On Bullshit Psychology

 I enjoy reading essays penned by people who tell it like they see it. Well done article IMHO. JB

“I was going to write this post on ” pop psychology ” but decided that moniker just doesn’t cut it, and the scope is too limited and easy.  What we are referring to when we say “pop psychology” is 99% bullshit.  Not too hard to see that, if you read 50 of those books and your life still sucks .  But for that matter, what passes for “evidence-based” psychology is still probably at least 60% bullshit.  I’m going to go beyond bashing the obvious targets that lard up our bookshelves, the self-help books and so forth.  I want to target much of what clinical psychology that the public encounters eagerly defines itself as.  It’s not “popular” necessarily, but it is awfully self-important and mostly wrong and potentially damaging to the public.  Actually, So let’s call it what it is: Bullshit psychology.

The main premise of bullshit psychology is that there is something wrong with you, and you need psychology to fix what’s wrong with you.  This is the first premise of bullshit.  I want to highlight this premise because all else in bullshit psychology rests on it.  You are broken, we will fix you.  We, the experts, will provide you the information to fix yourself.  Bullshit.”

About Dr. Rinewine

Retrieved 08-12-14, Full Article: Portlandmindful.com

The Most Dangerous Idea in Mental Health by Ed Cara

USA, Pacific Standard: The Science of Society. November 3, 2014.

Ed Cara Mr. Cara lives in New York City. He writes about the intersection of science and social justice at his blog, Grumbles and Rumbles.


“The belief that hidden memories can be “recovered” in therapy should have been exorcised years ago, when a rash of false memories dominated the airwaves, tore families apart, and put people on the stand for crimes they didn’t commit. But the mental health establishment does not always learn from its mistakes—and families are still paying the price.

Nearly four years ago, Tom and his ex-wife sent their daughter to an eating-disorder clinic called the Castlewood Treatment Center, outside St. Louis. In her five months there, Anna grew to believe she had recovered memories of a deeply abusive childhood that she had previously banished from her conscious mind.”

Full article retrieved 11-18-14.

I am adding Mr. Cara’s article to my growing list of historical developments of the false memory syndrome craze, repressed memory theories, multiple personality, dissociative identity disorder and others. Society can no longer ignore the fact that some of these treatments began way back in the 1905, and earlier, but they still thrive today – one hundred years later.

The ever growing list of family tragedies stemming from some types of psychotherapies based on pseudoscience that may treat medical disorders with personal beliefs and politics, rather than science, will no longer be ignored on this blog.

The organizations listed below, to my knowledge, have not taken major steps to insist on science-based treatment for people seeking mental health care. These goofy-therapy debacles that were largely ignored by the United States organizations, like the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association and most recently the US backed National Association of Social Workers – who recently offered continuing education credits for attendees of a recent conference on multiple personalities, disguised in my opinion, as a trauma and dissociation conference held in Seattle, Washington, USA, must be include for an accurate history.

The Wikipedia Initiative: An effort by the Association for Psychological Science to promote science education by Michael D Anestis

New M.Anestis Photo Compressed   by Michael D. Anestis, M.S., Ph.D.

I have been meaning to write about this for a while and today seemed like as good a time as any.  The Association for Psychological Science (APS) is making a valient [sic] effort to expand the reach of science by encouraging scientifically-minded psychologists and students to develop Wikipedia articles that promote an accurate understanding of science in psychology.  In my opinion, this is an absolutely fantastic initiative with the potential to promote significant public health gains.

I’ve stated this before, but let me quickly summarize what I believe to be one of if not the greatest shortcoming in the mental health field: failure to effectively market science.  As doctoral students, we are trained – and rightfully so – to develop our clinical and research skills and to promote our work through peer-reviewed articles.  This is the single most important mechanism of dissemination within the scientific community.  The problem is, the vast majority of people who are in need of the services we develop through scientific research are not members of that community, do not have years of training in interpreting statistical data and experimental designs, and do not have subscriptions for peer-reviewed journals.  As such, most potential consumers of this knowledge are unaware of its existence and lack access to it anyway.  Making the problem worse is that, in the absense of efforts on the part of scientifically-minded psychologists and students to disseminate this information to a broader audience, others have swooped in – some opportunistic and mean-spirited, but most bringing with them misguided but truly good intentions – and filled the void with compelling promotions of pseudoscientific and oftentimes ineffective (or worse) treatments.

Enter the Wikipedia Initiative.  Wikipedia is one of the most highly viewed sites on the net.  As such, it is a way to reach people who might not otherwise come across accurate mental health information and to thus increase the odds that they will find appropriate help.  By encouraging people to infuse Wikipedia with accurate, balanced articles about science in clinical psychology (with links to support claims), APS is taking an important step towards shifting the tide in this struggle and increasing the regularity of interactions between people in need and providers of evidence-based treatments.

I suspect some will see this intiative [sic] as an effort to push an agenda on readers.  To be fair, if the articles do not link to independent sources that provide detailed descriptions of the nature of the evidence supporting claims made in articles and if articles are written in a way that mislead readers, the initiative would deserve such negative views; however, that is not the intention of the effort.

I highly encourage interested readers to take part in this project.  To read more about it, click here.

What do you think about this project?  Are there ways to improve it?  Do you have other ideas for promoting science to a broader audience?

If you would like to learn more about the topics discussed on PBB, we recommend that you consult our online store for scientifically-based psychological resources.

Mike Anestis received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Florida State University. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. Mike’s research focuses on emotion dysregulation and suicide.

Reprinted by permission.

