|Action||Unprofessional conduct - conversion therapy|
|Comment Period||Ends 8/7/2019|
August 6, 2019
Dear Members of the Virginia Board of Counseling,
Thank you for the privilege of weighing in on the professional issues that affect our field and protect the public health. This letter addresses our support of the proposed ban on conversion therapy.
As previously indicated in the Virginia Counselors Association’s April 2019 letter, it is our position that it is unprofessional and dangerous conduct for a counselor to engage in sexual orientation change efforts, known as “conversion therapy,” especially in persons under age 18.
The evidence against conversion therapy is stark. The Trevor Project National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health (2019) is the largest survey of its type ever conducted, with over 34,000 respondents across the USA. The survey found that two out of three LGBTQ youth reported that someone has tried to convince them to change their identity, and that those who had undergone conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to have had attempted suicide as those who had not1.
The survey notes further that 57% of transgender and nonbinary youth who have undergone conversion therapy report a suicide attempt in the past year1. We ignore these statistics at the peril of others.
Counselors provide evidence-based and effective treatments. There are no approved counselor education programs, in fact, there are no programs approved by any mental health association, which provide professional training in conversion therapy. To practice conversion therapy is therefore unethical and deserving of prohibition in the regulations.
Conversion therapy is not only contraindicated but is also harmful. It is not a treatment. It is not a therapy. It is not taught in our classrooms. It should not be practiced in our offices.
Please consider that LGBTQIA+ rights are not a fad, neither are any civil rights. There is historical evidence and well-formed knowledge about the horrific, violent, and oppressive acts against the LGBTQIA+ community for decades. This is not an issue because people in power or from one political doctrine say it is an issue. It is an issue because real people are marginalized and oppressed.
Measures taken to ban conversion therapy are recognized by the VCA as an appropriate action taken to protect a vulnerable population: our children and youth. Conversion therapy can be a death sentence.
A ban on conversion therapy is in line with the ACA code of ethics. As past VCA president Dr. Monica Band wrote in our April 2019 letter, “According to the ACA Code of Ethics, our guiding ethical code, the practice of conversion therapy directly violates one of our overarching goals as counselors: to do no harm. Should conversion therapy remain a practice, counselors would be practicing unsubstantiated intervention(s) based on the false belief that same sex attractions are a mental health disorder in need of curing. VCA, as well as the other representing organizations of psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors know this not to be true.”
Moreover, American Counseling Association (ACA), American Psychiatric Association (APA-which has opposed conversion therapy since 1998), and American Medical Association (AMA) oppose conversion/reparative “therapy” and have issued statements specific to discrimination towards LGBTQIA+ population. ACA CEO Richard Yep stated, “When all the facts are taken into consideration, we are left with the reality that efforts to change sexual orientation from homosexuality to heterosexuality do not work, have the potential to do great harm, and are aimed at treating a mental health problem that does not exist. The mental health community has spoken in a clear voice that this practice should not be condoned2.”
In conclusion, the VCA applauds and supports efforts to prohibit conversion therapy, especially with minors, across the Board of Health Professions. VCA urges the board to move forward with prohibition in the regulations. Conversion therapy has no place in professional counseling.
Rebecca Kaderli, LPC, LSATP, NCC
President Virginia Counselors Association
1The Trevor Project (2019)
National Survey on LBGTQ Mental Health
New York, New York: The Trevor Project