A group of UK organisations working against conversion therapy have issued a statement in solidarity with like-minded organisations in the US, in response to concerns over the future of the practice.
Conversion therapy is the name for therapy that seeks to change or suppress certain sexual orientations or gender identities, which are seen as inferior.
The organisations, including the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), Royal College of GPs and British Psychological Society (BPS), have been working against conversion therapy for a number of years, publishing a Memorandum of Understanding against the practice (2015) and updating the document to warn against conversion therapy in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation (including asexuality).
Malta has recently banned the practice and Taiwan has drafted legislation to end conversion therapy in the country.
The statement said: “We the undersigned UK organisations wish to state that the practice of conversion therapy has no place in the modern world. It is unethical and harmful and not supported by evidence… Sexual orientations and gender identities are not mental health disorders, although exclusion, stigma and prejudice may precipitate mental health issues for any person subjected to these abuses. Anyone accessing therapeutic help should be able to do so without fear of judgement or the threat of being pressured to change a fundamental aspect of who they are.”
Janet Weisz, chair of the Memorandum of Understanding group, and chief executive of the UK Council for Psychotherapy, said: “We have always been clear that sexual orientation and gender identities are not mental health disorders. Any therapy that claims to change these is not only unethical but it’s also potentially harmful.
“Therefore, this practice has no place in the modern psychotherapy profession. The public must know that they can access therapeutic help without fear of judgment.
“It is great to see so many parts of the psychological and medical profession both in the UK and abroad uniting on this key issue.”
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGPs, said: “The Royal College of General Practitioners is proud to support this statement. As medical professionals, we are highly trained to treat our patients regardless of their sexual orientation – not because of it.
“Being gay or trans is not a disease, it is not a mental illness and it doesn’t need a cure. Any proclamations to the contrary risk causing harm to our gay and trans patients’ physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as perpetuating discrimination in society.”
Helen Morgan, chair of the British Psychoanalytic Council, added: “Forcing a particular view or prejudice upon a patient has no place in therapy and all competent therapists will implicitly understand and appreciate this.
“Psychotherapy aims to liberate people so they can live fuller, more meaningful and more satisfying lives – and patients meeting a psychotherapist should be able to assume that this is always the case in therapy.
“I am pleased to support moves against conversion therapy and I would urge professional colleagues – wherever they may be – to do the same.”
Peter Kinderman, president of the BPS, said: “The British Psychological Society is very proud to endorse, support, and stand by this statement. I am proud to live in a country that is able to celebrate the full range of loving human relationships and to offer each one of us equality under the law. Many of us have experienced a great deal of persecution and discrimination as a result of our sexual orientation, and our role must be to combat such prejudice, not to add to it. When people are distressed, for whatever reason, we have a duty to reach out and help. But that must not entail regarding our sexual orientation as any form of pathology. I am very happy to be a party to this statement, and I hope it goes some way to contribution to a more caring and equitable society.”
Dr Andrew Reeves, chair of BACP, said: “BACP strongly believes that anyone seeking therapeutic help, regardless of their gender and sexual diversity, should have access to unbiased and informed therapists who provide ethically skilled therapy. We agree that there is no place in our society for conversion therapy, which is unethical, harmful and not supported by evidence.”