Updated 11-25-14.

Germany: Wie eine falsche Erinnerung fast eine Familie zerstörte. A wrong memory nearly destroyed a family

This documentary will air on German public television, on WDR, on Thursday October 9. I do not speak German; please excuse my rough translation. I relied on http://translate.reference.com for the English translation.

Abuse That Never was: A wrong memory nearly destroyed a family

Editorship: Britta Windhoff

Autorin: Phillis Fermer

“Wir haben gedacht, die Welt bleibt stehen. Ich habe laut geweint und gerufen: Herr unsere Kinder. Das kann man doch nicht verstehen. Es war doch nie was vorgefallen.“ Die alte Dame sitzt neben ihrem Mann im Wohnzimmer und kann heute – 20 Jahre danach – noch nicht fassen, was damals passierte. Ihr Ehemann kann seit dem Geschehenen kaum noch sprechen. Denn das Unvorstellbare ist passiert: Drei ihrer vier Kinder haben sich von ihnen losgesagt, schlimmer noch, sie haben sie vor Gericht gezerrt. Weil die Kinder meinten, sich an sexuellen Missbrauch zu erinnern. In ihrer Kindheit. Durch den eigenen Vater. Und die Mutter habe zugeschaut.”

Wie funktionieren falsche Erinnerungen?

Professorin Renate Volbert von der Berliner Charite ist Psychologin. Ihr Spezialgebiet sind Erinnerungen. Und sie weiß, dass das Gehirn durchaus in der Lage ist, sich an Dinge zu erinnern, die in Wahrheit nie statt gefunden haben. Wenn bestimmte Vorstellungen und Bilder immer wieder aufgerufen und dann mit eigenen, realen Erinnerungen und Erlebnissen kombiniert werden, kann es irgendwann zu vermeintlichen Erinnerungen kommen, sogenannte Pseudoerinnerungen. Diese Pseudoerinnerungen haben mit tatsächlichem sexuellen Missbrauch nicht das geringste zu tun. Prof. Volberts Aufgabe ist es, Strategien zu entwickeln, das eine vom anderen zu unterscheiden.

Rough English Translation using: http://www.translate.reference.com

“We thought, the world stop. I cried loud and called: our children. One cannot understand that nevertheless. It nevertheless never happened. The old lady sits beside her man in the living room and can not seize today – 20 years after – yet, which happened at that time.”

“How do wrong memories function? Professor Renate Volbert of the citizens of Berlin Charite is a psychologist. Their special field are memories. And it knows that the brain quite is able, to remember things which never found in truth instead of.”

The article is open to comments and discussion. Follow this link: Documentary

Psychological Treatments That Cause Harm, by Scott O. Lilienfeld, Ph.D.

Emory University, Georgia, USA

Association for Psychological Science, 2007. Vol.2, No. 1, pg. 53-70.

Abstract (link to free pdf file at bottom)

The phrase primum non nocere (“first, do no harm”) is a well-accepted credo of the medical and mental health professions. Although emerging data indicate that several psychological treatments may produce harm in significant numbers of individuals, psychologists have until recently paid little attention to the problem of hazardous treatments. I critically evaluate and update earlier conclusions regarding deterioration effects in psychotherapy, outline methodological obstacles standing in the way of identifying potentially harmful therapies (PHTs), provide a provisional list of PHTs, discuss the implications of PHTs for clinical science and practice, and delineate fruitful areas for further research on PHTs. A heightened emphasis on PHTs should narrow the scientist-practitioner gap and safeguard mental health consumers against harm. Moreover, the literature on PHTs may provide insight into underlying mechanisms of change that cut across many domains of psychotherapy. The field of psychology should prioritize its efforts toward identifying PHTs and place greater emphasis on potentially dangerous than on empirically supported therapies.

* * *

Dr. Lilienfeld’s article addresses:

I. The Efficacy of Psychotherapy

  • Empirically Supported Therapies
  • The Dodo Bird Effect
  • Reasons Why Harmful Treatments Are Important

II.Harmful Effects in Psychotherapy: Earlier Conclusions

  • Deterioration Effects
  • Negative Effect Sizes in Meta-Analyses

III. Identifying Potentially Harmful Therapies (PTHS): Methodological Issues

  • Increases in Variance
  • Differences Across Symptom Domains
  • Multiple Forms of Harm
  • Harm to Relatives or Friends
  • Short-Term Versus Long-Term Deterioration
  • Client Drop-Out
  • Independent Replication
  • Strength of Evidence
  • Identifying and Operationalizing Potentially Harmful Therapies

Provisional List of Potentially Harmful Therapies

IV. A Provisional List of Potentially Harmful Therapies

Level I: Treatments That Probably Produce Harm in Some

Level II: Treatments That Possibly Produce Harm in Some

  • Peer-Group Interventions for Conduct Disorder
  • Relaxation Treatments for Panic-Prone Patients

V. Implications of Research on Potentially Harmful Therapies

  • Is the Dodo Bird Extinct?
  • Potentially Harmful Therapies Should Come Before Empirically Supported Therapies

VI. Future Research Directions

  • Prevalence of Potentially Harmful Therapies
  • Therapist Variables
  • Client Variables
  • Mediators

V. Concluding Thoughts

VI. References

Free, full pdf file Lilienfeld-Psychological-Treatments-That-Cause-Harm.pdf


Note from blogger:  Wikipedia links retrieved 09-12-13. Due to the open-source nature of Wikipedia, the information may or may not be the same as when retrieved and may or may not be accurate.


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