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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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5/7/19  10:46 am
Commenter: Deborah Hawkins, LMFT

Work to end homophobia; ban conversion therapy

Homophobic attitudes have been institutionalized in nearly every aspect of our society including social and religious circles. The strong desire to be like others and accepted may cause LGBTQ individuals and/or their families to want to identify with the dominant culture or their religious community, free from discrimination and social devaluation. As a group, LGBTQ children experience unique stressors and developmental challenges. They develop depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidality at higher rates than those in the general population.[1] So there’s an important role for social workers to provide counseling with this population dealing with homophobic stigma.

Social workers must practice to an accepted standard of care and that means using “evidenced based” treatments – peer reviewed treatments that rely on methods proven to be safe and effective, with a goal of improve quality of life, relieve symptoms and boosting a sense of well-being. Evidenced-based treatments for children might be cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy and play therapies. Conversion therapy is not evidence-based. It isn’t really therapy at all: It’s total, unadulterated quackery, a painful process of humiliation and degradation that only breeds shame, self-loathing, and despair. While contemporary versions are less shocking and extreme than those of the past, they are equally devoid of scientific validity and pose serious dangers —especially to minors.

Would we allow a physician to offer a similarly fraudulent treatment based on utterly debunked science? For example, would we support treating cancer by giving a regime of coffee enemas and vitamins? There is no evidence that efforts to alter sexual orientation or gender identity by CT talk therapy are effective, beneficial, or necessary, and since CT interventions carry the risk of significant harm, they are contraindicated.[2] Social workers must practice only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience and appropriate professional experience. There is no Virginia accredited college, university, or continuing ed course that teaches or provides intern supervision on conversion therapy. Therefore, a social worker cannot legitimately be competent in CT.

To summarize, conversion therapy is 1. unethical as it doesn’t meet an acceptable standard of care; 2. No social worker could have received accredited training for it. 3. it is immensely harmful quackery. Government cannot free people from stigma. However, you can combat stigma by banning the use of CT by licensed social workers.

Thank you.   Deborah Hawkins, L.M.F.T. license # 071700110


[1] Cochran SD, Mays VM, Sullivan JG. Prevalence of mental disorders, psychological distress, and mental health services use among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2003;71:53-61.

[2] American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Policy Statement on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Civil Rights, revised and approved by Council 2009. Available at: orientation_gender_identity_and_civil_rights. Accessed September 30, 2011.

CommentID: 71856