Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Health Professions
Board of Counseling
Regulations Governing the Practice of Professional Counseling [18 VAC 115 ‑ 20]
Action Unprofessional conduct - conversion therapy
Comment Period Ended on 8/7/2019
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7/15/19  7:53 pm
Commenter: Mark Murphy

Conversion Ban Atypical and Illegal

The current regulation presented by the board for consideration is unlike any other regulation issued by this board in both its scope and specificity.  It is contrary to the established law and ignores significant evidence regarding the area it attempts to regulate. 


This regulation, differs from other regulations in the two primary ways.

  1. The Board of Counseling Regulations do not forbid any other type of therapy.
  2. The Board of Counseling Regulations do not prescribe a treatment approach for any other situation for which a person may come to counseling.

The regulations do not forbid Recovered Memory Therapy or Re-Birthing therapy even though these are universally established as harmful.  The board does not identify any other conditions in which it gives the direction of treatment to a therapist without allowing for individual professional judgement.  Furthermore, choosing the direction a clinician takes with a client is not within the scope of authority of the board.  The board is empowered to regulate the “manner” of practice not prescribe the interventions and direction of therapy.


The regulation is not consistent with the Code of Virginia.  Please refer to Code of Virginia.  (See below with intervening sections removed.)

§ 54.1-2969. Authority to consent to surgical and medical treatment of certain minors.  

E. A minor shall be deemed an adult for the purpose of consenting to:

4. Medical or health services needed in the case of outpatient care, treatment or rehabilitation for mental illness or emotional disturbance.


Minors are allowed to consent to mental health treatment.  This regulation would run counter to the Code of Virginia which has allowed that minors can consent to the mental health treatment they desire.  Under the proposed regulation a youth who was experiencing suicidal ideation due to transgender or homosexual thoughts could only be encouraged to act on them.  This completely disavows the right of the youth to seek and consent to treatment.  It also violates the principle of client directed therapy.  The regulation itself poses a danger to the life health and safety of children in Virginia.  Since the board is presuming to dictate a treatment approach, will the board be liable for negative outcomes such as suicide by those seeking help that were turned away?


            This regulation ignores significant evidence regarding gender identity and sexual orientation.  Transgender identification is documented as being unstable.  Experts have reported that the majority of youth that identify as transgender as teens will identify as their birth gender as adults.  However, not only does this regulation choose the direction of therapy, it mandates a direction opposite to the most likely trajectory. 


            The statement by the board references HB 363.  The statement fails to mention that the bill did not pass.  While an individual may have suggested regulation, the general assembly did not.  The general assembly chose not to legislate this.  This appears to be a flagrant work around to pass a restriction that the general assembly considered and rejected. 


            If the board is concerned about youth being forced into conversion therapy against their will, the board should pass regulations that prohibit treatment against the will of a client unless ordered by judicial order as already allowed in the Code of Virginia.  This would allow for protection from forced treatment while still upholding the rights of children in Virginia to seek the treatment they choose as already established in the Code of Virginia. 

CommentID: 73542