“Conversion therapies or other efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity are not effective, are harmful, and are not appropriate therapeutic practices.” So says a report from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The report, “Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth,” is a comprehensive study that provides an in-depth review of research and clinical expertise related to conversion therapy.
In July, 2015, the American Psychological Association convened an expert panel that included researchers and practitioners in child and adolescent mental health with a strong background in gender development, gender identity, and sexual orientation in children and adolescents. Experts with a background in family therapy, ethics, and the psychology of religion also participated. The SAMHSA report contains the first publication of the panel’s consensus statements.
The panel concluded that variations in sexual orientation and gender identity are normal. Rather than try to change orientation or identity, families and professionals should seek resources to help guide youth to self-acceptance. The report provides an overview of existing efforts to eliminate the practice of conversion therapy.
“When dealing with a sensitive topic such as gender identity or sexual orientation in young people, it is essential that families, educators, caregivers, and providers seek the best available information and advice,” said SAMHSA Acting Administrator Kana Enomoto. “SAMHSA’s report provides this information, as well as resources young people, families and others can use to promote healthy development for all youth.”
Dr. Caitlin Ryan, Director of the Family Acceptance Project (FAP), was one of the panel members. In applauding this latest partnership between FAP and SAMHSA, she stated, “This important new resource discusses appropriate ways to support child and adolescent development and to talk about sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression with young people and their families based on peer-reviewed research, professional guidance and best practices for care of children and adolescents.”
Both organizations emphasize how harmful conversion therapy is to LGBTQ youth, and stress the need for alternative therapies that help youth find self-esteem. They offer resources for individuals, families, professionals and educators who work with LGBTQ youth and other at-risk communities.
The Family Acceptance Project™ (FAP) is directed by Caitlin Ryan at the Marian Wright Edelman Institute at San Francisco State University, and was developed by Caitlin Ryan and Rafael Dìaz in 2002. It includes the first major study of LGBT youth and their families. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.
“Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth” is available at:
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