US psychologists to review gay ‘conversion therapy’

Time magazine reports that the American Psychological Association is conducting a review of their policy on treating gay clients, with a particular focus on reassessing guidelines around controversial therapies aimed at assisting gay clients to ‘go straight’.

The APA already have guidelines for working with gay, lesbian and bisexual clients that make it clear that homosexuality is not to be considered a mental illness.

However, a minority of therapists, usually linked to conservative Christian organisations, practice a type of therapy known as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion therapy’ to assist gay clients who wish to be straight.

This practice is strongly opposed by gay rights groups, who suggest that it is at best futile and at worst harmful, and feel that it is the distress of discrimination that pushes people into starting such therapies.

Neither the current guidelines, nor the APA policy statement on lesbian and gay issues, makes any mention of this issue – something that the review panel is likely to consider in detail.

Gay rights advocates are hoping that the APA will denounce ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapies while conservative religious groups have written to the APA to defend their work with consenting clients.

As with many of these policy reviews, the arguments centre as much on who has been selected for the review panel as the debate itself:

Conservatives contend that the review’s outcome is preordained because the task force is dominated by gay-rights supporters. “We’re concerned,” said Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family. “The APA does not have a good track record of listening to other views.”

Joseph Nicolosi, a leading proponent of reparative therapy, predicted the task force would propose a ban of the practice — and he vowed to resist such a move. Nicolosi, who was rejected as a task force nominee, is president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

Clinton Anderson, director of the APA’s Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office, insisted the panel would base its findings on scientific research, not ideology. He defended the decision to reject certain conservative applicants to the task force. “We cannot take into account what are fundamentally negative religious perceptions of homosexuality ‚Äî they don’t fit into our world view,” Anderson said.

Link to Time article ‘Psychologists to Review Stance on Gays’.

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