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Mental Health Group: 'Don't  Try to Change Gays'

Mental health officials are being advised not to tell homosexual clients they can become straight by undergoing therapy.

The advice from the American Psychological Association (APA), rejects so-called “reparative therapy,” which suggests homosexuals can change their sexual behavior through therapy or other treatments.

Judith Glassgold, a clinical psychologist in Highland Park, New Jersey, was the author of a report that spurred the APA declaration. She says there is very little evidence that such treatments are helpful.

“Our review found there is insufficient evidence to support the use of these treatments. There is very little evidence they are effective or safe," said Glassgold.

Glassgold suggests therapists avoid telling clients they can change their sexual behaviors. Instead, she said they should be providing clients with support and acceptance.

“They should work with the client to reduce the experience of stigma and self-hatred so that clients don’t make any choices out of fear of shame," said Glassgold. Only then, she said, should they help their clients understand all their lifestyle options, all their identity options, and help the clients build a life that includes personal intimacy and sexual fulfillment.

Challenging the APA declaration, The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) contends change in sexual orientation is possible for some people. It promotes what it calls "conversion therapy" designed to help those who want to change their attraction to persons of the same sex.

On the group's website, NARTH cites data published in the Journal of Human Sexuality that it says shows any dissatisfaction with its therapy "seems insignificant when compared to the substantial medical, emotional, and physical risks associated with homosexual behavior."

NARTH's position differs with the longstanding consensus of behavioral and mental health professionals that homosexuality is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation and that homosexuality is not a mental disorder.