Channel Four aired “Cure me, I’m gay” in which Dr Christian Jessen went undercover to see what gay conversion therapies are offered.
Over the course of the programme we saw him vomiting over himself, using self-help techniques, attend an exorcism and colour in a brain with wax crayons to show where his same sex desires lay. Predictably the explanations offered were around that all gay men have a distant father or were abused as a child. By the end of the programme, the good doctor retook a test to see where his sexual attraction was. He was still 100% gay.
Conversion therapy has been around in many forms and for as long as therapy itself. Previously electro shock therapy and aversion therapy were the most well-known forms. It speaks volumes that the American Psychiatric Association, UK council for psychotherapy and the BACP have all spoken out against the so called “reparative” therapies in the past.
In 2012 the British association of Counsellors and psychotherapist’s chose to write directly to its members to advise that it now opposes ‘any psychological treatment such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy which are based upon the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder, or based on the premise that the client/patient should change his/her sexuality.’
As this is the largest professional body of psychotherapists it was an important move and showed that as an industry, therapists were opposed to any kind of therapy that does not respect and support sexual orientation.
In the past there have been some pretty horrific examples of conversion therapy:
I think it is worth revisiting Freud at this point. Sigmund Freud is of course the founding father of psychiatry. In 1935, a mother wrote to him asking him to cure her son’s sexuality. Freud’s response was:
“Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them. (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime –and a cruelty, too.”
As a therapist myself I find it abhorrent that in 2014 reparative therapy is still offered. To think that clients who are clearly suffering from a huge amount of shame and guilt over their sexuality that they would go to a therapist is heart-breaking.
To think they are delivered to a therapist who would not help and support them in their journey towards self-acceptance but instead strengthen the belief that something is wrong angers me more than I can ever express. The programme certainly offered some good discussion but all in all just highlighted that conversion therapy is flawed and shows no evidence of being effective, helpful or of any value to those undertaking it.
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.