Church Gives Statement Opposing Proposed Utah Psychologist Licensing Act Rules

In response to proposed changes to professional licensing rules for psychologists and other mental health professionals, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released a statement opposing the rules as they currently stand.

The changes as listed on the “Psychologist Licensing Act” and “Mental Health Professional Practice Act” would basically ban Utah-licensed mental health care professionals from providing conversion therapy to their patients.

Conversion therapy is generally accepted as practices that attempt to reverse, eliminate, or change same-sex attraction or questioning of gender identity. However, conversion therapy is broadly condemned as it relates to practices that include electric shock therapy, chemical castration, and other extreme aversion treatments.

The statement comes after comments filed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Family Services. These comments have not been made public. The statement reads:

The Church hopes that those who experience same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria find compassion and understanding from family members, Church leaders and members, and professional counselors. The Church denounces any abusive professional practice or treatment.

We teach the right of individuals to self-determination and the right of parents to guide the development of their children. We also believe faith-based perspectives have an important and ethically appropriate role in professional counseling.

As detailed in the comments submitted by Family Services, the Church is concerned that the proposed professional licensing rule is ambiguous in key areas and overreaches in others. For example, it fails to protect individual religious beliefs and does not account for important realities of gender identity in the development of children.

We therefore oppose the proposed rule in its current form and respectfully request that it be appropriately amended to address the concerns raised in Family Services’ comments, or that Utah’s lawmakers provide statutory guidance on this important issue.

The changes were directed by Utah Governor Gary Herbert “to have the Psychologist Licensing Board provide guidance, based on the best available science, for rules on the ethical and professional practice of psychology concerning interventions for minor children regarding their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Gender identity change efforts, as discussed in the licensing rules, would be defined as “methods, practices, procedures, or techniques with the goal of changing an individual’s gender identity, gender expression, or any of the associated components of these. Unprofessional conduct would include “engaging in, or attempting to engage in the practice of sexual orientation change efforts or gender identity change efforts with a client who is less than 18 years old.”

However, this would not include “methods, practices, procedures, or techniques” that seek to:

  • reduce an individual’s internalized stigma
  • provide acceptance, support, and a comprehensive assessment of an individual
  • facilitate coping methods, social support, and identity exploration and development
  • assist an individual undergoing gender transition
  • prevent or address an individual’s unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices

as long as none of these attempts include seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity (or in the case of gender transition their proclaimed gender identity).

A three-hour public hearing was held in September over the proposed rules.

You can read more about the Church’s official stance on same-sex attraction here and their commitment to religious freedom here.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you are not alone. Please call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone about what you’re going through.

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