Friday, July 14, 2017

Consumer fraud lawsuit filed against Berkeley therapist for charging tens of thousands of dollars for discredited conversion therapy

Katherine McCobb photographed by Anne Parmeter
Yesterday, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP filed a complaint on behalf of Katherine McCobb, against California-licensed marriage and family therapist Lloyd Willey. Willey told McCobb that being a lesbian is unnatural and pathological and that her sexual orientation could be changed using therapy. The practice of so-called “conversion therapy” has been discredited by the American Psychological Association and other professional counseling organizations as ineffective, unethical, and dangerous. McCobb paid Willey more than $70,000 for eight years of therapy based on fraudulent, harmful lies.

"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."

"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."

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 the plaintiff in this case, Katherine McCobb.

NCLR has been working to protect LGBTQ people from efforts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity for more than 20 years. In June 2014, NCLR launched #BornPerfect: The Campaign to End Conversion Therapy, a targeted campaign to end conversion therapy through litigation, public education, and legislation.

To read the complaint, click here: http://bit.ly/McCobbComplaint

*A photograph of the plaintiff in this case, Katherine McCobb, is attached. Photo credit: Anne Parmeter.

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