Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth

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Author(s): The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Published: Oct. 15, 2015

Report Intro/Brief:
"The purpose of this report is to provide mental health professionals and families with accurate information about effective and ineffective therapeutic practices related to children’s and adolescent’s sexual orientation and gender identity. Specifically, this report addresses the issue of conversion therapy for minors. The conclusions in this report are based on professional consensus statements arrived at by experts in the field. Specifically, conversion therapy—efforts to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression—is a practice that is not supported by credible evidence and has been disavowed by behavioral health experts and associations. Conversion therapy perpetuates outdated views of gender roles and identities as well as the negative stereotype that being a sexual or gender minority or identifying as LGBTQ is an abnormal aspect of human development. Most importantly, it may put young people at risk of serious harm.

This report and its recommendations are based on consensus statements developed by experts in the field after a careful review of existing research, professional health association reports and summaries, and expert clinical guidance. The consensus statements highlight areas of the ethical and scientific foundations most relevant to the practice of conversion therapy with minors. A full list of the consensus statements is found in the body of this report; key statements that form the underpinnings of the guidance in this report are provided here.

  • Same-gender sexual orientation (including identity, behavior, and attraction) and variations in gender identity and gender expression are a part of the normal spectrum of human diversity and do not constitute a mental disorder.
  • There is limited research on conversion therapy efforts among children and adolescents; however, none of the existing research supports the premise that mental or behavioral health interventions can alter gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Interventions aimed at a fixed outcome, such as gender conformity or heterosexual orientation, including those aimed at changing gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation are coercive, can be harmful, and should not be part of behavioral health treatment. (American Psychiatric Association, 2013b; American Psychological Association, 2010; National Association of Social Workers, 2008)."