Arizona lawmaker seeks ban to conversion therapy for minors
People visit psychotherapists to work through a variety of personal issues. In Arizona, there are no laws prohibiting subject matter that the client and doctor may discuss.
But state Sen. Sean Bowie wants to change that.
The Democratic legislator from Phoenix has introduced a bill that would ban mental-health professionals from practicing conversion therapy for those under age 18. The legislation – SB 1047 – would make it illegal for therapists to try to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity. So far, no action has been taken on the bill.
Conversion therapy purports to change one’s sexual orientation to heterosexual. The practice is a controversial one that has been pooh-poohed by a number of organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
If Bowie’s legislation is approved, it could make Arizona the nation’s 16th state to do so.
In part, the bill reads: “it is an act of unprofessional conduct for a psychotherapist to provide any conversion therapy to a person who is under eighteen years of age regardless of the willingness of the person or the person’s parent or legal guardian to authorize the conversion therapy. The psychotherapist is subject to disciplinary action by the appropriate…regulatory board...”
LD Lumpkin, a Lake Havasu City therapist at Havasu Behavioral Health, said he has mixed feelings about the proposed legislation.
“Science is pretty clear that conversion therapy doesn’t work,” he said. But that being said, Lumpkin doesn’t like the idea of legislation controlling what is discussed with minor patients.
“I don’t want to be prohibited from talking to my clients about anything. I’m not a believer in conversion therapy. But I don’t like that (the bill) makes it against the law for a therapist to help (a minor) sort out their feelings, for exploration,” he said.
It’s not uncommon for therapists to hear young or adult clients say, “I’m gay and I don’t want to be gay. I don’t want to be that way.” A therapist can counter that statement with guidance to explore the feelings and ask the client what he or she believes can be done to reduce those thoughts. Conversion therapy isn’t part of the conversation at any age, Lumpkin said.
“The idea of trying to rewire people just won’t work,” he added. “Do you know why you are attracted to some people and not others? That’s a hard question to answer – or to try to change.”
Still, Lumpkin said he understands the thinking behind the state Senate bill, although he disagrees with it.
“The problem with the legislation is that it’s for parents who are freaked out (that their children might be gay) and bring their kids in (so a therapist can) ‘fix’ them,” he said. “But conversion therapy doesn’t work.”