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Bill to ban practice of conversion therapy heads to Maine House for vote

UPDATED: Maine House passes LD 912.

AUGUSTA – A bill to ban the harmful practice of conversion therapy is now going to the Maine House floor for a vote, according to State Rep. Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford), the bill’s sponsor.

L.D. 912, An Act To Clarify the Scope of Practice of Certain Licensed Professionals Regarding Conversion Therapy, was reported out of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development committee with a divided Ought To Pass As Amended report.

‚ÄúProfessionals licensed in Maine are heroes and heroines to their clients, and that is even more true with youth,” Rep. Fecteau said. “The State should not grant licenses to those who join these heroic professions and abuse their responsibility and freedoms by damaging vulnerable young people through practices considered bunk by leading health organizations.‚ÄĚ

Rep. Fecteau urges Mainers to contact their legislators and ask them to support L.D. 912 and ban the harmful practice of conversion therapy.

According to a 2009 report of the American Psychological Association, conversion therapists engage in such practices as:

“…[I]nducing nausea, vomiting, or paralysis; providing electric shocks; or having the¬†individual snap an elastic band around the wrist when the individual became aroused to same-sex erotic images or thoughts. Other examples of aversivebehavioral treatments included covert sensitization,shame aversion, systematic desensitization, orgasmic reconditioning, and satiation therapy.’

Many leading mental health organizations have come out against the discredited practice:

American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry

“The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry finds no evidence to support the application of any ‚Äútherapeutic intervention‚ÄĚ operating under the premise that a specific sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression is pathological. Furthermore, based on the scientific evidence, the AACAP asserts that such ‚Äúconversion therapies‚ÄĚ (or other interventions imposed with the intent of promoting a particular sexual orientation and/or gender as a preferred outcome) lack scientific credibility and clinical utility. Additionally, there is evidence that such interventions are harmful. As a result, ‚Äúconversion therapies‚ÄĚ should not be part of any behavioral health treatment of children and adolescents.”
The AACAP Policy on ‚ÄúConversion Therapies‚ÄĚ.

American Academy of Pediatrics

“Confusion about sexual orientation is not unusual during adolescence. Counseling may be helpful for young people who are uncertain about their sexual orientation or for those who are uncertain about how to express their sexuality and might profit from an attempt at clarification through a counseling or psychotherapeutic initiative. Therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.”
Homosexuality and Adolescence, Pediatrics.

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

“[T]he association does not consider homosexuality a disorder that requires treatment, and as such, we see no basis for [reparative therapy]. AAMFT expects its members to practice based on the best research and clinical evidence available.”
AAMFT Position on Couples and Families.

American Counseling Association

‚ÄúThe belief that same-sex attraction and behavior is abnormal and in need of treatment is in opposition to the position taken by national mental health organizations, including ACA. The ACA Governing Council passed a resolution in 1998 with respect to sexual orientation and mental health. This resolution specifically notes that ACA opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation. . . . In 1999, the Governing Council adopted a statement ‚Äėopposing the promotion of reparative therapy as a cure for individuals who are homosexual.‚Äô . . .

[T]he ACA Ethics Committee strongly suggests that ethical professional counselors do not refer clients to someone who engages in conversion therapy or, if they do so, to proceed cautiously only when they are certain that the referral counselor fully informs clients of the unproven nature of the treatment and the potential risks and takes steps to minimize harm to clients. . . . This information also must be included in written informed consent material by those counselors who offer conversion therapy despite ACA‚Äôs position and the Ethics Committee‚Äôs statement in opposition to the treatment. To do otherwise violates the spirit and specifics of the ACA Code of Ethics.‚ÄĚ
Ethical Issues Related to Conversion or Reparative Therapy.

American Medical Association

“Our AMA‚Ķ opposes, the use of ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.”
H-160.991, Health Care Needs of the Homosexual Population.

American Psychiatric Association

…¬†In 1997 APA produced a fact sheet on homosexual and bisexual issues, which states that ‚Äúthere is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of ‚Äúreparative therapy‚ÄĚ as a treatment to change one‚Äôs sexual orientation.‚ÄĚ

The potential risks of ‚Äúreparative therapy‚ÄĚ are great and include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient. Many patients who have undergone ‚Äúreparative therapy‚ÄĚ relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction. The possibility¬†that the person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as a gay man or lesbian are not presented, nor are alternative approaches to dealing with the effects of societal stigmatization discussed…

Therefore, APA opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as ‚Äúreparative‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúconversion‚ÄĚ therapy, that is based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or is based on the a priori assumption that the patient should change his or her homosexual orientation.
Position Statement on Psychiatric Treatment and Sexual Orientation).

American Psychoanalytic Association

“As with any societal prejudice, bias against individuals based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression negatively affects mental health, contributing to an enduring sense of stigma and pervasive self-criticism through the internalization of such prejudice.

Psychoanalytic technique does not encompass purposeful attempts to ‚Äėconvert,‚Äô ‚Äúrepair,‚ÄĚ change or shift an individual‚Äôs sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Such directed efforts are against fundamental principles of psychoanalytic treatment and often result in substantial psychological pain by reinforcing damaging internalized attitudes.‚ÄĚ
Position Statement on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, or Gender Expression.

American School Counselor Association

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (LGBTQ) youth often begin to experience self-identification during their pre-adolescent or adolescent years, as do heterosexual youth. These developmental processes are essential cognitive, emotional and social activities, and although they may have an impact on student development and achievement, they are not a sign of illness, mental disorder or emotional problems nor do they necessarily signify sexual activity.

The professional school counselor works with all students through the stages of identity development and understands this development may be more difficult for LGBTQ youth. It is not the role of the professional school counselor to attempt to change a student’s sexual orientation/gender identity but instead to provide support to LGBTQ students to promote student achievement and personal well-being.”
The Professional School Counselor and LGBTQ Youth.

American School Health Association

‚Äú[T]he American School Health Association . . . expects that comprehensive sexuality education in schools will be scientifically accurate and based on current medical, psychological, pedagogical, educational and social research . . . [and recommends] that teachers be well-trained and competent to teach sexuality education as defined by . . . insight into and acceptance of their own personal feelings and attitudes concerning sexuality topics so personal life experiences do not intrude inappropriately into the educational experience.‚ÄĚ
Quality Comprehensive Sexuality Education.

National Association of Social Workers

“People seek mental health services for many reasons. Accordingly, it is fair to assert that lesbians and gay men seek therapy for the same reasons that heterosexual people do. However, the increase in media campaigns, often coupled with coercive messages from family and community members, has created an environment in which lesbians and gay men often are pressured to seek reparative or conversion therapies, which cannot and will not change sexual orientation. Aligned with the American Psychological Association’s (1997) position, NCLGB [NASW’s National Committee on Lesbian and Gay Issues] believes that such treatment potentially can lead to severe emotional damage. Specifically, transformational ministries are fueled by stigmatization of lesbians and gay men, which in turn produces the social climate that pressures some people to seek change in sexual orientation. No data demonstrate that reparative or conversion therapies are effective, and in fact they may be harmful.”
Position Statement, “Reparative” and “Conversion” Therapies.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO): Regional Office of the World Health Organization

Services that purport to “cure” people with non-heterosexual sexual orientation lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said in a position statement launched on 17 May, 2012, the International Day against Homophobia. The statement calls on governments, academic institutions, professional associations and the media to expose these practices and to promote respect for diversity.
Statement, “Therapies” to change sexual orientation lack medical justification and threaten health.

Photo Credit: Rick Barber

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