The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation Thursday, calling upon the department’s licensing board to investigate the practices of a Chicago-area social worker, who they say practices ”ex-gay” conversion therapy services.
The SPLC complaint, filed on National Coming Out Day against Bloomingdale-based clinical social worker Paul McNulty, comes just weeks after California banned the same type of services through a bill passed by its legislature and ratified by Gov. Jerry Brown. Illinois is now one of many states involved in the nationwide effort by pro-LGBT advocates to ban such services.
Conversion therapy services, commonly known as “ex-gay” therapy, is a controversial practice that proponents claim can change a person’s sexual orientation, but professional medical agencies and LGBT rights advocates argue it’s a harmful and discriminatory practice.
“It is deeply concerning that a mental health professional, licensed by the state of Illinois, is allowed to freely practice a discredited form of counseling that has no place in modern therapy,” said Christine Sun, SPLC deputy legal director in a media release. “Conversion therapy has caused nothing but pain and devastation.”
SPLC and ICAH argue that “ex-gay” therapy is dangerous, fundamentally anti-gay and that McNulty’s practices are a violation of Illinois’ Professional Counselor and Clinical Professional Counselor Licensing Act. They urge the division to investigate McNulty’s adherence to the licensing standards of Illinois and act under its power to suspend or revoke a license if they find a licensed professional engaging in unethical conduct.
Specifically, licensed professionals cannot discriminate against a patient or compromise a patient’s integrity because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, according to the complaint. The SPLC and ICAH complaint also alleges that McNulty offers the conversion treatments through Exodus International and another group called People Can Change, both of which they label as “prominent anti-gay organizations.”
McNulty’s website says he specializes in “assisting individuals with anxiety disorders, anger management and depression” and that he has a passion for “working with issues specific to men as they deal with fatherhood, gender identities, self worth, mid-life transitions and aging” but makes no specific mention of “ex-gay” therapy or conversion therapy.
The SPLC and ICAH also site a 2006 declaration from the American Psychological Association in which it stated, “There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed” and that professionals who practice conversion therapy “create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.” The American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of Social Workers have all been critical of conversion therapies, according to the complaint.
The American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) criticized conversion therapy alongside the Thursday filing of the complaint.
“The nation’s leading mental health organizations caution against subjecting gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals to conversion therapy because it has been found to be ineffective and harmful,” said R. Dennis Shelby, Ph.D., director of doctoral studies for the Institute for Clinical Social Work. Shelby is also co-chair of APsaA’s committee on advocacy.
The SPLC encourages people who have undergone “ex-gay” therapy to share their stories with them on their website.
McNulty could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.