The Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP), Ireland’s largest association of counsellors and psychotherapists, has released a statement on its website condemning the practice of conversion therapy aimed at changing an individual’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression.
The statement, released on March 6, describes conversion or reparative therapy as “a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation/gender identity/expression.” Such therapies, the statement makes clear, are the product of continuing discrimination and cultural bias against LGBT+ people, whose identities cannot and should not be cured.
Young people, the IACP emphasises, are especially vulnerable to these practices. Whether drawn to conversion therapy by their own feelings of internalised homophobia or coerced by family, many gay and trans young people worldwide find themselves driven to attend camps or sessions with often unqualified ‘doctors’ claiming to be able to cure their identities.
The IACP statement points to a 2007 study by the American Psychological Association which concluded that there is no clear evidence that conversion therapy can be effective, and highlights the harm done by such attempted cures to vulnerable LGBT+ people. “These experiences can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide,” the statement maintains.
In the wake of the recent screening of Once Gay – Matthew and Friends, a film promoting conversion therapy through the story of X Factor Malta contestant Matthew Grech, at Townsend Presbyterian Church in west Belfast, the IACP is especially keen to stress their rejection of the practices celebrated in the film.
This condemnation of conversion therapy is the result of concerted efforts by a group of therapists called the GSDIG (Gender & Sexual Diversity Interest Group), who have been working together to encourage the therapists’ association to speak out on the issue. The group members – Tracey Byrne, Anne Doyle, Anita Furlong, and Joanne Gilhooly – are delighted with the firm stance now taken by the IACP.
The statement has drawn huge support from Ireland’s community of legitimate psychotherapists and counsellors. “No more ‘cure the gay’ therapy!” says Dil Wickremasinghe, founder of therapy centre Insight Matters. “As a trainee therapist, this fills me with great hope.”
No more “cure the gay” therapy!Delighted to finally see that the leading Irish Psychotherapy & Counselling Association @IACP_ie has taken a definitive stand against conversion therapy! As a trainee therapist this fills me with great hope! Thank you #GSDIG https://t.co/xOb9zXNWlN
— Dil Wickremasinghe (@DilW) March 15, 2019
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