A new study has suggested the majority of people in the UK are in favour of allowing those grappling with their sexuality or gender to access “talking therapy”.
The poll, by Whitestone Insight, asked participants if they felt people struggling with a range of issues should legally be allowed to access counselling.
The issues fell into four criteria; personal relationship problems of a sexual nature, personal relationship problems of a non-sexual nature, personal issues over their sexual identity and personal issues over their dissatisfaction with being male or female.
Participants were asked whether people should be free to decide for themselves whether to access any type of talking therapy they wish, in relation to the above issues.
On matters of sexual identity, 43 per cent agreed, and a further 30 per cent strongly agreed, that the people should be allowed to seek talking therapy, should they wish to.
On issues of dissatisfaction pertaining to their gender, 29 per cent strongly agreed, and 42 per cent agreed.
Furthermore, when asked if young people should be able to engage in conversations with doctors, teachers and youth workers on matters of their sexual identity, 40 per cent agreed, and 21 per cent strongly agreed.
The data – produced in collaboration with Christian Concern – has been used to suggest more people may be against the government’s proposed conversion therapy ban than initially expected.
The ban could see forms of counselling limited, even if the person seeking the pastoral support is dealing with “unwanted” same-sex attraction, if it’s believed the person leading the therapy is against homosexuality.
It is believed two in three UK adults currently back a conversion therapy ban, but Andrew Hawkins from Whitestone Insight says people might be “throwing the therapy baby out with the bath water”.
He told Premier Christian News: “Of course, nobody wants to see anybody coerced into action.
“All I would say is that if the proposed legislation is going to curtail the sorts of activities that fall outside the scope of that coercive aspect to this issue, then the public would not support the law; on the face of this poll, they would not support the law going as far as that.
He continued: “Hard cases make bad law, and the danger is that on the basis of those hard cases, we would end up throwing the therapeutic baby out with the bathwater unless we take heed to the public's desire for the freedom of professionals and the freedom of patients to seek help.”
However, the study did not specifically ask people if they would support people attending talking therapies if they were dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction, or were seeking out support from someone against homosexuality.
Andrew Hawkins continued: “I'm no psychotherapist, but professionals have told me - and my understanding is - that people will very often go and seek the help of a third party without that kind of endpoint in mind.
“That sort of thing that would be prohibited by the bill…that it would be that that sort of open ended conversation that would be that would be banned by the proposed legislation, which is why we felt it was acceptable legitimate, indeed important to ask these more open ended questions, assuming no hidden agenda on the part of professional psychotherapists and professional counsellors.”