BHA: ‘Gay cure’ therapist loses appeal against the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy

Lesley Pilkington, a psychotherapist who was found guilty of ‘professional malpractice’ for using the techniques of ‘conversion therapy’ (a bogus form of treatment which is supposed to make gay people become straight) has lost her appeal against the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).

Mrs Pilkington was found guilty of malpractice last year after trying to convert a gay client to heterosexuality, with the BACP describing her practice as ‘negligent’, ‘dogmatic’ and ‘unprofessional’. The British Humanist Association (BHA) welcomes the BACP’s decision.

The complaint against Mrs Pilkington which started this case was made by the award-winning journalist Patrick Strudwick, who was investigating therapists who claim to be able to ‘treat’ homosexuality. Mr Strudwick, who is gay, received two counselling sessions from Mrs Pilkington in 2009, in which she used the techniques of ‘conversion therapy’ (also known as ‘reparative therapy’) in an attempt to make him become heterosexual. The treatment, which also involved praying to God to make Mr. Strudwick straight, failed. As well as attempting to ‘cure’ Mr Strudsick’s homosexuality, Mrs Pilkington also suggested that he had been sexually abused as a child.

The BACP said that ‘the appeal panel is unanimous that Mrs. Pilkington failed to exercise reasonable care and skill and was thus negligent.’ The panel also said it was ‘entirely wrong’ for Mrs Pilkington to suggest that Mr Strudwick had been sexually abused as a child, and that this ‘falls below the standard to be expected of a reasonably competent practitioner.’ The BACP have suspended Mrs Pilkington’s accreditation, and have ordered her to submit a report between 4 and 12 months from now, in which she will have to demonstrate that she has changed her practice to meet the BACP’s requirements. Mr Strudwick said that ‘I am delighted that the BACP has upheld their original decision. Mrs Pilkington’s therapeutic practices have been held up to scrutiny and found to be fundamentally flawed.’ He also said that ‘this case sets a vital precedent. I urge anyone involved in this harmful practice to take note of this case and desist. Love needs no cure.’

Pavan Dhaliwal, the BHA Head of Public Affairs, commented, ‘treatments which attempt to “cure” homosexuality are morally objectionable because they carry the implication that homosexuality is a disease. They also lack any foundation in scientific fact, having been condemned by the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, as well as in the recent judgement by the BACP. These so-called treatments can also be extremely harmful, especially when they are applied to vulnerable individuals.’

Therapies which claim to be able to ‘cure’ homosexuality now lie completely discredited. In addition to the case of Mrs Pilkington in the UK, there is also the case of Dr Robert Spitzer in the US. Dr Spitzer, a highly influential figure in modern psychiatry, claimed in a study in 2001 that homosexuality could be cured, but he has recently retracted his views, admitting that his study was ‘fatally flawed’. The BHA now calls on all who have supported anti-gay ‘conversion therapies’, such as the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, the former Bishop of Rochester Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, and the lobby group Christian Concern (all of whom supported Lesley Pilkington) to retract their views.



For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at or on 0773 843 5059.

The BHA’s previous article on Mrs Pilkington’s case:

The website of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy:

Patrick Strudwick’s original article in the Independent:

Patrick Strudwick’s follow-up article in the Guardian, written after Lesley Pilkington was found guilty of professional malpractice:

In a recent article about Boris Johnson’s decision to prevent a homophobic advert from appearing on London’s buses, the UK Council for Psychotherapy condemns ‘reparative therapy’:

Doctors at the British Medical Association declare that gay conversion therapies are harmful:

The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ statement on sexual orientation:

An article in the Guardian about Dr Robert Spitzer’s retraction of his previous claim that ‘reparative therapy’ can ‘cure’ homosexuality:

A group of clerics, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury and the former Bishop of Rochester, write to the BACP in support of Mrs Pilkington:

Christian Concern’s articles on Mrs Pilkington:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.