Praying away the gay

As regular readers will know, I’ve covered the UK Council for Psychotherapy’s journey towards being accredited by the Professional Standards Authority. The professions of counselling and psychotherapy have no statutory regulator, though a private members bill by Geraint Davies MP, which calls for state regulation, is approaching its second reading in Parliament. Voluntary registers do exist, such as the the UKCP and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, and the PSA has introduced a system of “Assured Voluntary Registration” where they will accredit these registers if they meet certain standards. Several counselling and psychotherapy organisations, including the UKCP and BACP, are now accredited.

I recently discovered that another organisation, the Association for Christian Counselling, is applying for accreditation. I then discovered that on their register is a counsellor by the name of Lesley Pilkington, who was struck off by the BACP for offering so-called “reparative therapy”, which aims to turn gay people straight.

Reparative therapy, also known as conversion therapy, is controversial, to put it mildly. The UKCP, the BACP, the British Psychological Society, the British Psychoanalytic Council, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Department of Health have all condemned it. They all view it as both unethical and harmful, and argue in favour of promoting inclusivity and respect for gay people rather trying to make them change their orientation.  Geraint Davies’ bill includes a clause specifically banning such therapies.

Due to the voluntary nature of psychotherapy bodies, being struck off by one body doesn’t necessarily mean that a therapist can’t join another one – though if they were two PSA-accredited bodies, the PSA has stated that they “would expect AVRs to work in partnership to protect the public”. Until recently the Association for Christian Counselling was the only major therapy organisation not to ban conversion therapies, which perhaps makes it unsurprising that Ms Pilkington joined the ACC after being struck off by the BACP.

I e-mailed Ms Pilkington, who replied confirming that she’s still an advocate of conversion therapy.

I believe that if anyone is distressed by their unwanted same sex attraction they should have the right to help and therapy. That is the issue essentially for which I have been expelled by BACP, after a complaint was made by a gay journalist posing as a ‘client’ who told me he was distressed by his same sex attraction. It was all a lie as his stated and written intention was to close down people like me and in that he has been very successful. For the moment the agenda is very much with him and people like me form a minority (and persecuted) view. But should we not have this view in a diverse and pluralistic society. It seems not.Human rights exist for some but not for others like real clients who now are to afraid to come for therapy.

The journalist she refers to is the Independent’s Patrick Strudwick. It’s true that Strudwick used subterfuge by going to her posing as a client, though I suspect Mr Strudwick would probably respond that undercover journalism is considered ethical when investigating matters of public interest. He has reported that Pilkington suggested to him that he was sexually abused and could have been exposed to freemasonry as a child (neither of which happened to him.)

Unfortunately for Pilkington, in recent weeks the ACC has also put out a statement banning gay conversion therapies.

Members who are considering using this model of therapy should neither commence nor continue to use it and any advertising or promotional material should be replaced immediately, or at least removed from current use. This includes the ACC “Find a counsellor” facility on our website.

Such instructions are likely to affect Ms Pilkington, as can be seen from this screenshot that I took at the weekend.

Screenshot from 2014-01-11 10:54:01

 

Ms Pilkington doesn’t seem inclined to take it lying down. She told me, “I will be releasing my own statement soon; its all happening right now. Indeed there is a ‘fight’ going on and I will explain why and the implications.”

As well as Ms Pilkington, an evangelical group, the Core Issues Trust is also objecting to the ban. They ask the ACC to “take up with the Professional Standards Authority” their objections. I’m presuming from those words (though I’m currently awaiting confirmation from the PSA) that there’s probably been some discussions between the PSA and the ACC about conversion therapies.

I e-mailed the ACC to ask their view. They sent me the following reply.

You may like to know that over recent months ACC has been conducting a review and a statement sent to all its members last Friday and published on our website today.

The reference to a certain individual named by yourself is not on a register but a ‘find a counsellor facility’ and should at present, due to constant review at this time of year, be checked each day for accuracy. We trust this enables you to complete your article.

That struck me as a little cryptic, so I re-checked their ‘find a counsellor’ facility today. Her name no longer appears on there.

With these new developments, this means that no UK counselling or psychotherapy organisation of any significance endorses conversion therapies. The message is now clear. Praying away the gay is not a valid therapeutic intervention.

 

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