The Dangers of Conversion Therapy

Few practices hurt LGBTQ youth more than attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through conversion therapy, sometimes referred to as “ex-gay therapy,” “reparative therapy,” or “sexual orientation change efforts.” Although these practices are condemned by every major medical and mental health organization in the United States, the conversion therapy industry continues to target youth, as well as families unsure of how to respond when their child comes out. Unfortunately, this makes minors (under 18 years old) susceptible to being forced or coerced into these harmful practices.

From the Past to the Present – Examples of Conversion Therapy

Historically, conversion therapists relied on physical aversion conditioning to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity such as castration; electroconvulsive shock therapy; pairing homoerotic images with nausea/paralysis; and orgasmic reconditioning. While some counselors still resort to these extreme procedures, today’s conversion therapists most commonly rely on a variety of cognitive behavioral techniques that include training to conform to stereotypical gender norms; using hypnosis to redirect desires; or prescribing psychotropic medications. But regardless of conversion therapy’s past procedures and present techniques, versions of the practice are equally devoid of scientific validity and pose equally serious dangers to patients.

The Human Costs of Conversion Therapy

The American Psychological Association has further linked conversion therapy to depression, social withdrawal, substance abuse, intimate relationship issues, high risk sexual behaviors, loss of faith and suicide.