AZ regulators consider conversion therapy ‘unprofessional conduct,’ but have not prevented it

For more than two decades, Floyd Godfrey advised young men not to act on their same-sex attractions as a licensed therapist in the state of Arizona.

But last year, Godfrey lost his license after the state board that oversees counselors opened an investigation into him for allegations of unprofessional conduct. But the investigation wasn’t a look into his practice of trying to change people’s sexuality, which is considered a violation by the state board.

Instead, he was accused by two of his employees of sexual harassment. Godfrey voluntarily gave up his license before the investigation could be completed, and the board revoked his ability to practice in the state.

Specific details of investigations made by the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners are confidential. But had they looked into Godfrey’s practice, generally, they would have seen his history as the founder of Family Strategies Counseling Center in Mesa, which employs therapists who advertised themselves as being able to treat “unwanted same-sex attraction.”

They would have also seen his time as a camp counselor with the organization “Journey Into Manhood,” which is designed “for men to address distress over their same-sex attractions,” according to a flier on their website.

Although there is no law expressly prohibiting conversion therapy in Arizona, the state licensing board—along with 28 major medical associations—considers it to be unprofessional conduct and grounds for disciplinary action, such as revoking a license. That has been the board’s position since at least 2017, when the American Counseling Association formally declared conversion therapy to be in violation of its code of ethics.

But, the board’s Executive Director Tobi Zavala said there aren’t enough resources to preemptively investigate every counselor seeking a license or renewal. As a result, conversion therapists such as Godfrey have operated with relative impunity in Arizona.

A previous LOOKOUT investigation revealed two licensed professional counselors and one marriage and family therapist who continue to practice forms of conversion therapy in the state—all of whom hold current professional licenses to practice in Arizona in 2024.

Conservative pushback

Though there has been a history of bipartisan support at the legislature to regulate conversion therapy, bills relying on the board as the main enforcer have failed—in part because of conservative lobbying groups that have argued on behalf of parents.

In 2017, Pima County passed an ordinance that banned conversion therapists from accepting payments when practicing with a minor. Anyone found to be practicing conversion therapy on minors for money would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $2,500.

That ordinance was met with fierce criticism from the Center for Arizona Policy, which said the ordinance would prevent minors from seeking out counseling to reduce “unwanted same-sex attraction.”

The ban ultimately passed 3-2.

At the state level, though, there has been less success. Former Sen. Sean Bowie (D-Tempe) continually introduced a bill to define conversion therapy and classify it as unprofessional conduct when practiced with minors. He introduced the bill every session from 2018 through 2022.

But Senate leadership—which decides what bills are heard and debated on—never assigned the bill to a committee and effectively killed the debate, even with Republican co-sponsors.

In 2022, during Bowie’s last year in office, former Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) and former Rep. Amish Shah (D-Phoenix) proposed a bill that bundled together nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people as well as a ban on conversion therapy for minors, but gave carve-outs to clergy members.

But Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod testified against the bill, saying: “Parents are denied the right to oversee the healthcare of their children, by denying them the ability to seek help—treatment—for their child to overcome unwanted same-sex attraction and confusion about their same-sex identity.”

The bill, despite being debated at a special hearing, was not given a vote.

Failure to get bipartisan legislation on this topic passed through the Capitol illustrates the influence wielded by groups such as the Center for Arizona Policy, which continues to fight against conversion therapy legislation. The group is part of the lobbying arm of Focus on the Family, an organization that promotes conversion therapists in its “Christian Counselor Network,” an online search portal for religious-focused therapists and counselors.

The Center for Arizona Policy also distributes a voter guide which has candidates’ responses on a number of issues, including one on whether or not they support the rights of parents to “seek professional counseling for their minor child with same-sex attraction or gender identity issues.”

A 2017 action alert from the Center for Arizona Policy regarding the Pima County ordinance against conversion therapy. In it, the organization says that the county is promoting an “LGBT agenda.”

Bowie said that Republican leadership has refused to allow debate on the subject saying they “don’t want any of these bills to pass, whether it’s non-discrimination ordinances, whether it’s banning conversion therapy,” Bowie said. “They’ve been very clear that they want to go in the opposite direction.”

