Two blogs in a week! It really must be Spring! That said what I am writing today I could not hold onto as it is something that affects my profession and by association my reputation. I will explain….
As I was relaxing with my family last night, happily winding down towards sleep, I made the mistake of checking the UK news headlines. One of them was a breaking story that basically stated the government had gone back on its promise (there’s a shock! This government lying to people…. Who would have thought?!?) to ban the completely unethical practice of conversion therapy. For those unsure as to what conversion therapy is, it is in essence using psychological theory and practice to assist a person to stop being gay and become heterosexual and heteronormative…………..
Yes. In the 21st century we have people working as counsellors and psychotherapists who think it is possible to ‘convert’ someone from being gay, to being straight and ‘normal’…… I have to be aware of my anger as I write this and not lose the points I need to get across here.
To me, and to 99.9% of my fellow counsellors and psychotherapists this is the equivalent of ducking a woman in a pond to find out if she is a witch or not and then burning her at the stake when she says she is. It is in short, utter bollocks, nonsense, ridiculous and more to the point the concept has been clinically DISPROVED over and over and over and over again. The practice has been banned in pretty much every country in the world that has therapists and counsellors, except for some reason the UK.
I have posted a link to the science (science, proven, scientific facts!) direct website below which clearly shows this:
There is a major issue for me here in how unqualified politicians are able to make decisions on which they only have a person BELIEF, not FACTS, but a belief in something that could be influenced by their own history and experiences, but also things such as religious beliefs and convictions which though they are entitled to have them, they are not based on SCIENCE and proven, ethically robust research.
For as long as I can remember the BACP and every other psychological institution of note has been screaming at the politicians to close the loophole around conversion therapy. This is for a really simple reason. IT NEVER WORKS AND IT ALWAYS DAMAGES THE INDIVIDUAL THE ENGAGES IN IT.
This too is well known in the field and why any ethical counsellor or psychotherapist would never even contemplate training in or practicing conversion therapy. It would be like a pension expert telling their customers they don’t need a pension and they should just live for the moment. They are an expert, but they are giving the customer the exact opposite of what they need, knowing that it is going to end badly.
I had to pause for a moment there and get my feet back on the ground as I want to try and explain why conversion therapy has no validity as a practice.
Our sexuality is innate. It is part of who we are. We might experience different things as we go through life, we might make choices to explore different aspects of our sexuality, but who we are and what we are is set in our DNA. It is not changeable. I could easily become sexually aroused by kissing a man, the physical reactions would be automatic and if the physical sensations were pleasant my body would react to this. In physical terms, if something feels nice the body will respond positively. I could therefore quite easily have a pleasurable sexual encounter with a man or a woman and I would suggest that this is true of most men and women. Would this make me gay though? Well, no. My innate sense of self and who I am, is inextricably drawn to and attracted to women. Both physically and emotionally I would class myself as heterosexual, because my heart and soul craves female companionship and physical contact much more than I do the equivalence with men.
Ergo, I am ‘straight’. So, if I went to counsellor – for whatever reason – and asked them to make me gay what is going to happen? I might spend a long time using CBT, prayer, the ground up bones of Freud himself or whatever, to cognitively re-enforce my belief that I am gay and I might even be able to get into a relationship with a man and on the surface convince my conscious mind and the people in my life that I am in fact gay.
What impact might this have on my subconscious mind though? Within my subconscious and core self I know that I am in fact straight. This then creates a deep schism within my psyche that will present as physical, emotional and psychological symptoms. I may become more depressed, anxious or I may even become suicidal as I am living in the conscious world in a way that is incompatible with who I am at the deepest level of my unconscious mind.
This is the danger of conversion therapy and why it is the height of psychological bullshittery. It causes and creates more issues and problems than there were with the client originally. It hurts people, it has killed people. It needs to be universally rejected and banned, everywhere, NOW.
The most important part of any therapists role is to help the client understand and then be accepting of all aspects of their core self. This is often incredibly hard work for the client as it means accepting aspects of self that they may struggle with for whatever reason.
A person may struggle with their identity and sexuality. That struggle will likely be caused by the tensions that their experiences and traumas in life have triggered (bullying at school, inflexible/intolerant attachment figures, sociological pressures to conform etc), but whatever has caused the confusion or tension, their core self is just that, a core and unchangeable part of the self that contains all that is light and all that is dark about that person.
We have to be accepting of all aspects of our selves to find balance and peace in our psyche and in our present and this is not easy to do by any stretch of the imagination. This again is why conversion therapy is so dangerous, it lies to us, it tells us we can change aspects of our core self and psyche when we cant. We should be looking for acceptance and care and love of self, not seeking to change aspects of it because it doesn’t fit with our social group, or religious beliefs or culture. Only when we can accept ourselves do we find that sense of peace and this often relieves any symptoms of the distress we were experiencing before (anxiety, depression etc).
I often say to new clients when I first meet them that therapy is difficult. That is sometimes an understatement! When you consider that most people coming into the therapy room are needing to process or understand aspects of self that are overtly traumatic or linked to some deep felt shame or guilt you will understand why it is so difficult. When I tell people that I cannot just take the guilt, shame or trauma away simply and easily, that they have to process it, accept it, acknowledge it is part of who they are, the whole process becomes even more daunting and difficult.
There are no short cuts in therapy when processing the damage, insecurity, doubt or dislike that people hold in their core self, but that is what people who believe in conversion therapy offer. A short cut, a ‘simple’ way to change the way they think and feel. The massive problem here is that it just doesn’t work…
It needs to be banned, completely and without exception. Now. Please
To anyone who is directly impacted by this as well please know that the vast majority of mental health professionals completely and unreservedly reject all aspects of conversion therapy. Also know that you are OK as you are, even if you don’t feel or believe that at the moment. You do not have to change your sexuality or who you are to be OK in the world, you just needs to process whatever it is that has led you to believe that you are not OK. Ultimately you will find your way to a place when you will be accepting, caring and loving of who you are and all of the different aspects of your self that makes you you.
Be caring of yourself, and if you are not able to offer that care and acceptance of self to yourself yet, don’t panic. Just find yourself a good therapist, a kind, ethical and caring human being who will help you understand yourself and heal yourself to the point you love yourself as you are, for who you are.
Lady Gaga puts it much better than I ever could when she stated, ‘you were born this way’. Nothing can change that!