A new bill authored by Rep. Marko Liias (D-Edmonds) would convene a workgroup through the Department of Health to examine and potentially regulate the controversial practice of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE), alternatively known as “Gay Conversion Therapy “or “Reparative Therapy” for those under 18 years of age.
Last year California passed a new law banning the practice of so-called “Reparative Therapy” the practice of allowing licensed and unlicensed counselors to engage in efforts to change the sexual orientation of a client. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court recently placed a hold on the law that was scheduled to take effect at the beginning of this year until further arguments could be heard.
“The practice known as ‘Conversion Therapy’ has been criticized by psychologists, counselors, social workers and numerous other health professionals for its potential harm,” said Liias. “Studies have shown that these practices have no basis in science or medicine and it is vital that we bring together the proper health experts to better understand the impacts as we wait for the courts to rule on this important issue.”
Conversion therapy is a hotly debated topic with many psychologists and social workers insisting that the practice isn’t in the best interest of children, that it can be dangerous to patients, and that it simply does not work.
“To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective,” the American Psychological Association writes on its website.
“Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons,” says the APA, the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States.
“As the President of the Washington State Society for Clinical Social Work, I am very pleased that Rep. Liias is creating a work group to determine whether the use of SOCE or conversion therapy, is in the best interests of children and adolescents,” said Karen Hansen, LICSW, President, Washington State Society for Clinical Social Work.
“The Society believes that helping young people understand and accept their sexuality is an important part of mental health. We are pleased that the work group will consider whether reparative therapy supports this goal and the development of healthy emotional and sexual identity. ”
Under Liias’s measure a workgroup of no more than 15 people, including if possible a SOCE practitioner, would evaluate current research, identify any potential harms to clients, develop recommendations for approaches to protect children, and report back to the Governor their findings by December 15, 2013.