Tag: therapy

Conversion therapy ban in the UK must include trans people, MPs say

Conversion therapy ban in the UK must include trans people,

Boris Johnson. (Christopher Furlong/WPA Pool /Getty)

MPs from across the UK have insisted that any ban on conversion therapy must also include trans people.

During a debate in Westminster Hall on Monday evening (8 March), MPs urged the government to ban the harmful, pseudoscientific practice.

The debate, triggered by a petition to government signed by more than 250,000 people, saw 20 MPs speak on the urgent need for parliament to introduce tough measures to curb conversion therapy in the UK.

Opening the debate, Conservative MP Elliot Colburn told the stories of three survivors of conversion therapy – two gay men and a trans woman – and said any ban must protect everyone across the LGBT+ spectrum.

He said nobody should be subjected to “these abhorrent interventions” and urged the government to lay out a timeline for the banning of the practice.

“I’d like to end by saying that as a gay man myself, and on behalf of LGBT+ people in the UK and around the world, we are here, our existence is real, our lives are valid and we cannot and do not need to be cured.”

Crispin Blunt said a conversion therapy ban would empower LGBT+ people to call out abuse when it happens to them. He said any ban “must include trans people”.

“They are by far and away the most vulnerable group amongst those in the LGBT+ community,” Blunt said.

“It must include trans people not only because they are the group that need it the most, but because since 2018, when it appeared that trans people were on a trajectory to achieve their rights and protections to live their lives as they wish, supported by the government’s comprehensive LGBT Action Plan, all of that now seems to have changed. They are a community under siege.”

Blunt criticised campaign groups whose “raison d’être” is to push for the rollback of trans rights, and criticised government ministers for listening to the likes of anti-trans pressure group LGB Alliance.

“If legislation doesn’t include the protection of trans people, it will send the unmistakable message to them that their government does not want to protect them, does not value them, and on some level it doesn’t really accept that trans is really a thing, and that awful message would inadvertently make the government party to the practice of conversion therapy itself,” he said.

Conversion therapy ‘disproportionately’ affects trans people

Angela Eagle said it is “almost medieval” to believe that LGBT+ people can have their identities changed.

She said LGBT+ people in the UK are having hitter lives and mental wellbeing “put at serious risk” every day by harmful conversion therapies.

Alicia Kearns noted that conversion therapy “disproportionately” affects trans people and said it would be wrong to exclude them.

Kearns said LGBT+ people currently have no recourse for justice if they are forced, or coerced, into conversion therapy.

She branded the practice as “fraudulent quackery” and argued that LGBT+ people cannot “freely consent” to undergoing conversion therapy because it is a form of torture.

Stephen Doughty spoke of his experience as a gay Christian and said he was lucky to have seen a therapist who was supportive of his sexuality.

It boils down to one phrase: Let’s get on with it.

Closing his speech, Doughty said he stands with the trans and non-binary community and said banning conversion therapy is a “human rights issue”.

Alyn Smith spoke of the huge numbers of trans people who have faced some form of conversion therapy, and hit out at the government for its lack of action on a ban.

“It boils down to one phrase: Let’s get on with it,” he said. “The only people speaking in defence of it are quacks, bigots and bullies.”

Charlotte Nichols said conversion therapy is a “disgusting” practice and said being LGBT+ is not a “sickness”.

She hit out at those who peddle conversion therapies and said they are perpetuating a “fraud on the public”.

Nichols spoke of her own experiences as a bisexual woman, and said queer people in the UK have waited “long enough” for the government to take action.

Kemi Badenoch, secretary of state for equalities, spoke to MPs virtually about the government’s plans to ban the abhorrent practice.

She insisted that the government is taking plans to ban conversion therapy “very seriously”, but said it is still gathering information about what a ban should look like.

Badenoch said the government wants to ensure that they do not push conversion therapy underground by banning it. She said government officials have commissioned research to examine the experiences of conversion therapy survivors, which will help them to come up with a “comprehensive plan”.

“We are in conversations with international counterparts, both those who have introduced the variety of legislative and non-legislative actions, and those who plan to,” Badenoch said.

“While it is important to figure out what will work in a UK context, we may also look to our friend around the world to understand the effectiveness of different approaches. Honourable members have mentioned, for example, that Germany has implemented a ban on conversion therapy for minors only, or when an adult has been covered, and I understand other countries such as Malta have also taken this route.

“However, we understand that different countries will take different approaches that best suit their needs. This is not a one-size-fits-all approach.”

