A lawsuit was filed by The National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of Katherine McCobb in the Superior Court of California on July 13. The lawsuit claims that McCobb’s therapist, Lloyd Willey, told his client that being a lesbian was unnatural and pathological and that her sexual orientation could be changed using therapy.
Willey, who is a California-licensed marriage and family therapist, was McCobb’s therapist for 8 years. The lawsuit claims that the woman paid her therapist more than $70,000 during that time.
“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,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Price Minter. “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.”
In a statement released by the NCLR, the groups sheds some light onto McCobb’s experiences:
McCobb began paying Willey for therapy when she was 25 years old. Although she did not seek out therapy because of her sexual orientation, Willey fixated on McCobb’s lesbian identity and began to pressure her to become straight, telling her that being a lesbian was unnatural and that she could “rewire” her brain. He publicly shamed her during group therapy sessions and urged her to change her appearance to be more stereotypically feminine, including losing weight, growing out her hair, changing her wardrobe, and wearing make-up. Willey also pressured her to begin dating a man who was also Willey’s client.
“I trusted my therapist, and I was defrauded of tens of thousands of dollars as a result,” said Ms. McCobb.
“Business professionals who are charging fees for services cannot make false and misleading statements about those services to their clients,” said Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP Partner Jeremy Kamras. “Our complaint alleges that the defendant did just that by persuading a vulnerable client to pay him for services based on blatant misrepresentations and fraudulent practices.”
The lawsuit comes as many states across the US continue to outlaw “conversion therapy.” Not only is the practice ineffective, according to groups like the American Psychological Association, it can lead to life-long trauma and psychological damage.