Yesterday The Daily Citizen’s Bruce Hausknecht wrote about a Maryland judge’s decision to uphold a therapy ban, here. This article picks up where he left off by looking at some aspects of the therapy that Christopher Doyle offers.

U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow upheld government censorship of talk therapy for minors with unwanted homosexuality or transgenderism. Christopher Doyle, a licensed psychotherapist, challenged the Maryland therapy ban, claiming it was an unconstitutional abridgement of free speech and of a client’s right to self-determination.

In making the decision, the judge ignored key points made by Doyle and Liberty Counsel, who filed the suit on his behalf. Liberty Counsel is a non-profit legal, education and policy group that works to protect religious freedom, human life and families. Here is some of what the judge missed.

First, Doyle’s work with clients is entirely voluntary. Clients come to him because they have their own goals and objectives; he does not impose an agenda on his clients. LGBT activists and their allies have labeled counseling for those with unwanted same-sex attractions or gender dysphoria “conversion therapy” or “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE). They often claim that such therapy is forced and coercive.

But Doyle made clear in his suit that clients set the goals for therapy – nothing is imposed on them. These clients may be troubled or anxious because they have homosexual attractions, behaviors or identity that they wish to reduce or eliminate, and they want to work with Doyle because of his expertise in this area.

If a minor client changes his mind in the process, or tells Doyle from the start that he doesn’t want to pursue change from homosexuality, the lawsuit makes clear that Doyle does not compel the client. Instead, he “focuses on helping the client and parents to heal any wounds or frustrations and to begin working on loving and accepting the minor client, despite any challenges that arise from the unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity.”

Second, as Doyle’s original complaint explains, licensed clinical professional counselors in Maryland are already subject to ethical regulations imposed by the state. Such laws and regulations exist to protect clients, and licensed counselors go through years of education, training and supervision to ensure they understand and follow these guidelines.   

For example, the Maryland Code of Regulations tells therapists they must “inform clients of the purposes, goals, techniques, procedures, limitations, potential risks, and benefits of services to be performed.”

The suit explains that Doyle “provides the client with an informed consent form and requires the client to review and sign it prior to commencing counseling.” Doyle calls his work “Sexual/Gender Identity Affirming Therapy.” The form explains that “some therapists do not believe sexual orientation or gender identity can or should be changed” and tells the clients of potential benefits and risks of such counseling work.

Finally, Doyle explains that he goes above and beyond these legal regulations, following ethical practice standards developed by the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (ATCSI). These guidelines are for the practice of “Sexual Attraction Fluidity Exploration in Therapy” (SAFE-T or SAFE-Therapy), defined as “the client-centered exploration of sexual attraction fluidity among clients reporting unwanted same-sex attractions utilizing established psychotherapeutic modalities.”

SAFE-T guidelines include recognizing that homosexuality is a complex issue and we don’t understand everything about how these feelings develop. They also involve respecting a client’s religious faith, supporting a client’s right to self-determination, realizing that some clients may feel pressure from others to change, and using standard, accepted therapeutic practices.

Liberty Counsel says they will appeal this decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The group says the state is censoring Doyle’s speech because it disapproves of his viewpoint and is violating his freedom of speech – and that of his clients.  

For more on this topic:

Counseling for Sexual Identity Concerns: a measured, careful and compassionate approach

Federal Judge Upholds Maryland Ban on Talk Therapy for Minors with Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction or Gender Dysphoria

Maryland Therapist Fights for Free Speech and Religious Liberty Against “Conversion Therapy” Ban

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Change from Homosexuality?