Vincent Gray, the outgoing Mayor of Washington D.C. signed a bill into law today that bans minors from being subjected to so-called “reparative therapy,” also known as “conversion therapy” or “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE). Washington D.C. joins New Jersey and California in adopting such bans.
Reparative therapy is a practice in which efforts are made to change a lesbian or gay individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. The new legislation protects minors from being subjected to such practices, which the American Psychological Association has found to be “unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm.” LGBT youth are more likely to be at risk for suicide and depression. Those risks increase when they are subjected to questionable practices such as reparative therapy.
Dr. David Kaplan, ACA’s Chief Professional Officer, recently testified in support of the bill, stating, “The American Counseling Association has adopted an unequivocal policy against reparative therapy. Reparative therapy is not congruent with the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics—the ethical code for the profession of counseling—as the effects of efforts to change sexual orientation have been found to cause damage to individuals who have been exposed to it.”
Dr. Kaplan went on to specify that the word “therapy” should not be used when referencing sexual orientation change efforts, as “therapy” is a clinical word that refers to a valid mental health intervention. “Conversion” or “reparative therapy” is not a valid mental health intervention since it does not address the diagnosis of a mental disorder. The mental health field has concluded that same-sex attraction is not a deficit and therefore homosexuality is not categorized as a psychiatric disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).
The American Counseling Association applauds the efforts of the Washington D.C. City Council and Mayor Gray in protecting minors from this harmful practice. ACA stands ready to assist other state legislatures in the country in these same efforts to ensure that all Americans are protected from questionable mental health practices.