s a treatment that has come to be widely denounced by the gay community and disavowed by much of the psychological community.


The American Psychological Association declared in 2006 that Mr. Nicolosi’s organization created ‘‘an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.’’

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Mr. Nicolosi maintained that the therapy works.

‘‘I have helped many men reduce their unwanted same-sex attractions, so that they lose their compelling, life-disrupting power, and assisted them in exploring and developing their heterosexual potential,’’ he wrote on his website.

Mr. Nicolosi supported the rights of people who wanted to live gay lifestyles and believed he could help those who wanted to change through therapy, said his wife, Linda Nicolosi.

As a result, she said, he was ‘‘happy to swim against the cultural tide when he was sure the culture was going in the wrong direction.’’


Over the years, he appeared often on TV news and talk shows to defend reparative therapy in segments that sometimes descended into shouting matches between himself and gay members of the audience.

His wife said he once threw a microphone at a reporter he thought was being rude.

Gay journalist Zack Ford of the liberal politics blog ThinkProgress described Mr. Nicolosi as the ‘‘modern father of the torture known as ex-gay therapy.’’

After California banned the practice on minors in 2012, Mr. Nicolosi joined a lawsuit on behalf of two teenage boys who sought to continue treatment. The case was dismissed after the Supreme Court declined to hear it in 2014.

‘‘We see homosexual behavior as the client’s or the patient’s attempt to repair something deficit within themselves, mainly masculinity,’’ Mr. Nicolosi said in 2014.