3. Why psychologists say conversion therapy doesn't work
Homosexuality is not considered a mental disorder, so the American Psychological Association (APA) does not recommend "curing" same-sex attraction in any case. Instead, societal ignorance, prejudice and pressure to conform to heterosexual desires are the real dangers to gay people's mental health, according to a 1997 statement on "conversion" or "reparative" therapy by the APA.
A 2009 APA task force found that conversion therapies, despite being touted by religious organizations, have little evidence to back them up. A review of studies from 1960 to 2007 found only 83 on the topic, the vast majority of which did not have the experimental muscle to show whether the therapies achieved their stated goals. (Many of the people studied in the early years were court-mandated to take the therapies, adding a coercive element to those outcomes.)
The best-quality studies were more recent and qualitative, the APA task force found, meaning they focused not on the statistical effectiveness of treatment, but of the subjective experience.
"These studies show that enduring change to an individual's sexual orientation is uncommon," the task force wrote in their 2009 report. The participants continued to report same-sex attractions after the conversion therapy, and were not significantly more attracted to the opposite gender.
These studies did find that conversion therapy could be harmful, however. Negative effects included "loss of sexual feeling, depression, suicidality and anxiety."