Virginia Board of Counseling:
I am writing in opposition to the proposed regulation of "conversion therapy" in Virginia. As a licensed professional counselor in Virginia and a leading practitioner of sexual/gender identity affirming therapy, this legislation will have an adverse impact on the clients my organization serves.
Clients, including minors, that seek therapeutic interventions to reduce unwanted same-sex attractioins/gender identity conflicts and/or explore sexual or gender fluidity in therapy often do not identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). In my professional experience, I have worked with a number of families and minors in Virginia seeking counseling to help with sexual and gender identity confusion. In many cases, these attractions and gender identity expressions are the result of early childhood trauma. Banning therapeutic interventions for these youth that do not accept or embrace an LGBT identity and seek to work on underlying causes of their unwanted attractions and/or identity is discriminatory. In the case of sexual abuse or other traumas, this regulation essentially victimizes a minor twice: First by the perpetrator, and second by the Commonwealth!
Licensed professional counselors in Virginia are bound by an ethics code to "Do No Harm"...this regulation would tie our hands to be able to help the clients described above, and may actually produce harm by not allowing counselors to offer the full range of services available. It may also force families to seek unlicensed, pseudo-professionals not adequately trained in mental health best practices. This would produce the reverse effect of this regulation: Putting vulnerable youth at risk with pseudo-professioinals not regulated by the Commonwealth! This is a very unwise and politically motivated regulation with potential severe consequences!
Additioinally, the organizations the Board cites that oppose so-called "conversion therapy" have not relied on scientific evidence for their claims. Had they done so, they would have admitted there are no (zero) outcome-based studies on minors undergoing so-called "conversion therapy" or sexual orientation change effort therapy. On the contrary, the following professional mental and medical health organizations support a client's right to pursue therapy for unwanted same-sex attractions/gender identity conflicts:
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, American College of Pediatricians, American Association of Christian Counselors, Christian Medical and Dental Association, Catholic Medical Association, and Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity. Collectively, these organizations comprise over 100,000 licensed mental and medical health practitioners who value the right of self-determination for clients and their families.
Please do not discriminate against youth seeking to resolve sexual and gender confusion. Support the client's right to choose and a therapist's judgement to offer the clinical services most apporpriate for each client and family.
Christopher Doyle, LPC