His letter is worth sharing in full.
9 March 2011
Maria Caridad H. Tarroja PhD
Psychological Association of the Philippines
PSSC Center, Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City
Dear Ma’am Caring,
I would like to bring to your attention a recent incident involving unprofessional, scientifically misleading, and potentially harmful professional remarks made by a PAP-certified clinical psychologist on national television.
On Tuesday 22 February 2011, the live ABS-CBN morning show Umagang Kay Ganda invited Dr Ma. Estrella Tiongson-Magno as a clinical psychologist and expert resource person to answer questions regarding sexual orientation, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) concerns, and appropriate psychological services for LGBT clients. In particular, Dr Magno made the claim that lesbians and gay men could change their sexual orientation via therapy and that indeed, this is the recommended psychological response to lesbian and gay sexualities.
During the interview, when the host Alex Santos asked Dr Magno about the nature of being gay/lesbian, she responded:
“The thing is, pwede naman nilang palitan ang kanilang lifestyle or ang kanilang sexuality kung gustuhin nila. Kasi there’s such a thing as self-mastery… yung iba, they seek help kasi gusto nilang magkapamilya. And it happens. We also have literature that says… yung mga nagtiyaga, yung mga talagang may plano sa buhay, ginawa nila lahat ng dapat nilang gawin. Nagpa-therapy sila… At nakamit nila ang family life, atsaka they’re happy and they wrote about it.” (lines 110-123, emphasis added)
I am attaching a transcript of the interview for your perusal. The segment featuring this interview may be viewed here: <http://www.pinoypride.net/video/93313/Umagang-Kay-Ganda-Feb-22-P15>
Central to Dr Magno’s statement that being lesbian or gay can be addressed with therapy towards outcomes like a positive family life and increased well-being are two claims:
(1) that being gay or lesbian is somehow pathological or psychologically unhealthy, and
(2) that SOCE (sexual orientation change efforts) are effective and safe.
Our best scientific knowledge has long established and affirmed that homosexuality per se is not a mental disorder (APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, 2009). There is no scientific basis for inferring intrinsic maladjustment or psychopathology to homosexuality or bisexuality (APA, 2010). Mental health professionals have known this as early as 1973, when the American Psychiatric Association, on the basis of scientific evidence, removed homosexuality from the DSM. This recognition of same-sex sexual orientation as a normal variant of human sexuality is not limited to the West; similar recognition has been made by psychiatrists and psychologists in countries such as China, Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa, to name a few. Dr Magno’s claim that being lesbian or gay is somehow linked to unhappiness, maladjustment, and a need for therapeutic intervention (indirectly made but nonetheless implicit in the professional opinions she gave as a clinical psychologist) is unscientific, irresponsible, and misleading.
Likewise, a recent review of research on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE, sometimes known as “reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy”) conducted by the APA (2009) has shown that there is no evidence that such “therapies” are effective. This review, which covers 83 studies published from 1960 to 2007, concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are “unlikely to be successful” (p. v). In fact, the report even indicates that such “therapies” involve risk of harm, including iatrogenic effects such as depression, anxiety, and suicidality. To recommend SOCE on public television is therefore not only unscientific and misleading, but unethical and potentially harmful.
According to Principle IV Professional and Scientific Responsibilities to Society of the PAP Code of Ethics (2009), Filipino psychologists are committed to increasing “scientific and professional knowledge in ways that allow promotion of the well-being of society and all its members” (IV.a). In particular, as articulated in Standard V Advertisements and Public Statements, Filipino psychologists avoid false or deceptive statements and they exercise caution when providing expert opinion especially through mass media. I submit that such false statements include scientifically inaccurate assertions about sexual orientation and potentially harmful advice such as recommending SOCE for lesbian or gay individuals on national television.
In 2009, the PAP instituted a system of certification of psychology specialists to properly recognize psychology professionals in the Philippines and to regulate the practice of psychology by Philippine psychologists. According to the Primer on PAP Certification (2009), this system aims to “monitor the professional practice of psychologists in the various specialty areas, especially as regards the observance of proper ethical principles in the practice of psychology” (Objective 4). These ethical principles include our professional responsibility to share our psychological expertise based on the best available scientific evidence, without doing harm.
In the spirit of our ethical commitments as well as the framework of the PAP certification system and the scientific research literature, I would like to request the PAP to take action on this matter, towards correcting any misconceptions, hurt, or harm resulting from this media incident involving a PAP-certified psychologist and towards the development of a scientifically accurate, professional, and truly ethical policy on sexual orientation and SOCE.
Eric Julian Manalastas
Member, Psychological Association of the Philippines
Assistant Professor, Dept of Psychology, UP Diliman
- Transcript Umagang Kay Ganda (Tue 22 Feb 2011)
- APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. (2009). Report of the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- American Psychological Association. (2010). Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/guidelines.aspx
- Psychological Association of the Philippines Scientific and Professional Ethics Committee. (2009). Code of ethics for Philippine psychologists. Retrieved from http://www.pap.org.ph/Pages/PAP_Code_of_Ethics.pdf
- Psychological Association of the Philippines. (2009). PAP certification of psychology specialists primer. Retrieved from http://www.pap.org.ph/Forms/PAP%20Certification%20of%20Psychology%20Specialists%20Primer.pdf
March 20, 2011
Eric Julian Manalastas
Department of Psychology
As I have previously emailed you, the PAP Officers and Board Members appreciate your efforts to bring up relevant issues to our attention. Regarding your letter (dated March 9, 2011) about the UKG incident, the PAP Board of Directors discussed your letter and position on this matter in the last Board Meeting last March 12, 2011. As a result of the discussion, the PAP is taking the following action to address your concerns:
The position paper to be drafted which can be in consultation with the Public Interest Committee and the Clinical Psychology Division, once approved by the PAP Board, will be disseminated to the public. The Social Psychology Division will perhaps invite you to lend your expertise in this matter, given that you are an active PAP member and a strong advocate of LGBT issues. The Social Psychology Division, headed by Mr. Jay Yacat of the University of the Philippines, will write a position paper on LGBT issues to address some of the misinformation that resulted from the UKG show.
Thank you for your continuous support of PAP activities.
Caring Tarroja PhD