Support for Guidance Document 140-12, on the Practice of Conversion Therapy
Dear Virginia Board of Social Work,
Hello, my name is Matthew DeGrave I am writing in support of Guidance Document 140-12,
on the Practice of Conversion Therapy, which would protect youth under the age of 18
from so-called “conversion therapy” at the hands of licensed counselors in Virginia.
I don’t have much experience in this area, but I do know that I have friends that are gay and that is
how they are and have always been. I can not imagine the psychological stress that this would put
on young children who just want to live and be themselves. Banning this until a child is 18 allows
the brain to develop further and allows the person to make the decision for themselves.
Conversion therapy, sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy,” “ex-gay therapy,” or
“sexual orientation change efforts,” is a set of practices by mental health providers that
seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This includes efforts
to change behaviors or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings
toward individuals of the same sex. Conversion therapy does not include psychotherapy
that aims to provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation
of clients’ coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including
sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe
sexual practices. Nor does it include counseling for a person seeking to transition from
one gender to another.
There is no credible evidence that any type of psychotherapy can change a person’s
sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, conversion therapy poses critical health
risks to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer young people, including
depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, risky
behavior, and even suicide. Nearly all the nation’s leading mental health associations,
including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological
Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social
Workers, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association for
Marriage and Family Therapy have examined conversion therapy and issued cautionary
position statements on these practices.
Research shows that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth are 4 times more likely, and
questioning youth are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers.
Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives
and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt. Young people who experience
family rejection based on their sexual orientation, including being subjected to
conversion therapy, face especially serious health risks. Research reveals that LGB young
adults who report higher levels of family rejection during adolescence are 8.4 times more
likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of
depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report
having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that
reported no or low levels of family rejection.
Existing law provides for licensing and regulation of various mental health professionals,
including physicians and surgeons, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical
social workers, and licensed professional counselors.
This guidance would prevent licensed mental health providers in Virginia from
performing conversion therapy with a patient under 18 years of age, regardless of the
willingness of a parent or guardian to authorize such efforts. The guidance will curb
harmful practices known to produce lifelong damage to those who are subjected to them
and help ensure the health and safety of LGBTQ youth. We thank you for proposing this