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State Boards of Psychology and Osteopathic Medicine Adopt New Policies That Oppose the Practice of Conversion Therapy on LGBTQ+ Minors

State Boards of Psychology and Osteopathic Medicine now consider the use of conversion therapy on minors to be unprofessional, harmful; warn that licensees engaging in that practice may be subject to administrative discipline

04/11/2024

Harrisburg, PA – The State Boards of Psychology and Osteopathic Medicine voted this week to adopt new Statement of Policies (SOP) that oppose the use of conversion therapy on minors in Pennsylvania. The new policies notify licensees that the Board considers the use of conversion therapy to be unprofessional, harmful conduct that may subject any licensee engaging in it to administrative discipline.
  
The Shapiro Administration supports the health and well-being of all Pennsylvanians and applauds both Boards for taking action to protect LGBTQ+ minors. The state boards of Medicine; Nursing; and Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors will vote on similar proposals to adopt SOPs to oppose the discredited, pseudoscientific practice of conversion therapy in the Commonwealth over the next several weeks.    
   
“Professional studies have shown that conversion therapy poses significant health risks to LGBTQ+ youth, and there is no place for this dangerous practice in Pennsylvania," Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt said. “The Shapiro Administration will continue to protect our young people here in Pennsylvania and we're hopeful the state boards of Medicine; Nursing; and Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors will follow suit and adopt Statements of Policies that oppose the use of conversion therapy on minors." 
  
Conversion therapy – sometimes called reparative therapy, sexuality counseling, or sexual orientation/gender identity change efforts – refers to any practice that seeks or purports to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity.  
  
In August 2022, former Governor Tom Wolf issued an Executive Order to protect Pennsylvanians from conversion therapy, but The Trevor Project – a national organization devoted to ending suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning young people – presented to the relevant state boards this year and said it remains an issue in the Commonwealth.  
  
“We are grateful to The Trevor Project for its dedication to suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ+ youth," Schmidt said. “All Pennsylvanians should feel supported by our Commonwealth."  

“As we witness a record wave of anti-LGBTQ+ policies in states across the country, we are thrilled to see the Shapiro Administration take action to protect LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians against conversion therapy," said Troy Stevenson, Director of State Advocacy Campaigns at The Trevor Project. “Conversion therapy is deeply harmful, and LGBTQ+ young people who have undergone it reported more than twice the likelihood of attempting suicide in the previous year compared to their peers. 

“We are grateful to have worked for years alongside the National Association of Social Workers' Pennsylvania Chapter, the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, and state officials to see these necessary measures put into place that protect the health and safety of young people across the state," Stevenson continued. 

Following this week's State Board of Psychology and Osteopathic Medicine meetings, three additional relevant state licensing boards – MedicineNursing; and Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors – are scheduled to vote on the new SOP during their April and May public meetings.     
  
“We at the Governor's Advisory Commission are overjoyed by this decisive and concrete action to protect our LGBTQ+ community from further harm as a result of this dangerous practice," said Ashleigh Strange, Executive Director of the Governor's Advisory Commission on LGBTQ Affairs. “These statements from the licensure boards will show that the voices of LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians, advocates, and commissioners are heard, respected, and protected in the Commonwealth."  
  
Among the many national and global health associations that strongly oppose conversion therapy due to its lack of scientific evidence and its heightened risk of causing harm to minors are the following:  

  • American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry  
  • American Academy of Pediatrics  
  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy  
  • American College of Physicians  
  • American Medical Association  
  • American Psychiatric Association  
  • American Psychoanalytic Association  
  • American Psychological Association  
  • National Association of Social Workers  
  • Pan American Health Organization  
  • World Psychiatric Association  

“Given the lack of evidence to support the use of conversion therapy, as well as the overwhelming opposition within the medical and psychological professions, the adoption of this new policy is a public safety measure to ensure professional medical and mental health care licensees are aware that the Commonwealth will not tolerate it here," Schmidt said.  

The new SOP will be effective upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.  

Anyone can file a complaint against a licensed professional engaging in unprofessional or harmful conduct like conversion therapy via the Department of State website.  

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CONTACT: Matt Heckel, ra-st-press@pa.gov  


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