On 28 March, it will have been 1,000 days since the Tories first pledged to “eradicate” conversion therapy as part of its LGBT+ Action Plan.

While Boris Johnson said the practice has “no place” in a civilised society in July 2020, equalities minister Liz Truss later said the government would have to do more research before proceeding with a ban.

Conversion therapy has been widely condemned by almost every major psychiatric body, and a number of nations and states have banned the practice in acknowledgement of the trauma it inflicts upon queer people.


What Kind of Somatic Therapy Is Right for You?

What Kind of Somatic Therapy Is Right for You?

In our last installment of Choose Your Own (Therapy) Adventure, we covered an introduction to some of the well-known trauma therapies. One of them was somatic experiencing, a form of therapy that aims to help people recover from trauma by gradually helping them to feel safer and more present in their bodies. Somatic experiencing, as one might guess from the name, is a somatic therapy – that is, a form of therapy that combines mindfulness and embodiment in addition to a cognitive (thought-based) and emotional approach to healing. Somatic therapies often pick up where talk therapies leave off, creating connections between our minds, hearts, and the physical sensations we feel in our bodies, to help us approach life in a more integrated, grounded, and present way.

Why Is a Somatic Approach So Important?

Taking the body into account in therapy, in my opinion, is an incredibly important part of the process. This is because, as more and more research shows, we’re not just brains walking around in a meat suit. Our thoughts and emotions have a profound impact on our bodies – and vice versa. In fact, the connection between body and mind is so profound that in When The Body Says No, Dr. Gabor Mate explores in great detail the impact that one particular emotional and physiological state – stress – can have on our bodies, and how it interacts with diagnosis such as arthritis, cancer, ALS, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease, to name a few.

An understanding of the mind/body connection is integral to trauma work. Trauma is experienced in our body, and our most traumatic experiences are often simultaneously those that are the most difficult to put words to – which we’ll also get into in our next installment, which will cover the creative and expressive therapies. But even if the help that you’re seeking in therapy is not specifically about trauma, I think it’s important to remember – especially in the aftermath of 2020 and the…let’s just say intense…beginning to 2021 – that all of us are likely experiencing chronic stress all the time. Chronic stress is an inherent part of living under a systems as oppressive as capitalist cisheteropatriarchy and white supremacy, and the more marginalized identities you hold, the more the stress compounds.

The somatic therapies can help give you the skills and support you need to proactively manage that stress – a process that is ongoing. When somatically oriented therapists talk about stress, we often talk about resolving the stress cycle (see: Emily Nagoski’s “Burnout) and moving the stress out of your body. Here is what we mean.

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

Sensorimotor psychotherapy was developed by Pat Ogden, who first became interested in the mind-body connection while working as a tech and yoga instructor in a psychiatric hospital in the 1970s. As part of her observation, she noted that some of the approaches at the time seemed to agitate or exacerbate – or trigger – some patients symptoms of PTSD, a condition which already had many of them trapped and reliving the painful events of the past. (Remember – this was also an issue that Peter Levine noted about prolonged exposure therapy, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy sometimes used to treat trauma, which was noted in the first installment of this series.)

Like somatic experiencing, which was discussed earlier, the point of sensorimotor psychotherapy is to relieve a patient of the bodily sensations associated with trauma. Also like somatic experiencing, sensorimotor psychotherapy focuses on an understanding of what happens in our bodies when we’re under stress – fight, flight, freeze. In addition to this, sensorimotor psychotherapy also incorporates an understanding of attachment theory (how we were modeled and learned about care and intimacy, starting from our relationships with our caregivers in early childhood), as well as cognitive exercises and neuroscientific foundations, to achieve the ultimate goal of helping the patient re-experience the traumatic event not in an uncontrollable flashback but rather in a safe, contained environment, regulating their physical response, in order to experience and embody closure in the present. Sensorimotor psychotherapy also helps patients incorporate an awareness of how things like movements and postures may indicate where trauma or memory is “stuck” in the body and, once aware, to devise and practice actions that might help “complete” the process in an embodied way.

The Hakomi Method

Dr. Ogden was also involved in the creation of the Hakomi Method, collaborating with co-creator Ron Kurtz and co-founding the Hakomi Institute in Colorado. It’s full name is the Hakomi Method of Experiential Psychotherapy, and it “combines somatic awareness with experiential techniques to promote psychological growth and transformation.”

