Peace Advocacy Network said that a board member and a mental-health professional filed a complaint earlier this month with the Pennsylvania Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors against Peter Kleponis and Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, both based out of the Institute for Marriage Healing in West Conshohocken. A PAN board member filed an additional complaint with the APA’s Ethics Committee against Kleponis. Fitzgibbons is not an APA member.
Kleponis and Fitzgibbons did not return a call for comment.
A representative of the Department of State declined to confirm whether the complaint had been filed with the state licensing board.
The Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation handles such complaints, with consultation with prosecuting attorneys if necessary. Investigations, which could require interviews and other evidence-gathering processes, typically take at least several months.
Some investigations involve hearings before the licensing board, which then determines the course of discipline, which the licensee could appeal to the Commonwealth Court.
APA executive director for public and member communications Kim Miller also said she could not confirm that the complaint was filed because of confidentiality reasons.
Complaints filed with the APA Ethics Committee undergo a committee investigation and, if an APA member is found to be in violation of the Ethics Code, he or she could have his or her APA membership revoked.
The APA has previously rejected therapies that seek to change one’s sexual orientation.
PAN shared with PGN an email exchange given to the agency by an anonymous source, who contacted Kleponis to inquire about therapy for her son, who she wrote was 16 and believed to be gay.
A reply was sent through an email address that was listed on numerous websites as belonging to Kleponis. The sender wrote that he has “worked with many young men who are struggling with their sexuality.”
The individual went on to advise the mother that “while there are no guarantees in counseling, research shows that people do change. At 16, your son’s sexuality is still developing. We know that sexuality is very fluid. It is not set in stone at birth.”
PAN also obtained an email sent from the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality to an anonymous source who contacted the agency asking for a therapist to “fix” his attraction to men in which the agency referred the email sender to Fitzgibbons.
Kleponis’ biography on the practice’s website states that he has participated in conferences staged by Courage, a Roman Catholic apostolate that purportedly teaches people to overcome same-sex attraction.
PAN campaign director Ed Coffin said that both Fitzgibbons and Kleponis were listed as speakers for Courage’s spring “Sports Camp,” staged for men dealing with same-sex attraction.
Both Fitzgibbons and Kleponis have a number of articles published online about “healing” from homosexuality.
Coffin said he’s hopeful that the complaints can put a stop to the practice of conversion therapy.
“We want to expose this kind of therapy,” he said. “Every major mental-health organization has strongly condemned it. Not only doesn’t it work, but it can actually cause more harm than good.”
According to the APA Code of Ethics, APA psychologists must remain aware of current scientific information, rely on scientific knowledge, respect diversity, refrain from discrimination and avoid harm.
The state licensing board mandates that psychologists remain objective, “attempt to prevent distortion, misuse or suppression of psychological findings” and avoid action that would “violate or diminish the legal and civil rights of clients,” among other stipulations.