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Study reiterates that conversion therapy is harmful

October 16, 2015
by Julia Brown, Associate Editor
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A comprehensive report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) entitled “Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth,” shows that the practice is not an appropriate therapeutic approach based on clinical evidence.

Containing the first publication of consensus statements developed by a panel of experts, the new resource states that alternatives must be explored when discussing sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression with young people.

Held by the American Psychological Association this past July, the panel found that orientation and gender identity are normal, and that conversion therapies or other efforts to alter sexual orientation or gender identity are harmful and not appropriate or effective therapeutic practices.

The SAMHSA report provides an in-depth overview of research and clinical expertise on conversion therapy and details the existing efforts to eliminate the practice. It also contains information and resources on supportive therapeutic approaches and opportunities for future research.  

Included on the panel were researchers and practitioners in child and adolescent mental health with backgrounds in gender development, gender identity and sexual orientation. Also participating were professionals with family therapy, ethics and psychology of religion backgrounds.

The approach has been denounced by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the Obama administration, among others. In May, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-CA) introduced the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, which prohibits the practice of providing conversion therapy in exchange for monetary compensation or advertising the services.

The report is being praised by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which has worked with state equality groups to pass legislation that protects LGBT youth from the practice in California, New Jersey, Oregon, the District of Columbia and most recently Illinois.

“Conversion therapy is child abuse, and the Obama Administration has joined our call to ban its practice once and for all,” said HRC president Chad Griffin in a press statement. “The new health report shows the extensive damage [it] can cause and why it’s so urgent that we end it in all fifty states.”

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