Thursday, October 15, 2015

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Calls for End of "Ex-Gay" Therapy (SAMHSA)

As long time readers know, I am a vocal opponent to "ex-gay" therapy or "conversion therapy" and believe that the practice needs to be banned nationwide, especially for minors.  While I never underwent formal "ex-gay" therapy myself, for many, many years I tried to "pray away the Gay" and try to change my attractions.  I never changed, but I was filled with self-hate and self-loathing and believed that it was my fault that I did not "change."  The result? Years of inner unhappiness and constant thoughts of suicide.  Nowadays, all legitimate medical and mental health associations condemn "ex-gay" therapy and hold that it does not work and has the potential for great harm.  The take away? Those who push or engage in administering "ex-gay" therapy are delusional, charlatans or both.  Now, the  Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has upped the stakes and called for a nationwide ban of "ex-gay" therapy.  Here are highlights from the Administration's press release:
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is releasing “Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth,” a comprehensive report that provides an in-depth review of research and clinical expertise related to conversion therapy.  This important new resource makes it clear that conversion therapy is not an appropriate therapeutic approach based on the evidence, and explores alternative ways to discuss sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression with young people.

This report includes the first publication of consensus statements developed by an expert panel held by the American Psychological Association in July 2015.  The expert panel included researchers and practitioners in child and adolescent mental health with a strong background in gender development, gender identity, and sexual orientation in children and adolescents.  Experts with a background in family therapy, ethics, and the psychology of religion also participated.

Through a collaborative process, this panel found that variations in sexual orientation and gender identity are normal, and that conversion therapies or other efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity are not effective, are harmful, and are not appropriate therapeutic practices.  The report provides an overview of existing efforts to eliminate the practice of conversion therapy.

The information and resources contained within the report include a review of the research in this area, detailed information on supportive therapeutic approaches, areas of opportunity for future research, existing strategies to end the practice of conversion therapy, and targeted guidance for various audiences.

These materials help providers, families, and care-givers support their LGBTQ and gender non-conforming children and adolescents.  They also illuminate practices that may contribute to the health disparities facing LGBTQ youth, which should be avoided.

The full report can be found here.  Here are a few important findings:

[C]onversion therapy—efforts to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression —is a practice that is not supported by credible evidence and has been disavowed by behavioral health experts and associations. Conversion therapy perpetuates outdated views of gender roles and identities as well as the negative stereotype that being a sexual or gender minority or identifying as LGBTQ is an abnormal aspect of human development. Most importantly, it may put young people at risk of serious harm.
Eliminating the practice of conversion therapy with sexual and gender minority minors is an important step, but it will not alleviate the myriad of stressors they experience as a result of interpersonal, institutional, and societal bias and discrimination against sexual and gender minorities.
Interventions aimed at a fixed outcome, such as gender conformity or heterosexual orientation, including those aimed at changing gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation are coercive, can be harmful, and should not be part of behavioral health treatments. 
The ban needs to be nationwide and there need to be NO exceptions for quack religious based "ministries."  I would go even farther and advocate that submitting one's child to "ex-gay" therapy should be grounds for the termination of parental rights.  There should be no exceptions and no undeserved deference to "deeply held religious belief."   

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