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The Psychotherapist Association for
Gender & Sexual Diversity

Conversion Therapy

“Conversion Therapy” is a term that refers to efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation or nonconforming gender identity or expression. Some people also use the terms “reparative therapy” or “ex-gay therapy.” The term Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) was more recently created as a way to address some of these efforts without using the word therapy. The idea was to distinguish these practices from what would normally be considered therapeutic. Nonetheless, SOCE is not the best term because it does not address efforts to change gender nonconforming behavior.

Since the identification of homosexuality as a trait of human sexuality, efforts to change sexual orientation have existed. These attempts, which have ranged from mild to barbaric, have been unsuccessful and often harmful; in some cases, they have led people to suicide. Conversion efforts geared at addressing gender identity and expression have not been researched as much, likely due to the greater marginalization of gender identity issues.

As a leader in the psychotherapy of LGBTQ people, Gaylesta has been at the forefront of uncovering the deceptive practices that fall under the umbrella of “conversion therapy” and other change efforts promoted by socially conservative providers and organizations. Our members have written extensively about the dangers of conversion therapy and have spoken out regularly on this critical concern (for example, see the Huffington Post article by Chana Wilson, and the translation of a German daily newspaper interview with James Guay [who also has a piece in Time Magazine]). Currently, Advocacy Committee members Jim Walker and Guy Albert are creating a national joint statement denouncing the use of conversion therapy for sexual orientation and gender identity. The statement is called United States Joint Statement (USJS) and has already received support from some of the major US professional healthcare associationsPlease keep reading these pages to find out more about our advocacy work on this important issue. 

For a useful summary on current statutes, research findings, and the position of professional organizations towards conversion or reparative therapy, see the Human Rights Campaign's resource page, "The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity."  Another helpful resource is the website on conversion therapy created by the Counseling Program at Northwestern University, "In the Aftermath of Conversion Therapy, Counselors Offer Healing Support."  We also encourage readers to visit NCLR's #BornPerfect Campaign website, which counters the assumptions behind conversion therapy. In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued a publication in October 2015, "Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth." Members of the Obama Administration also made a strong YouTube statement against conversion therapy