Psychotherapist and counsellor organisations have expressed their “alarm” after it was found that some of their members help clients to “reduce” feelings of homosexuality.
A significant minority of therapists had agreed to help at least one client to reduce their gay or lesbian feelings when asked to do so, according to a survey published last week in the journal BMC Psychiatry.
The survey was carried out on 1,400 members of The British Psychological Society, The Royal College of Psychiatrists, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
Only 4% said they would attempt to change a client’s sexual orientation.
When asked by a troubled client if they would help curb homosexual feelings some 17% – or one in six – said they had done so.
In response to the survey Tom Warnecke, vice chair of UKCP, said: “Homosexuality is not an illness and therefore is not curable.
“These alarming figures confirm our view that more training opportunities are needed to ensure that psychotherapists and counsellors can respond appropriately to people who are distressed about some aspect of their sexuality”.
Phillip Hodson of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy said: “It would be absurd to attempt to alter such fundamental aspects of personal identity as sexual orientation by counselling.
“The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy is dedicated to social diversity, equality and inclusivity of treatment without sexual discrimination or judgmentalism of any kind.”
The survey team was led by Professor Michael King of University College London. Questionnaires were sent to 1,848 practitioners selected at random from the membership of the four professional organisations
Each was asked whether they would offer to help someone change their sexual orientation, and whether they had ever done so.
Of the 1,328 forms that were correctly filled in and returned, 222 practitioners gave details of at least one patient they had tried to treat.
There has been no decline in the number of patients being treated in recent years, according to the study.
Most respondents said they would try to help patients come to terms with their sexuality if they felt it was problematic, but a small number were openly discriminatory.
One member of the British Psychological Society said: “Although homosexual feelings are usual in people, their physical expression, and being a person’s only way of having sexual relations is problematic. The physical act for male homosexuals is physically damaging and is the main reason in this country for Aids/HIV. It is also perverse.”