Wordsmithing the Bill in CA

In a recent post I discussed the problems with CA Bill 1172, a bill that targets reorientation therapy with minors and adds language to informed consent for adults. I noted that several mental health organizations actually oppose the bill in its present form. Since that time, the senator who drafted the bill has been open to working with consultants on rewording aspects of the bill. The key challenge appears to be finding a definition of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE). There is interest in targeting SOCE while allowing mental health professionals to work with adolescents who seek assistance navigating sexual identity questions and concerns.

Stakeholders include the senator, the sponsors of the bill (Gaylesta and Equality CA), mental health professionals, parents of adolescents, and teens themselves.

I’ve learned that there has been some agreement on language. The mental health coalition is apparently willing to be neutral rather than opposed to the bill given the new language, which is as follows:

Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (S.O.C.E) means any practices by mental health providers that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions and/or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.

Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (S.O.C.E.) does not include psychotherapies that: (a) provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation of clients’ coping, social support, and identity exploration and development including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and (b) does not seek to change sexual orientation.

I still see problems with the language, as well as the overall precedent of attempting to legislate around the complexities of clinical practice. I would reiterate my concerns about improper venue, lack of adequate scientific research on SOCE with adolescents, lack of adequate scientific research on SOCE with adults, issues with the expansive definition that includes behavior, movement away from trends that make services more available to teens (particularly in the area of sexuality and reproduction), and so on.

At the same time, I share the concern that some teens may feel tremendous pressure to participate in mental health services that they might not choose for themselves. What I would like to see are mental health organizations assist with how those issues and concerns are addressed in a professional, ethical manner.

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