Conversion Therapy

The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

In the last several years, the number of people living with a mental health disorder has grown significantly. Fortunately, mental health awareness has also grown right alongside it, causing people to take a closer look at the communities most affected by mental disorders and other similar concerns. 

Society has begun to recognize the unique challenges faced by those in the LGBTQ+ community, leading to advocacy and efforts to protect individuals belonging to this community. The LGBTQ+ population tends to experience higher levels of stigma, discrimination, and bullying, leading them to develop mental health conditions and concerns at a higher rate than other people. 

Given that being LGBTQ was long considered to be a mental disorder, several harmful therapeutic approaches have been introduced over the years as potential treatment options. One of these approaches is known as conversion therapy. Below, we’ll be discussing several crucial considerations for those seeking to learn more about this dangerous practice and understand its implications. 

What Is Conversion Therapy?

Conversion therapy is an unofficial therapeutic approach that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity through different emotional, spiritual, physical, and psychological techniques. It’s based on the premise that belonging to the LGBTQ+ community is something that a person chooses rather than innate to who they are. 

While it may seem like a practice from the past, the reality is that such therapies still take place today. While youth are most often subjected to conversion therapy, adults can also be exposed to it, whether willingly or not. Some places have banned the practice, and while the fight against conversion therapy continues to grow, it still poses a risk to LGBTQ+ individuals. 

Is Conversion Therapy Successful? 

Given that there is no there’s no credible evidence supporting conversion therapy’s effectiveness, it cannot be considered a legitimate or successful therapeutic approach. Not only has research found that conversion therapy isn’t effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation, but these same studies have also demonstrated that this approach can be harmful to participants. 

Potential Outcomes Of Conversion Therapy

When people participate in conversion therapy, they may experience a number of undesirable outcomes, including: 

  • Trauma: Experiencing conversion therapy can be traumatic, leaving lasting mental, psychological, and emotional impacts on an individual. The practices used in conversion therapy are often psychologically distressing, as practitioners may use methods such as aversion therapy to curb someone’s same-sex attraction or non-binary identity. Trauma can manifest in various ways, leading individuals to develop physical and mental health concerns like anxiety, depression, PTSD, emotional numbness, chronic pain, intrusive thoughts, insomnia, substance abuse, and more. 
  • Mental health disorders: Conversion therapy can increase a person’s distress, leading to the development of mental disorders such as depression or anxiety. People may experience a sense of self-hatred, feeling guilty or ashamed for who they are. Conversion therapy promotes stigma and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, worsening participants’ mental health outcomes and keeping them from seeking additional therapeutic support in the future out of fear of being treated as they were with this approach.
  • Lowered self-esteem: Given that conversion therapy centers around the idea that being LGBTQ+ is wrong or bad, this approach can teach people that their identity is somehow flawed or that they’re unworthy of love or acceptance. This can greatly impact their self-esteem, causing them to feel guilty about their identity and leading them to try to hide who they are. Low self-esteem can have several negative consequences, including poor academic or work performance, difficulty with relationships, mental health concerns, and a diminished quality of life. 

Of course, not everyone goes on to develop trauma, mental, disorders, or lowered self-esteem. However, these potential consequences are still important to be aware of. To learn more about the dangers of conversion therapy, statistics surrounding its use, and where you can access helpful resources, visit https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/the-dangers-of-conversion-therapy-statistics-study-and-controversy/.

Finding Healing With Affirmative Therapy

While conversion therapy is harmful to individuals belonging to the LGBTQ+ community, affirmative therapy seeks to support their identity and well-being through acceptance, validation, and inclusivity. This approach can be healing for those who have faced discrimination for experiencing same-sex attraction or having a non-binary identity. Further, it can support those who have been subjected to conversion therapy.

Affirmative therapy takes a positive view of LGBTQ+ identities and empowers individuals to practice self-love and acceptance. The goal of therapists trained in this technique is to remain respectful, nonjudgmental, and affirming of every kind of sexual and gender identity. People of all ages and backgrounds can benefit from this approach, which has already brought—and continues to bring— healing to the LGBTQ+ community.

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