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California therapist who used ‘conversion therapy’ on lesbian client sued for fraud

Katherine McCobb — who was told by her Berkeley-based therapist, Lloyd Willey, that she was unnatural and he could help “rewire her brain” with “conversion therapy” tactics and change her sexual orientation —
has sued the marriage and family counselor for fraud under California’s consumer protection laws. Photo: Anne Parmeter.

BERKELEY — Katherine McCobb — who identifies as a lesbian and was told by her Berkeley-based therapist that she was unnatural and he could help “rewire her brain” with “conversion therapy” tactics and change her sexual orientation — has sued the marriage and family counselor for fraud under California’s consumer protection laws.

The American Psychological Association and other professional counseling organizations have widely discredited “conversion therapy” as ineffective, unethical, and dangerous.

RELATED: Gay man who survived conversion therapy writes about horrific ordeal

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‘ENGAGING IN FRAUD’

The National Center for Lesbian Rights filed the complaint, the initial step before a lawsuit, in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday against Lloyd Willey on behalf of McCobb, who said she spent more than $70,000 from 2006 to 2014 when she was his client. It 

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“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,” Shannon Price Minter, legal director with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a press statement. “Charging a person money based on such bald-faced misrepresentations violates California’s consumer protection laws.”

Willey could not be reached for comment.

California has outlawed conversion therapy on minors.

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RELATED: California ban on conversion therapy for teens upheld by Supreme Court

CONVERSION THERAPY TACTICS

McCobb began paying Willey for therapy when she was 25 years old. McCobb didn’t start therapy for help coping with her sexual orientation, but Willey fixated on McCobb being a lesbian and pressured her to become heterosexual with various conversion therapy tactics, according to the complaint.

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For example, Willey told McCobb that being a lesbian is unnatural, publicly shamed her during group therapy sessions and urged her to change her appearance to be more stereotypical feminine, including losing weight, growing her hair, changing her wardrobe, and wearing make-up, according to the complaint.

Willey also pressured McCobb to date a man who was also Willey’s client, according to the complaint.

McCobb seeks unspecified monetary damages.

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About the author

Stephanie Thai

Hailing from San Francisco, Stephanie Thai is a Southern Californian transplant. She spends her time writing, reading, and eating wherever she can, though not in that order. On her downtime, Thai takes 12-hour cat naps, hikes urban trails, and frequents travel websites to entertain her expensive hobby of traveling the globe.

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