Regulatory board edges closer to banning conversion therapy on minors

Virginia Mercury

A new guidance document banning conversion therapy on minors by licensed psychologists is just a month away from becoming effective.

Virginia’s Board of Psychology recently concluded a 30-day public comment period that generated more than 500 comments on the proposed guidance. The majority were in favor of banning the practice on minors, while 120 were opposed.

Conversion therapy is intended to change a person’s sexual orientation. The board was the first to take a step toward banning it in January after a work group comprised of Virginia regulatory boards generally agreed to the idea last October.

Because the public comment period had closed, during a meeting Tuesday the board needed to vote to retain, revise or withdraw the guidance document. They voted unanimously to retain it, and the next step is to respond to the comments over the next 30 days.

The document will become effective May 1.

“I’m a clinical psychologist but on this board, I’m a representative of the citizens of Virginia,” said Board of Psychology Chairmain Herbert Stewart during Tuesday’s meeting, “and we have a mission to protect the public.”

The guidance essentially clearly states the board’s position that, in accordance with best practices established by professional organizations, practicing conversion therapy or sexual-orientation change efforts on minors “could result in a finding of misconduct and disciplinary action against” board licensees.

The document is a more immediate first step for the board. It is simultaneously working to update its regulations to match the guidance document, but that process can take as long as two years to complete.

In February, the Board of Counseling voted to do the exact same thing, and public comments are currently open on its guidance document. The Board of Social Work agreed to do the same last month, though public comments won’t open until April 15.