Conversion Therapy | NAMI

Conversion Therapy

Where We Stand

NAMI believes that no one should be subject to practices that can cause or worsen mental health symptoms. NAMI supports public policies and laws to ban the discredited, discriminatory, and harmful practice of conversion therapy.

Why We Care

NAMI advocates for the interests of all people with mental illness regardless of their age, gender, race or ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) community experience higher rates of mental illness and face more barriers to accessing mental health care. Early intervention, comprehensive evidence-based treatment, and family support are key to supporting LGBTQ people and to help them live well with mental health conditions. However, hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people have been subject to conversion therapy under the false premise that being LGBTQ is a mental illness.

NAMI has always advocated for evidence-based treatment for people with mental illness and fought against practices that continue to stigmatize mental illness. Conversion therapy is a discredited practice focused on changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It is not an evidence-based treatment and is opposed by all major medical organizations. In fact, research continues to support that conversion therapy is harmful, especially for LGBTQ youth. In 2007, the American Psychiatric Association clarified the potential risks of conversion therapy as “great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.” The American Academy of Pediatrics states that “therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.”

How We Talk About It

  • NAMI envisions a world where all people affected by mental illness, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) people live healthy, fulfilling lives supported by a community that cares.
  • Tragically, discrimination, prejudice, denial of civil and human rights, harassment and family rejection are still common for people who identify as LGBTQ.
  • As a result, LGBTQ people experience higher rates of mental health conditions and higher rates of suicide attempts. In fact, high school students who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers.
  • To help LGTBQ people live well with a mental health condition, we must get rid of practices that pretend to be therapeutic, but really hurt people.
  • Conversion therapy is a damaging and discredited practice focused on attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • An individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not a mental illness. Attempting to treat it as such will only hurt the individual.
  • However, people who have experienced conversion therapy are at a greater risk for depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior such as drug misuse and suicide.
  • No person should be subject to a so-called treatment that instead causes the individual harm.
  • We must work to advance public policies and laws that ban the practice of conversion therapy.

What We’ve Done

NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).