To Whom It May Concern:
On behalf of the Virginia state organization of the National Allilance on Mental Illness, also known as NAMI Virginia, I write in support of Guidance Document 125-9, which would protect youth under the age of 18 from so-called “conversion therapy” in Virginia psychological practice. NAMI is a national, state and local alliance with a mission of improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness through education, support and advocacy. As a movement, we reject the practice of conversion therapy on individuals of any age, but in particular on children and youth under age 18.
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. Along with NAMI and our fellow advocates at Mental Health America, 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.
Virginia law already prohibits discredited and unsafe practices by licensed therapists. 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.
We strongly urge the adoption of this guidance for licensed psychologists in Virginia.
Rhonda Thissen, MSW