At least two therapists linked to U.S. religious groups are telling people in Costa Rica that homosexuality is “wrong,” an investigation published Wednesday has found.
Undercover reporters with openDemocracy, a U.K.-based global media platform covering world affairs, ideas and culture, reached out to groups who claimed they could help them overcome their sexual orientation.
After setting up consultations with professionals who claimed they could offer LGBTQ “conversion” therapy, the reporters were told that only heterosexual relations were right, and that having LGBTQ feelings was wrong.
So-called “conversion” therapy is the widely debunked — and potentially dangerous — practice of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
In the U.S. the practice is opposed by prominent professional medical associations including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The Pan-American Health Organization considers it “ineffective” and “harmful,” and it has been condemned by Costa Rica’s official associations of psychologists and psychiatrists, according to openDemocracy.
Reporters reached out to two therapists. One was connected to Focus on the Family, a fundamentalist Christian organization founded in 1977 by the ultraconservative psychologist James Dobson.
The other was linked to Exodus Global Alliance, a fundamentalist Christian umbrella organization that seeks to advocate “ex-gay” movements. It was formed after the dissolution of Exodus International in 2013, the highly controversial organization featured in Netflix’s documentary “Pray Away.”
One reporter scheduled an online session with Enfoque a la Familia, the Costa Rican arm of Focus on the Family. She paid for her session in dollars and spoke with a psychologist who was listed on the site, posing as a married woman who had been involved in a lesbian extramarital relationship.
“Today is the day to put on the table what is wrong. You said ... that you have principles and values ... and your little heart is beating in panic,” the therapist told her.
“God created man and woman ... our perfect match, and he’s perfect and marvelous. This (homosexuality) is learned, is something developed on the road,” she said. “I’m sure now that ... you want to cast out of your mind this new taste for women,” the therapist added.
Another undercover reporter reached out to Exodus Latinaomérica and was referred to a local religious group, Metanoia Ministry.
In a phone call with Metanoia, for which he paid in cash, the therapist told him: “I serve God first. I’m not treating homosexuality as common people do ... God says this is a sin, so we treat it as a sin.”
She added, “nobody is born homosexual, because only a sadistic God would forbid this sin in the Bible and, at the same time, create you like that.”
Both therapists are licensed by Costa Rica’s psychologists’ association, according to the report.
A spokesperson for the association, Paola Vargas, told openDemocracy that mental health care should be based on “respect for human rights and human dignity.”
The organization added that it would look into the report findings and decide whether it would open a formal investigation.