A small but significant minority of mental health professionals in Britain offer treatments to lesbians and gays so they can become heterosexual, according to a study released Thursday.
Responding to a survey, psychiatrists and psychologists reported using techniques ranging from counselling to aversion therapy, despite a lack of evidence that such treatments are beneficial, the study said.
A team of researchers led by Michael King of University College Medical School questioned over 1,400 therapists.
Four percent said they would attempt to change a client's sexual orientation if asked to do so. And one in six, or 17 percent, said they had assisted at least one client to reduce gay or lesbian feelings.
There was no indication that, among this group, use of such therapies had decreased over time.
"There is very little evidence to show that attempting to treat a person's homosexual feelings is effective and in fact it can actually be harmful," said King.
"So it is surprising that a significant minority of practitioners still offer this help to their clients."
Most of these therapists said they were responding to anguished pleas from the clients themselves.
"The individuals I have worked with have all been very unhappy about their sexuality and wish they were heterosexual," said one anonymously quoted therapist from the British Psychological Society.
"This has been because of responses from friends, family and the local community -- which, outside London, is still very homophobic," the therapist added.
"We have a responsibility to assist our patients with self-determination," another health professional, a psychiatrist, is quoted as saying.