How does the Hakomi Method do this? Like sensorimotor psychotherapy, the Hakomi Method draws on other psychological theories such as Gestalt therapy, structural bodywork, and Reichian breathwork, and incorporates them with Eastern philosophy of Buddhism, Taoism, as well as mindfulness. According to Kurtz, our bodies – our posture, our movements, gestures, facial expressions, etc. – all contain insight into our “core materials” or the images, memories, dreams, feelings, conscious and unconscious, that make us who we are. Using mindfulness diligently and deliberately, patients learn to focus their attention to the information their bodies are transmitting to them in order to learn about their “core material,” that is, the core of who they are.

PBSP Psychomotor Therapy

I first learned PBSP (Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor) Therapy when I read The Body Keeps the Score last year. Bessel Van Der Kolk devotes an entire chapter (“Creating Structures”) to this extraordinary sounding therapy, which “heals past emotional deficits using a process called ‘structures’ and ‘microtracking’…to create ‘new memories’.”

How in the world does this work? In The Body Keeps The Score, Van der Kolk describes attending a group therapy session in which the patient selected “actors” from their group members and set the stage. (Importantly, these are not professional actors, but other group members who, according to the PBSP site, “temporarily suspend their own personal needs in order to focus exclusively on the needs of a single client and to be in service to” them.) For example, you might select someone to play your mother, and your father, and your sibling. As a client, you would be asked to position these actors in space, including yourself in the scene. Then, the therapist would make observations to you about the spatial location of each family member – Why is your mom situated closer to you than your dad? Why is your brother facing away from you? With the guidance and support of the therapist, clients are prompted to reflect on the scene they themselves set. Clients are able to process, for example, the feelings that arise when orchestrating and viewing the tableau of a painful argument between parents – and are then encouraged to give the actors instructions in resolving the scene in the direction of closure and completion (just as in sensorimotor psychotherapy!), and in doing so, imagine and experience the emotional triumph or relief of that closure in the present and witnessed by their groupmates.

Is a Somatic Approach for You?

Based on some of the comments we’ve gotten on earlier pieces in this series, it really seems like a somatic approach as resonated and worked for many of you – which is unsurprising. Many clients find that incorporating body awareness and somatic practice into their therapy really closes the gap or pushes them past the stuckness we can often feel in talk therapy.

It’s important to note, too, that some of the methods listed here may not be for everyone. The Hakomi Method, in particular, is at times reported to be contraindicated with other diagnoses. According to GoodTherapy.org, “the Hakomi Method is grounded in exploration of and cooperation with the unconscious self,” which can make it an intense form of therapy for those who are “actively experiencing trauma” and also for those with diagnoses of borderline personality disorder or narcisstic personality disorder. (Luckily, DBT exists – and was specifically created for – those with a diagnosis of borderline personality!)

Another barrier to these more specific types of therapy could possibly be whether or not insurance will cover the lesser-known approaches. Some insurances will only cover 8-12 sessions of CBT, because of its standardized and evidence-based track record. As with the trauma therapies, it can be challenging to find a therapist specifically trained in some of the less widely known somatic therapies – for example there are only eleven therapists listed in the PBSP directory for American clinicians, and all of them appear to be white or white passing, which can be another hurdle for BIPOC clients.

If you think a somatic approach might be for you, ask your prospective therapist about it! Ask them what their values are with regard to mind/body connection, and incorporating body awareness into their approach to therapy. You might also look for therapists who have also worked as yoga or movement instructors. Many sex therapists, educators, and coaches also incorporate somatic elements to their work, which might be another route to look into if finding a therapist in your area is difficult.

Ask yourself, too, what your expectations are for a somatic approach to therapy: Do you want to be prompted and guided by your therapist in each session to bring awareness to your body? Do you have a somatic practice of your own? One of the best things about somatically oriented therapies, in my opinion, is that – unlike the more structured and formal therapies like CBT – we can find little ways into increased body awareness into our own lives. The wisdom of your body is uniquely your own, though a therapist can help hold space for you at the beginning stages of healing, especially when being in your body can feel overwhelming. But one of the core tenets of somatic therapy is that our bodies are wise, and are always working to help us survive. And befriending your body, thanking it for its wisdom, and taking even a small moment each day to listen a little more closely to it, are all things you can start to do right now.

Home state of Mike Pence could be next to ban conversion therapy

Vice president Mike Pence

Vice president Mike Pence. (Getty/J. Scott Applewhite)

Indiana, the home-state of vice-president Mike Pence, could be next in line to ban traumatising conversion therapy for LGBT+ people in a groundbreaking move.

