July 18, 2011

Marcus Bachmann and the Science of Reparative Therapy

Marcus BachmannWith so-called "reparative therapy" in the news again thanks to Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) husband evidently using the discredited approach at his clinic, I thought that it was important to address this particularly harmful form of woo.

Bachmann and Associates is a Christian counseling clinic that has been accused of using reparative therapy (i.e., a collection of techniques designed to change a client's sexual orientation) for at least five years. The reason this matters is that this approach has been thoroughly discredited in the scientific community for quite some time. Not only is it known to be ineffective, but such efforts are widely regarded as harmful to the clients involved, mostly because they reinforce widespread social prejudices.

In 2009, the American Psychological Association (APA) approved a resolution opposing reparative therapies and instructing mental health professionals to avoid attempts to change clients' sexual orientation. This was not a new position, as it was an update of a 1997 resolution. What was new about it was that the wording was much stronger because it was based on considerably more data than the prior resolution.

In summarizing the science, the chair of the APA task force charged with preparing the report noted, "...there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation."

Many other professional organizations have issued similar statements, making the use of reparative therapies today impossible to justify. By using these approaches, Bachmann appears to have violated the standard of care for his profession, placing him at risk for malpractice claims.

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