Friday, 27 March 2009

UK: 1 in 6 psychiatrists, psychologists "helping" patients convert

A study[PDF] published in the British Medical Council Psychiatry Journal says that 1 in 6 of psychiatrists and psychologists surveyed have attempted to "cure" patients of homosexuality.
The reasons given for the client seeking help could be summarised as:
· confusion about sexual orientation (236, 57%)
· social pressures including the family (59, 14%)
· mental health difficulties (45, 11%)
· religious beliefs (28, 7%)
· gender confusion (15,4%)
· legal pressures (14, 4%)
· heterosexual relationship difficulties (9, 2%)
· as victims of abusive relationships (8, 2%).

Comments by those surveyed include:

  • “The individuals I have worked with have all been very unhappy about their sexuality and wish they were heterosexual. This has been because of responses from friends, family and the local community – which outside London is still very homophobic.”
  • “If after extensive, good therapy they were still adamant they wanted to change, I would think this was their decision though I would hope they would come to terms with themselves on the journey.”
  • “We have a responsibility to assist our patients with self-determination.”
  • “Some bisexual individuals may wish to choose an orientation that is comfortable for them and their lifestyle choices for example. This is a therapeutic issue to explore and support if that is their wish. It is different from behavioural attempts to reshape desire.”
  • “People should be given the opportunity to choose to redirect their sexual feelings depending on their circumstances. For example the homosexual man I helped to become heterosexual came from a working class background where it was completely unacceptable to deviate from the norm. It was extremely important to him to be accepted by that community.”

A very small number of those advocating intervention in this area had
Clearly negative views about same sex relationships:

Although homosexual feelings are usual in people, their physical
expression, and being a person’s only way of having sexual relations is
problematic. The physical act for male homosexuals is physically damaging and
is the main reason in this country for AIDS/HIV. It is also perverse……….

Asking therapists whether or not they would attempt to change a client’s sexual orientation if requested, yielded very few (4%) who say they would do so. However, when asked about specific instances in the past, 17% of therapists reported having treated at least one patient in order to
change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual and there was no sign of a decline of such treatments in recent years. Older male therapists …..were more likely to have done so. One third of clients treated were women, just over half were treated in private practice and most received some form of counselling. Beyond providing counselling, there appeared to be no consistent approach to treatment. Three quarters of these therapists considered that a service should be provided for gay and lesbian people who wanted to become heterosexual.

The researchers expressed surprise that this therapy was used, because it of dubious effectiveness:

There is no evidence from the published literature to suggest that a
sexual orientation can be changed from homosexual to heterosexual.
forms of both psychoanalytic and behavioural research showed no
of efficacy and many therapists later regretted their
involvement in such

Furthermore, recent
research into the effectiveness of socalled
reparative therapy to change
sexual orientation in the United States
has demonstrated little evidence of
efficacy and considerable
controversy about the quality of the methods used.
All have been post hoc
evaluations of volunteers, often some years after
receipt of treatment. All fall
well short of the quality guidelines for
outcome research. Furthermore, the
American Psychiatric Association is
directly opposed to ‘any psychiatric
treatment, such as "reparative" or
conversion therapy, which is based upon
the assumption that homosexuality per
se is a mental disorder or based upon
the a priori assumption that a patient
should change his/her sexual
homosexual orientation’.

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