Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Health Professions
Board of Counseling
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4/16/19  3:31 pm
Commenter: Laura Farmer, Ph.D., Licensed Professional Counselor

End the practice of conversion therapy

I offer my comments below as a licensed professional counselor and approved clinical supervisor in Virginia, as well as a counselor educator, researcher, and professor. My research focuses on ethical and affirming counseling practices with LGBTQ+ clients and students/youth.  I have worked with folks who identify as LGBTQ+ for over ten years, which has given me an up close and personal perspective on the harm caused by conversion therapy and similarly-motivated “treatments”.

The issue at hand is not about restricting parents’ freedom. It is about protecting the public, including and especially children, from an unethical, unproven “treatment” for a non-existent “mental health issue”.

Identifying as gay, lesbian, queer, transgender, non-binary, genderfluid, etc. is a protected identity status and this is underscored by the professional code of ethics across mental health disciplines (counseling, social work, psychology, marriage and family therapy).  It is unfortunate, but necessary, that the state become involved in the issue of conversion therapy – as practiced by licensed professionals - because it causes significant damage/ psychological harm to those impacted. Many of the comments and personal testimonies in this forum have documented the extent of that damage.

A licensed practitioner should receive sanctions and have their license revoked if they are practicing in any way that causes harm to individuals they are supposed to serve, help, and heal.  Conversion therapy has been documented over and over again as an intervention that causes harm and has led to increased depression, anxiety, dissociation, and suicidality. I cannot think of any other “treatment” with such widespread reports of harm that continues to be practiced unquestioned.  If parents wish to exert their freedom of choice in selecting an intervention for their child that is ultimately harmful, they can choose from any number of unlicensed, unauthorized persons who purport to provide such intervention. However, our regulating board needs to take action to prevent harmful practices, such as conversion therapy, from being used by licensed providers.

CommentID: 71497