Statement on Dr. Nicholas Cummings and Sexual Orientation Change Efforts

The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology is named for Drs. Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings, in recognition of their significant financial support for the Center. Given that the Center bears Dr. Cummings’ name and that he made controversial public statements relating to sexual orientation change in therapy, we want to clearly state our own stance on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) and our commitment to documenting the historical and ongoing harms caused by SOCE.

Dr. Nicholas Cummings (1924-2020) spoke and wrote in support of sexual orientation change in therapeutic settings when requested by the client. He referred to this as “reorientation therapy” or “sexual orientation change.” In 2010, he stated that he and his staff had engaged in “sexual reorientation change” in hundreds of cases between 1958 and 1980. At this time, the American Psychological Association had not taken a stance on the ethicality of such practices. In 2015, at the age of 91, Dr. Cummings stated that his views on sexual orientation change efforts had been distorted and that he believed that the use of such “therapy” to “cure homosexuality” was unethical and a basic violation of human rights. He stated that he believed patients should have the right to choose their own treatment goals.

Major organizations focused on mental health have found no empirical basis supporting sexual orientation change efforts and evidence indicates such practices cause harm. We stand firmly with these organizations in opposing sexual orientation change efforts, acknowledging their roots in stigma, prejudice, and hate, and recognizing the harm they cause to LGBTQ+ individuals and communities.  

The family of Nicholas Cummings has issued an open letter to the LGBTQ+ community and expressed their unequivocal support for the professional consensus that conversion therapy should not be used.

Here at the Center, we will—through our programming and preservation of the historical record—ethically preserve and share LGBTQ+ history, document historical and ongoing harms caused by SOCE, and work towards an archives and museum that represents the full spectrum of our shared humanity. 

We recognize we cannot complete this work on our own, and we commit ourselves to working with the LGBTQ+ community to ensure this history is interpreted ethically and respectfully. We strive to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community feels welcome in our space as guests, colleagues, and collaborators.

We encourage you to read a full history of Dr. Cummings’ statements and writings on sexual orientation change efforts.

We also encourage you to read the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Resolution on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts.

Cathy Faye, Ph.D.
Margaret Clark Morgan Executive Director
Cummings Center for the History of Psychology

Read the Historical Review