A ruling by the American Counseling Association that members must not help homosexual clients change their sexual orientation is not sitting well with some in the professional organization who are seeking clarification to avoid “future legal actions.”
The official policy of the ACA is that counselors asked by clients for help in changing their sexual orientation must offer only “gay affirmative” arguments. If the client persists, counselors must explore the “religious influences that underpin homophobia that may be harming the client.”
At issue is a ruling from the association concerning clients who seek help in clarifying their sexual orientation as that matching their physical characteristics.
Such questions from clients need to be met with that “gay affirmative” response, the organization’s leaders have stated, and if a client insists on seeking such treatment, a counselor who even refers a client to anyone offering reparative counseling could be violating the association’s ethical guidelines.
Dr. Warren Throckmorton, an educator from Grove City College in Pennsylvania, assembled a coalition of about 400 counselors who are having difficulties with the pro-homosexual mandate from the association and have written to tell its chief, Brian Canfield, of their concerns.
Throckmorton noted a complaint had been filed with the ACA’s executive committee months ago, and officials there have refused to respond.
“Thus, we, the undersigned are making a formal complaint to the American Counseling Association,” he wrote.
The new pro-homosexual agenda, the letter said, “violates pre-existing ACA policy regarding Non-consensus Social Issues of Conscience.”
That policy states that the ACA and its members “endorse the members’ right to support social, political, religious, and professional actions groups whose values and positions on such issues are congruent with their own …. to truly celebrate diversity, we must be united in our respect for the differences in our membership. To this end, the role of the Association in such matters is to support the rights of members to hold contrary points of views. …”
Throckmorton’s letter, however, noted that the ACA Ethics Committee opinion in question “is prejudicial toward clients and counselors who hold traditional beliefs and values regarding sexuality.”
“We write because we believe the ACA opinion takes a side against people of conservative and traditional beliefs about sexuality, a domain where social and professional consensus is not clear,” the letter said.
ACA officials could not be reached by WND for a comment because the association was closed for the holiday.
But the letter noted the ethics committee opinion stated as fact: “Conversion therapy as a practice is a religious, not psychologically-based, practice. The premise of the treatment is to change a client’s sexual orientation. The treatment may include techniques based in Christian faith-based methods such as the use of ‘testimonials, mentoring, prayer, Bible readings, and Christian weekend workshops.'”
The ethics committee, instead, demanded the use of “treatments” endorsed by the “association for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues in Counseling,” which it described as “a division of the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association.”
“These treatments are gay affirmative and help a client reconcile his/her same-sex attractions with religious beliefs,” the committee wrote.
Throckmorton’s letter noted, “Essentially, the entire opinion discourages counselors and clients from attempting to do anything about homosexual desires except affirm them.”
Such narrow opinions “stigmatize religious people who might use testimonials, mentoring, prayer, Bible reading and Christian teachings to enable them to live sexually in ways which conform to their beliefs … The teachings of many religions discourage homosexual practice (not Christianity alone) and for the ACA ECO to isolate these practices and in essence to discourage these teachings is prejudicial,” the letter said.
The ethics committee opinion clearly makes a statement “of preference for one religious belief regarding homosexuality over another” and in doing so violates the ACA’s policy.
The Alliance Defense Fund, a nationwide organization of attorneys dedicated to defending religious liberty, said the ACA “suggests that ‘conversion therapy’ has no legitimate place in counseling and that those who either engage in such counseling or refer clients for this kind of therapy may violate the ACA’s ethics rules.”
“It is imperative that the religious beliefs of both clients and counselors are respected and protected. A client’s religious beliefs and desire to conform his or her sexual practices to those beliefs should be respected and should not be intentionally undermined by a counselor,” said a letter from ADF Senior Legal Counsel Brian W. Raum.
“The ACA Ethics Committee opinion provides no guidance or recognition that counselors may work with clients who do not affirm homosexual behavior in order to pursue lives in keeping with their religious beliefs and values,” he wrote.
The ACA ethics requirements, written by Joy S. Whitman, Harriet L. Glosoff, Michael M. Kocet and Vilia Tarvydas, used as an example a client who reports he is “gay” and then states, “I want to change my way of life and not be gay anymore” and specifically asks for help with “reparative/conversion” therapy.
The proper response, according to the ACA, is for the counselor to inform the client “she does not believe reparative/conversion therapy is effective and no empirical support exists for the approach. She further states that this form of therapy can actually be harmful to clients, so she will not offer this as a treatment.”
The committee warns if a counselor offers such counseling, they would be in jeopardy of violating the association’s code of ethics.
“There also was agreement … any counselors stating that they can offer conversion therapy must also offer referrals to gay, lesbian, and bisexual-affirmative counselors and should discuss thoroughly the right of clients to seek these professionals’ counsel. In doing so, counselors must explore with clients the underlying reasons for their interest in changing their sexual orientation and discuss the social, political, and religious influences that underpin homophobia that may be harming the client,” the ACA committee said.
“Christian counselors and the people who receive their counseling shouldn’t be penalized for abiding by their beliefs,” Raum said. “People have the right to choose the counselor they want, and counselors have the right to suggest what they believe will help. Professional freedom of conscience a crucial element in ensuring that clients receive the help they need.”