"The harm is that when people are already in distress, and feeling conflict about their religion and their sexuality, to tell them they can change if they work hard enough, when in fact they can't do that … just makes their distress and their shame -- their depression -- even worse," Anderson said.
Marcus Bachmann describes a gentle approach to counseling on his website, saying he believes "my call is to minister to the needs of people in a practical, caring and sensitive way." In a talk radio interview, however, he does not deny a tougher approach when it comes to dealing with behavior considered to be sinful.
"We have to understand, barbarians need to be educated," he said during a 2010 appearance on the program Point of View.
Questions about the clinic's approach to counseling gay patients prompted the Vermont-based advocacy group Truth Wins Out to send a gay man undercover, with a camera, to seek guidance from a Bachmann associate.
"I told my therapist that I was struggling with attraction to the same sex, and that my attractions were overwhelmingly, predominately, exclusively homosexual," said John Becker, the man who visited the clinic five times in late June.
Treatment notes and bills that Becker provided to ABC said the counselor's goal was to "increase ability to manage and decrease feelings and actions."
Becker said he was told more explicitly that the goal of his treatment was to end his homosexual urges entirely, and he was provided scriptural mantras to repeat to himself in order to stay on track.
"He seemed to believe genuinely in his heart of hearts that, somehow, my homosexuality could be cured and could be eliminated," Becker said.