I recently sent this letter to all of my collegues in Massachusetts who are licensed psychologists. For those of you whom I've missed, consider this my invitation for you to consider these important ethical concerns.
As some of you know, I recently became outraged when I saw a YouTube clip of a licensed marriage and family therapist advocating the discredited notion that therapy can be used to help gay and lesbian individuals remove "unwanted same sex attractions." Every credible professional organization has repudiated these attempts to repair or remove same sex attractions. Yet organizations, such as the National Association for Research and Therapy about Homosexuality, continue to peddle a pseudo-scientific agenda that preys on vulnerable people across the United States and the world.
Over the past 15+ years I've met the occasional patient who has been victimized by ex-gay therapies. Since speaking up about these issues many more have crawled out of the woodwork and shared their stories with me. I think this is important--and I think it's an opportunity for psychologists to stand up for what is right.
I've recently wrote both the licensing board and the Mass Psych Association asking them to carefully consider the ethical issues involved in so-called reparative therapy. I've encouraged them to make a public statement about this issue.
I hope each of you also take the time to consider these ethical issues. Perhaps some of you might be moved to contact our licensing board and professional association. Perhaps you might even be moved to speak with your colleagues about this--and share my letter with them.
Think about this for a moment--in the Commonwealth we are the first-in-the nation to recognize same-sex marriages. We also are in a peculiar situation where licensed therapists can go about trying to remove unwanted same sex attractions from vulnerable youth. Which is it going to be--full recognition of gay and lesbian people as human beings--or continued shaming and sham attempts at 'repairing' something that is not broken? I think it's time to push back and make it clear that it's not okay to victimize our patients with discredited and damaging therapies.
Thanks for listening--and a quote that my doctoral program gave me on bookmark during my interview day is worth remembering here:
“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” Founding President of Antioch College, Horace Mann, 1859
For more information see: