The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 21, Issue 4, Winter 2021

Rev. James McTavish, MD, Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk
Pages 571-586

Clarifying Key Issues around Conversion Therapy

Persons who identity as LGBTQ+ should be treated with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Under the guise of helping such persons, legislation is surreptitiously appearing in several countries seeking to ban so-called conversion therapy. While the definition of the term remains concerningly vague, the terms of enforcement for alleged offences tend to be precisely delineated, often including provisions that curtail Christian catechesis, teaching, and preaching in the areas of human dignity and sexuality. These problematic and repressive initiatives can prevent access to any psychotherapy that is not strictly gender-affirming. This article reviews and assesses conversion therapy in support of a judicious approach to the practice, accurately understood. It reviews past abuses and misunderstandings while considering the merits of conversion therapy and related therapeutic and pastoral approaches. Concerns about gender-affirming interventions are considered, especially for youth and teenagers, and efficacy claims around conversion therapies and related psychotherapies are also discussed.