March 20, 2017
Florida Mental Health Counselors Association Strongly Supports
House Bill 273 (Richardson) and Senate Bill 258 (Clemens)
These important pieces of legislation would prohibit persons who are licensed to provide professional counseling and various health practitioners from engaging in conversion therapy with person who is younger than 18 years of age. The bill These bills specifically affect professionals licensed under FS 491 including (2) (a) Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) and Licensed Clinical Social Workers as well as other specified professionals licensed in the State of Florida under other chapters.
Conversion Therapy or Reparative Therapy consists of clinical efforts to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression (SAMHSA, 2015). This type of therapy has been controversial and finds little support in the mental health community and the general public.
The American Mental Health Counselors Association and The American Counselors Association have both taken strong positions in respect to sexual orientation and mental health. Both national organizations affirm the potential for great psychological harm and take the position that therapeutic interventions around sexual orientation or gender identity follow the framework of self- affirming outcomes.
Exodus International, an organization that was at the forefront in the practice of Conversion Therapy publicly apologized to the gay community for harm caused by conversion therapy and terminated this aspect of their “ministry” (Shwayder, 2013).
Note the following trend:
- In August of 2014 the Texas Republican Party adopted a platform that included supporting Reparative Therapy (Wolfson, 2014).
- The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit in 2012 accusing Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), it’s founder Arthur Goldberg, and counselor Alan Downing claiming they violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act by providing Conversion Therapy (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012).
- In 2013, a federal appeals court sided with California and upheld the first law barring gay aversion therapy in all aspects (Elias, 2013).
- 2015: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administrative Services (SAMHSA) issued an 84-page report, Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth (2015).
SAMHSA is committed to eliminating health disparities facing vulnerable communities, including sexual and gender minority children and youth.” The report states that “research and clinical expertise consensus makes it clear that conversion therapy efforts to change a child’s or adolescent’s gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation … is potentially harmful.
As of 2015, Washington, DC, and these states have banned Conversion Therapy:
- New Jersey
The Florida Mental Health Counselors Association (FMHCA) Code of Ethics (F) (1) (d) states that mental health counselors encourage adaptability and growth toward (client’s) self-direction, (FMHCA, 2017).
- Therefore, FMHCA believes that counselors should maintain a high standard in the delivery of services to clients and use only appropriately thoroughly researched best practice models with clients. Research on Reparative Therapy has shown that this technique has the potential to cause harm to clients and is not considered a “best practice”.
- Therefore, FMHCA supports HB 273 and Senate Bill 258 which would make it illegal for Mental Health Providers to utilize Reparative Therapy with children under the age of 18.
- Therefore, FMHCA would endorse and encourage legislation to make it illegal for a Licensed Mental Health Counselor to use Conversion or Reparative Therapy on any client regardless of age. This position is supported by both the Code of Ethics of the American Mental Health Counseling Association and the American Counseling Association.
- Therefore, FMHCA encourages inclusion of all cultures and supports inclusion of language supportive of trans-gender individuals.
The Florida Mental Health Counselors Association
Committee on Government Relations
Louise Sutherland-Hoyt, LMHC, Chairman
Leo Mesa, President, FMHCA
Joe Skelly, LMHC
Erica Whitfield, LMHC
James Messina, LMHC
Patrick Nave, LMHC
Bob Decker, LMHC
Cindy Wall, LMHC
Mariel Johnson, LMHC
Michael Holler, LMHC
Kay Nowak, LMHC
American Counseling Association. (1998). Governing Council Statement. Pulled down on 3/20/2017. http://www.counseling.org/news/updates/2013/01/16/ethical-issues-related-to-conversion-or-reparative-therapy.
American Mental Health Counseling Association. (2015) American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics. Pulled down on 3/20/2017. http://www.amhca.org/?page=codeofethics.
Elias, P. (2013). California gay conversion therapy ban upheld by Federal Court. Huffington Post. Pulled down on 08/30/2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/29/california-gay-conversion-therapy-ban_n_383.
Shwayder, M. (2013). Exodus International, Former Gay Conversion Therapy Group, Apologizes to Gay Community, Closes Up Shop. Pulled down on 3/19/2017: http://www.ibtimes.com/exodus-international-former-gay-conversion-therapy-group-apologizes-gay-community-closes-shop.
Southern Poverty Law Center. (2012). SPLC files groundbreaking lawsuit accusing conversion therapy organization of fraud. Pulled down on 3/15/2013. https://www.splcenter.org/news/2012/11/27splc-files-groundbreaking-lawuit-accusing-company.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Ending conversion Therapy: Supporting and affirming LGBTQ youth. Alexandria, VA: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.
Wolfson, E. (2014). Texas republican party adopts discredited reparative therapy for gays. Newsweek.