Breakdowns are good for you! Discredited—Part Two
In Part One of this article1 we revealed a number of problems and dangers regarding the practices and claims made by Dr. Robert J.K. Law and Malcom Bowden in their book Breakdowns are good for you! 2 We now examine the four examples taken by Law and Bowden as "proof" that their approach has validity. The first of the four examples is Dr. William Glasser’s work at the Ventura School for Girls; the second example is Glasser’s report on a California Youth Authority program at two boys’ institutions; the third example is a hospital treatment of psychotic patients reported on by Glasser; and the fourth example is an article reproduced by Glasser from the Western State Hospital. We discredit all four examples leaving Law and Bowden without support from these examples for their bizarre theory of self-pity being the cause of mental illnesses.
Ventura School for Girls
Glasser was at the Ventura School for Girls3 about 40 years ago and reported on his claimed results based on his use of Reality Therapy. Law and Bowden refer to "the astonishing results that Glasser was able to achieve in the Ventura School for Delinquent Girls" (p. 50). Glasser says he used Reality Therapy as a means of rehabilitating seriously delinquent adolescent girls. We emphasize that these were delinquent girls and not girls labeled with "mental illness."
The current Research Program Specialist in the Corrections and Rehabilitation Office, State of California, spoke with the retired Research Program Specialist, who said that at the time Glasser was at the Ventura School for Girls, schizophrenics and others with similar mental problems would have been referred to the Department of Mental Health.4 Now, some of the girls did act crazy to get attention, but were definitely not crazy or they would not have been at the Ventura School for Girls. Therefore, this information disqualifies Law and Bowden’s example to prove the effectiveness of Reality Therapy with schizophrenics and others with serious mental problems.
Law and Bowden report that, while the prior success rate was claimed to be only 10%, Glasser had an 88% success rate, meaning that under Reality Therapy 88% "were successfully returned to society under the supervision of a parole officer" (p. 28). We attempted to confirm these figures. The figures resulting in the reported 88% success rate (12% recidivism rate) were not verifiable by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Also the 10% figure is based on the say-so of the Ventura School for Girls’ superintendent at that time. Glasser says: "According to our present superintendent, who used to supervise a parole office, 90 per cent of the girls who violate their parole are returned to the institution" (p. 68, RT). Based upon this statement, Law and Bowden say, "i.e., the ‘success rate’ was some 10%" (p. 28), but if one reads this sentence and takes it literally, one concludes that 10% of the girls who violate their parole are not returned to the institution, but it does not yield a recidivism rate of 10%, because it does not say the total percent of the girls who returned to the institution. Even if this statement reported by Glasser meant 10% success rate, that was also not verifiable by the CDCR. According to the CDCR web site, the recidivism rate for offenders who were released to parole varied over the years from 33.2% to 53.8%.5 According to the Research Program Specialist, there was no 12% recidivism rate listed for the years Glasser was at the Ventura facility.6
The Research Program Specialist spoke with two prior research specialists regarding the period of time Glasser was at the Ventura School for Girls. They both indicated that no randomized study and no experimentally designed study were conducted at the time Glasser was at the school.7
Glasser himself admits:
It is easy to state that Reality Therapy is a better treatment than more traditional approaches, but it is much more difficult to demonstrate it.
As much as Dr. Harrington [referred to later] and I would like to verify our method by other means beyond comparison with seemingly similar situations, neither of us is in a position to set up a controlled research program (pp. 103-104, RT, bold added).
Thus Glasser is much more modest about his results and, scientifically speaking, his anecdotal results absent the usual scientific parameters prove nothing and certainly cannot be used to defend Law and Bowden’s extraordinary self-pity position as the cause of "mental illnesses." Moreover, in a phone call with Dr. Glasser, he informed us that he would not support the idea that there is one singular cause of all "mental illness," such as self-pity.8
One final note on the Reality Therapy program at the Ventura School for Girls: The current Supervising Case Work Specialist said Cognitive Behavior Therapy is now used and that she knew nothing about Reality Therapy.9 If Glasser had demonstrated his phenomenal success rate, Reality Therapy would now be the therapy of choice, not only at the Ventura facility, but throughout the State.
"Orthodox psychiatry vs. RT"
Law and Bowden summarize from Reality Therapy a California Youth Authority program at "Two boys’ institutions for 14-15 and 17-18" year-olds (p. 30). Contrary to the title of this section, Reality Therapy was not used in this study. Glasser describes the reportedly more successful approach of the two as "an approach similar to Reality Therapy" (p. 106, RT, bold added).
Because no footnote is provided to compare Reality Therapy with what Glasser says is a "similar" approach, one cannot verify his conclusion and must not accept it as fact. Glasser does not even identify the two schools involved! Also, Glasser describes the boys as "low maturity" and "high maturity" (p. 105, RT), but nowhere does he indicate that they were "mentally ill." Because no footnote was provided, we contacted Glasser, asking for one. In a phone conversation with us, he admitted that he did not have any study to which he could refer and that it was too long ago for him to remember.10
We suspect that, as with the Ventura School, the two boys’ schools would not have mentally ill boys. But, with no names given, one is left with only Glasser’s description of it, which is not the scientific way. However, scientifically speaking, this invalidates the use of it as evidence by Law and Bowden.
