“If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It”: Ethical Considerations Regarding Conversion Therapies

  • Stephen C. Halpert
Article

Abstract

Despite the unanimous adoption of a position statement by the American Psychiatric Association objecting to reparative therapy in December 1998, the decision was not without its critics. The current work examines the ethical considerations regarding “conversion” or “reparative therapies” in light of the extensive psychological literature documenting the societal stigma (homophobia and heterosexism) suffered by lesbian and gay individuals. Overall, there are two major concerns regarding conversion therapy, namely its ethical inappropriateness, and lack of empirical evidence supporting its efficacy. The author argues that no professional health associations support reparative therapy, homosexuality per se is not an illness and does not require treatment, and, the mental health profession must acknowledge its own role in the oppression of homosexual individuals.

conversion therapy reparative therapy homosexuality ethics 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

REFERENCES

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (1980). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed.). Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (1997). Gays, lesbians seek out MH care disproportionately but report dissatisfaction. [Online]. Psychiatric news. http://www.psych.org/psych/htdocs/pnews/97–04–18/gays.html [April 18].Google Scholar
  3. American Psychiatric Association, Committee on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues [On-line]. (1998). Position statement on psychiatric treatment and sexual orientation. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  4. American Psychological Association, Committee on Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Concerns. (1990). Bias in psychotherapy with lesbians and gay men. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  5. American Psychological Association. (1992). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. American Psychologist, 47, 1597–1611.Google Scholar
  6. American Psychological Association, Public Affairs Office. (1997). Resolution on treatments to alter sexual orientation questions and answers. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  7. American Psychological Association, Committee on Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Concerns. (1998). Answers to your questions about sexual orientation and homosexuality. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  8. Bieber, I., Dain, H., Dince, P., Drellich, M., Grand, H., Gundlach, R., Kremer, M., Rifkin, A., Wilbur, C., & Bieber, T. (1962). Homosexuality: A psychoanalytic study. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  9. Brown, L. S. (1996). Ethical concerns with sexual minority patients. In R. P. Cabaj & T. S. Stein (Eds.), Textbook of homosexuality and mental health (pp. 897–916).Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press.Google Scholar
  10. Casas, J. M., Brady, S., & Ponterotto, J. G. (1983). Sexual preference biases in counseling: An information processing approach. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 30, 139–145.Google Scholar
  11. Chandler, B. (1996). Can religion change your sexuality? Religion' ill-fated attempts in changing homosexuals. [Online]. Perspectives. http://www.cmhc.com/perspectives/articles/art07966.htm [July 15].Google Scholar
  12. Davison, G. C. (1976). Homosexuality: The ethical challenge. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 44, 157–162.Google Scholar
  13. Davison, G. C. (1978). Not can but ought: The treatment of homosexuality. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 46, 170–172.Google Scholar
  14. Davison, G. C. (1991). Constructionism and morality in therapy for homosexuality. In J. C. Gonsiorek & J. D. Weinrich (Eds.), Homosexuality: Research implications for public policy (pp. 137–148). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Drescher, J. (1998a). I'm your handyman: A history of reparative therapies. Journal of Homosexuality, 36, 19–42.Google Scholar
  16. Drescher, J. (1998b). Psychoanalytic therapy and the gay man. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press.Google Scholar
  17. Drescher, J. (1998c). Letters to the editor. [Online]. Psychiatric news. http://www.psych.org/psych / htdocs/pnews/98–04–17/drescher.html [April 17].Google Scholar
  18. Edwards, R. (1996, September). Can sexual orientation change with therapy? APA Monitor, p. 49.Google Scholar
  19. Freud, S. (1905/1962). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. In J. Strachey (Ed. & Trans.). The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  20. Gittings, B. (1973). Gay, proud, and healthy. Philadelphia: Gay Activists Alliance of Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  21. Gonsiorek, J. C. (1991). Conclusion. In J. C. Gonsiorek & J. D. Weinrich (Eds.), Homosexuality: Research implications for public policy (pp. 244–248). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  22. Haldeman, D. C. (1991). Sexual orientation conversion therapy for gay men and lesbians: A scientific examination. In J. C. Gonsiorek & J. D. Weinrich (Eds.), Homosexuality: Research implications for public policy (pp. 149–160). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. Haldeman, D. C. (1994). The practice and ethics of sexual orientation conversion therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62, 221–227.Google Scholar
