Conversion therapy found unsuccessful

The therapy has been deemed both ineffective and harmful to the person it is done to.

The White House recently called for the end to the practice of conversion therapy, a controversial treatment legally permitted in 46 states, including Missouri. The practice of conversion therapy is a treatment intended to alter the sexuality of same-sex attracted individuals.

A statement recently released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration concludes that not only is the practice harmful to the person who undergoes it, but that the treatment is also ineffective because it is based on the assumption that being gay is a mental disorder.

According to, an independent organization looking to further expand the rights of the LGBTQ community, only three states and Washington D.C. have implemented laws banning the practice of conversion therapy for minors. Missouri is one of the remaining 46 states that have not produced any legislation regarding the controversial practice.

Conversion therapy has been considered unethical for decades by many physiological associations according to Craig Rooney, director of behavioral health at the MU Student Health Center.

“Since our first professional obligation is to try to do no harm, the therapeutic goal of attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation has been considered unethical for decades by the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and multiple other professional organizations,” Rooney said in an email.

Senior Zackary Carpenter, who’s gay, said he is wary of conversion therapy.

“My opinion is that it is potentially dangerous and doesn’t work,” Carpenter said, “But my opinion isn’t formed through anything but basically wanting to see the best for queer people, and I don’t think conversion therapy offers that.”

Rooney said there is no solid scientific evidence to suggest that an individual’s sexual orientation can be altered using psychotherapy or medical treatments, and attempting to do so would cause harm to the individual seeking the treatment.

“Historically, practitioners who attempted to change someone’s sexual orientation did so through aversion therapy techniques, which involved applying painful or negative stimuli paired with gay imagery, behavioral techniques such as orgasmic reconditioning, and sadly, even surgical techniques like lobotomies,” Rooney said.

Carpenter said a person’s choice to undergo the practice is up to the individual, as a person’s sexuality is their own. However, he questions whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

“You are ripping away a part of you that is hard enough to define and hard enough to pin-point, and it seems to me like it can be a core part of you. A person’s sexuality, their sexual preference, that’s something that does change over time, but it is also something that is important,” Carpenter said. “It is a part of them, like, whether or not they grew up in a small town or whether or not they enjoy being around family, it’s whether or not they consider themselves an overall good person. You start ripping identities like that way, you start having some problems.”

Rooney said modern attempts at carrying out the taboo treatment are offered by non-licensed practitioners, usually in religious organizations.

Carpenter said he believes conversion therapy should be illegal.

“I think people who practice conversion therapy are preying on those who grew up in a society that’s from day one told them that what they are deep down on the inside is wrong, or disgusting or immoral,” Carpenter said, “I don’t think any industry that is based around the idea that someone should be ashamed of themselves should really be allowed to exist. “

Organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and The Movement Advancement Project are pioneering advocacy to abolish the practice of conversion therapy.

Carpenter said his path to self-acceptance and acknowledging his sexuality has been a long journey that is still ongoing.

“There’s a lot of things in the world telling you things you should not accept about yourself and a lot of those things are contradictory,” Carpenter said. ”I guess it takes picking and choosing what you want to be and what you don’t want to be, what you want to believe and what you don’t want to believe.”

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