The Nation revealed this weekend that the Christian counseling centers owned by the husband and chief advisor of GOP Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann have been practicing the widely discredited and potentially harmful “reparative” therapy intended to change people from gay to straight. Marcus Bachmann had previously denied that his clinics engaged in “ex-gay” therapy.
But The Nation missed the real part of the story that raises serious ethical and legal questions about Mr. Bachmann’s practice. Buried in the details in the source material provided by the gay rights organization Truth Wins Out; one finds that at no time did employees of Mr. Bachmann’s clinics ever educate the client on the dangers of reparative therapy (such as suicidal ideation), its historical lack of success in changing sexual orientation, or that the practice has been denounced by mainstream medical and mental health associations. Additionally, the client should have been informed that reparative therapy is considered “experimental”, he should have been told of the availability of other therapy options, and had the risk and benefits of each option explained.
This “informed consent” is required by the ethics code of the American Psychological Association (Mr. Bachman holds a doctoral degree in psychology) and informed consent is also a requirement of the ethics code of the American Association of Christian Counselors. This latter group mandates written informed consents as well as special written consent prior to initiating therapy when the goal is a change in sexual orientation. The undercover investigator with Truth Wins Out, who videotaped five counseling sessions in Mr. Bachmann’s clinic, has confirmed that at no time was he given an informed consent either verbally or in writing.
Thus it appears that Ms. Bachmann’s spouse and lead advisor owns a clinic that is practicing unethically in a way that is known to harm patients. This break from traditional evidence-based practice and Mr. Bachmann’s previous insistence that his clinic does not engage in the discredited therapy, raises legitimate questions about the integrity of one of Michele Bachmann’s chief advisors.