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.