‘Homosexual cures’ still available

By politics.co.uk staff

A number of therapists are continuing to offer gay and bisexual clients help in becoming heterosexual, despite a lack of evidence that the treatment is safe or in any way beneficial.

The research published in the journal BMC Psychiatry today questioned over 1,400 mental health professionals on whether they would attempt to change a client’s sexual orientation if requested.

Although only one in 25 said they would do so, one in six did say they had assisted at least one client in reducing their gay or lesbian feelings, usually by using therapy.

“There is very little evidence to show that attempting to treat a person’s homosexual feelings is effective and in fact it can actually be harmful,” said Professor Michael King from the University College London (UCL).

“So it is surprising that a significant minority of practitioners still offer this help to their clients.”

Professor King and his colleagues found a number of reasons were given by the psychiatrists and therapists for offering assistance, ranging from the counsellor’s own moral and religious views about homosexuality through to a desire to help patients who were stressed by discrimination.

The author’s of the study claim there was also a degree of ignorance about the lack of evidence surrounding such the efficacy of such therapies – in particular, that no randomised control trials have ever been conducted that show that the therapies are effective.

Professor King offered advice to therapists with regard to the issue, suggesting: “The best approach is to help people adjust to their situation, to value them as people and show them that there is nothing whatever pathological about their sexual orientation.

“Both mental health practitioners and society at large must help them to confront prejudice in themselves and in others.”