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Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Health Professions
Guidance Document Change: Consistent with the established position of the NASW, the Board considers “conversion therapy” or “sexual orientation change efforts” to be services that have the potential to be a danger to clients, especially minors. Thus, under regulations governing practitioners licensed or registered by the Board, practicing conversion therapy/sexual orientation change efforts with minors could result in a finding of misconduct and disciplinary action against the licensee or registrant.
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5/13/19  9:21 pm
Commenter: Matthew DeGrave

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

important guidance.




Matthew DeGrave

CommentID: 72289