Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Health Professions
Board of Counseling
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3/20/19  11:43 am
Commenter: Rebecca Seymour

Conversion Therapy is Unethical

The DSM is a manual that most all clinicians in the United States work out of for guidance on diagnosis, treatment, considerations, and more. Clinicians rely on the information within the DSM to make sure that the work they are doing is helpful. Almost FIFTY YEARS ago homosexuality was removed from the DSM; therefore, there should be no clinician attempting to treat homosexuality in the present day.

The following is a list of ethical codes that using conversion therapy would break. After this list of ethical violations, there is a list of peer-reviewed sources (all published within the last 5 years) that discuss the harm that conversion therapy can cause.

A.1.a. Primary Responsibility: The primary responsibility of counselors is to respect the dignity and promote the welfare of clients. 

A.2.c. Developmental and Cultural Sensitivity

A.4. Avoiding Harm and Imposing Values

A.4.a. Avoiding Harm Counselors act to avoid harming their clients, trainees, and research participants and to minimize or to remedy unavoidable or unanticipated harm. 

A.4.b. Personal Values Counselors are aware of—and avoid imposing—their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature. 

B.1.a. Multicultural/Diversity Considerations Counselors maintain awareness and sensitivity regarding cultural meanings of confidentiality and privacy. Counselors respect differing views toward disclosure of information. Counselors hold ongoing discussions with clients as to how, when, and with whom information is to be shared.

C.5. Nondiscrimination Counselors do not condone or engage in discrimination against prospective or current clients, students, employees, supervisees, or research participants based on age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital/ partnership status, language preference, socioeconomic status, immigration status, or any basis proscribed by law. 

C.7.a. Scientific Basis for Treatment When providing services, counselors use techniques/procedures/modalities that are grounded in theory and/or have an empirical or scientific foundation. 

C.7.b. Development and Innovation When counselors use developing or innovative techniques/procedures/ modalities, they explain the potential risks, benefits, and ethical considerations of using such techniques/procedures/ modalities. Counselors work to minimize any potential risks or harm when using these techniques/procedures/modalities

C.7.c. Harmful Practices Counselors do not use techniques/procedures/modalities when substantial evidence suggests harm, even if such services are requested. 

E.5.a. Proper Diagnosis Counselors take special care to provide proper diagnosis of mental disorders. Assessment techniques (including personal interviews) used to determine client care (e.g., locus of treatment, type of treatment, recommended follow-up) are carefully selected and appropriately used. 

E.5.b. Cultural Sensitivity Counselors recognize that culture affects the manner in which clients’ problems are defined and experienced. Clients’ socioeconomic and cultural experiences are considered when diagnosing mental disorders. 

E.5.c. Historical and Social Prejudices in the Diagnosis of Pathology Counselors recognize historical and social prejudices in the misdiagnosis and pathologizing of certain individuals and groups and strive to become aware of and address such biases in themselves or others.


Doyle, C. J. (2018). A New Family Systems Therapeutic Approach for Parents and Families of Sexual Minority Youth. Issues in Law & Medicine33(2), 223. 

McGeorge, C. R., Carlson, T. S., & Toomey, R. B. (2015). An Exploration of Family Therapists’ Beliefs about the Ethics of Conversion Therapy: The Influence of Negative Beliefs and Clinical Competence With Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients. Journal of Marital & Family Therapy41(1), 42–56.

Flentje, A., Heck, N. C., & Cochran, B. N. (2014). Experiences of Ex-Ex-Gay Individuals in Sexual Reorientation Therapy: Reasons for Seeking Treatment, Perceived Helpfulness and Harmfulness of Treatment, and Post-Treatment Identification. Journal of Homosexuality61(9), 1242–1268.

Turban, J. L., Beckwith, N., Reisner, S., & Keuroghlian, A. S. (2018). 4.10 Exposure to Conversion Therapy for Gender Identity is Associated With Poor Adult Mental Health Outcomes Among Transgender People in the US. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry57, S208. 

Mahler, L., & Mundle, G. (2015). A need for orientation: The WMA statement on natural variations of human sexuality. International Review of Psychiatry27(5), 460–462.

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