APA Council of Representatives Passes Resolution on So-Called Reparative Therapy

Resolution Raises Ethical Concerns About Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation, Reaffirms Psychology's Opposition to Homophobia and Client's Rights to Unbiased Treatment

(Chicago, August 14, 1997). The Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association (APA) has passed a resolution affirming four basic principles with regard to treatments to alter sexual orientation, so-called conversion or reparative therapies.

These principles are:

  • Homosexuality is not a mental disorder and the APA opposes all portrayals of lesbian, gay and bisexual people as mentally ill and in need of treatment due to their sexual orientation;

  • Psychologists do not knowingly participate in or condone discriminatory practices with lesbian, gay and bisexual clients;

  • Psychologists respect the rights of individuals, including lesbian, gay and bisexual clients to privacy, confidentiality, self-determination and autonomy;

  • Psychologists obtain appropriate informed consent to therapy in their work with lesbian, gay and bisexual clients.

The resolution further states that the APA "urges all mental health professionals to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with homosexual orientation."

Supporters of the resolution, which passed the APA Council overwhelmingly by a voice vote, believed that it was critical for the Association to make such a statement due to the questions of the ethics, efficacy and benefits of conversion therapy which are now being debated within the profession and within society as a whole.

"Our concern," stated Douglas Haldeman, Ph.D., President of APA's Society for the Psychological Study Of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Issues, "is that a person, especially a young person, who enters into therapy to deal with issues of sexual orientation should be able to have the expectation that such therapy would take place in a professionally neutral environment absent of any societal bias. Additionally, therapists should be providing clients with accurate information about same-sex sexual orientation. This resolution reasserts the profession's commitment to those two principles."

The APA Council of Representatives is the major legislative and policy-setting body of the organization. The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 151,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 58 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.

  APA Resolution Press Release
  Text of the APA Resolution
  Comment by Gregory M. Herek, Ph.D.
  Facts About Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation
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