Conversion therapy is a therapy that believes that you can convert someone's sexuality. That you can literally condition someone to no longer be gay, but to be straight. It's incredibly detrimental. There's so much science and this spans faith, non-faith, any approach you want to take to it.
So incredibly damaging.
The suicide attempt rate is disproportionately high among adolescents that are put into conversion therapy and what we have found out over and over and over again is conversion therapy just doesn't work. It puts a pressure and an intensity on an individual that no one can live with. It's literally, it's like just pages upon pages of things like sit this way, don't sit this way, if you find yourself with your legs across this way, do this. It's a lot of like hyper-vigilance and focus on how one carries themselves, what to do with their thoughts, and again, very behavioral but doesn't get to the core part of, I am attracted to someone of the same gender. Again, incredibly damaging, high suicide attempt rate, which is why it's been banned in so many States.
I think that's important for everybody to understand, right? There's a reason behind it. There's some science behind it.
So, the alternative, right? Somebody comes in and says, hey, I, I don't, realistically, I've had this in my career. So when it comes to me and says, I am gay, but I don't want to live, I don't want to be gay. Can you help me?
My answer to that is I can help you figure out the best way to make the choices that help you live congruently. I cannot make you not gay.
I'll never forget I had a guy come in one time and I always do my little informed consent process and then say, what brings us together today? And his first sentence was, I need you to help me quit being attracted to men. I said "okay, we need to clear this up very early on that's not going to happen. I can't change who you're attracted to. So if you need to shift, that'll be okay. But that's not the task I do. I can help you make decisions that are healthy in living out your value system and being really congruent with who you want to be."
And a really important point there. I can help you talk through, make sense of, explore and understand yourself more, but those internal feelings that have been with you for however long, that's not going to change, that's something that I can't do.
Yeah. Very, much. The way I address that with people more in depth is like, what are you feeding? Because if you're feeding the arousal template, that is attracted to someone of the same gender you're going to crave it more. So, there is that kind of practical, behavioral thing of like, where are you going with your mind? What are you letting your mind do? If you're attracted to another man and you are a man, is that going to be the natural place your mind wants to go? Yes.
Is it going to be helpful to let your mind go there and camp out for a while when you're actually studying, but over here, Is where I want to like, spend the most time then?
No, it's not. So how do we redirect back over here? Does it change the fact that you're attracted? No. Does it help you make a healthy decision toward where you want to invest most of your life? Yes, it does do that.
Now again, this is, I think, a very important part for the parents to understand. I know that many parents say can you, whatever, fix my child? Can you help them so they don't have this? And really what you're saying is that's more of the conversion therapy route and that's been proven that it does not work. Instead, we're saying, yeah, we're going to help you discuss your values, understand what you want, in terms of how you're gonna project forward in relationships. But we're not going to be changing and taking that part away.
Right. There is, and this is a blunt statement, but it's an accurate one. We can't pray the gay away. We can't therapy the gay away. We can't discipline the gay away. The part that is attracted to someone. By the time it gets to a point where someone is stating it out loud, it's a pretty fixed thing. We know a lot about sexuality being fluid, more so than a lot of people want to give it credibility. But by the time we get to the point where people articulating they're articulating this, it's a pretty set thing.
We can also say that there they're a group of people in there that say. It can be set, that's definitely what I'm attracted to. Definitely it just, the amount of distress it creates in my life to embrace a same-sex lifestyle is not worth the benefit to me. So I'm going to come over here.
I do think it's important for parents to recognize at some point their child is going to make their own decision. And so do you want to, are you trying to impose this on your child? Or, is this your child's decision to do that? And I think for therapists, that's the fine line you have to walk is, I know I would not, really, push the parent's mindset onto the children. I would dialogue about where they feel the conflict is between them and their parents.
But I think that is a version of conversion therapy, when we get into pushing the parents' desires onto an older adolescent.