Not a good week for ‘gay cure’ quacks

This week California passed a law banning therapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight.

Now Britain’s biggest professional body for psychotherapists, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has instructed members that it is unethical for them to attempt to “convert” gay people to being heterosexual. The other main professional body for British psychotherapists, the UK Council for Psychotherapy, had issued similar guidance to members back in 2010.

The professional guidance comes on top of the BACP withdrawing professional membership from ‘conversion therapist’ Lesley Pilkington. Pilkington, who spoke at conference (PDF) – organised by the Lisburn-based Christian group Core Issues – in Belfast’s Belvoir Church of Ireland parish church last year, had previously been sanctioned by BACP.  She subsequently failed to fulfill the directions of the sanction and now has been “struck off”.

If you are interested in some more background, Gerry Lynch blogged about Core Issues back in January. Incidentally, since then, organisation’s director, Mike Davidson, had his professional credentials withdrawn by the British Psychodrama Association.

Pilkington was the therapist who tried to convert undercover journalist Patrick Strudwick, who subsequently exposed her activities and testified against her at tribunal.

Strudick told of his experiences at this summer’s Amnesty International Belfast Pride lecture and has just written an updated account, available at The Independent, noting that Pilkington “becomes the first therapist in history to be struck off after trying to convert a gay client to heterosexuality – despite decades of such abusive interventions by the profession.”

As recently as 2009 a study showed that one in six therapists in the UK would agree to try to ‘cure’ a client who requested treatment to make them heterosexual. Now it looks like the days of this quackery – at least in some countries – are coming to an end.

I am the Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International UK and an occasional human rights blogger at Amnesty Blogs: Belfast & Beyond.

I’m on Twitter at @PatrickCorrigan