  24. Haldeman, D. C. (1996). Spirituality and religion in the lives of lesbians and gay men. In R. P. Cabaj & T. S. Stein (Eds.), Textbook of homosexuality and mental health (pp. 881–896). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press.Google Scholar
  25. Haldeman, D. C. (1997, Fall). APA passes conversion therapy resolution. Division 44 Newsletter, 13, 17.Google Scholar
  26. Hicks, D. W. (1998). Gay patients. [Online]. Psychiatric news. http://www.psych.org/psych/htdocs/ pnews/98–01–19/hicks.html [January 19].Google Scholar
  27. Koocher, G. P., & Keith-Spiegel, P. (1998). Ethics in psychology (2nd ed.). NewYork: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Long, J. K. (1997). Sexual orientation: Implications for the supervisory process. In T. C. Todd & C. L. Storm (Eds.), The complete systemic supervisor: Context, philosophy, and pragmatics (pp. 59–71). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  29. MacIntosh, H. (1997). Factors associated with the outcome of psychoanalysis of homosexual patients. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 13, 358–368.Google Scholar
  30. McConaghy, N., Armstrong, M. S., & Blaszczynski, A. (1981). Controlled comparison of aversive therapy and covert sensitization in compulsive homosexuality. Behavior Research and Therapy, 19, 425–434.Google Scholar
  31. Miller, S. (1998, November 24). “It didn't work!” The Advocate, 773, 43–57.Google Scholar
  32. Morin, S. F., & Charles, K. A. (1983). Heterosexual bias in psychotherapy. In J. Murray & P. R. Abramson (Eds.), Bias in psychotherapy (pp. 309–338). New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  33. Morris, W. (Ed.). (1976). The American heritage dictionary of the English language (new college ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  34. Murphy, T. F. (1992a). Redirecting sexual orientation: Techniques and justifications. The Journal of Sex Research, 29, 501–523.Google Scholar
  35. Murphy, T. F. (1992b). Freud and sexual reorientation therapy. Journal of Homosexuality, 23, 21–38.Google Scholar
  36. National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. (1999). American Counseling Association passes resolution to oppose reparative therapy. [Online]. http://narth.com /docs/acaresolution.htm.Google Scholar
  37. Nicolosi, J. (1991). Reparative therapy of male homosexuality. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.Google Scholar
  38. Nicolosi, J. (1993). Healing homosexuality: Case stories of reparative therapy. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.Google Scholar
  39. Ovesey, L. (1969). Homosexuality and pseudohomosexuality. New York: Science House.Google Scholar
  40. Pattison, E. M., & Pattison, M. L. (1980). “Ex-Gays”: Religiously mediated change in homosexuals. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137, 1553–1562.Google Scholar
  41. Pillard, R. C. (1982). Psychotherapeutic treatment for an invisible minority. In W. Paul, J. D. Weinrich, J. C. Gonsiorek, & M. E. Hotvedt (Eds.), Homosexuality: Social, psychological, and biological issues (pp. 99–119). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  42. Price, D. (1997). Psychologists says efforts to ‘cure’ homosexuality can cause lasting damage. [Online]. The Detroit News. http://www.detnews.com/1997/accent/9709/26/09260036.htm [September 26]Google Scholar
  43. Political Research Associates. (1997). Calculated compassion: Legal implications. [Online]. http://www.publiceye.org/pra /equality/x-gay/X-Gay-07.htm.Google Scholar
  44. Rado, S. (1969). Adaptational psychodynamics: Motivation and control. New York: Science House.Google Scholar
  45. Resolution on appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation (1997, Fall). Division 44 Newsletter, 13, 17–19.Google Scholar
  46. Ryan, C., & Futterman, D. (1998). Lesbian and gay youth: Care and counseling. New York: Columbia University.Google Scholar
  47. Schwartz, M. F., & Masters, W. H. (1984). The Masters and Johnson treatment program for dissatisfied homosexual men. American Journal of Psychiatry, 141, 173–181.Google Scholar
  48. Sleek, S. (1997, October). Resolution raises concerns about conversion therapy. APA Monitor, p. 15.Google Scholar
  49. Socarides, C. (1968). The overt homosexual. New York: Grune & Stratton.Google Scholar
  50. Stein, T. S. (1996). A critique of approaches to changing sexual orientation. In R. P. Cabaj & T. S. Stein (Eds.), Textbook of homosexuality and mental health (pp. 525–537). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press.Google Scholar
  51. Sturgis, E. T., & Adams, H. E. (1978). The right to treatment: Issues in the treatment of homosexuality. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 46, 165–169.Google Scholar
  52. Tozer, E. E., & McClanahan, M. K. (in press). Treating the purple menace: Ethical considerations of conversion therapy and affirmative alternatives. The Counseling Psychologist.Google Scholar
  53. Yarhouse, M. A. (1998). When clients seek treatment for same-sex attraction: Ethical issues in the “right to choose” debate. Psychotherapy, 35, 248–259.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Gay and Lesbian Medical Association 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen C. Halpert

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations