WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2012
Four young men have taken the rare step of suing a facility that provides so-called “reparative therapy,” and the individuals who run it, claiming that the techniques used to “cure” their homosexuality included ones that inflicted psychological damage. The suit was filed yesterday in Hudson County (N.J.) Superior Court against the organization known as JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing), which is located in Jersey City. The suit charges the organization with falsely claiming to be able to rid the men of their sexual attraction to other men through proven scientific techniques. According to the suit, these techniques were demeaning and emotionally damaging and included having to remove their clothing and beat images of their mothers. One of the defendants, Chaim Levin, now age 23 but 17 when he sought out JONAH’s services, told the Jersey Journal, “It was so awful and so degrading and so wrong in so many ways.”
Commenting on the suit to Psychiatric News, psychiatrist Jack Drescher, M.D., said, “APA has raised concerns about the potential harm done by trying to change a person’s sexual orientation. Anecdotal reports of harm include worsening of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation—not to mention individuals entering into heterosexual marriages with the unrealized hope that these would lead to conversion. Unfortunately, many of the individuals, like the defendants named in this lawsuit, are unlicensed and not subject to professional regulation or censure. Hopefully, if the plaintiffs’ suit is successful, it will have a chilling effect on the proliferation of unlicensed individuals offering false hope to unhappy individuals struggling with their sexual identities.” Drescher is president of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry and editor emeritus of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health.
In late September California passed a law banning reparative therapy in youth younger than age 18.
APA position statements on reparative therapy are posted atwww.psychiatry.org under “Position Statements.” For a comprehensive review of mental health issues affecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals see The LGBT Casebook from American Psychiatric Publishing. (Drescher is a co-editor of the book.)