Introduction to reparative therapy, & transformational ministries:
Brief statements by professional mental
safety of reparative therapy.
Reparative Therapy -- a.k.a. conversion therapy, sexual reorientation, or ex-gay therapy -- refers to a sexual orientation change effort (SOCE) by a psychiatrist, psychologist, other counselor, member of the clergy, religious transformational ministry, etc. to alter the sexual orientation of a client, from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual. Reparative therapy was heavily promoted by many conservative religious groups until 2012, when the largest reparative therapy organization -- Exodus International -- rejected this form of therapy as ineffective and hazardous. In mid-2013, the leadership of Exodus apologized to the LGBT community for the harm and pain it had caused over more than three decades, and ceased operating.
In recent years, there has been increasing awareness of the dangers and ineffectiveness of reparative therapy. It has been largely abandoned. However, it is still being offered by some conservative religious groups and therapists who believe that homosexual and bisexual orientations are personally chosen and can be changed.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is an organization that monitors hate groups in the U.S. and promotes tolerance. They publish a U.S. map on their web site that marks the locations of reparative therapy practitioners. 1
Results of a literature search prepared by the Government of California's Legislative Counsel:
On 2012-SEP-30, the wording of a new bill -- Senate Bill #1172, was approved by the Governor of California and filed with the California Secretary of State. The bill restricted sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) to adults. It was passed by the Legislature, signed into law by the governor, challenged in federal court, and found to be constitutional. It remains in force. Similar laws have become
Section 1 of the bill contains brief descriptions of statements by many U.S. national mental health professional organizations concerning reparative therapy. It states:
- "(a) Being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming. The major professional associations of mental health practitioners and researchers in the United States have recognized this fact for nearly 40 years.
- (b) The American Psychological Association convened a Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. The task force conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts, and issued a report in 2009. The task force concluded that sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, including confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidality, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized and untrue to self, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources.
- (c) The American Psychological Association issued a resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts in 2009, which states:
'[T]he [American Psychological Association] advises parents, guardians, young people, and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and to seek psychotherapy, social support, and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.'
- (d) The American Psychiatric Association published a position statement in March of 2000 in which it stated:
'Psychotherapeutic modalities to convert or ‘repair’ homosexuality are based on developmental theories whose scientific validity is questionable. Furthermore, anecdotal reports of ‘cures’ are counterbalanced by anecdotal claims of psychological harm. 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, [the American Psychiatric Association] recommends that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals’ sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum to first, do no harm.
The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient. Many patients who have undergone reparative therapy relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction. The possibility that the person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as a gay man or lesbian is not presented, nor are alternative approaches to dealing with the effects of societal stigmatization discussed.
Therefore, the American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation'."
- "(e) The American School Counselor Association’s position statement on professional school counselors and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth states:
'It is not the role of the professional school counselor to attempt to change a student’s sexual orientation/gender identity but instead to provide support to LGBTQ students to promote student achievement and personal well-being. Recognizing that sexual orientation is not an illness and does not require treatment, professional school counselors may provide individual student planning or responsive services to LGBTQ students to promote self-acceptance, deal with social acceptance, understand issues related to coming out, including issues that families may face when a student goes through this process and identify appropriate community resources.'
- (f) The American Academy of Pediatrics in 1993 published an article in its journal, Pediatrics, stating:
'Therapy directed at specifically changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.'
- (g) The American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs prepared a report in 1994 in which it stated:
'Aversion therapy (a behavioral or medical intervention which pairs unwanted behavior, in this case, homosexual behavior, with unpleasant sensations or aversive consequences) is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians. Through psychotherapy, gay men and lesbians can become comfortable with their sexual orientation and understand the societal response to it.'
- (h) The National Association of Social Workers prepared a 1997 policy statement in which it stated:
'Social stigmatization of lesbian, gay and bisexual people is widespread and is a primary motivating factor in leading some people to seek sexual orientation changes. Sexual orientation conversion therapies assume that homosexual orientation is both pathological and freely chosen. No data demonstrates that reparative or conversion therapies are effective, and, in fact, they may be harmful.'
- (i) The American Counseling Association Governing Council issued a position statement in April of 1999, and in it the council states that they oppose:
'the promotion of ‘reparative therapy’ as a ‘cure’ for individuals who are homosexual.'
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
- "Conversion Therapy," Southern Poverty Law Center, continually being updated, at: http://www.splcenter.org/
- "Cured of being gay?," You Tube, 2011-DEC-07, at: https://www.youtube.com/
- "Senate Bill No. 1172," California legislature, 2012-SEP-30, at: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/
No copyright © claimed for this essay for obvious reasons
Originally published: 2014-DEC--03
Last updated 2014-DEC-03
Author: Bruce A Robinson