In Opposition to Banning Therapy Choice
As a board-certified family physician I strongly encourage you to oppose the bill banning “Conversion Therapy.”
The bill is both unnecessary and misguided.
- The bill is needless. Over twenty states have voted down therapy bans. The legislature already has a process in place to address complaints of harmful practice and clinician malfeasance through the appointed licensed mental health professionals on the state licensing board. If clients had been harmed or treated unethically, the licensing boards would already have known, documented, and acted. No such complaints exist.
- There is no evidence of harm from sexual orientation change therapy from licensed and trained professionals. Generations of supportive studies exist. Change therapy is talk therapy, just talk, by trained and licensed professionals working with willing and motivated clients. Anything less is not it. No licensed therapist wants unwilling clients, as therapy for any issue requires a willing patient. Even the Southern Poverty Law Center noted in their May 2016 report that SOCE/change therapists do not use electrical shocks or other aversion therapy. The “torture” stories have not involved trained therapists and generally are unsubstantiated. It is also ironic that no bill has been put forth to actually ban aversion therapy altogether, if that is the problem.
- The American Psychological Association 2014 Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology documents that same-sex attraction is neither inborn nor immutable. The APA website notes, “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation,” and “…no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.” In 2014 the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists revised its position on same-sex attraction to say: “sexual orientation is determined by a combination of biological and postnatal environmental factors” . . . “[it] is not the case that sexual orientation is immutable or might not vary to some extent in a person’s life. . . “
- Both the APA Handbook and numerous peer-reviewed studies acknowledge that childhood sexual abuse can be a cause of same-sex attraction in some. Children who have experienced abuse by teens or pedophiles can go on to experience undesired homosexual thoughts and impulses. Banning professional talk therapy to address wounds and undesired impulses can lead to depression and suicidality.
- Religious counseling and camps, however well intentioned, are not therapy by licenses therapists, and the anti-therapy bill bans professional psychotherapy.
- Everyone should enjoy the basic right to choose the legal direction of their life, including those with undesired same-sex attractions who wish help with change. Voices-of-change.org provides 100 plus testimonials of people who have changed undesired same-sex attraction with professional therapy.
Andre Van Mol, MD