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Conversion Therapy

Conversion therapy is based upon the false assumption that people choose their sexuality. Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation to be heterosexual. Research has shown conversion therapy causes harm, including depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidality, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem, and more (APA, 2009).

Multiple organizations, including the American Counseling Association (ACA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), have spoken out against reparative/conversion therapy. Specifically, the ACA Governing Council passed a resolution in 1999 stating, “ACA opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation... Oppos[es] the promotion of reparative therapy as a cure for individuals who are homosexual.” The APA stated, “APA affirms that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality regardless of sexual orientation identity; Be it further resolved that the American Psychological Association reaffirms its position that homosexuality per se is not a mental disorder and opposes portrayals of sexual minority youths and adults as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation.” The AAMFT stated, “[T]he association does not consider homosexuality a disorder that requires treatment, and as such, we see no basis for [reparative therapy]. AAMFT expects its members to practice based on the best research and clinical evidence available.”

The ACA 2014 Code of Ethics states, “Counselors act to avoid harming their clients, trainees and research participants and to minimize or to remedy unavoidable or unanticipated harm” (A.4.a, Avoiding Harm).  Further, Standard E.5.c. (“Historical and Social Prejudices in the Diagnosis of Pathology”) requires “counselors recognize historical and social prejudices in the misdiagnosis and pathologizing of certain individuals and groups and the role of mental health professionals in perpetuating these prejudices through diagnosis and treatment.” Historically, mental health profession viewed homosexuality as a mental disorder. In 1973, homosexuality was removed as a mental disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

ACA CEO, Richard Yep, states, “The ACA does not consider [conversion therapy] to be a valid form of therapy… Because there is no scientific validation of any conversion-type therapy, we don't support it. Our code of ethics is really grounded on 'do no harm.' Our feeling is that people who are exposed to sexual orientation change efforts are exposed to all sorts of harm.” (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2015/04/10/conversion-reparative-sexual-reorientation-therapy/25515619/)." And, “it is essential that counselors safeguard the welfare of their clients by using techniques/procedures/modalities that are grounded in theory and those which have an empirical or scientific basis - as stated in the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics. Because reparative therapy does not meet these guidelines, and because of the potential harm it poses to clients, the ACA Governing Council issued an official statement of opposition in 1999.” (http://www.counseling.org/news/updates/2014/06/13/aca-in-the-news-opposition-to-reparative-therapy).”

Further, referring clients to someone who practices conversion therapy is not ethical even if the client wants to change their sexual orientation. To refer a client to someone who engages in conversion therapy communicates to the client that their sexuality is a disorder and, therefore, need to be changed. This contradicts the dictates of the ACA Code of Ethics. (http://ct.counseling.org/2006/05/exploring-ethical-issues-related-to-conversion-or-reparative-therapy/).

In order to file a complaint to the State of Idaho’s Bureau of Occupational Licenses, visit the following website. If you know of a counselor who is practicing unethically, or have been a client and believe your counselor is behaving unethically, you may make a complaint against third counseling license to IBOL. http://ibol.idaho.gov/IBOL/AgencyAdditional.aspx?Agency=427&AgencyLinkID=60

Thank you for practicing ethical counseling and advocating on behalf of all of our clients!

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