At issue is whether states can ban the therapy on minors and whether counselors who conduct the therapy can be held liable for consumer fraud.
By ALICIA GALLEGOS
Posted Jan. 21, 2013
The patient’s anguish was clearly visible to psychiatrist Jack Drescher, MD, as the man spoke about his experience undergoing so-called gay conversion therapy.
Such therapy often is rooted in the claim that poor parenting is the cause of same-sex attractions, and that patients can change if they truly wish to be heterosexual. Methods of “repairing” patients can include instructing them to beat effigies of their mothers, touch themselves while naked in front of counselors and be subjected to mock locker room scenarios in which therapists scream anti-gay epithets at them.
After attending a religious-based therapy six times a week and experiencing no change in his sexuality, the patient was left feeling ashamed, depressed and suicidal, Dr. Drescher said.
“I felt sad[ness] and also anger, because sometimes a therapist would say things that were very hurtful to the patient,” said Dr. Drescher, an author and medical expert on gay conversion therapy. He also is president of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, a think tank that analyzes issues in the field of psychiatry. “It’s distressing when you see professionals, regardless if they are well-meaning or otherwise, deliver intentional or inadvertent harm to a patient.”
Physicians and health professionals across the country have reported treating patients for the problems they have after conversion therapy. In recent years, physician organizations including the American Medical Association have developed policy opposing the use of “reparative” or “conversion” therapy that the AMA describes as “based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or … that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.” The potential serious risks of reparative therapy include depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, said an American Psychiatric Assn. position statement.
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