Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Psychologist responds to 1 in 6 psychs in UK tried reparative therapy

By Paul Martin *

[Paul Martin is a Brisbane psychologist who underwent "reparative therapy". Now he speaks out about it, and was named by as one of Australia's leading 25 gays and lesbians for 2008. Paul is commenting on the recent post that 1 in 6 surveyed psychiatrists and pyschologists in the UK have attenpted to assist their clients to change their orientation from gay to straight.]

It is very sad to hear that psychologists and psychiatrists in the UK have attempted to use therapeutic interventions to assist their clients to change from a heterosexual to homosexual orientation. This suggests the possibility that some Australian therapists may also be doing the same.

My personal experience in the past and research regarding ‘reparative therapy’ demonstrates little, if no evidence that people can change their orientation. In fact I witnessed many people who became emotionally tormented and some to the point of suicidality when trying to achieve that which is inherently not possible. I now consider it to be the same as a going to counselling to change your skin colour from white to black.

I understand the conflicts that many therapists must feel when a client is clearly distressed about their homosexuality and seek to change their sexual orientation. There is a natural desire to work with that person so they are relieved of their conflicts, enabling them to live a life of fulfilment. However, to embark on a therapeutic intervention that is widely considered to be ineffective if not damaging is deeply disturbing.

The reasons for a skilled professional to work in this way knowing that the outcome is likely to result in further distress for the client is not clear. One hypothesis could include that there may be some underlying unidentified homophobia within the therapist leading them to believe that re-orientation may be preferred. Evidence strongly suggests that a large proportion of heterosexual and homosexuals harbour some level of homophobia which is reinforced by both communities.

It is my great hope that research like this and GLBTI educational programs for therapists such as ones conducted by Centre for Human Potential may go some way to promote discussion about this topic and prevent unhelpful therapeutic interventions in the future.

*Paul Martin Principal Psychologist Centre for Human Potential

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