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A DAMNING report – headed Homosexual 'cure' is hell for many – has been published today in Melbourne’s Sunday Age. It details the activities of Christian groups in Australia aping their crazy counterparts in the US by offering “conversion” programmes to tormented gay people.

According to the Age, there are five such programmes in Melbourne and at least ten interstate. Modelled on America's ''ex-gay'' groups, all have fundamentalist Christian roots. Many view homosexuality as an illness that can be cured – an approach some describe as ''pray away the gay''.

The Sunday Age understands that none of these programmes are run by accredited psychologists or psychiatrists. Critics, including medical professionals, say they can and do cause severe psychological harm.

The report focuses on the experiences of David Lograsso who fell into the clutches of three groups he found on the internet. Two were “support” groups – Living Waters and Roundabout Ministries – and the third, Mosaic Ministries, involved prayer sessions and counselling. He also attended a weekend retreat in Sydney run by Liberty Christian Ministries.

His counsellor at Mosaic Ministries, Carol Hardy, attempted to blame his homosexuality to his father ­ whom Lograsso describes as affectionate and loving. This upset and disturbed him.

Carol kept examining my childhood and asking if I'd been abused. There are all these things that are supposed to have made you gay; you're supposed to have been abused or raped or have a father who doesn't care about you. I ended up really confused and thinking, 'Was I actually abused? Have I blocked it out?' It plants ideas in your head.

Helen Kelly, producer of a new documentary about ''ex-gay'' therapy called The Cure says her research uncovered many participants of ''reparative'' programs struggling with depression and self-harm.

These groups never take responsibility for the fact that some people who've been through them commit suicide. They're not registered and they have no duty of care.

While some group leaders describe themselves as ''counsellors'' or ''therapists'', such titles require no training and critics say many do not have the expertise to counsel emotionally vulnerable people.

As a young gay man, Paul Martin spent two years in the early 1990s with Exodus and Living Waters in Melbourne. After quitting, he became a psychologist and has treated many former reparative therapy participants.

I've worked with maximum security prisoners in Pentridge, yet the people who've been through ex-gay programmes are some of the most psychologically damaged people I've seen in my life. I have a client who went through 35 years of these programs … One of the most crushing moments was when he said, in tears, 'I've just realised that I've never known what it's like to love or be loved'.'

Martin is especially critical of groups that point to the disproportionate rates of depression and anxiety among gay people.

The irony is that they're actually creating the terrible emotional damage that leads to these statistics.

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