The Psychotherapist Association for
Gender & Sexual Diversity

Statements in Support of Beth Greivel's Proposal To CAMFT To Condemn SOCE

September 22, 2014 8:07 PM | Jay Philip Paul (Administrator)

Statement by Beth Greivel:

Thank you for this time to speak.  I’m Elizabeth Greivel, and I’m the author of the proposal to ban the practice of sexual orientation change efforts, or SOCE for short, in the Code of Ethics. My motivation for being here today is rooted in four years of volunteer work for the GLBT National Hotline, where during every shift I would hear callers who, because of fear of rejection or abuse, found it safer to talk to a stranger than their loved ones or therapists about their sexual orientations or gender identities.  Many of these callers had suffered from or were in the middle of SOCE therapies, and the despair they felt was palpable over the telephone lines, that their therapists did not understand a core notion of their humanity.

It can be difficult to grasp the concept of SOCE and how much they hurt the LGBTQIQA population.  Let me offer a metaphor I’ve found helpful.

Imagine that we as a society are uncomfortable with those who are tall. People under 5’ 10” are okay, but those over 6’? They’re just too tall. They make up less than 10% of the population, but we think that they expect too much special treatment. Specially made clothes ... basketball is just flaunting things. They say tallness is all biology, but throughout history, people were shorter. Is it genetics? Do they eat too many vegetables?

If Michael Jordan grew up in that environment, he'd be a pariah. His therapist might have to fight internal biases to make sure Michael was supported as he naturally is. I would certainly hope Michael would not end up in an SOCE-like therapy where he was encouraged to stoop or even crawl to make everyone else feel more comfortable with his natural height.

This is the essence of SOCE. Individuals are in pain because social or religious values have told them that an integral part of who they are is inadequate or deviant. Then they are met with insidious efforts where "change" means making an individual feel worse about themselves for being different, and being encouraged to act like someone they are not. The net result being an increased risk of depression and suicidality.

I have two requests.
  1. Push the proposal I submitted to ban SOCE in the Code of Ethics through the Ethics Committee as quickly as possible. We have the opportunity to be at the forefront of mental health organizations by banning these harmful practices that do not work.
  2. In the interim, accept the excellent proposed SOCE statement Ms. Atkins drafted, and strengthen it so that it is clear that it applies to ALL AGES, and that the onus of responsibility for checking bias is on the therapist, not the client or patient. Every other mental health organization has done at least this, and our credibility are undermined by not meeting the Standard of Practice.
Lives are at stake here.  Members of CAMFT are actively causing harm. Therapists who have admitted in writing to practicing SOCE on minors have been referred to CAMFT under our current Code of Ethics, and have not been found in violation.  

Whether it’s a minor or an adult -- SOCE are false and harmful practices not worthy of the name Marriage and Family Therapist, and CAMFT needs to do more to protect the LGBTQIQA population. This is a clinical issue.

Statement by James Guay:

CAMFT needs to prioritize the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer clients undefined sexual and gender minorities undefined over the income and licensure of psychotherapists who are harming them.  Therapist should not be protected when they recklessly abandon their basic tenet of “do no harm,” misuse therapeutic tools to harm their clients and exhibit extreme prejudice in doing so.

Therapists are not in the business of helping our clients become more fake, inauthentic, or to deceive themselves or others.  We are in the business of healing and growth, of compassion and authenticity.

California State’s Legislature, Governor, and Supreme Court, along with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and US Supreme Court in addition to all other major professional association, have sided on the rights/protections of LGBTQ youth from psychotherapists using sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE).

CAMFT undefined as a professional association for MFT’s, not a legislative or judicial body undefined can and should go an important step further to make a strong statement against the use of SOCE on minors AND adults.  Fraudulent and abusive practices are fraudulent and abusive practices, regardless of the age of the client.  There is more than enough evidence and support out there for CAMFT to take action.  There doesn’t need to be a special committee or resources used within CAMFT to figure out that this is an ineffective and harmful practice.

There is no slippery slope here in regulating theoretical orientations or treatment modalities because SOCE is abusive, culturally incompetent and treating a “non-existent disorder” that is no longer in the DSM.  SOCE therapists prey on their clients’ internalized homophobia to try and effect change.  They misappropriate psychological language and social justice terminology to advocate harming LGBTQ clients and it needs to stop.  CAMFT needs to send a strong message that this practice is no longer permissible. The public also needs to be protected from the exploitative teaching of SOCE to other clinicians.

There are several benefits for CAMFT making a strong & bold statement against SOCE for youth AND adults.  These include:

  • Increased credibility & legitimacy (aka public trust) of MFT’s for being in synch with the most current scientific research available;
  • Increased institutional and professional integrity when we prioritize client/public protection over clinician’s income or practice;
  • Increased institutional cultural competence and value provided to LGBTQ clients, therapists and their allies;
  • and, increased time-savings and better allocation of resources when demonstrating pro-active ethical integrity.