"The Veterans Psychiatric Hospital" Glasser begins his chapter on "Hospital Treatment of psychotic Patients" as follows:
The application of Reality Therapy to the treatment of long-term hospitalized psychotic patients is examined in this chapter. The hospital is the Veterans Administration Neuropsychiatric Hospital in West Los Angeles, the building is 206, and the physician in charge is Dr. G.L. Harrington (p. 107, RT).
Before dealing with this particular example of Glasser’s, we quote Harrington’s view of "crazy people":
Hospitals are for crazy people. Everybody that is crazy has decided at some time to become crazy, he has decided how he is going to act when he is crazy and, when he decides not to be crazy, he will not be crazy. He will make a conscious decision the same as you decide to take tea or coffee for dinner (as quoted by Law and Bowden, p. 58).
Regarding Harrington’s statement, Law and Bowden say:
We would ask the reader to study this statement carefully and not dismiss it, for Harrington is not speaking from armchair theory but from the amazing results that he was able to achieve in clearing the "hopeless" ward at the Veterans Association Hospital. We will not allow his statement, which was based upon his considerable experience, to be ridiculed, brushed to one side or ignored (p. 58).
Law and Bowden ask, "Is Biblical Counselling too ‘confrontational’ and ‘judgmental’?" Because, the two-edged sword of whether a "mental illness" is spiritual or biological cuts both ways (i.e., no one knows for sure), and because all four of Glasser’s examples lack credibility as we are demonstrating, and because Harrington’s statement cannot be proven by his work at the Veteran’s Hospital, as we shall shortly demonstrate, we conclude that Law and Bowden’s quoting and supporting Harrington’s statement, which lacks scientific support, is not only unbiblical, but is worse than judgmental. It is downright mean-spirited!
Science does not function by taking someone’s word without scientific evidence, no matter the individual’s credentials. For example Dr. Colin Ross is a psychiatrist with excellent credentials, probably far better than Harrington’s, as he has published "130 papers in peer reviewed journals."11 Because one has eminent credentials does not mean he is free of dingbat ideas. For example, Ross claims that he can "make a tone sound out of a speaker using nothing but an energy beam sent out through his eyes."12 Ross claims to have done this paranormal feat many times. If we functioned like Bowden and Law, to use their exact phrase about Harrington, we could say about Ross’s claim, "We will not allow his statement, which was based upon his considerable experience, to be ridiculed or brushed to one side" (p. 58). Importantly, Ross’s claim has never been verified when tested scientifically.
The following is one more logical fallacy committed by Law and Bowden: "If we are to be criticized as being too ‘confrontational’ and ‘judgmental,’ we would ask ‘What are the alternatives?’ Do we allow the counselee to take no blame for his conduct whatsoever?" (p. 35). This is the fallacy of slippery slope: "To recognize the slippery slope fallacy, look for an argument claiming that a certain practice or event will initiate a series of events ultimately leading to some undesirable consequence"13 (italics in original). In other words, no one should criticize Law and Bowden for being too "confrontational" and "judgmental," because, if they discontinue what they are doing, that would result in the counselee taking "no blame for his conduct whatsoever." The truth is that the counselee may "take no blame for his conduct whatsoever," no matter what one does, including being "confrontational" and "judgmental."
We repeat, neither Glasser nor Harrington admittedly "set up a controlled research program" (p. 104, RT). Without the usual scientific standards in place, competent researchers would not quote the Veterans Administration word-of-mouth testing by Harrington. According to Harrington’s word-of-mouth figures, the expected future turnover of psychiatric patients would reach 200 each year. This amounts to an unheard-of-in-all-the-literature 95% recovery rate!
We called Building 206 where Harrington practiced and spoke with the Associate Chief of Staff at the Mental Health Clinic. He had never heard of Reality Therapy and had not heard of any of the therapists using that approach. He also said, "If Reality therapy were as successful as reported in Glasser’s book, it would certainly be the therapy of choice at Building 206." He added that "the expected 95% discharge rate [of Harrington’s], if it indeed did occur, is unheard of and would be well-known throughout this institution and throughout the world." 14
Because, by Glasser’s own admission, this was not "a controlled research program" (p. 104, RT) and because there was no interest in it continuing on and because Reality Therapy is not used currently at Building 206 and because the expected 95% cure rate would be known internationally had it occurred, we reject this as proof or evidence and so would any scientist. So should Law and Bowden!
Western State Hospital
Glasser reproduces an article in Reality Therapy by Dr. Willard A. Mainord, who was a psychologist at Western State Hospital. Mainord used an approach similar to Reality Therapy with psychiatric patients. The claimed release rate of these patients, according to Mainord, was 86%. It is easy to scientifically discredit this research by Mainord. First, we quote Mainord’s description of the hospital admission policies: "Admission policies are such that all patients between the ages of 18 and 65 who are not the victim of some known neurological condition are sent to these two wards." Note: neurologically impaired patients were excluded. Next he said, "To get a program going, the medical staff was asked to submit names of all new admissions that they felt might be able to benefit from intensive, short-term group psychotherapy" (p. 127, RT). Note: only those patients the staff believed could benefit from the program were recommended. Note carefully from the following how the selection was made. Mainord says:
The selection is primarily made by a short interview in which the patient shows some ability to verbalize, to express willingness to work at getting better, and to dimly accept the idea that responsibility for progress is the patient’s. About three of every four referrals reach the group. The chief reason for rejection is an apparent lack of ability to function well enough intellectually to keep up with a vigorous and often abstract group (pp. 127-128, RT, bold added).
