APA CONSIDERS GAY CONVERSION THERAPY
Source: Washington Post article by Rick Weiss, "Psychologists Reconsider Gay
'Conversion' Therapy. Group's Proposal Seeks to Curb Such Treatment", 1997-AUG-14;
Reuters News Agency, 1997-AUG-15.
Some psychologists and other therapists engage in a controversial practice of attempting to
convert homosexuals into heterosexuals. It is called "conversion" or "reparative" therapy.
Essentially all such therapists are motivated by strong religiously conservative beliefs.
Many are from Evangelical Christian ministries who believe that God
hates homosexuality, that people choose their sexual orientation, and that they can change it
with some counseling effort and prayer.
In 1995, a resolution was defeated by the APA membership that would have called such therapy
unethical professional behavior. A similar resolution was defeated by the American Psychiatric
Association in 1994.
On 1997-AUG-14, they did pass a resolution which "stops short of declaring reparative or
'conversion' therapy unethical." It was passed by an overwhelming vote in spite of
vehement opposition by "a vocal minority of psychologists, psychiatrists and religious
The procedure of attempting to covert gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals to heterosexuality
has been criticized as bigotry posing as science. Doug Haldeman, president of the APA's
Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Issues helped to write
the resolution. He said "In the past 10 years, Christian fundamentalists have enlisted a
coalition of old-style psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers who have become very
visible in this country and internationally, and who have as a mission to `help' homosexuals get
rid of their sexual orientation...Our aim is not to try to stop them per se or interfere with
anyone's right to practice [therapy] but we want to expose the social context that creates this
market." APA officials are concerned that some who enter therapy are being coerced by
their families, employers, church members etc.
Robert Pollard, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University
of Rochester, commented "The question is, are you going into this [therapy] knowing that
homosexuality is not a mental illness, and knowing that you do not necessarily have a problem,
and knowing that people who are gay and lesbian can demonstrate perfectly normal mental
No real data is available on "reparative therapy." The APA has no idea how many people submit
to this therapy. There has never been an article in any peer-reviewed journal on its
effectiveness. "Advocates say they have many examples of people who have been successfully
converted and lived happily and heterosexually ever after. Critics claim that in most cases the
therapy does not work and in many cases it amplifies a homosexual person's feelings of
The APA resolution affirms that the therapist obtains "informed consent" from the client. This
- a full discussion of the client's potential for happiness as a homosexual,
- communication to the client that there is no sound scientific evidence that the therapy works,
- raising the possibility that therapy may exacerbate the client's problems, and
- an analysis of the client's true motivation for wanting to change.
Some comments on the resolution:
||The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) promotes
"reparative therapy." Spokesperson C.W. Socarides stated: "It is a very serious resolution
cloaked in lamb's wool...an attempt to brainwash the public...Homosexuality is a psychological
and psychiatric disorder, there is no question about it...It is a purple menace that is
threatening the proper design of gender distinctions in society." (The APA decided that
homosexuality was not a mental disorder in 1973).
||Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a clinical psychologist and executive director of NARTH, called the
informed consent principles "intimidating and discouraging. It's like having a restaurant and
having a big sign in the window saying, `You might be poisoned, you might not be happy with the
||R.H. Knight, spokesperson of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian
Religious Right group, opposed the resolution. He said: "I'd like to know if the APA will
require therapists to tell patients that there are strong cultural and religious reasons for
saying homosexual sex is wrong."
||D.M. Smith of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and lesbian civil rights group,
commented: "These therapies amount to nothing more than psychological terrorism and are
usually performed by practitioners who harbor intense bias against gay people."