What are the essential issues of dispute?
In a statement to its members in December 2012, the Association of Christian Counsellors clearly discussed the matter of counselling persons with unwanted same-sex attractions, emphasising the importance of clients’ rights to identify counselling goals:
One of the most important aspects in counselling is client autonomy. Any client seeking counselling has the right to indicate their goals and aspirations within counselling and to be respected for that choice. If a client seeks to explore change to their lifestyle or behaviour then using the core conditions the counsellor needs to respect that desire and work with them to their benefit. For the counsellor to reject this out of hand implies that they are seeking to impose their own agenda on the client and this is unethical. (ACC, December 2012)
In January 2014 the ACC statement to its members now claims that supporting such an autonomous client’s goals to reduce or eliminate homosexual practice and/or feelings, is unethical. In addition, the statement misapplies the Equalities Act 2010 by implying that to hold such a view contravenes the law.
The Trust’s issues with the ACC’s new position:
According to Core Issues Trust, the ACC Executive:
- consistently with other signatories of the ‘Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy’ (2014) has offered no peer-reviewed research or scholarship which indicates that so called ‘Reparative’ , ‘Conversion’ or talking therapies in current use to explore change are harmful on average, nor that they are more harmful than any other standard modality brought to bear on conflicts in sexual feelings. Referring to studies of the harmful effects of therapies used 50 years ago is not only irrelevant to the current debate but is profoundly misleading , and;
- whilst claiming that ‘Reparative’ and ‘Conversion’ therapy “imply a predetermined direction of outcome of counselling at the outset”, has made no attempt to designate Gay Affirming Therapies in the same category, and further
- provides no indication of how it intends, under the PSA, to lawfully supply services to individuals whose past sexual orientation was gay or to individuals in the process of changing their sexual identity to ‘ex-gay’, given that the High Court (on Appeal) has ruled that persons who are ‘ex-gay’ may not be discriminated against (even though this identity or orientation is not a ‘protected characteristic’ in the Equality Act of 2010). We are concerned that the ACC is discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation; and disregarding issues of sexual identity protected by Article 8. We are concerned that no legal opinion has been provided on this issue.
What has happened
In January 2014 the Association of Christian Counsellors, then in pursuit of registration with the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), issued a statement to its membership setting out a new direction in its approach to counselling for unwanted same-sex attractions. This marked a fundamental change in its position as reflected in a similar communication to its membership in 2012. This had followed a courtesy call from the ACC Executive which revealed that an inital indication from the PSA was that there might be an issue with the Trust’s position (as there was with other individuals holding similar views).
In January 2014 the Trust indicated in a statement responding to the January 2014 communication why it was unable to agree with the January 2014 statement of the ACC’s Ethics and Practice. In March 2014 the Trust explained its reservations about the absence of research evidence and the political alliances the ACC has formed with a range of professional and campaigning bodies. This is available in the Trust’s Statement “New Creed for Gay Science: a Concensus Statement from the UK Professional Mental Health Bodies” on the ‘Conversion Therapy Consensus Document’ at that time. In December 2014 the Trust also released a Statement on a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ issued by the UKCP, noting the ACC’s compliance with this unhelpful initiative, and once again, the absence of scientific foundations for such a position and association.
Following correspondence and an ultimatum from the ACC Executive, the Trust was unable to comply with the ACC’s new position following its aspiration to register with the PSA. Core Issues Trust was removed from mebership as indicated in its Statement of 31st December, 2014. This followed an unsuccessful attempt to mediate on the situation by the Evangelical Alliance, from whose membership the ACC then removed itself.
Following this action by the ACC, the Board of the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (incorporating the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality – NARTH) issued a statement of support of the Trust’s position, questioning the basis of the ACC’s decision:
Some Documents of interest:
Note on Consensus Statement and Memorandum of Understanding:
The ‘Conversion Therapy Consensus Document’ was produced by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) at the request of the then Minister of State, Norman Lamb. It is believed that the “Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy” was already crafted prior to a meeting in April 2014, attended by the Signatories, including the ACC, and Professor Michael King, former chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ LGB Special Interest group. Professor King had previously provided misleading information to both Church and State. Following complaints, the College amended its statement on ‘Sexual Orientation’ to indicate that orientation is neither innate nor immutable for all individuals, thus recognising fluidity and changeability for some, but yet continuing to deny the validity of Sexual orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) under any circumstances.