This morning I came across a YouTube clip that I live tweeted and also made available on my blog. It's a sad clip, filled with an enormous amount of misinformation. I was aghast to discover a credentialed mental health professional spewing some of the misinformation. Her actions, to me, violate the ethics and responsibilities of someone in our field. In that it is incumbent upon me as a licensed psychologist to seek a resolution of ethical dilemmas directly with the offending individual, when possible, I have sent out this letter today:
May 11, 2012
Julie Harren Hamilton, Ph.D., LMFT
P.O. Box 1382
West Palm Beach, FL 33402
Dear Dr. Hamilton:
It is my obligation as an ethical psychologist to directly address other psychotherapists who are engaged in behaviors that I believe are unethical. In watching the video published on YouTube by the Family Research Council, I became concerned about your work as a representative of NARTH as well as within your private counseling practice.
Specifically, you state:
“While the general public seems to believe that people are born gay and can’t change, that has not been the conclusion of researchers.”
Let me not mince words here Julie, you are simply wrong. There is no credible evidence in any peer reviewed journal that provides substantive empirical evidence to suggest that so-called reparative therapy is effective or ethical. Further, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of School Administrators, American Counseling Association, American Federation of Teachers, American School Counselor Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School principals, National Association of Social Workers, National Educational Association, and School Social Work Association of America have all taken the position that “homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be cured” (APA, Sexual Orientation and Youth, 2008, pg. 6). Your own professional association, the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, also states that “same sex orientation is not a mental disorder. Therefore, we do not believe that sexual orientation in and of itself requires treatment or intervention.” (AAMFT Board of Directors, July 31, 2005)
In the YouTube clip, you continue:
“There are many people who claim that it’s harmful for a therapist to try to help someone change in their sexual orientation and so when clients come in saying I have these attractions—these homosexual attractions and I don’t want to be gay there are many people who say that therapists should not assist those clients in achieving the goals for their lives because it is harmful yet the research reveals it is not harmful. There have never been research studies that have concluded that therapeutic attempts to change sexual orientation are harmful. In fact, it’s unethical not to assist a client in seeking to accomplish their goals for their lives, including their goals of living a life beyond their homosexual attraction.”
Again Julie, the evidence here is that reparative therapist is harmful, doesn’t work, and shouldn’t be done. Your public statements are not consistent with the professional literature. You are misrepresenting science and your field. Your apparent failure to understand the literature is putting those you serve at great potential risk for harm.
I’m deeply concerned that the patients you see become trapped in therapy and are not given ample opportunity to both consider the effects of discrimination, oppression, and misinformation about sexual orientation as well as what their faith teaches about sexual orientation. Further, I am concerned that you misrepresent the professional knowledge about sexual orientation to your patients causing them additional potential harm.
I am writing to ask that you practice within the established professional guidelines and that you meet your ethical responsibilities. Be truthful about the data, do not misrepresent the science, and assure that each of your patients are afforded the opportunity to explore their experience both within the context of their own faith as well as within the context of an understanding of oppression.
I further ask that you respond to these ethical concerns, in writing, so I can be assured your patients are receiving the best possible treatment and care. If I do not hear from you in a timely manner I will assume you are not interested in clearing up these ethical concerns and I will issue a complaint with your professional association and/or licensing body to seek assurances that you are practicing in an ethical manner.
Jason Evan Mihalko, Psy.D.,
Massachusetts Licensed Psychologist
and Health Service Provider