Should psychiatrists be permitted to provide counseling for persons seeking to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual? If the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Committee on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual issues had its way, the answer would be no.
Late last year the APA'S board of trustees endorsed a proposed resolution disapproving treatment based on "a psychiatrist's intent to change a person's sexual orientation." Such treatment is known in the profession as reparative therapy.
The nearly 190 psychiatrists who attended this year's annual meeting of the APA in Philadelphia in May were scheduled to vote on the resolution. However, after aggressive grassroots lobbying efforts by the resolution's opponents, the issue was tabled.
Citing the rarity of the APA assembly turning back a board-recommended proposal, Charles Socarides, president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, characterized the outcome as "a major victory."
Socarides says, "Had this resolution passed, it would in effect have outlawed treatment of homosexuals who want to change."
According to Socarides, the APA's 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders was attributable more to "the work of sociopolitical activists than to science." He said homosexuality still is widely regarded among psychiatrists as a developmental disorder; he predicts the issue will resurface in the future.
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