Conversion Therapy/Reparative Therapy
As the gay right movement has expanded a type of therapy known as “conversion” or “reparative” therapy has become increasingly controversial - and even outlawed in some states. Although these descriptions are used as if everyone knows what they mean, there are wide differences in perspective about their referents.
On one hand, some characterize this type of therapy as having the intention of converting a gay person to be straight. On the other hand, others claim this as a narrow depiction of a more rich set of therapeutic practices. While it’s true that sometimes clients (and therapists) have hoped to see change in unwanted same-sex attractions, it’s not true that most clients or therapists participating in conversion or reparative therapy believe or hope these attractions would be eliminated entirely. Instead, the aim often was how to help some work with that attraction in a way that allowed them to stay true to other values and spiritual commitments. While some claim this process has involved a decrease or lessening of the experience of attraction, many others describe their experience of such therapy as simply working with those attractions in new ways.
Depending on how one sees conversion/reparative therapy, very different conclusions about what should happen arise. For those who see conversion therapy as focused on ‘converting’ people from gay to straight, they argue the practice is not only not effective - but dangerous - with a growing trend to ban conversion therapy in some states (NJ, CA…) For those who see conversion therapy as helping people navigate unwanted same-sex attraction, they argue the practice is both effective and crucial to the well-being of that subpopulation. These people see the attempt to ban the practice as an effort that restricts rights and options for those who do not see same-sex attraction as fundamental to who they are.
QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:
-Should individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction be legally allowed to pursue ways to work with that conflict? If not, why? If so, why?
-Do you believe there are there meaningful differences between different therapeutic ways to work with unwanted same-sex attraction? If so, where would you draw the line in what should be allowed or not?
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