APA President Koocher’s statement about therapy & same-sex attraction

This just in from APA’s Public Affairs office via email from Rhea Farberman:

APA Office of Public Affairs
(202) 336-5700
Public.Affairs@apa.org

August 15, 2006

Statement by Dr. Gerald P. Koocher Concerning Therapeutic Interventions To Deal With Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction

During the Town Hall Meeting that took place at APA’s 2006 convention, I was asked about the role of patient choice in therapeutic interventions to diminish same-sex attractions.

This is an extremely complex issue. And discussion of it must balance patient choice with the therapist’s ethical obligation to obtain informed consent for any therapy process.

The issue centers on patient choice and the role of the therapist in supporting that choice with fully informed consent—be it sexual orientation or any other behavior or emotion.

In a full multifaceted therapeutic relationship, the therapist has every duty to respond to patient choice and to help patients achieve their goals. I affirmed during the Town Hall discussion, and I will always affirm, the crucial importance of providing our services with careful attention to patients’ wishes.

BUT—and this is absolutely essential, especially when dealing with sexual orientation—the therapeutic responsibility, in strict accordance with APA guidelines, MUST also include the following considerations:

One: The therapist has an obligation to carefully explore how patients arrive at the choices they want to make. Therapists must determine whether patients understand that their motives may arise purely from the social pressures of a homophobic environment. No type or amount of individual therapy will modify societal prejudices.

Two, informed consent: Patients must understand the potential consequences of any treatment, including those intended to modify sexual orientation. Patients must understand that such treatments lack a validated scientific foundation and may prove psychologically harmful.

Finally, I would add that our patients ought to know from the very start that we as their therapists do not consider homosexuality a mental disorder. In fact, the data show that gay and lesbian people do not differ from heterosexuals in their psychological health. By that I mean that they have no greater instance of mental disorders than do heterosexuals.

Dr. Koocher is the President of the American Psychological Association.

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