Also called reparative therapy or ex-gay therapy, conversion therapy is wherein the psychotherapist uses his professional education and experience to help the client reduce unnecessary same-sex or homosexual attractions and look further into the heterosexual side of things. In other words, the objective is to convert an individual from being gay or homosexual to straight or heterosexual. 

Clients are not coerced into the sessions. Technically, any client visiting a conversion therapist must be there on his own, wanting to seek assistance with personal distress and concerns. Put short, the client dictates proceedings. However, there are instances when the client is pushed into treatment by his parents, often resulting in the client not knowing what he really wants from the therapy.

Intervention and Therapy Principles

The collaborative sessions may include imposing techniques or methods to bring about needed change. The intervention techniques focus on reducing, and at times eliminating, romantic or sexual distractions toward same-sex people. However, results are not guaranteed.

Conversion therapies have four principles.

  • The therapist revealing his own perspective. At the beginning of therapy, the therapist should reveal his take on homosexuality – as a practitioner, and also from a philosophical, religious and personal standpoint. Disclosing thoughts is important because the client should be clear regarding the therapist’s homosexuality knowledge. The therapist must only express his thoughts and not impose them on the client. It is imperative the therapist accepts the client as an individual, despite the client’s sexual behavior or orientation.
  • Letting client inquire openly. Instead of making direct recommendations, the therapist must let the client inquire. The client is invited to put forward questions relating to himself, and dive into his wants, feelings and desires lying under his same-sex attraction (SSA).
  • Resolving client’s past trauma. Conversion therapy is viewed as a medium to repair childhood trauma. The trauma could be emotional or sexual abuse, or take the form of negative messages from parents relating to one’s gender and self. Exploring these aspects in deep could help reduce unneeded SSAs.
  • Educating client about things associated with homosexuality. The therapist must disclose every information possible to the client. How the information gets used by the client is not the therapist’s business. Since the reparative therapy psychotherapist is much more knowledgeable than regular mental-health professionals, the therapist is likely to offer the client better insights. It’s the therapist’s responsibility to educate the client on aspects relating to the causes, underlying motivations and health consequences of homosexual orientation.

Criticism and Controversies

Conversion therapy is not a widely accepted practice and it’s been discredited by most medical, psychological, professional and psychiatric counseling organizations. There are several reasons for reparative therapy being constantly under the hammer.

Conversion therapy misrepresents homosexuality as a problem or disorder. And there’s very little proof confirming the therapy’s efficacy. In fact, besides not producing any results, the therapy may also harm the LGBT group and their loved ones. There have been reports of depression, anxiety, and also suicidal ideation in some clients post therapy. And since the therapist may end up blaming the parent for the client’s sexual orientation, family relationships may get strained thereafter. Minors are the most vulnerable.

The practice could entail violent role play, past abuses’ reenactment, and exercises containing intimate touching and nudity. In the past, few professionals have adopted extreme measures like castration, hypnosis for redirecting sexual arousal and desires, and electroconvulsive therapy to prevent people from inclining towards homosexuality.

Despite this overwhelming opposition, conversion therapy is still openly carried out because of the continuing societal bias and discrimination against the LGBT group.