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Religious Tolerance logo

Part 1

1973 to 1994: Trying to Convert Gays to
Heterosexuals using Reparative Therapy:

LGBT-hand image1

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Although most of the following statements specifically mention reparative or conversion therapy, they would seem to be equally applicable to any attempt to change a person's sexual orientation, including efforts by transformational ministries using prayer, etc. 

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Overview:

During:

  • 1973: The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses;

  • 1975: The American Psychological Association followed suit;

  • 1977: So did the National Association of Social Workers;

  • 1991: So did the National Psychoanalytic Association. 2

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers, and National Education Association formed the "Just the Facts Coalition." They developed and endorsed "Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation & Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel" in 1999.

The primer says, in part: 

"The most important fact about 'reparative therapy,' also sometimes known as 'conversion' therapy, is that it is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 477,000 health and mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus there is no need for a 'cure.'

Instead, homosexual and bisexual orientation are regarded as normal sexual variants.

The primer continues:

"...health 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." 3

The primer includes a number of quotations from major professional organizations about reparative therapy and other methods of attempting to change individuals' sexual orientation. One example is the American Academy of Pediatrics, which stated:

"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." 3

According to the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, (NARTH) -- which we believe is is one of only two U.S. mental health professional organization that promotes reparative therapy -- a number of organizations have formed a coalition to oppose reparative therapy. The group includes:

bullet American Academy of Pediatrics
bullet American Counseling Association
bullet American Federation of Teachers
bullet American Medical Association
bullet American Psychiatric Association
bullet American Psychological Association
bullet The Interfaith Alliance
bullet National Association of School Psychologists
bullet National Association of Social Workers
bullet National Association of Secondary School Principals
bullet National Education Association
bullet New Ways Ministries
bullet People for the American Way. 4

The only other mental health professional organization that promotes reparative therapy -- in addition to NARTH -- is the American College of Pediatricians (ACPEDS). It was founded in 2002 and is estimated as having about 500 members in 2016. 5 They have stated:

"... there is no evidence that psychotherapy for UHA is any more or less harmful than the use of psychotherapy to treat any other unwanted psychological or behavioral adaptation. Therefore, science does not support laws that prohibit minors with UHA from receiving psychotherapy in accordance with their personal goals and values. 6

ACPEDS is often confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which is the main national organization of pediatricians with a membership of about 66,000 members. 7 The AAP has stated: "In no situation is a referral for conversion or reparative therapy indicated." 8

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1991:

In 1991, Gerald Davison, a former president of the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, argued that conversion therapy is ethically improper and that its existence only confirms professional and societal biases against homosexuality. 9

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1993:

The American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement in 1993 entitled "Homosexuality and Adolescence"  It was critical of any form of reparative therapy. They commented:

bullet Some adolescents are uncertain about their sexual orientation; for them, a "counseling or phychotherapeutic initiative" aimed at clarification might be useful. "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."

bullet "The psychosocial problems of gay and lesbian adolescents are primarily the result of societal stigma, hostility, hatred and isolation."
bullet The statement mentioned that about 30% of "a surveyed group of gay and bisexual males have attempted suicide at least once." 10

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1994:

The American Psychiatric Association released a Fact Sheet in 1994-SEP which stated:

"There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of 'reparative therapy' as a treatment to change ones sexual orientation. It is not described in the scientific literature, nor is it mentioned in the APA's latest comprehensive Task Force Report, 'Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders (1989)'.

There are a few reports in the literature of efforts to use psychotherapeutic and counseling techniques to treat persons troubled by their homosexuality who desire to become heterosexual; however, results have not been conclusive, nor have they been replicated. There is no evidence that any treatment can change a homosexual person's deep seated sexual feelings for others of the same sex." 11

The American Psychological Association published a brochure titled "Answers to Your Questions About Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality." It contains a section titled: "Can Therapy Change Sexual Orientation?" which reads: 

"No. Even though homosexual orientation is not a mental illness and there is no scientific reason to attempt conversion of lesbians or gays to heterosexual orientation, some individuals may seek to change their own sexual orientation or that of another individual (for example, parents seeking therapy for their child). Some therapists who undertake this kind of therapy report that they have changed their client's sexual orientation (from homosexual to heterosexual) in treatment. Close scrutiny of their reports indicates several factors that cast doubt: many of the claims come from organizations with an ideological perspective on sexual orientation, rather than from mental health researchers; the treatments and their outcomes are poorly documented; and the length of time that clients are followed up after the treatment is too short.

In 1990, the American Psychological Association stated that scientific evidence does not show that conversion therapy works and that it can do more harm than good. Changing one's sexual orientation is not simply a matter of changing one's sexual behavior. It would require altering one's emotional, romantic and sexual feelings and restructuring one's self-concept and social identity. Although some mental health providers do attempt sexual orientation conversion, others question the ethics of trying to alter through therapy a trait that is not a disorder and that is extremely important to an individual's identity. 12

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

  1. Image downloaded from Pixabay; (CC0 Public Domain).
  2. Doug Nave, "Organizations of US Mental Health Professionals are unanimous," at: http://www.covenantnetwork.org/
  3. "APA Online: Public Interest: Just the facts about sexual orientation and youth: A primer for principals, educators and school personnel," See: http://www.apa.org/
  4. "American Counseling Association Passes Resolution to Oppose Reparative Therapy," NARTH, at: http://www.narth.com/docs/acaresolution.html
  5. "American College of Pediatricians," Wikipedia, as of 2017-MAY-20, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  6. "Psychotherapy for Unwanted Homosexual Attraction Among Youth," American College of Pediatricians, 2016, at: https://www.acpeds.org/
  7. "Membership FAQs," American Academy of Pediatrics, 2017, at: https://www.aap.org/
  8. David A. Levine, "Office-Based Care for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth," American Academy of Pediatrics, 2013-JUL, at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/
  9. Mary Bart, "Counselors say conversion therapy claims are groundless and prejudicial," Counseling Today magazine, 1998-DEC, at: http://www.counseling.org/site/
  10. Policy statement, "Homosexuality and Adolescence," American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, 1993-OCT.
  11. The American Psychiatric Association has a fact sheet on homosexuality at: http://www.thebody.com/apa/apafacts.html
  12. The American Psychological Association has a fact sheet on homosexuality at: http://www.apa.org/pubinfo/orient.html

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Copyright © 1997 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2017-MAY-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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