What is Conversion Therapy?
Conversion Therapy Goes By Many Names
It is also sometimes refereed to as Reparative Therapy, Ex-Gay Therapy, Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE), or Torture.
What Are Some Examples of Conversion Therapy?
Conversion therapy is any of several dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Conversion therapists use a variety of shaming, emotionally traumatic or physically painful stimuli to make their victims associate those stimuli with their LGBTQ identities. According to studies by the UCLA Williams Institute, more than 700,000 LGBTQ people have been subjected to the horrors of conversion therapy, and an estimated 80,000 LGBTQ youth will experience this unprofessional conduct in coming years, often at the insistence of well-intentioned but misinformed parents or caretakers.
These practices are devoid of scientific validity and pose serious dangers to patients—especially to minors, who are often forced to undergo them by their parents or legal guardians, and who are at especially high risk of being harmed.
What Do Mainstream Mental Health Professionals Say About Conversion Therapy?
All of the nation’s leading professional medical and mental health associations have rejected conversion therapy as unnecessary, ineffective, and dangerous. These groups have cautioned that the practices do not work and have warned patients that they may be harmful. For example, the American Psychological Association “advises parents, guardians, young people, and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and to seek psychotherapy, social support, and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.”
Can Any Type of Therapy Change a Person’s Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity?
No. In 2009, the American Psychological Association conducted a comprehensive review of the published literature on these practices and concluded that they are not supported by any reliable evidence. In fact, the APA found that the opposite was true: “The results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex sexual attractions or increase other-sex attractions through SOCE.”
How Bad is Conversion Therapy?
Conversion therapy can be extremely dangerous and, in some cases, fatal. In 2009, the APA issued a report concluding that the reported risks of the practices include: depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidality, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized and untrue to self, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources. The risks are even greater for youth.