Are Psychologists Over Educated Bartenders?

Marvin Ross

By Marvin Ross

A rather provocative title but that is the gist of a new book called Psychology Gone Wrong: The Dark Side of Science and Therapy. The book is written by Tomasz Witkowski and Maciej Zatonski, two Polish scientists who argue that psychotherapy is a business and a kind of prostitution rather than an effective evidence-based medical treatment.

Witkowski is a psychologist, science writer, and founder of the Polish Skeptics Club while Zatonski is a surgeon and researcher who debunks unscientific therapies and claims. Their book was reviewed by Dr Harriet Hall on the blog Science Based Medicine.

I’m pleased to hear them call psychotherapy a business as that is a criticism that I’ve lodged against psychology in a couple of my earlier Huffington Post Blogs. In one, I quoted an internal paper I came across from the Canadian Psychology Association. They were concerned that an emphasis by government on treating serious mental illnesses would mean an exclusion of mental and behavioural health which is their domain.

In my second, I suggested that there is a turf war between psychology and psychiatry with psychology trying to gain more clients. If we don’t call psychiatric illnesses an illness but a mental health problem, then it becomes more appropriate for other professionals like psychologists to be the first line of assessment and treatment. Interestingly, psychologists are lobbying to prescribe medications and can do so in three US States. Likely, some of them seem to realize that their own theories may be deficient.

The authors point out that psychotherapy has been unsuccessful. Most of what psychologists do lacks proper evidence. Psychologists are still fixated on childhood trauma as the precursor to personality and as the cause of mental disorders. The only way to treat these mental disorders is with psychotherapy which depends on the reconstruction of childhood experiences. That is the concept underlying a great deal of their theories of problems like schizophrenia.

This concept, they argue, is dangerous and has led to the abuses of the recovered memory movement. In fact, the repressed memories are often the creation of the therapists themselves. Suggesting that schizophrenia is the result of childhood trauma and possible abuse serves no purpose other than to vilify the parents of offspring who are sick through no fault of anyone.

I made reference to bartenders earlier because the common perception that many have is of the wise and friendly bartender providing a sympathetic ear for the problems of his/her patrons and offering sympathy and support. The authors point out that conventional psychotherapy offers no additional benefits to that of a sympathetic friend. That is something we all need and those who are experiencing a serious illness need even more.

My own very special psychologist is Dr Bonnie Kaplan of the University of Calgary. For years, she has been pushing the use of vitamins for mental illness. She now begins her presentations with a warning to her audience with “Don’t Google My Name” as she did twice in this presentation in Syracuse.

Part of the reason she wants no googling is that two of my colleagues and I have been very critical of her vitamin research over the years. She went so far as to file a formal complaint against physician Dr Terry Polevoy with his regulatory body for unprofessional conduct arguing that he had no right to criticize her research. It was thrown out.

And what purpose does telling people not to google them have? We all know that human nature will only result in the opposite happening. Seems that she fails to understand basic human psychology.

15 thoughts on “Are Psychologists Over Educated Bartenders?

  1. There is a “Tag U R it” being played between psychologist and psychiatrist. Psychology being at the bottom and psychiatry at the top. It is at times hard to interpret if what is under the surface, because of the emotional interference of the psychiatrist; therefore an essential need for psycho-analysis. But, not that of the patient, that of the psychologist in contrast to his/her own psychiatry.
    See, …….the patient is going to be what the patient is, until U either psychologist or psychiatry tell the patient otherwise, by therapy, psychoanalysis, psychological interference or pharmacopsychiatry . The patient assessment process will not change until one of these do. Now bartenders are known to be more open minded and friendly than the other parties. They will even call you a taxi at the end of the night.


      1. As a family caregiver John, I would like to express gratitude to your profession. I have found nurses to be empathetic and caring. But, from my perspective, it is families who are at the bottom of the heap. There is much research to say that when family caregivers are given clinical guidance, client outcomes improve. Yet we are often excluded because of unrealistic privacy legislation or discrimination. I have worked as a social worker in the mental health system and my professional opinion was respected by psychiatrists. Now as a family caregiver, my observations have not been respected with negative consequences to my well being and that of my relative with serious mental illness.


      2. I would have to agree with Kathleen. Families are still mistrusted and mistreated . There is still an underlying distrust of families by the ignorant ( even by many professionally trained individuals) who like to put the blame on families even in 2015. I trained as a psychiatric nurse in the early nineteen sixties and family blaming was around then and sadly (despite better information) is still around today in spades. Families are pretty powerless and become the scapegoats . But they are still the ones to put out amazing efforts to prevent their loved ones from slipping through the cracks. Hard to do given that there are so few health care beds for the seriously mentally ill. I think that there is even blaming the victim for being ill and not becoming well in a timely fashion. When patients have cancer we do not bully them back to health we help them to access the help that they need. The mentally ill are left to flounder especially when they are psychotic.


  2. I believe that psychotherapy has really helped me when I was extremely traumatized by my husband cheating and lying to my X..but when it comes to my son who has the devastating illness of schizophrenia, it was suggested to me that he try going off Gluten in his diet and that may well help his illness. I can no more believe that than imagine I will fly to the moon anytime soon. If it were that simple to cure such a serious mental illness then wouldn’t you think millions of people world wide would try that angle. My son’s best chance in life, I believe, is in science coming up with a better injectable medication that can target the areas of the brain that leave him so socially debilitated in so many ways due to his delusional thinking. The fact of the matter always comes back to how complicated the brain is and we all need to work together to find ways to help each other through this life. Eat a healthy, balanced diet I say, whenever possible and your body will get what it needs…leave the serious mental health problems to the psychiatrist…


    1. Good for you for your insight into mental illnesses. I worry about those who follow social science out the window, with never any questions about the theories many professionals are irrationally wedded to.

      You might like to search the Internet for trusted information–like the treatment advocacy center.


    2. I quite agree . But the anti-psychiatry people in Canada and elsewhere have made it often impossible to access timely medical help. One of them is actually being given an Hon. Doctorate at Queen’s University this June.


  3. Thanks for an article that so clearly shouts out the Truth about the old mistaken unscientific belief systems we have allowed to grow among some professionals–indeed, in all societies generally.

    By giving this kind of false information a public face makes us all silent partners in the use of non-scientific treatments where the seriously mentally ill are misunderstood and mistreated by a system based on social studies and talk therapy. This, with barely a whiff of the essential cause and cure scientific brain research to identify and eradicate brain infecting microbes/ parasites that actually cause schizophrenia, depression, autism and related neurological diseases.

    It is hard to believe that a psychologist can still propagate the mega-vitamin idea that multi-vitamins can cure or ameliorate schizophrenia after years of zero success in proving this is possible. There ‘oughta’ be a law.


    1. Thank you John and I agree about CBT. There have been positive studies of its effectiveness in many situations although the suggestion that it was as effective for schizophrenia as medications was a bit off.


  4. This article is not accurate and fair at all….it puts blame entirely on the product instead of confronting the very real danger anyone faces if they want to get off of psych meds. It is a sentence for life with many people and the process of getting off them and onto anything else for brain health is perilous and requires intelligent guidance. Don’t simplify this complex process by just blaming EMPower… is not fair to expect people to stay on meds for the rest of their lives.


    1. Would you say the same thing regarding those who need insulin to survive. Would you tell them to go off insulin? If you did you would be in legal trouble if you were a health care professional. Psych meds are essential for those with serious mental illness. The rubbish that EMpower spreads is very dangerous nonsense.


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