Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ethical issues related to conversion or reparative therapy - By Joy S. Whitman, Harriet L. Glosoff, Michael M. Kocet and Vilia Tarvydas - May 5, 2006 - American Counseling Association

American Counseling Association members have consulted ACA staff and leaders regarding the practice of conversion therapy and the 2005 Code of Ethics. For this reason, the ACA Ethics Committee is sharing its formal interpretation of specific sections of the ACA Code of Ethics concerning the practice of conversion therapy and the ethics of referring clients for this practice.

Committee members individually considered a hypothetical scenario that was based on actual questions posed to the members and staff. The Ethics Committee then met to reach a consensus opinion.

The scenario

During the third session of counseling, a client reports that he is gay and states, "I want to change my way of life and not be gay anymore. It's not just that I don't want to act on my sexual attraction to men. I don't want to be attracted to them at all except for as friends. I want to change my life so I can get married to a woman and have children with her." At the suggestion of a friend, the client has read about reparative/conversion therapy and has researched this approach on the Internet. He is convinced this is the route he wants to take.

The counselor listens carefully to what the client has to say, asks appropriate questions and engages in a clinically appropriate discussion. The counselor informs the client that, although she is happy to continue working with him, she does not believe reparative/conversion therapy is effective and no empirical support exists for the approach. She further states that this form of therapy can actually be harmful to clients, so she will not offer this as a treatment. The client says he is disappointed that the counselor will not honor his wishes. He then asks for a referral to another counselor or therapist who will work with him to "change his sexual orientation."


The ACA Ethics Committee considered many factors and derived a consensus opinion that addresses several sections of the ACA Code of Ethics and moral principles of practice present in such a scenario. We started with the basic goal of reparative/conversion therapy, which is to change an individual's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. Counselors who conduct this type of therapy view same-sex attractions and behaviors as abnormal and unnatural and, therefore, in need of "curing." The belief that same-sex attraction and behavior is abnormal and in need of treatment is in opposition to the position taken by national mental health organizations, including ACA.
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