A Berkeley, California therapist who specializes in marriage and family therapy is being sued for allegedly trying to change a lesbian patient’s sexual orientation.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights filed the lawsuit on Thursday (13 July), claiming that therapist Lloyd W. Willey engaged in fraud by seeking to change the sexual orientation of his patient, Katherine McCobb.
According to the lawsuit, Willey told McCobb being a lesbian was unnatural and pathological. He said he could help ‘rewire’ her brain and change her orientation to heterosexual.
Willey urged her to become ‘softer,’ ‘sexier,’ and ‘more feminine,’ suggesting she change her wardrobe, grow out her hair, wear makeup and lose weight, the complaint details.
It says he also arranged for McCobb to date one of his male patients, encouraging her to have a sexual relationship with him, which she eventually did.
McCobb did not go to Willey seeking to change her lesbian orientation. She started group therapy with him in 2006, when she was 25, for help with other issues.
However, the lawsuit alleges that Willey became fixated on McCobb’s lesbian identity and pressured her to become straight. He told her if she only ‘tried hard enough, she could become “as womanly” and heterosexual’ as the other women in the therapy group, the lawsuit states.
Over the eight years McCobb was in treatment with Willey, in both group and individual sessions, the therapist collected more than $70,000 (€61,000).
‘I trusted my therapist, and I was defrauded of tens of thousands of dollars as a result,’ McCobb said in a statement.
‘Conversion therapy,’ or ‘reparative therapy,’ which attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation has been discredited by major medical groups, including American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Psychological Association (APA).
‘According to the APA, attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation are not only ineffective but can lead to very serious harms, including anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and suicidal feelings,’ said Shannon Price Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Minter also said that Willey’s practice amounted to exploitation under the law.
‘Therapists who exploit vulnerable people by taking their money based on false claims that being lesbian or gay is unnatural and that counseling can change a person’s sexual orientation are engaging in fraud,’ Minter said.
‘Our complaint alleges that our client in this case paid tens of thousands of dollars based on false promises that therapy could change her attraction to women.
‘Charging a person money based on such bald-faced misrepresentations violates California’s consumer protection laws.’
Gay Star News telephoned Willey’s office for a comment regarding the lawsuit. However, Willey did not respond by the time this story was published.