JD Ford and Sue Errington, two Indiana Democrats, have introduced bills that would outlaw the dangerous practice in the state.

If passed, the bills would “make anti-LGBTQ practices illegal” and “penalise businesses and Hoosiers who participate in [the] debunked conspiracy theory”, according to the Stonewall Democrats.

“Putting a stop to this harmful and detrimental practice can save the lives of countless LGBTQ Hoosiers,” Ford said, according to WRTV.

“Our state has the chance to end this harmful and detrimental practice this year. A person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not a disease that needs [to be] cured.

“In fact, every major medical and mental health organisation in our country has condemned the use of ‘conversion therapy’… there is no financial risk to our state government for approving this legislation, so why not do this?”

Meanwhile, Errington said in a press release that most people in Indiana have “never heard of conversion therapy” – but said the practice is ongoing in the state.

“I personally know some of my constituents were subjected to ‘conversion therapy’ as children and are concerned about its use on young people today,” Errington said.

“Last summer, a transgender friend of mine from Delaware County reached out to me and asked me to help end ‘conversion therapy’ in Indiana. Her plea prompted me to introduce House Bill 1213, which would end the use of this discredbied practice and protect Hoosiers who are born as LGBTQ.”

If the legislation is passed, Indiana would join 20 other states that have banned conversion therapy in some form.

Mike Pence has tried to rewrite his historic support of conversion therapy.

The news will likely come as a disappointment to the outgoing vice-president, who is famous for his connections to the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy.

On the archived website for Pence’s 2000 congressional campaign, he suggested that funding for HIV prevention programming should be suspended and instead diverted to organisations that “provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour”.

While campaigning to be vice-president, Mike Pence repeatedly declined requests to disavow the comments or clarify his point of view.

After being elected he attempted to rewrite history, claiming that he never actually supported the practise — even though his website had directly called for the therapy.

Mike Pence and Donald Trump are set to wave goodbye to their days as vice-president and president of the United States, with president-elect Joe Biden set to be inaugurated on 20 January.


Non-binary teenager burned and abused in Muslim conversion therapy

muslim conversion therapy singapore

The teenager was forced to endure repeated exorcisms by religious leaders. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty)

A non-binary, pansexual teenager has described how they were burned, psychologically abused and told being gay was worse that rape during conversion therapy enforced by their Muslim parents.

Iani’s story is one in a series on conversion therapy in Singapore being released by queer brand Heckin’ Unicorn.

While religious conversion therapy is often thought of and reported on as a Christian practice, the Singapore teenager’s experience shines a light on the similar experiences of queer Muslims.

Throughout their childhood Iani had a close relationship with their parents, but that all changed when they were outed as queer.

Iani’s extended family began organising for them to go through conversion therapy, and one day their uncle, an Ustaz [male Islamic religious teacher], came to their house.

Their uncle began calling out and trying to commune with an “evil spirit”, but it soon became clear that the “spirit” he was speaking to was Iani. After asked them a series of questions he declared that they were “possessed”.

The evil spirit, or jinn, needed to be expelled from their body in order for Iani to become “normal”, he said.

While the bizarre session was difficult and upsetting, Iani was not prepared for what would come. Their uncle returned a week later to perform an exorcism, or ruqyah.

He forced Iani to recite verses from the Qur’an, while whipping them with a cane. Their body was draped with a blanket before the whipping, to ensure there would be no visible marks. Then, making Iani get on the ground, the uncle held a lighter under their feet, burning the teenager to “cast the jinn away” while they screamed in pain.

Iani’s parents continued to arrange exorcisms, and their mental health deteriorated. Reaching the point of a breakdown, their parents invited an Ustaz to restrain and “treat” them with another exorcism, instead of seeking professional help.

One day, their father forced them to watch a documentary on the story of Lut, often quoted by Muslims to insist that being LGBT+ is wrong. The teenager, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, told their father that the story also warned against rape.

Their father said: “Rape is everywhere, but being gay isn’t. That’s why being gay will always be the biggest sin.”

Eventually, Iani fell into a mental health crisis and was hospitalised at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for emergency treatment of a psychotic breakdown.

Now older, Iani is unsurprisingly still non-binary and still pansexual, yet they are forced to live with the mental health repercussions of the abuse they suffered every day.

While conversion therapy in Islam is not so well-known, its core ideas are almost identical to Christian conversion therapy; that being LGBT+ is unnatural and wrong, and that sexual orientation and gender identity can be changed through religious practices.

