Conversion therapy

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Conversion therapy, sometimes called reparative therapy or reorientation therapy, is one type of sexual orientation change effort that attempts to change the sexual orientation of a person from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual.[1] These types of therapies have been a source of intense controversy in the United States and other countries.[2] The American Psychiatric Association states that political and moral debates over the integration of gays and lesbians into the mainstream of American society have obscured scientific data about changing sexual orientation "by calling into question the motives and even the character of individuals on both sides of the issue."[3] The most high-profile contemporary advocates of conversion therapy tend to be conservative Christian groups and other religious organizations.[4] The main organization advocating secular forms of conversion therapy is the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), however, NARTH often partners with religious groups.[4][5]

The American Psychological Association defines conversion therapy as therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation.[6] The American Psychiatric Association states that conversion therapy is a type of psychiatric treatment "based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation."[3] Psychologist Douglas Haldeman writes that conversion therapy comprises efforts by mental health professionals and pastoral care providers to convert lesbians and gay men to heterosexuality by techniques including aversive treatments, such as "the application of electric shock to the hands and/or genitals," and "nausea-inducing drugs...administered simultaneously with the presentation of homoerotic stimuli," masturbatory reconditioning, visualization, social skills training, psychoanalytic therapy, and spiritual interventions, such as "prayer and group support and pressure."[7]

Mainstream American medical and scientific organizations have expressed concern over conversion therapy and consider it potentially harmful.[3][8][9] The advancement of conversion therapy may cause social harm by disseminating inaccurate views about sexual orientation.[8] The ethics guidelines of major mental health organizations in the United States vary from cautionary statements about the safety, effectiveness, and dangers of prejudice associated with conversion therapy (American Psychological Association), to recommendations that ethical practitioners refrain from practicing conversion therapy (American Psychiatric Association) or from referring patients to those who do (American Counseling Association).[3][6][10]

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