from Ethical Issues
The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) Considers a Proposal to Deny Membership to Therapists and Religious Counselors who conduct Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE), and Considers Proclaiming SOCE to be Unethical.
By David Pickup
The purpose of this article is to inform NARTH members of CAMFT's potential step toward making SOCE unethical and denying CAMFT membership to the therapists and counselors who practice such therapies and programs. On Saturday, June 12th, 2010, the CAMFT board met to consider a new proposal from some of its members which states these intentions. Several members of T.E.R.F. (Therapists Embracing Religious Freedom) were also present, including myself.
Below are the main facts concerning what occurred in the CAMFT board meeting:
What's the meaning of these facts?
Based on my first-hand observation of the facts and my impression of the attitudes and actions of the CAMFT board during their meeting, I believe there are positive benefits that may occur concerning SOCE therapists and religious counselors. There are also grave potential hindrances to SOCE in the future if we do not continue to be aware of continued efforts to end SOCE practices and the influence of professional organizations such as NARTH.
Clearly, the current CAMFT board is not at all ready to pass judgment on the ethical standards of ANY therapeutic orientation. I believe the board began to recognize the danger of putting CAMFT in the position of going way beyond what even the APA (American Psychological Association) has stated concerning SOCE. The APA has never stated that SOCE practices are unethical, and in fact they have supported the concept of a client's right to be consistent with their religious beliefs where therapy is concerned. (Although, the APA has also stated they do not believe sexual orientation can be changed and that therapists should not tell clients they can change.) I believe the CAMFT board's decision (7 to 2 vote) to send this issue to their ethics committee indicates they understand that any decision concerning ethics will take a very long time involving much research and debate before it goes back to the board.
At this time, I do not believe CAMFT will take on the expense of lawsuits that would certainly be filed if the anti-SOCE proposal were approved, or the ensuing high controversy which would take them away from their main mission. It became clear to me that this board does not want to be bullied into ANY position that would detract from the success of CAMFT. The board knows that SOCE therapists have acted professionally and have called only for the inclusion of SOCE in CAMFT, not the ousting of gay-affirmative therapies for homosexual clients. As stated many times by T.E.R.F. members, inclusion is the true action of real diversity among professionals.
In my opinion, the anti-SOCE proposal was verbose and clearly incorrect in its interpretations of the APA Task Force Report. It asked the board to consider studies which used the same kind of unscientific procedures the APA has previously stated are invalid. The proposal was extremely intent on trying to prove how harmful SOCE is, using professional terms and scientific-sounding language. NARTH was specifically named in this proposal as a contributor to causing harm to clients.
Those of us who attended the CAMFT meeting were welcomed as observers. We were encouraged by the outcomes, but we are advising caution to continue to monitor board and member proposals and their actions concerning SOCE. We will be submitting workshop proposals for future CAMFT conventions which discuss SOCE and sensitivity to the needs of religious clients. We will also continue to monitor the future efforts of the CAMFT ethics committee.