Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Health Professions
Board of Counseling
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4/15/19  8:35 pm
Commenter: Sarah Shade, M.Ed., Resident in Counseling

Conversion “therapy” is unethical and harmful

I am in full support of the proposed ban on conversion “therapy” for several reasons, the first of which is the unethical nature of the treatment process. Research shows that this treatment is largely unsuccessful as well as harmful to clients, which is in direct violation of the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics (I.e. “first, do no harm”). Clients who attempt conversion therapy tend to find they are still attracted to the same sex after treatment (much like a heterosexual person would still be attracted to the opposite sex). When these clients feel they have “failed” to become “straight,” they often feel they have let down their families and believe they are doomed to go to hell (a belief typically perpetuated by “loving” parents). Feeling helpless, the client will often attempt or complete suicide, which is an inarguably negative outcome.  

Furthermore, by definition, counseling services must only address those issues which arise as a result of a DSM-5 diagnosis. Homosexuality is not a disorder according to the DSM-5, and is therefore not a goal that can ethically be addressed in counseling/therapy. If an individual is struggling with being accepted as LGBTQ, or is struggling to accept their own sexual orientation, mental health professionals are able to help with the acceptance/identity issues, but we are NOT to attempt to change their sexuality. Similarly, I would not try to change someone’s religious beliefs or political beliefs, but may help them better cope with issues surrounding their beliefs (I.e. if the client’s relationships were strained due to differing beliefs, we would address the relationship, not the beliefs). In sum, conversion “therapy” is not therapeutic, is harmful, is unethical, and should be banned. 

CommentID: 71415