79 Key Studies Provide No Scientific Proof That Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) Are Usually Harmful
Sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), referred to by critics as "conversion therapy," have been criticized by LGBT activists for decades. Nevertheless, individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA) continue to seek help in reducing homosexual conduct and SSA. In 2012, California became the first state to prohibit SOCE for minors by licensed mental health providers, and a number of states and localities have since imposed similar restrictions. Critics use two arguments against SOCE -- that such therapy is ineffective, and that it is harmful. This paper addresses the latter argument, evaluating the scientific evidence of SOCE harms.
A recent book noted 79 studies of SOCE. I found that 18 of the 79 studies (23 percent) do not contain any assertion or even discussion of the possibility of "harm" to individual clients resulting from SOCE. Another 28, or 35 percent, do assert or suggest that SOCE may be harmful, but feature no study subjects. Only a minority of the sources (33, or 42 percent) include studies or case reports on individuals who have undertaken SOCE. Only six studies (reported on in 11 of the sources) involved sample sizes of 50 or more SOCE clients. These six are described in detail.
While these 79 studies do provide anecdotal evidence that some SOCE clients report the experience was harmful, they do not provide scientific proof that SOCE is more harmful than other forms of therapy, more harmful than other courses of action for those with SSA, or more likely to be harmful than helpful for the average client. If alleged "critical health risks" of SOCE cannot be found in these 79 studies, then it is safe to conclude that they cannot be found anywhere.