PA State Boards Take Major Steps Against Conversion Therapy For Minors

State boards have adopted new policies condemning conversion therapy for minors as harmful and unprofessional.

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Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration announced last week that five key Pennsylvania state boards have officially condemned the use of conversion therapy on minors, a move that started a few years ago.

The votes came from boards overseeing medicine, social work, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, psychology, and osteopathic medicine.

Labeling conversion therapy as a “discredited, pseudoscientific practice,” the Democratic governor’s administration said the boards have adopted new Statements of Policy (SOP) deeming such practices harmful and unprofessional.

Any licensed professionals engaging in conversion therapy now risk administrative discipline, according to Shapiro’s office.

The new policies will take effect upon their publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

“This decisive action makes clear that there is no place for the harmful, dangerous practice of conversion therapy here in our Commonwealth,” said Shapiro, a Democrat. “We value real freedom here in Pennsylvania – and no matter what you look like, where you come from, who you pray to, or who you love, you should be able to express who you are and be free from harassment and discrimination.”

Conversion therapy, sometimes known as reparative therapy, sexuality counseling, or sexual orientation/gender identity change efforts, seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt praised the boards’ actions.

“Rejecting the discredited, pseudoscientific practice of conversion therapy in Pennsylvania is a worthwhile, pragmatic step, and I give my appreciation to all five boards for adopting these Statement of Policies,” Schmidt said.

“Since hateful rhetoric and pseudoscience still dominate the clinical experiences of many LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians, knowing that our state oversight boards saw fit to pass these protections is a small weight off of our shoulders,” said Ashleigh Strange, executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on LGBTQ+ Affairs. “This is a solid step toward letting folks know that identifying as LGBTQ+ is not a disease or a crime in Pennsylvania. You have a safe place here.”

Support for this move has been strong among advocacy groups. The Trevor Project, the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and the Pennsylvania Psychology Association have all previously expressed concerns about conversion therapy’s ongoing practice in the state.

Troy Stevenson, director of state advocacy campaigns at The Trevor Project, a national LGBTQIA+ advocacy group said: “Research shows that young people who reported undergoing conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide in the past year. Especially as LGBTQ+ young people continue to be targeted by state lawmakers across the country, we are grateful to see these efforts to protect the health and safety of LGBTQ+ young people in Pennsylvania.”

A peer-reviewed study from The Trevor Project reported that 13 percent of LGBTQIA+ youth nationwide have been subjected to conversion therapy.

Numerous health associations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the World Medical Association, oppose conversion therapy due to its lack of scientific support and potential to cause harm.

For those concerned about licensed professionals engaging in conversion therapy, complaints can be filed through the Pennsylvania Department of State website.

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