About Conversion Therapy

What is Conversion Therapy?

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, ex-gay therapy, sexual orientation change efforts, or gender critical therapy, is a range of practices that attempt to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity and/or expression. It is based on the premise that same-sex attraction and/or gender diverse identities are pathological and abnormal, with the pre-determined goal of establishing cisgender heterosexuality as the desired outcome (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, 2018).

Who Practices Conversion Therapy and What Methods Are or Have Been Used?

Conversion therapy has existed in the United States for over a century. It is practiced by some licensed professionals in the context of providing health care, and by some clergy members or other spiritual advisors in the context of religious practice (Mallory, Brown, & Conran, 2018). 

Talk therapy is currently the most common conversion therapy technique (Mallory, Brown, & Conran, 2018). Other treatment methods have included aversion therapies, such as inducing nausea, vomiting, paralysis; providing electric shocks while showing the patient homoerotic images; or having the individual snap an elastic band around the wrist when the individual became aroused to same-sex erotic images or thoughts (National Center for Lesbian Rights, 2018). Other approaches include trying to make patients’ behavior more stereotypically feminine or masculine or using hypnosis to try to redirect desires and arousal (National Center for Lesbian Rights, 2018).

What Are the Risks and Outcomes of Conversion Therapy?

Conversion therapy practices have been linked to depression, anxiety, feelings of guilt, shame, helplessness, and hopelessness, social withdrawal, alcohol and substance abuse, family rejection, homelessness, self-harming behaviors, and suicidality (Ryan, Russell, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2010). There are no peer-reviewed scientific studies with conclusive evidence that conversion therapy practices have provably changed an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Is Conversion Therapy Legal?

Conversion therapy practices by licensed medical or mental health professionals on minors (individuals under 18 years of age) are prohibited in 19 states and the District of Columbia. In Wisconsin, such practices are currently banned in nine cities (Cudahy, Eau Claire, Glendale, Madison, Milwaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, Shorewood, and Superior). The City of Appleton passed a resolution banning conversion therapy on minors by licensed medical and mental health practitioners on January 22, 2020; ordinance language having the effect of law is still pending. 

What Positions Do The Medical and Mental Health Professional Communities Take on Conversion Therapy?

Multiple medical and mental health professional associations throughout the United States and beyond have issued statements opposing conversion therapy practices. Among them are the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Counseling Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of Social Workers and the Pan American Health Organization

Fond du Lac Pride Alliance's Organizational Statement on Conversion Therapy

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity, Fond du Lac Pride Alliance does not officially oppose or endorse any specific legislation or political candidate. As an organization, we concur with the wealth of peer-reviewed, objective evidence from reputable medical and mental health professional associations that conversion therapy is unnecessary, ineffective, and harmful, and should not be sought out, recommended or practiced.


American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology. (2018, February). Conversion Therapy. Retrieved February 14, 2020, from www.aacap.org: https://www.aacap.org/aacap/policy_statements/2018/Conversion_Therapy.aspx

Mallory, C., Brown, T. N., & Conran, K. J. (2018, January). Conversion Therapy and LGBT Youth. Retrieved February 14, 2020, from https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/: https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Conversion-Therapy-LGBT-Youth-Jan-2018.pdf

National Center for Lesbian Rights. (2018). Born Perfect: The Facts About Conversion Therapy. Retrieved February 14, 2020, from http://www.nclrights.org/: http://www.nclrights.org/bornperfect-the-facts-about-conversion-therapy/

Ryan, C., Russell, S. T., Huebner, D., Diaz, R., & Sanchez, J. (2010, November). Family Acceptance in Adolescence and the Health of LGBT Young Adults. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 23(4), 205-213. Retrieved February 14, 2020, from https://familyproject.sfsu.edu/sites/default/files/FAP_Family%20Acceptance_JCAPN.pdf?response_type=embed