There is a fight to ban conversion therapy in Florida and throughout the United States. While therapists and psychological groups alike have denounced the practice as ineffective and dangerous, there is a lack of big data showing just how far a reach the therapy has — until now.
Conversion therapy is the attempt to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity through a number of therapeutic methods, and has been found to hurt intimacy, as well as increasing rates of depression, substance and alcohol abuse and increase suicidality.
Personal stories and anecdotes are effective in showing how individual lives are affected — but now a new study from Williams Institute shows just how many peoples lives are impacted. And the numbers are extensive.
“Many professional health associations and the public support ending the use of conversion therapy on LGBT youth,” Christy Mallory, the state and local policy director at the Williams Institute and lead author of the study said. “Our research shows that laws banning conversion therapy could protect tens of thousands of teens from what medical experts say is a harmful and ineffective practice.”
According to the study, approximately 6,000 LGBT youth (age 13-17) living in states where conversion therapy is banned would have been subjected to conversion therapy if their states never enacted a ban.
What is staggering is the number of youth still at risk of going through conversion therapy. 20,000 current LGBT youth are estimated to go through state-licensed conversion therapy in the United States.
Mallory said that the number could be reduced if more states and areas were to ban conversion therapy for licensed therapists.
However, many parents turn to clergy and other unlicensed therapists to conduct the therapy in lieu of a state-licensed professional. The Williams Institute approximates about 57,000 current LGBT youth will receive therapy from unlicensed individuals before the age of 18.
“With such a large number of teens at risk of conversion therapy,” study author and Williams Institute research director Kerith Conron said. “We must ensure that families, faith communities and service providers have accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity and work to reduce stigma and promote acceptance of LGBT youth and families.”
A lack of awareness is not the only issue, however. Groups like the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and the Liberty Council are working to promote conversion therapy and prevent further bans from being enacted.
While there are a large number of LGBT youth currently at risk for licensed and unlicensed conversion therapy, the number of U.S. adults that underwent the practice at some point in their life is even more astounding.
The study estimates 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S. have received conversion therapy, including 350,000 estimated to have received the therapy as adolescents. As projected by the study, these numbers will only grow unless conversion therapy — in all forms — is banned.
“A good share of the conversion therapy that is going on is being done by unlicensed therapists and clergy. And people like Julie Hamilton [of NARTH] are going out and training those sorts of people,” Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council said. “At this stage, we cannot really take on clergy or parents or things like that, but I hope that one day we can ban [conversion therapy] everywhere.”