-- Anonymous, August 2013
I openly admit I do not have first-hand experience with conversion therapy, I have only heard stories from those who were willing and unwilling participants. The stories I have heard have been negative; however, I know there are positive stories out there. I am not sure if a “conversion” to heterosexuality makes the therapy a success, or if the goal of conversion therapy is to manage homosexual desires in a heterosexual manner. It's certainly controversial, and therapy in general is usually a failure if the participant has been coerced into therapy.
In my professional work, when someone who is confused or struggling with their sexuality enters my office, I focus on the struggle and confusion. I never have and never will push someone to one orientation or another. That's me speaking as a psychologist and a Muslim. Maybe I'm doing my faith a disservice, but I don't think so. In my life and work, I believe it’s not my place to judge; my role is to increase understanding and awareness in your life.
Part of therapy with me is having a conversation about what would it be like to be straight and what it would be like to be gay. This allows for a genuine analysis of how the person feels and may bring clarity regarding their sexual orientation. If someone wants to talk about the role of their faith, that conversation is certainly explored. Many do struggle with balancing their religious beliefs and their orientation.
In my experience, people know their sexual orientation upon entering therapy. Therapy is usually more confirmation and supportive than analytical. A major part of the therapy is how to manage current relationships, especially family relationships. For many, the major stress is how to tell family, especially if the family is opposed to the lifestyle. The fear of being ostracized and disowned from their family is very real for many.
For those who have been adamant that homosexuality is a choice, I always say your political/religious affiliation is a choice, so spend the next 5 years genuinely being of a different political mindset or different religion. That might provide perspective into what it is like to pretend to be something that you are not. That’s my personal belief.
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Salmaan Toor is a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in Knoxville, TN. If you are interested in being notified of future posts, you can “like” The Family Center of Knoxville on facebook here or can follow me on Twitter here. Thanks for your support!