Psychotherapists are afraid to challenge children who say they want to ‘change sex’, in case they are accused of practising so-called conversion therapy, it has been reported.
The Daily Telegraph revealed that many psychotherapists feel unable to question child patients about the source of their gender confusion, in case they are “accused of breaking the code of ethics” by the NHS.
In 2017, the NHS issued a memorandum including “gender identity” within the definition of conversion therapy, which psychotherapists say has created “unintended consequences”.
‘Political hot potato’
Marcus Evans, who resigned last year as Governor of the trust overseeing England’s only gender identity clinic for children, said, “children and their families can be very fixed in their beliefs”, and if a clinician looks at the situation from a different point of view, it is a “political hot potato and you could be accused of breaking your code of ethics”.
The politicisation of this area has interfered with good clinical care
But Evans also explained that many other concerned parents have contacted him over the past year, saying that “the services are pushing their child down a particular path”.
“The services often adopt an affirmation model, so if a female child says I’m a boy then you have to affirm that. There isn’t enough support for a proper exploration of the issues driving the underlying belief system either in the child or in the family.
He added: “The politicisation of this area has interfered with good clinical care.”
Bob Withers, a psychotherapist for more than 30 years, said that he has faced accusations of conversion therapy because he believes that if a young child “wants medical treatment which could change their body forever, I think it’s important to explore the psychological reasons behind their desire to transition”.
He added that “it concerns me that you can’t get a tattoo before 18 even with your parent’s permission, but you can get puberty blockers”.
In response to clinicians’ concerns, an NHS spokesman claimed that its clinics’ therapy sessions “ensure the individual fully considers the decision they are making”.
In June, it was revealed that NHS England’s gender identity clinic for children had been accused of ignoring staff concerns about patient welfare.
During an internal investigation, staff members at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust’s Gender Identity Development Service made a number of serious allegations against senior clinicians, according to documents seen by Newsnight.
They said that children were being prescribed experimental drugs after minimal consultation, standard procedures were not being followed and senior figures discouraged staff from raising concerns.