HB 587, Conversion Therapy Ban (2017)

Submitted to House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee by Shannon McGinley, February 16, 2017.

Please vote “inexpedient to legislate” on HB 587, relative to conversion therapy seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation.

Sexual orientation, especially in adolescence, is fluid and subject to change. I have five sons including two teenagers, and we are caring for another teenage boy who lives with us because of challenges at his home. Their hormones and emotions resemble a roller coaster. If they were to experience unwanted same sex attraction (SSA), I (and perhaps they themselves) would want to have the opportunity to talk to a professional counselor about their feelings – to understand the issues they are working through. The counselor may offer them tools to help them work through moments when they are experiencing SSA just like if he was working through anger management or anxiety. Would giving them these kinds of tools be considered “conversion therapy?” What are the logistics of how this law would be implemented? Would an authority be recording the sessions and reviewing them to determine compliance? This would seem to be a violation of patient confidentiality. Additionally, who determines when words chosen cross the line into the definition of “conversion therapy?”

It seems that prohibiting this therapy among licensed mental health professionals might have the unintended consequence of sending clients to counselors who are not highly trained and not subject to regulation. Wouldn’t that put clients at risk for not receiving quality psychological care?

Psychotherapy/counseling is both medical conduct and speech. Banning SOCE (sexuality orientation change efforts) therapy is against the First Amendment of the Constitution and is viewpoint discrimination. The right of clients to choose their own goals for therapy is a civil right.

Children who are molested and develop same-sex attraction (SSA) as a result of sexual abuse will be denied access to highly qualified professional counselors who are trained on how to treat trauma and help clients resolve SSA. Same-sex attracted persons are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than heterosexuals.[1],[2]

Many support the rights of minors who want to get counseling to change their gender through hormones and sexual reassignment surgery. Why should minors be able to change their gender but not their sexual orientation?

No youth or parents have ever filed an ethical complaint against a licensed professional counselor in New Hampshire for forcing someone into therapy. To our knowledge, no complaints have been filed nationally (in the US) ever for this issue.

A few testifying in the committee hearing made reference to electroshock therapy. I urge you to ask specific questions to some who are claiming abuse so we can verify if this information is accurate. When did your counseling take place, who was your counselor, was he/she licensed? What dates did you undergo counseling?” It’s important these claims are verified since we’re talking about taking away people’s rights with this bill. No “run of the mill” counselor would ever have the ability to use electroshock therapy with clients unless they worked in a mental hospital because they would not even be able to access to the equipment. Only highly regulated mental hospitals use electroshock therapy for issues such as severe depression, and even then, it is rarely used.

Such poorly written and consequential legislation should not be a legislative priority. The logistics of its implementation (who is listening in to confidential therapy sessions and interpreting when words cross the lines into “conversion therapy”), the rights it takes away from mental health providers and parents and ensuring that teens are not turning to unlicensed and/or unskilled counselors are to be taken into consideration before you vote. Please vote ITL on HB 587.

Thank you.

References:

[1] Walker, M. D., Hernandez, A. M., & Davey, M. (2012). Childhood Sexual Abuse and Adult Sexual Identity Formation: Intersection of Gender, Race, and Sexual Orientation. Family Therapy, 40(5), 385-398

[2] Tomeo, M.E., Templer, D. I., Anderson, S., & Kotler, D. (2001). Comparative Data of Childhood and Adolescence Molestation in Heterosexual and Homosexual Persons. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30(5), 535-541.