Heckin’ Unicorn is sharing stories of conversion therapy in Singapore because there, like in the UK, the horrific practice is still perfectly legal.

The company is calling for a full ban on the practice and advertising of conversion therapy in Singapore.



Polish bishop claims conversion therapy fears are ‘a misconception’

Polish bishop claims conversion therapy fears are 'a misconception'

A Polish bishop dismissed fears that the Catholic church wants to force LGBT+ people into conversion therapy (Artur Widak/NurPhoto/ Getty)

A Polish bishop has insisted it’s a “misconception” that the church wants to force LGBT+ people into conversion therapy, despite calling for the creation of conversion therapy clinics just days earlier.

After a three-day Polish Episcopal Conference, bishops in Poland produced a 27-page document outlining their stance on LGBT+ issues. It included the claim that it is “necessary to create [conversion therapy] clinics… to help people regain their sexual health and natural sexual orientation”.

“These clinics also make sense when complete sexual transformation is too difficult,” it continued, “as they can still help psychosexuals to deal with significant challenges.”

The document was the latest in a string of attacks against the LGBT+ community by the Polish Catholic church, and prompted considerable backlash.

But in a September 2 statement, Bishop Józef Wróbel, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Lublin and chairman of the bioethics committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Poland, said that it was a “misconception” to suggest that the bishops wanted to coerce people into “therapy”.

According to the Catholic Herald, he said the recommendation was aimed only at those “who seek such help and ask for it, because they experience suffering because of their inclinations”.

So-called ‘conversion therapy’ refers to the dangerous and discredited practise of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It has been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organisation for decades, is often compared to torture and has been linked to higher risks of depression, suicide, and drug addiction.

The fact that conversion therapy is “clearly in contradiction” to scientific evidence was acknowledged in the Episcopal conference, yet Bishop Wróbel maintained that it is effective.

He said: “In rare cases, transformation is possible under two conditions, namely that the LGBT person must really desire such a change (usually making an outright heroic effort in this direction) and there is as yet no homosexual sexual experience.

“Such help is not possible if, at the starting point, a person adopts the attitude that this inclination is natural, willed by the Creator, and should be accepted.”

The United Nations has compared conversion therapy to torture and has long called for a global ban. But the bishop opposed this, insisted that a ban on such therapies does not “make sense”.

He said: “In practice, such a position does not make sense, because it means that the UN demands to control who goes to a psychologist and for what purpose, or who goes to the Church, who confesses and what they confess.”








Evangelical rages over Facebook conversion therapy advertisement ban

facebook conversion therapy ads

Christopher Doyle, a “former homosexual”, co-founded the “ex-gay” group Voice of the Voiceless. (Voice of the Silenced/ YouTube)

Evangelical anti-LGBT+ Christians are fuming after Facebook confirmed that it would ban advertising for conversion therapy on the social media platform.

Facebook confirmed on Friday, July 10, that as part of a push to expand its hate speech policies, it will take down content deemed to be promoting the traumatic practice.

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, also said last week that it would pull down content from the UK-based Core Issues Trust, a group that promotes debunked theories that gay people can be cured.

In a statement to CNN, Instagram’s Tara Hopkins said: “We don’t allow attacks against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity and are updating our policies to ban the promotion of conversion therapy services.”

But anti-LGBT+ evangelicals are convinced that the ban on conversion therapy advertising is an “assault on free speech and religious liberty”.

Christopher Doyle is the executive director of the Institute for Healthy Families, which describes itself as a “non-profit therapeutic organization” which “specializes in sexual/ gender identity affirming therapy, and works with clients and families all over the world who experience sexual and/or gender identity conflicts”.

Doyle, a “former homosexual”, also co-founded the “ex-gay” group Voice of the Voiceless which says its mission it “to defend the rights of former homosexuals, individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction, and their families”.

He said that he founded the group “simply because of the invasion of homosexual activism within the secular American society”.

He strongly objects to Facebook and Instagram’s ban on conversion therapy advertising, and told the Christian Post: “While the company claims they are taking this action to prevent discrimination towards the LGBT community, the real people they are hurting are those who experience unwanted sexual and gender identity conflicts and are seeking options for healing and ethical, licensed therapy.

“Everyone should have the right to seek help for unwanted attractions or sexual/gender conflicts without interference, and public companies should not be able to discriminate the views of some they may disagree with for political purposes.”

Conversion therapy is often compared to torture and has been linked to higher risks of depression, suicide, and drug addiction.

A UK survey conducted last year found that one in five people who had been through conversion therapy later attempted suicide.