Popular Psychology Magazine Refuses To Ban ‘Ex-Gay’ Therapy Ads


Psychology Today is refusing to eliminate its advertising section for harmful and dangerous "conversion" therapy.

For nearly 50 years Psychology Today has helped educate readers on a wide variety of psychological issues. Originally founded in 1967, it was once owned by the premiere psychological organization, the American Psychological Association. Now, it is endorsed by the National Board for Certified Counselors.

That endorsement is now problematic for those who wish to advance the credibility of the scientific discipline known as psychology.

Psychology Today is refusing to eliminate its listings for practitioners of so-called conversion therapy, also known as "ex-gay" therapy or reparative therapy. The magazine's former owner, the American Psychological Association, along with nearly every major medical organization in the U.S. and several around the world, have deemed conversion therapy, which claims to turn gay people straight, possibly harmful and dangerous.

Two states and the District of Columbia now ban the practice for minors, and a New Jersey judge recently deemed conversion therapy a "fraud."

The Human Rights Campaign has been in talks with Psychology Today, but has been unsuccessful in moving the magazine to remove the listings, and thus, its implicit stamp of approval, even if the listings are not intended to provide it.

"There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, and it is abundantly clear that conversion therapy poses devastating health risks for LGBT young people," Fred Sainz, HRC's vice president of communications and marketing, told Psychology Today's chief executive and publisher last week. "Psychology Today has the opportunity to take a leadership role in protecting the public from these harmful and illegal practices by taking prompt action to limit this type of advertisement and creating awareness about the danger of conversion therapy." 

The Huffington Post reached out to Charles Frank, in charge of day-to-day operations at Psychology Today. Frank "told The Huffington Post he has no intention of removing health professionals who offer conversion therapy from the company's listings."

"We take care not to sit in judgement of others by allowing or denying individual participation" in the directory, he wrote in an email. The standard for inclusion, he said, is that practitioners are "who they say they are," are licensed where relevant and are "under no sanction from their states (or countries) not to practice." 

Frank said that Psychology Today is not "a fan" of reparative therapy, and that PT occasionally publishes editorials criticizing the practice. But he said this wasn't enough of a reason to remove professional profiles from the directory. "There are many reasons why one group of people take issue with another, especially around the sensitive subject of relationships and therapy," he said. "The Therapy Directory cannot pick winners."


Image by Barb Watson via Flickr and a CC license

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