Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Health Professions
Board of Counseling
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4/11/19  10:46 pm
Commenter: Stephanie Miller

Conversion Therapy is At Best Redundant, and At Worst Traumatic

I would like to address several previous comments on this forum that claim banning the practice of conversion therapy will prevent people from getting the help they need. First, this issue is specifically in reference to the treatment of children. Children, in most cases, cannot seek out counseling without the permission of their parents or guardians. Further, parents and guardians can schedule appointments and demand that their children attend counseling, even if the child objects. The Board of Counseling, and the community, must consider that in a large number of child and adolescent cases, the "client" is not actually the minor, but the parent or guardian. More often than not, the minor is resistant to counseling regardless of the method being used, because they did not make the choice to be there. Therefore, it is inaccurate to claim that this practice is a refuge children seek it out voluntarily.

Second, the idea that this ban would limit counselors in their ability to help children is ludicrous. Claiming that children will not get the help they need if not for this single practice displays incredible ignorance of the counseling field. There are a myriad of techniques available to clients today, and several are backed by substantial evidence. Just about every modern counseling method is centered around the idea of client change. Therefore, if a client comes into counseling and is experiencing conflict or distress about their sexual orientation or gender identity, counselors trained in a variety of methods should be able to help them. A client who genuinely wants to change and is willing to put in the effort to achieve change can do so through a variety of counseling techniques. Therefore, if conversion therapy is meant to help people change, it is really just yet another technique. It is redundant. It is not a necessary technique for professional counselors to achieve therapeutic outcomes with a client.

On the other hand, consider what happens if conversion therapy is not banned by the board. A simple Google (scholar) search clearly reveals the ineffective and potentially harmful nature of conversion therapy. It is built on the idea that the client is inherently flawed; it paints change as "correct" and self-acceptance as "wrong." This goes against the nature of counseling, which is to help the client achieve their therapeutic goals in a supportive, nonjudgemental way. Conversion therapy is more of a training than a therapy. Further, conversion therapy can be coercive and abusive. There are horror stories of shock therapy and physical abuse, but in reality just telling a client that they, or even a part of them, is bad or wrong will devastate their self esteem. A counselor who rejects a client struggling with sexual orientation and/or gender identity can traumatize them, and make them feel even more isolated and alone. Plain and simple, these techniques are dangerous for clients.

To allow licensed professionals to perform potentially traumatic techniques on children, who often cannot consent on their own behalf, is abuse. Conversion therapy goes against the nature of counseling, and there are plenty of other evidence-based theories to support individuals with sexual orientation and gender identity issues. The well being of children must be prioritized over the politically-charged preference of a few.


Stephanie Miller, Master's Student

Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling

Virginia Commonwealth University

CommentID: 71243