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Conversion Therapy: Unethical and Harmful

Conversion Therapy: Unethical and Harmful

An increased number of visitors searching for conversion therapy on my website prompted me to write this post. If you are looking for conversion or reparative therapy – which aims at changing your sexual orientation or gender identity – please read on. For parents looking for conversion therapy for their children, please read my blog post on Counselling Directory.

Let me start with the facts: A growing evidence base confirms conversion therapy is harmful (Beckstead 2012, Beckstead & Morrow 2004, Haldeman 2004, Shidlo & Schroeder 2002). In addition, there is a lack of evidence that conversion therapy changes sexual orientation (Adelson & AACAP 2012, APA 2009, APA 2000). The World Health Organization (WHO) states that conversion therapies “have no medical indication and represent a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons” (PAHO 2012). Conversion therapy is unethical!

The sad truth is people with differing sexual orientation or gender identity are oftentimes desperate to change. A recent survey by the UK Government Equality Office identified that 5% of respondents had been offered conversion therapy (but did not take it up) and a further 2% had undergone it (2018) – despite all the evidence against it.

You are not broken – You are a gift!

Nature, god or the universe does not make mistakes. Life is created with beauty and grace. So are you – no matter of your sexual orientation or gender expression. You deserve to be loved and feel love no matter what. You deserve to live freely without fear. This may be hard to take in – especially if you are feeling broken – but you are a gift – just as you are.

You might be scared – This is normal.

Shame and fear is common when you notice you are different. That’s why people wait often many years before they come out of the darkness. You might be frightened people will stop loving you. You might be frightened people might hurt you, abandon you or ask you to do things you don’t want to do. They might say “How do you know you are lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer”? Trust you know. You are the only one who knows. Maybe you choose to stay in your closet a little longer, and that is okay too. If you dared to peek, opened the doors for a little bit, you may find that you are not alone.

You might hate yourself – LGBTQ+ phobia runs deep.

It is difficult to be part of an oppressed minority. There are cultural and religious aspects that may lead to deeply ingrained self-hatred. Internalised homophobia is big. It destroys from the inside and when there is nothing left it spreads to the outside as hate towards your own kind. This is normal. This happens. And when there is nothing left to hate, you hate yourself for hating. A vicious cycle.

So what can you do?

Conversion therapy is unethical! It harms people. Instead of conversion therapy try to find an accepting therapist who affirms your gender identity and sexual orientation. If therapy is too much right now, you can anonymously contact Switchboard – a helpline specifically dedicated for LGBTQ+ folks. London Friend and Terrence Higgins Trust offer affordable counselling. Pink Therapy has links to accredited therapists. Or get in touch with me for a commitment-free discovery session.

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  • Adelson, S. L. and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Committee on Quality Issues (CQI) , 2012. Practice parameter on gay, lesbian, or bisexual sexual orientation, gender nonconformity, and gender discordance in children and adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. V 51.9, 957-974.
  • American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force on the Appropriate Therapeutic Response to Sexual Orientation, 2009. Report of the Task Force on the Appropriate Therapeutic Response to Sexual Orientation. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.
  • American Psychiatric Association (APA) Commission on Psychotherapy by Psychiatrists, 2000. Position statement on therapies focused on attempts to change sexual orientation (reparative or conversion therapies). American Journal for Psychiatry. V 157.10, 1719-1721.
  • Beckstead, A. L., 2012. Can we change sexual orientation?. Archive of Sexual Behavior. V 41.1, 121-134.
  • Beckstead, A. L. and Morrow, S. L., 2004. Mormon clients’ experiences of conversion therapy: The need for a new treatment approach. The Counseling Psychologist. V 32, 651-690.
  • Government Equalities Office, 2018. National LGBT Survey. United Kingdom.
    Haldeman, D. C., 2002. Therapeutic antidotes: Helping gay and bisexual men recover from conversion therapies. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy. V 5(3/4), 117-130.
  • Haldeman, D. C., 2002. Therapeutic antidotes: Helping gay and bisexual men recover from conversion therapies. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy. V 5(3/4), 117-130.
  • Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) (Regional Office of World Health Organization), 2012. Cures for an Illness that Does Not Exist: Purported Therapies Aimed at Changing Sexual Orientation Lack Medical Justification and are Ethically Unacceptable. Pan American Health Organization, Washington, DC.
  • Shidlo, A. and Schroeder, M., 2002. Changing sexual orientation: A consumers’ report. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. V 33.2, 249-259.