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Mental Health

The American Psychiatric Association in its position statement on Psychiatric Treatment and Sexual Orientation states: “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.”

In 2009, a task force of the American Psychological Association released the results of a landmark review of the existing research on “ex-gay” therapy. The group’s report said: “The results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through Sexual Orienttation Change Efforts (SOCE).”

The American Psychological Association in its Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, which is also endorsed by the National Association of School Psychologists, states: “That the American Psychological Association opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and adults as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation and supports the dissemination of accurate information about sexual orientation, and mental health, and appropriate interventions in order to counteract bias that is based in ignorance or unfounded beliefs about sexual orientation.”

At the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting, August 10, 2006, the organization released the following statement: “For over three decades the consensus of the mental health community has been that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore not in need of a cure. The APA’s concern about the position’ espoused by NARTH and so-called conversation therapy is that they are not supported by the science. There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”

APA letter What The Mental Health Experts Say

The American Medical Association in its policy statement on Health Care Needs of Gay Men and Lesbians in the United States reads: “Most of the emotional disturbance experienced by gay men and lesbians around their sexual identity is not based on physiological causes but rather is due more to a sense of alienation in an unaccepting environment. For this reason, 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.”

In July 2000, the AMA specifically addressed reparative therapy stating: “(we) oppose 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 the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.”

The American Counseling Association has adopted a resolution that states that it: “Opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and adults as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation; and supports the dissemination of accurate information about sexual orientation, mental health, and appropriate interventions in order to counteract bias that is based on ignorance or unfounded beliefs about same gender sexual orientation. Further, at its 1999 World Conference, ACA adopted a position opposing the promotion of ‘reparative therapy’ as a ‘cure’ for individuals who are homosexual.”

Additionally, the ACA took the extraordinary step in 2003 of expelling Richard Cohen, founder of the International Healing Foundation and former board president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays  (PFOX), for life because he committed multiple ethics violations.

Cohen ACA

The American Academy of Pediatrics in its policy statement on Homosexuality and Adolescence states: “Confusion about sexual orientation is not unusual during adolescence. Counseling may be helpful for young people who are uncertain about their sexual orientation or for those who are uncertain about how to express their sexuality and might profit from an attempt at clarification through a counseling or psychotherapeutic initiative. 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.”

The National Association of Social Workers in its Policy Statement on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Issues: “Endorses policies in both the public and private sectors that ensure nondiscrimination; that are sensitive to the health and mental health needs of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people; and that promote an understanding of lesbian, gay, and bisexual cultures. 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 demonstrate that reparative or conversion therapies are effective, and in fact they may be harmful.”

“NASW believes social workers have the responsibility to clients to explain the prevailing knowledge concerning sexual orientation and the lack of data reporting positive outcomes with reparative therapy. NASW discourages social workers from providing treatments designed to change sexual orientation or from referring practitioners or programs that claim to do so.”

psychiatrist-couchAs these statements make clear, health and mental health professional organizations do not support efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation through “reparative therapy” and have raised serious concerns about its potential to do harm. Many of the professional associations are able to provide helpful information and local contacts to assist school administrators, health and mental health professionals, educators, teachers, and parents in dealing with school controversies in their communities.