Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies)

Background to the POSITION STATEMENT


1.     APA affirms its 1973 position that homosexuality per se is not a diagnosable mental disorder.  Recent publicized efforts to repathologize homosexuality by claiming that it can be cured are often guided not by rigorous scientific or psychiatric research, but sometimes by religious and political forces opposed to full civil rights for gay men and lesbians.  APA recommends that the APA respond quickly and appropriately as a scientific organization when claims that homosexuality is a curable illness are made by political or religious groups.

2.     As a general principle, a therapist should not determine the goal of treatment either coercively or through subtle influence.  Psychotherapeutic modalities to convert or "repair" homosexuality are based on developmental theories whose scientific validity is questionable.  Furthermore, anecdotal reports of "cures" are counterbalanced by anecdotal claims of psychological harm.  In the last four decades, "reparative" therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure.  Until there is such research available, APA recommends that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals' sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum to First, do no harm.

3.     The "reparative" therapy literature uses theories that make it difficult to formulate scientific selection criteria for their treatment modality.  This literature not only ignores the impact of social stigma in motivating efforts to cure homosexuality, it is a literature that actively stigmatizes homosexuality as well.  "Reparative" therapy literature also tends to overstate the treatment's accomplishments while neglecting any potential risks to patients. APA encourages and supports research in the NIMH and the academic research community to further determine "reparative" therapy's risks versus its benefits.
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