A Christian ministry has defended the help it offers to people struggling with their sexual identity after an undercover report by the Sunday Mirror.
The newspaper's reporter, Daniel Harding, who is gay, posed as Joe Willis, a man confused about his sexuality and secretly attracted to men.
He had a Zoom session with Matthew Grech, a co-director of the Core Issues Trust and a 2018 contestant in X Factor Malta.
Harding says that during the session, he was told by Grech "that nobody is born with same-sex relations. The majority of the influence lies in environmental factors."
"Our minds form patterns which can be changed to create new ways of thinking... so that we can take authority over our thoughts and train ourselves in a new way," Grech said.
"Everyone who embarks on this journey will say to you at least that their same-sex attraction has decreased."
Harding, 34, said he was asked during the Zoom session about his childhood and whether there was any history of sexual abuse. Other questions explored his relationships with his dad and male friends.
Grech also suggested that Harding work on "being more assertive, being less shy... and receiving male friendships in a healthy way".
Reflecting on the Zoom session, Harding said: "It felt like I was venturing into a cult. It's atrocious and should be stopped immediately.
"I felt sad for Matthew, the information he shared and believed and for people who approach thinking they will be helped when in fact it will hinder them. I also felt anger at being told my feelings are mistaken."
Responding to the story, Dr Mike Davidson, CEO of the Core Issues Trust, said Grech's counselling approach during the session was "standard" and "valid".
He said people with unwanted same-sex attraction were being "failed" by mental health services, which he said was "now ruled by the sexual politics of a monolithic viewpoint that can tolerate no dissent or challenge".
"Core Issues Trust has stood to support these abandoned individuals, exploring sexual fluidity issues and affirming their Christian values, where these are primary," he said.
The story was published by the Sunday Mirror days after the Government laid down plans to move ahead with a ban on conversion therapy.
Following the Queen's Speech last week, the Government said it would introduce legislation to Parliament following a public consultation.
Dr Davidson said people with unwanted same-sex attraction should be allowed to receive counselling and spiritual support, in spite of some people having had bad experiences.
"We can't have it both ways. If we claim harm can result from informal counselling or church-based pastoral care, we should be developing shared pastoral care and counselling standards ... and not forcing such initiatives to the backstreets," he said.
"We should allow access to professional training and not deny access because of viewpoint differences."
He warned that a ban on conversion therapy will impede on religious and human rights.
"The Trust will continue to unapologetically uphold, respectfully promote and humbly defend Christian teaching in accordance with the words of Jesus who regularly affirmed the sacred twoness of humankind: male and female," he said.
"He consistently reverted to the teachings in the Book of Genesis on marriage between one man and one woman in covenantal union. We who believe his words should do no other.
"Banning therapeutic choice – the real purpose of 'conversion therapy' bans - is a violation of the basic human rights of belief and association.
"If the Government proceeds in this direction, restricting freedom of speech and funding Soviet-styled witch-hunts through compensation schemes, every citizen in the Kingdom will have these basic human rights, including religious freedoms, reduced or impeded."