Politics & Government

Washington Senate votes to ban aversion therapy for sexual orientation, drug use

The state Senate has voted to ban licensed therapists from using extreme therapies, such as shock treatment, to try to alter the behavior or sexual orientation of minors.

Under Senate Bill 5870, aversion therapies – such as using shock, extreme temperatures, isolation, or other pain-causing procedures to change someone’s behavior – would be considered unprofessional conduct if performed on someone under 18.

Under state law, a licensed therapist found guilty of unprofessional conduct could have his or her license revoked.

The legislation’s intent section says it would apply not only to aversion therapies designed to change a minor’s sexual orientation, but also to aversive attempts to stop minors from using tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.

The Senate approved the measure unanimously Wednesday.

“There are treatments for children that are harmful and dangerous, and continue to take place in the state of Washington,” said state Sen. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, who is the chief sponsor of the legislation.

The bill would not apply to treatments that are considered standard practice for health care license holders.

Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, said the goal of the measure is to prevent “misdirected therapy” that may be outdated and harmful.

“We want to make sure that our licensed therapists would never do that again,” Dammeier said.

The measure now heads to the state House for consideration.