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Ending Conversion Therapy


The Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) applauds Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer for signing an executive directive to stop the use of state or federal funds for conversion therapy on minors. Conversion therapy (sometimes called “reparative” therapy) is a practice that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Survey research shows that 13% of LGBTQ+ youth have been subjected to this practice, and youth who have received conversion therapy are twice as likely as their peers to attempt suicide.

ABCT has consistently taken a stand against conversion therapy, on both scientific and moral grounds, beginning in the 1970s. The President of AABT (as it was known then) at that time, Dr. Gerald Davison, argued that this treatment “strengthens societal prejudices against homosexuality and contributes to the self-hate and embarrassment that are determinants of the ‘voluntary’ desire by some homosexuals to become heterosexual” (Davison, 1977, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, p. 157).

In 2007, an American Psychological Association task force noted that the “results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through [conversion therapy].” In contrast, a great deal of evidence points to the physical and psychological damage caused by the societal prejudice which conversion therapy reinforces.

Michigan joins several other states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, in establishing laws that protect LGBTQ+ youth from this harmful practice. Our recommendation is that other states should follow suit and that conversion therapy should be abolished.

Related Information

What Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of treatment that is based firmly on research findings.  It places emphasis on changing your cognitions (thoughts) or behaviors (actions) in order to effect change in how you feel. These approaches help people in achieving specific changes or goals.

Changes or goals might involve:

A way of acting: like smoking less or being more outgoing;
A way of feeling: like helping a person to be less scared, less depressed, or less anxious;
A way of thinking: like learning to problem-solve or get rid of self-defeating thoughts;
A way of dealing with physical or medical problems: like reducing back pain or helping a person stick to a doctor’s suggestions.

Cognitive behavioral therapists usually focus more on the current situation and its solution, rather than the past. They concentrate on a person’s views and beliefs about their life. CBT is an effective treatment for individuals, parents, children, couples, and families. The goal of CBT is to help people improve and gain more control over their lives by changing behaviors that don’t work well to ones that do.

How to Get Help

If you are looking for help, either for yourself or someone else, you may be tempted to call someone who advertises in a local publication or who comes up from a search of the Internet. You may, or may not, find a competent therapist in this manner. It is wise to check on the credentials of a psychotherapist. It is expected that competent therapists hold advanced academic degrees. They should be listed as members of professional organizations, such as the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies or the American Psychological Association. Of course, they should be licensed to practice in your state. You can find competent specialists who are affiliated with local universities or mental health facilities or who are listed on the websites of professional organizations. You may, of course, visit our website ( and click on “Find a CBT Therapist”

The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) is an interdisciplinary organization committed to the advancement of a scientific approach to the understanding and amelioration of problems of the human condition. These aims are achieved through the investigation and application of behavioral, cognitive, and other evidence-based principles to assessment, prevention, and treatment.

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