What is change or conversion therapy?
Conversion therapy (also called reparative therapy or sexual reorientation therapy) refers to methods aimed at changing gay, lesbian, and bisexual people’s sexual orientations to heterosexual, or at eliminating or diminishing same-sex desires and behaviors. It is almost always done in a religious context.
What do the various counseling organizations, governing bodies say about conversation therapy? From: www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/publications/justthefacts.html
- American Psychological Association (sexual orientation “does not require treatment and is not changeable.”)
- American Counseling Association (“Research does not support conversion therapy as an effective treatment modality.... There is potential for harm when clients participate in conversion therapy.”)
- American Psychiatric Association (“In the last four decades, ‘reparative’ therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure. Until there is such research available, APA recommends that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals’ sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum to first, do no harm.”)
- American Academy Of Paediatrics (“Therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.”)
- Joint coalition of health organizations (“[H]ealth and mental health professional organizations do not support efforts to change young people’s sexual orientation through ‘reparative therapy’ and have raised serious concerns about its potential to do harm.)
- World Health Organization (Those with an egodystonic sexual orientation “may seek treatment in order to change it.”)
From : Ethical issues related to conversion or reparative therapy by the American Counseling Association.
We advise professional counselors to discuss the potential harm of this therapy noted in evidence-based literature from scholarly publications in a manner that respects the client’s decision to seek it. This again relates to Standard A.1.a. (“Primary Responsibility”) and Standard A.4.b. (“Personal Values”), which requires counselors to be “aware of their own values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors and avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals.”
Clients may ask for a specific treatment from a counseling professional because they have heard about it from either their religious community or from popular culture. A counselor, however, only provides treatment that is scientifically indicated to be effective or has a theoretical framework supported by the profession. Otherwise, counselors inform clients that the treatment is "unproven" or "developing" and provide an explanation of the "potential risks and ethical considerations of using such techniques/procedures and take steps to protect clients from possible harm" (Standard C.6.e., "Scientific Bases for Treatment Modalities")......
Results of studies indicate that there are clients who enter this type of treatment and then report that they function more poorly than when they entered (Nicolosi, Byrd, & Potts, 2000; Schroeder & Shidlo, 2001).
There are treatments endorsed by the Association for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues in Counseling (see http://www.aglbic.org/resources/competencies.html), a division of the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association (see http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/guidelines.html) that have been successful in helping clients with their sexual orientation. These treatments are gay affirmative and help a client reconcile his/her same-sex attractions with religious beliefs.
Other resources and psycological statements on reparative therapy
- Position Statement on Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies). American Psychiatric Association (May 2000). www.psych.org/psych_pract/copptherapyaddendum83100.cfm
- American Psychological Association. Answers to Your Questions About Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality. “ http://www.apa.org/topics/orientation.html
- http://www.psych.org/pnews/99-01-15/therapy.html and COPP Position Statement on Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies)
- To learn about people who used to be ex-gay (tried to no longer be gay and it didn’t work) and more visit http://www.exgaywatch.com or http://www.beyondexgay.com. Currently www.beyondexgay.com is collecting stories of harm done due to reparative therapy.