SAMHSA releases consensus report: “Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth”

Oct 16, 2015

Report cover.

Report cover.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released the first federal report on the scientific and medical research behind conversion therapy. Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth.”

The report provides a consensus among experts in finding conversion therapy to be harmful and provides examples of appropriate resources and therapeutic approaches.   This seminal document will provide guidance to social workers, families, and the broader community committed to improving services and ensuring affirming practices with and on behalf of LGBTQ children and adolescents

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the social work profession has provided leadership in efforts to end the use of conversion therapy, including a position statement against conversion therapy, providing education and training to providers and clients/consumers, and advocacy at the local, state and federal level to end the practice of conversation therapy.

The consensus document clearly states that “conversion therapy is not an appropriate therapeutic intervention; efforts should be taken to end the practice of conversion therapy.”   This clear position, as well as the key findings of the report, are in alignment with NASW policy and practice guidance. The key areas include:

  • Same-gender sexual orientation (including identity, behavior, and attraction) and variations in gender identity and gender expression are a part of the normal spectrum of human diversity and do not constitute a mental disorder.
  • There is limited research on conversion therapy efforts among children and adolescents; however, none of the existing research supports the premise that mental or behavioral health interventions can alter gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Interventions aimed at a fixed outcome, such as gender conformity or heterosexual orientation, including those aimed at changing gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation are coercive, can be harmful, and should not be part of behavioral health treatment.

“Grounded in research, professional standards and best practice guidance – including our work from the Family Acceptance Project – the consensus report underscores the key role of families as caregivers and advocates for their children. It provides critical guidance that will help families, providers (including social workers) and community leaders to build healthy futures for LGBT and gender diverse children and adolescents,” said consensus panel member and NASW member Caitlin Ryan, PhD, ACSW.

The document also includes a section entitled, “Statement of Professional Consensus” and outlines guiding principles based upon the Code of Ethics for the professional fields of psychology, psychiatry, and social work.

For more information on NASW efforts to promote LGBT equity contact NASW Senior Policy Associate Evelyn P. Tomaszewski, MSW, at


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