Some mental health providers who practice sexual-orientation change therapy say they’re prepared to fight a Florida bill filed last week. One counselor from the same county as the bill’s sponsoring lawmaker says the measure amounts to discrimination against people of faith.
Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) filed the measure prohibiting licensed mental health professionals from trying to change the sexual orientation of a minor. He says the practice equates to child abuse because it makes young people feel worthless. But Palm Beach Gardens counselor Julie Hamilton says the goal is improving self-esteem.
“Picture a 16-year-old client who’s very devout in their faith and they say, 'This conflicts with my faith and I would like help for that.' This legislation basically says that client does not have the right to decide what they want to do with their life and they don’t have the right to pursue options," Hamilton says.
Hamilton argues therapists simply help clients achieve their own goals.
“It’s very sad because many of them are full of self-hatred and are really hopeless," she says. "And this just keeps them hopeless rather than give them the freedom of choice.”
But the American Psychological Association says such treatment has not been shown to work and has the potential to stigmatize patients undergoing it. The association advises young people to avoid treatment that portrays homosexuality as an illness or disorder.