Therapies to reverse gay clients repudiated
NEW YORK - The American Psychological Association declared yesterday that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments.
Instead, the APA urged therapists to consider multiple options, which could range from celibacy to switching churches, for helping clients whose sexual orientation and religious faith conflict.
In a resolution adopted on a 125-to-4 vote by the APA’s governing council, and in a comprehensive report based on two years of research, the 150,000-member association put itself firmly on record in opposition of so-called “reparative therapy,’’ which seeks to change sexual orientation.
No solid evidence exists that such change is likely, says the report, and some research suggests that efforts to produce change could be harmful, inducing depression and suicidal tendencies.
The APA had criticized reparative therapy in the past, but a six-member task force added weight to this position by examining 83 studies on sexual orientation change conducted since 1960. Its comprehensive report was endorsed by the APA’s governing council in Toronto, where the association’s annual meeting is being held this weekend.
The report breaks new ground in its detailed assessment of how therapists should deal with gay clients struggling to remain loyal to a faith that disapproves of homosexuality.
Judith Glassgold, a Highland Park, N.J., psychologist who was chairwoman of the task force, said she hoped the document could help calm the polarized debate between religious conservatives who believe in the possibility of changing sexual orientation and the many mental health professionals who reject that option.
“The religious psychotherapists have to open up their eyes to the potential positive aspects of being gay or lesbian. Secular therapists have to recognize that some people will choose their faith over their sexuality,’’ Glassgold said in an interview.
In dealing with gay clients from conservative faiths, the report says, therapists should be “very cautious’’ about suggesting treatments aimed at altering their same-sex attractions.
“Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support, and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome,’’ the report says.