Banning Gay Conversion Therapy

My counseling degree does not qualify me for clinical practice, but my studies did give me some insight on what would characterize good counseling practice. Gay conversion psychotherapy, also known as “reparative therapy” or “sexual reorientation therapy,” qualifies as quackery. The American Psychological Association shares my opinion on that, and California moved last year to make the practice illegal for minors. Some religious groups argued that “banning conversion therapy would hinder parents’ right to provide psychological care for children experiencing gender confusion.” Indeed, this “therapy” is generally performed under the auspices of conservative religious organizations such as NARTH, JONAH, and Exodus International.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Nearly 70 therapists currently advertise they practice conversion therapy in 20 states and the District of Columbia,” including Bachmann and Associates in Minnesota. Now, why does the name Bachmann sound so familiar?

Map of conversion therapy locations

Much of the momentum behind reparative therapy originated from a paper by Dr. Robert L. Spitzer in 2001, the conclusions of which Spitzer himself has since recanted as being flawed. A new effort to ban the practice for minors has now been launched in New Jersey. Jacob Rudolph, who you may know from the Youtube video his father posted, has started a petition which urges Gov. Christie to support a bill under consideration.

No doubt this controversy is making the fundamentalists crazy. They sincerely believe, many of them at least, that homosexuality is evil, and that God wants them to combat it in any way they can. They have a right to their beliefs, but they do not have a right to their own facts. The first and most important rule of any kind of therapy is Do no harm.

To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. This appears to be especially likely for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who grow up in more conservative religious settings. ~ APA

 Title image credit: Wayne Besen

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