In the 2024 session, Representative Patty Contreras (D-Phoenix,) introduced HB2789, a bill almost identical to Bowie’s proposal to ban conversion therapy for minors. House Republican leadership again did not assign it to committee for a public hearing.

“Until we get a Democratic majority, I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of movement on this,” Bowie said.

Had any of the bills passed, conversion therapy would have been defined and listed in Arizona statutes for the Board of Behavioral Health Examiners to refer to. Instead, it relies on the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics.

But a simple definition wouldn’t have solved the difficulties the board faces today in ensuring all their licensees are acting ethically and professionally.

Godfrey’s case

Godfrey began practicing in 2001 as a Certified Associate Counselor and gained his full license in 2002. The original website for his practice was “,” and he was listed as a former staffer for the conversion therapy camp, “Journey Into Manhood.”

In his 2022 book “Healing and Recovery – Perspective for Young Men with Sexualized Attachments,” Godfrey described his own sexual attraction to other men as something that came about because of unfulfilled needs for male friendship: “My wounds were related to low self-esteem and rejection from men and boys,” he wrote.

A screenshot from Floyd Godfrey’s website, Godfrey openly states he uses a “Biblical-worldview” that influences his practice.

In Godfrey’s book, he encouraged readers to examine their own attractions and relate them back to past trauma: “Just because young people experience sexual attractions to the same sex, does not mean that it’s inherent,” Godfrey wrote.

Last year, two of his employees reported him to the Board of Behavioral Health Examiners for sexual misconduct.

The details of complaints are confidential under state law, but a document summarizing the action the board took provides some context for the complaints. The four separate complaints included a claim that Godfrey had asked to get naked in front of one of the employees, who is referred to only as “him.”

When reached for comment, Godfrey denied the allegations.

According to board records, Godfrey voluntarily surrendered his license before the board could conduct a full investigation of the complaints: “Prior to Board staff’s formal investigative interview with Respondent, and without completing the psychosexual evaluation, Respondent contacted Board staff requesting to voluntarily surrender his license.”

In his statement to LOOKOUT, Godfrey wrote that following the loss of his license, he “does not provide any clinical services nor clinical supervision at Family Strategies.” His personal website, “,” describes him as part of the executive team at the center, working as an advisor and consultant.

Godfrey also denied practicing conversion therapy. “I was unaware of anyone at Family Strategies who did ‘conversion therapy,’” he wrote.

A previous LOOKOUT story highlighted a survivor who received conversion therapy from John Hinson, a counselor at Family Strategies.

Board investigations

From July 2022 to June 2023, the board received 235 complaints, none included conversion therapy as a reason to investigate.

And there have been no formal complaints or cases related to conversion therapy in the past decade, according to Zavala, the licensing board’s executive director.

Although the board has the power to open up cases on their own, unprofessional conduct is discovered almost entirely by individual complaints. And with oversight of more than 16,000 licenses as of August last year, the board lacks the resources it would take to proactively look into every counselor, Zavala said.

“We’re not police,” she said. “If you think about it, that would exhaust every resource that we had.”

Budget records show the board spent just over $1.5 million on employee expenses in fiscal year 2023, which includes four full-time employees tasked with investigating misconduct.

There are also problems with the state’s statute of limitations on what the board can investigate. Unless the conduct involves a malpractice settlement, sexual misconduct, a felony, or practicing while impaired with a substance, complaints can only be investigated within four years.

“If somebody were to allege that there was conversion therapy that happened to them when they were 15 and they’re now 21, we don’t have legal authority to regulate that,” Zavala said.

In Feb. this year, Gov. Hobbs sent a letter to all of the state medical boards requesting them to “formalize and standardize” the process for deciding when to issue disciplinary action.

Hobbs referenced reporting from the New Times and Arizona Republic about complaints made to the Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners in Medicine and Surgery by a woman who alleged her body was substantially disfigured after her surgery. That surgeon has not yet faced disciplinary action.

The governor’s letter was sent to all the medical boards, including the Board of Behavioral Health Examiners. That review process is due to the governor’s office on July 1, 2024.

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