This isn’t about politics, this is about protection.  It is unacceptable to use the excuse that CAMFT is a slow moving organization and that small steps are sufficient.

Be bold.  

Protecting clients protects legitimate and responsible clinicians.  I urge you to come out strongly against SOCE on minors AND adults!  Anything less is negligent and harmful.

Let’s move forward in the right direction, together.

Statement by Jim Walker:

My name is Jim Walker and I deeply appreciate speaking today.

I’m passionate that no shame or prejudice is inflicted by our profession on LGBTQ people.

Recently I worked with a client who deeply regretted trying SOCE.

Several years before starting therapy with me, his son came out to him and his mother. My client told him he disapproved. He told him he was sinning.

At the same time he hurt her so much, he struggled constantly with his same-sex attractions. Being very involved in his church was at the center of his life. He knew others in his church struggled with being gay and bi. He tried SOCE with a psychologist. He dedicated himself to it spending thousands of dollars. He told me attempting SOCE really hurt him psychologically and made him unable to help his son and others in his church.

SOCE failed. Their marriage ended. He not only had to heal from the damage SOCE did to him, he had to repair the damage he had done to everyone in his family and his church.

After he started accepting himself, they were able to repair some of that damage and he was able to work for marriage equality in his faith.

Today you have the opportunity to do something important about our clients’ suffering.

Thanks to the remarkable Beth Greivel you have a proposal involving needed ethics code changes.

Over 880 members and 6 chapters want you to endorse that proposal this weekend.
The other proposal before you was prepared by CAMFT.

That proposal needs to say SOCE is not ethical for CAMFT members. 

Earlier this year 9 former leaders of SOCE apologized for many years of exploiting people’s hopes and fears. They wrote:

"As former "ex-gay" leaders, having witnessed the incredible harm done to those who attempted to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, we join together in calling for a ban on conversion therapy.

It is our firm belief that it is much more productive to support, counsel, and mentor LGBT individuals to embrace who they are in order to live happy, well-adjusted lives."

This weekend show you’re committed to protecting clients from SOCE.

Send Beth’s proposal to the Ethics Committee and issue a statement to the membership that SOCE is not an ethical practice for our members.

As the former SOCE leaders said, “It is much more productive to support, counsel and mentor LGBT individuals to embrace who they are in order to live happy, well-adjusted lives.”

Thank you.

Statement by Jay Paul:

My name is Jay Paul; thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I have been a CAMFT member since 1988. However, as a gay man, in recent years I felt alienated and questioned whether this organization truly represented me. My hope is that this is a significant time of change for CAMFT. I urge you to expedite the adoption of Elizabeth Greivel’s proposed additions to the CAMFT Code of Ethics.

Others’ eloquence about the risks of harm to clients from SOCE, allows me to focus on another concern raised by these practices. To do that, I need first mention the famous 1978 Bell & Weinberg study, “Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men & Women.”

The researchers asked their sample whether they would currently wish to take a “magic pill” which would change their sexuality to heterosexuality. A brief means of assessing satisfaction versus discomfort with their sexuality. As it turned out, relatively few expressed interest in such a pill.

SOCE practitioners will argue that they are providing a service to those who wish for that magic pill. However as healthcare professionals, we cannot uncritically indulge our clients’ wishes. The Internet and TV may convince people that they have a diagnosable disorder, and that a particular medication will be a panacea. However when they follow up with a physician, a competent doctor should be aware of viable alternatives, and can provide a more realistic perspective on diagnoses, treatments and suitable options.

Similarly, a client may come to us in great distress, believing that their sexual orientation is pathological, immoral and/or a deficiency, insisting that their only hope is to become heterosexual. As in the pill analogy, our necessary next step should entail exploring a client’s situation and desires in an unbiased manner. Paradoxically, this is something that is outside the scope of clinical competence of those offering SOCE.

Their theoretical perspectives and so-called “therapeutic” strategies indicate that they are woefully ill-informed about sexual orientation. Those who advocate SOCE ascribe legitimacy to long-debunked myths of the “causes” of homosexuality, and to curative strategies that meld sexual orientation and gender role behavior.

Their biases mean that they are neither informed about nor competent to work with LGBTQ clients. They lack detailed knowledge of the LGBTQ communities and social resources, same-sex relationships, and the impact of social stigmatization on well-being and mental health. Further, they have a built-in bias to attribute an LGBTQ individual’s distress to their sexual orientation rather than life circumstance unrelated to their sexuality.

Being capable only of efforts directed at moving someone AWAY from an LGBTQ identity, they are not equipped to explore a client’s sources of conflict or distress and find alternative resolutions.

By forbidding SOCE with clients of any age, you are telling a category of providers that they lack the necessary training to truly serve a class of patients.

Thank you.