Therapist tries to turn gay man straight, could be struck off

Monday, January 17, 2011

LONDON - A psychotherapist in Britain who tried to convert a gay man into a heterosexual will know her fate this week in a hearing that could see her stripped of her licence to practise under the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).

Lesley Pilkington, 60, a psychotherapist for 20 years, faces being stripped of her accreditation to the BACP after treating a patient who had told her he wanted to be “cured” of his homosexuality, The Telegraph reported Sunday.

The case will expose the growing use of hugely controversial therapies, from the US, which attempt to make homosexual men heterosexual.

The therapy has been described by the leading professional psychotherapy body as “absurd”, while the Royal College of Psychiatrists said “so-called treatments of homosexuality” allow prejudice to flourish.

A small group of counsellors believe all men are born heterosexual but that some choose a homosexual lifestyle which can then be changed through counselling, the report said.

The patient was in fact a prominent homosexual rights campaigner and journalist, who secretly recorded two sessions with Pilkington, a devout Christian, before reporting her to the BACP.

Pilkington says her method of therapy — Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) — is legitimate and effective. The therapy is practised by a handful of psychotherapists in Britain.

Pilkington, whose 29-year-old son is homosexual, said she was motivated by a desire to help others. “He (my son) is heterosexual. He just has a homosexual problem,” she said last week.

Pilkington has accused Patrick Strudwick, the award-winning journalist who secretly taped her, of entrapment. On the tape, Strudwick asks Pilkington if she views homosexuality as “a mental illness, an addiction or an antireligious phenomenon”. She replies: “It is all of that.”

“Entering into therapy with somebody who thinks I am sick… is the singularly most chilling experience of my life,” Strudwick told The Sunday Telegraph.

Strudwick approached Pilkington at a largely Christian conference — run by the US organisation The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality — where he said he was unhappy with his homosexual lifestyle and that he “wanted to leave it”. He then requested “treatment for his same-sex attraction”.

In May 2009, Strudwick attended a therapy session at Pilkingtons private practice, based at her home in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire, and recorded the session on a tape machine strapped to his stomach.

In the disciplinary letter sent to Pilkington, she is accused by BACP of “praying to God to heal him (Strudwick) of his homosexuality”. She is also accused of having an “agenda that homosexuality is wrong and that gay people can change and that you allegedly attempted to inflict these views on him”.

Pilkington told The Sunday Telegraph: “He told me he was looking for a treatment for being gay. He said he was depressed and unhappy and would I give him some therapy.

“I told him I only work using a Christian biblical framework and he said that was exactly what he wanted.”

The therapist added: “We dont use the word ‘cure’ because it makes it (homosexuality) sound like a disease. We are helping people move out of that lifestyle because they are depressed and unhappy.

“We say everybody is heterosexual but some people have a homosexual problem. Nobody is born gay. It is environmental; it is in the upbringing.”

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