We are concerned about 'gay-cure' therapy and it's promotion. Any attempt to 'cure' lesbian, gay and bisexual people is damaging to self-esteem and contributes to unhappiness. Stonewall works with many NHS organisations to make sure lesbian, gay and bisexual people can access services free from discrimination and have their health needs met in a sensitive and timely fashion.
Guidance for the public
The United Kingdom Council for Pyschotherapy has produced public information and advice on gay conversion therapy. This leaflet offers accessible information for those who may feel under pressure to seek ‘treatment’ for their sexuality, and signposts people to places where they can access safe and non-judgemental therapeutic support. It was requested by the Department of Health and prepared by the leading psychological professional bodies in the UK with support from Stonewall.
You can download this guidance here
If you need any extra support or information on finding appropriate counselling please contact Stonewall's Information Service by completing our online form or call us on 08000 50 20 20. Our freephone service is open Mon-Fri, 9.30am to 5.30pm.
What is reparative therapy?
Being gay is not a mental illness
Statements from UK psychotherapy and counselling bodies
Reparative therapy refers to any form of counselling, psychotherapy or treatment which aims to stop or reduce same-sex attraction. It is based on an assumption that being lesbian, gay or bisexual is a mental illness and can be cured. Reparative therapy is also known as ‘conversion therapy’ and ‘gay-cure therapy’. Any attempt to ‘cure’ a gay, lesbian or bisexual person is destructive; it reinforces self-hatred and contributes to unhappiness.
As early as the 1950s new medical research started to emerge which argued that lesbians and gay men were not suffering from mental illness but could lead happy and productive lives.
The Royal College of Nursing, stated in its "Issues in Nursing Health Series" (10/97) that "there is no intrinsic relationship between sexual orientation and mental illness. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder and there is no difference overall in the adjustment of people with same-sex or opposite-sex orientations."
The American Psychiatric Association officially declassified homosexuality as a mental illness in 1974 but it wasn't until 1992 that the World Health Organisation followed suit.
Even though homosexuality is no longer classified as a mental illness, homophobia, biphobia and prejudice against lesbian, gay and bisexual people still exists. As a result of this prejudice, there are a few counsellors who still practice ‘reparative therapy’ to combat same-sex attractions. Recent research from the University of London suggests that one in six therapists would be willing to offer this treatment.
Whilst reparative therapy or ‘conversion therapy’ may be strongly disapproved of by most medical professionals it is not unlawful in the UK and continues to take place.
In 2010 an undercover journalist, Patrick Strudwick, wrote about his experiences of attending conversion therapy. His article brought wide spread media attention to the practice and its prevalence in the UK. As a result of this, and Patrick’s subsequent complaint to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the registered psychotherapist he went to see has been struck off.
In June 2013 an Early Day Motion was put forward which calls on the UK Government to investigate and condone any NHS links with reparative therapists. Its supporters also want the government to take steps to ban conversion therapy for under 18s.
In November 2013 there was a debate in Westminster Hall on 'Gay-to-straight Conversion Therapy'. You can read the transcript of the debate here.
The Counsellors and Psychotherapists (Regulation) Bill will be debated at its second reading in November 2014. You can monitor the progress and read the current Bill here.
All the major psychotherapy and counselling bodies in the UK have issued statements condemning the practice. This offers further reassurance that any registered counsellor or psychotherapist who offers reparative therapy are at risk of losing their job.
The British Psychological Society – Dec 2012
‘The British Psychological Society (BPS) opposes any psychological, psychotherapeutic or counselling treatments or interventions (often referred to as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapies) that view same sex sexual orientations (including lesbian, gay, bisexual and all other non-heterosexual sexual orientations) as pathological. The BPS believes that people of all genders and identities should be regarded as equal members of society and protected from potentially damaging therapies and pathologising.’
Read full statement here.
British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy – Oct 2012
‘BACP opposes any psychological treatment such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder, or based on the premise that the client/patient should change his/her sexuality. BACP believes that socially inclusive, non-judgmental attitudes to people who identify across the diverse range of human sexualities will have positive consequences for those individuals, as well as for the wider society in which they live. There is no scientific, rational or ethical reason to treat people who identify within a range of human sexualities any differently from those who identify solely as heterosexual.’
Read details here.
British Psychoanalytic Council – 2011
'The British Psychoanalytic Council opposes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It does not accept that a homosexual orientation is evidence of disturbance of the mind or in development. In psychoanalytic psychotherapy, it is the quality of people’s relationships which are explored, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual.'
Read full statement here.
UK Council for Psychotherapy - Feb 2010
‘UKCP does not consider homosexuality or bisexuality, or transsexual and transgendered states to be pathologies, mental disorders or indicative of developmental arrest. These are not symptoms to be treated by psychotherapists, in the sense of attempting to change or remove them. No responsible psychotherapist will attempt to 'convert' a client from homosexuality to heterosexuality ('reparative' therapy).’ Read the full statement here.
College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT)
‘COSRT as an organisational member of UKCP supports the UKCP statement on the 'reparative' therapy of members of sexual minorities. General Members must agree to comply with this document.’
Professional Standards Authority
'The Professional Standards Authority believes gay conversion therapy is inconsistent with our obligations under the Equality Act.'
Association of Christian Counsellors - Jan 2014
'We recognize that such models have the potential to impose situational demands on the client at a time of vulnerability with the potential to create harm and therefore view them as incompatible within the ethos of counselling.'
Read details here.
Stonewall is working with health organisations, care providers and professional bodies to ensure they treat lesbian, gay and bisexual people fairly. We work to ensure healthcare staff receive training on how to appropriately support lesbian, gay and bisexual people. You can read more about this work here.
Contact Stonewall’s Information Service for more details and contacts for gay friendly counselling support
Stonewall’s What’s in my area? – you can find local LGBT support groups and gay friendly counselling services
Pink Therapy - a directory of therapists and health professionals in the UK who identify as or are understanding of gender and sexual minorities
Counselling Directory - a comprehensive database of UK counsellors and psychotherapists with information on their training and experience