The mental health news magazine Psychology Today accepts ads that tout a type of therapy that’s been denounced by every major mental health group — so-called conversion therapy, designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Last month the Human Rights Campaign discovered a listing for such therapy on Psychology Today’s website, advertising the services of Thomas Schmierer, a Riverside, Calif.–based marriage and family therapist who engages in the practice. Today, HRC sent a letter to Psychology Today executives urging them to remove that ad and reject any others for “ex-gay” therapy.
"By offering a venue for these medically debunked practices, Psychology Today lends them a veneer of credibility and helps these practitioners take advantage of vulnerable families and children,” the letter reads in part. “We urge you to retract all current advertisements for conversion therapy on the Psychology Today website and disallow future postings for conversion therapy or by those known to practice conversion therapy. We further urge you to post an article on the website condemning conversion therapy and making clear that advertisements for conversion therapy have no place on Psychology Today.” The letter is signed by Fred Sainz, HRC vice president for marketing and communications, and addressed to Psychology Today CEO Jo Colman and vice president and publisher John Thomas. They have yet to respond.
Sainz also notes that California law prohibits state-licensed therapists from practicing “conversion therapy” on minors, but the ad does not make clear that minors are not eligible for the services advertised. New Jersey and the District of Columbia have similar laws, and other states are considering them.
“These practices are based on the false idea that being LGBT is a mental illness that needs to be cured, an idea that has been rejected by every major mental health group for decades,” Sainz writes. They are also ineffective and dangerous, the letter points out.
“Not only is there no evidence that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression can be ‘cured,’ but research shows that ‘conversion therapy’ can lead to depression, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior, particularly among young people,” Sainz added in a press release. “Psychology Today’s executives have a unique opportunity to take definitive action to protect the LGBT community from these harmful and deceptive practices. We hope they hear our plea.”