Public opposed to banning talking therapy for sex or gender issues and criminalisation of professionals31 May 2023 Issued by: Christian Concern
Three quarters of the UK public believe that individuals struggling with sexual or gender identity issues, should be free to seek help through talking therapy, according to a poll by Whitestone Insight.
Among the 18-24 age group, which would be expected to be more liberal on the issues, the data reveals that more than 60% believe access should be freely permitted.
Talking therapy is defined as a method of treating mental conditions or emotional difficulties that involves talking to a therapist or counsellor, in either individual or group sessions.
The findings of the poll come ahead of the government publishing its controversial draft bill to ban ‘conversion therapy’.
The ban is expected to criminalise any form of talking therapy involving sexual or gender identity issues. It may also criminalises prayer and other types of consensual conversations and would amount to a serious infringement on free speech and human rights.
Campaigners say the ban will mean that the counselling room is no longer a safe place for clinicians. If they do not affirm what their clients want and feel, they risk being taken before disciplinary panels, losing their careers, or worse.
Individuals voluntarily seeking help and support from therapists for unwanted same-sex attraction would also be barred from doing so or forced underground.
Of the over 2,000 adult respondents interviewed from all backgrounds as part of the Whitestone poll, disagreement with prosecutions against professional counsellors for engaging in talking therapy is double the rate of agreement with prosecutions.
A significant proportion of respondents in the poll appear confused by the criminal prosecution question with almost four in ten saying ‘I don’t know’ or that they would ‘prefer not to say.’ These responses suggest
Freedom to access talking therapy
Respondents were asked if they agree or disagree that people should be free to decide for themselves whether to access any type of talking therapy they want in relation to issues of a non-sexual nature or issues relating to sex and gender identity.
Data reveals, significantly, that opposition to people being free to access any type of talking therapy they want, is extremely low – 5% for problems of a sexual or non-sexual nature, 9% over sexual identity, and 10% in respect of dissatisfaction with being male or female.
Asked whether they agree or disagree that suitably qualified psychotherapists should be free to work, if they wish, with clients who want to address each of the following, 74% said they should be free to do so on issues regarding a clients’ sexual identity.
Furthermore, two-thirds of 18-24s support the freedom of professionals to work with their clients.
Respondents were asked if they agreed or disagreed that doctors, teachers and youth workers should be free to engage in conversations with young people, where those conversations are sought by young people.
62% of respondents, for example, agreed that they should be able to over issues of sexual identity. However, the numbers of agreement in this section presented lower support, which may reflect concerns that some of these conversations may be unhelpful, for example, in affirming gender or other LGBT identities.
Finally, respondents were asked if they would support or oppose bringing criminal prosecutions against professional counsellors for engaging in talking therapy where such therapy is freely sought.
Around twice as many people disagree than agree that professional councillors should be prosecuted for engaging in talking therapy for personal relationship problems of any of the kinds tested in the survey – which were problems of a non-sexual nature, problems of a sexual nature, sexual identity issues and gender identity.
Free to talk
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Concern which has said it will bring a legal case against the government over the proposed legislation, said: “The data reveals what we have believed all along that the ‘conversion therapy’ ban is LGBT minority activist led legislation which the majority of the country don’t want, don’t agree with and feel uneasy about.
“It is a basic human right that people must be free to talk about sex and gender issues they are facing and to have therapy if they want it.
“There is no justification for a ban and it’s not even a popular policy when people understand what it is being targeted.
“A ban will mean that the counselling room is no longer a safe space for clinicians. If they do not affirm what their clients want and feel they risk being taken before disciplinary panels, losing their careers, or worse.
“Therapists are already too afraid to provide the help that clients want and are asking for. This has ruined the practice of clinical psychology, which is entirely dependent on trust and privacy.
“Legislating in this area is plagued with problems and the government’s own research suggests that it is not necessary. It will end up criminalising consensual conversations with those who genuinely want help and support. Human rights will be breached and any legislation will be the subject of extensive legal challenge.
* Whitestone Insight interviewed 2099 UK adults online from 5-7 May 2023. Data were weighted to be representative of all adults. Whitestone Insight is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.