A California therapist who bills himself as a marriage and family counselor is facing a lawsuit from a premier LGBT advocacy group for seeking to change a lesbian patient’s sexual orientation.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, alleged Berkeley-based therapist Lloyd Willey engaged in fraud by seeking to change the sexual orientation of Katherine McCobb.
According to the lawsuit, Willey told McCobb being a lesbian was unnatural and he could “change her brain.” As part of the therapy, Willey urged McCobb to change her clothes and appearance, begin dating a man who was also a client of the therapist and collected from her more than $70,000 for eight years of therapy.
“I trusted my therapist, and I was defrauded of tens of thousands of dollars as a result,” McCobb said in a statement.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights files this lawsuit in California state court in Alameda County under the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition law.
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement 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.”
Conversion therapy aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation is widely discredited and repudiated by major medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association.
The Washington Blade has placed a call to Willey’s office seeking comment in response to the lawsuit.