The Matthew Shepard Foundation applauds the American Psychological Association for its strongest statement yet warning therapists away from so-called “conversion” therapy to change individuals’ sexual orientations from gay to heterosexual.
The APA, meeting at its annual convention in Toronto, received a report from its Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, finding that treatments which purport to portray homosexuality as an illness which can be corrected are not based on evidence and at most teach individuals to ignore their sexual attractions. The task force was formed in 2007 and examined 83 studies from nearly 50 years.
The APA’s governing council adopted a resolution calling on mental health professionals to “avoid telling clients they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.” Instead, the APA agreed, young people and their families should instead seek support and education that increases social acceptance of sexual-minority youth.
Though the task force found insufficient evidence of harm to participants in conversion therapy, it did note that some clients might experience distress due to conflicts between their sexual orientation and their religious beliefs. It recommended that care providers help these patients “explore possible life paths that address the reality of their sexual orientation, reduce the stigma associated with homosexuality, [and] respect the client’s religious beliefs.”
The Matthew Shepard Foundation has been aware for some time of accounts from past participants of these conversion programs who experienced profound distress and lasting psychological harm from misguided efforts to change their fundamental nature. The Foundation believes parents and community leaders would be well served to heed the APA’s advice and to work to understand and accept gay and lesbian youth with dignity.
The APA’s press release and complete report can be found at: http://www.apa.org/releases/therapeutic.html