In recent years, there has been a marked debate in the mental health professions about both the desirability and feasibility of attempts to alter a person's homosexual orientation. Historically, such "change" was widely considered both desirable and possible.
More recently, however, an increasing number of mental health practitioners now believe that a homosexual orientation is an intrinsic part of a person's identity that can not – and should not – be changed. It is in this largely politically driven context – in contrast to a more objectively scientific or even scriptural context – that many clinicians further hold that any and all therapy practices that have as their goal sexual orientation change are harmful and should be declared professionally unethical.
Bowing to the forces of political correctness, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1998 issued a position statement "rebuking" practices that are broadly referred to as "reparative therapy" or "conversion therapy" for homosexuality; more recently, these practices are called "sexual orientation change efforts" (SOCE). In 2000, the APA affirmed this opposition to psychiatric treatment of reparative or conversion therapy. 1Holding the view that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality, their concern was with groups who were motivated by the view that homosexuality is morally wrong and harmful to society. While the 1998 statement said that there are risks to such therapies, no evidence was offered to support this claim.
What is evident, however, is that the American Psychiatric Association was simply agreeing with pro-homosexual activists and with the American Psychological Association, which had passed a similar, but broader, resolution in 1997. Here, the American Psychological Association claimed that treatment for unwanted homosexual behavior is harmful, unethical and unsuccessful. 2Of note, this resolution also supports the client's right to self-determination and autonomy—calling for psychologists to "respect the rights of others to hold values, attitudes and opinions that differ from their own." Clearly, this would include religious beliefs upholding the biblical view that God's created intent for sexual expression is limited to a monogamous, covenantal marriage relationship between one man and one woman.
Significantly, both groups ignored the fact that many individuals who experience same-sex attractions or engage in same-sex sexual behaviors are dissatisfied with the situation and seek professional help to align their thoughts and behaviors with their convictions and faith. In short, many who experience homosexual temptations and impulses are responding to the Gospel message that unwanted same-sex attractions can be overcome. And as they seek pastoral and professional psychological counseling, they find that change and transformation are, indeed, possible.
In addition to the efforts to shut down SOCE in professional therapeutic organizations, a legislative bill in California was passed in 2012, banning SOCE for minors, and is now being litigated in the courts. Homosexual activist groups and their allies in other states are pushing similar legislation. Activist groups continue to target individual therapists with ethics complaints and possible lawsuits, giving great cause for concern—not only for the counseling profession, but also for numerous faith communities.