Initially I believed a law, by itself, is not the most efficient means of protecting the public from scientifically unproven “treatments.” Simply passing laws might create the erroneous impression that everything that needs to be done has been done and distract from needed efforts to educate oversight bodies. Licensing boards, regulatory agencies and ethics committees of professional organizations are often woefully unfamiliar with the harm caused by conversion therapies.
I now believe legal bans can serve an additional purpose. They communicate to the general public the disdain in which a state holds these practices, whether performed by licensed or unlicensed individuals. They also strengthen the hand of plaintiffs in consumer fraud lawsuits against conversion “therapists,” such as the high-profile case in New Jersey that names unlicensed individuals among the defendants.
Jack Drescher is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College.