Two scientific standards are violated here, i.e., there is no random sample and no control group. This is like playing cards with a stacked deck. Therefore the results cannot be generalized, i.e., applied broadly as used by Law and Bowden. This is one more indication of their lack of scientific credibility.
Also, in calling the Public Information Coordinator at Western State Hospital, we learned that Reality Therapy is not used there.15 The treatment of choice there, according to the Public Information Coordinator, is CBT along with other "supportive therapies."16
Is Success Irrelevant?
In spite of their painstaking efforts to prove their unique approach through the four examples from Glasser, Law and Bowden say, "We would contend that, ultimately, what the ‘success rate’ is is irrelevant" (p. 22). This is amazing considering that they spent so much time and effort trying to prove success with the Glasser examples and then followed up with a "test case" as a challenge to all those who would dare to question them. Why didn’t they just begin with the "success rate" is "irrelevant" statement and skip all the phony evidence they produce?
Law and Bowden’s TBC is predicated upon their extraordinarily unique self-pity fixation. Though they read into Scripture their preoccupation with self-pity (eisegesis), it is nowhere to be found there. TBC is not true biblical counseling; rather, it is Law and Bowden’s fleshly attempt at biblical counseling that begins with their self-pity fetish and then misuses Scripture to deal with the consequences of that preoccupation.
It probably never entered the minds of Law and Bowden that if self-pity does occur at all, that it could be the result of the mood disorder rather than the cause of it!
Law and Bowden say:
Only by God’s grace, freeing man from his bondage to sin and his sinful nature can man freely choose God’s way: So the True Biblical counsellor is dependent on the Sovereign grace of God for success. That is why statistics cannot be applied to True Biblical counselling because God works as and how He wills (p. 23).
We agree that "God works as and how He wills" but disagree that "statistics cannot be applied to True Biblical counselling." This is another one of a number of logical fallacies used by Law and Bowden. It is the logical fallacy of false cause:
The fallacy of false cause is committed when an arguer concludes that one event or thing A causes another event or thing B when in fact there is no good evidence of a causal relation.17
Though "God works as and how He wills," it does not mean or follow that "statistics cannot be applied to True Biblical Counseling." In fact, Law and Bowden disprove this themselves when they earlier refer to "a full cure" (p. 7) and even speak about biblical counseling being "proven totally effective with no relapses" (p. 21). In a section titled "Some Biblical Counselling Case Results," they say: "The following are just a few of the results from cases that Dr. Law has counseled" (p. 24, bold added). What follows is a number of cases in which, according to Law and Bowden, Law was successful. In fact, we repeat what they claim just prior to the above: Dr. Law contends that "almost all of his cases were successful" (p. 22). If "statistics" are "irrelevant," why quote Law’s "statistics"? Every one of law’s 300 cases is a statistic. Each statistic, each claim of success on his part can be scientifically examined. Otherwise, even Wright’s true biblical counseling (mentioned earlier and again later) along with all others who claim "the sovereign grace of God for success" and believe "God works as and how He wills" must be given equal consideration. If one follows their logic, how could anyone even question all manner of faith healers who claim that people are cured by faith of all kinds of diseases but also claim, like Law and Bowden, when there is no scientific proof, "that, ultimately, what the ‘success rate’ is is irrelevant"?
To be concluded in next newsletter.
1 See http://www.pamweb.org/breakdowns.html.
2 Robert J.K. Law and Malcolm Bowden. Breakdowns are good for you! Bromley, UK: Sovereign Publications, 1999. Hereafter, page references are given in parentheses, i.e., (p. 1).
3 Currently named the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility.
4 August 13, 2008 phone conversation with the Research Program Specialist, Corrections and Rehabilitation Office, State of California.
6 September 12, 2008 phone conversation with the Research Program Specialist, Corrections and Rehabilitation Office, State of California.
7 July 18, 2008 phone conversation with the Research Program Specialist, Corrections and Rehabilitation Office, State of California.
8 August 26, 2008 phone conversation with Dr. William Glasser.
9 August 22, 2008 phone call to the Supervising Case Work Specialist, Ventura Youth Correctional Facility.
10 August 26, 2008 phone conversation with Dr. William Glasser.
12 FMS Foundation Newsletter, Vol. 17 No. 4, p. 6.
13 Robert M. Johnson, op. cit, p. 248.
14 July 16 and 17, 2008 phone calls with the Associate Chief of Staff, Mental Health Clinic, Veterans Administration Neuropsychiatric Hospital.
15 July 22, 2008 phone call to Western State Hospital Public Information Coordinator.
16 September 1, 2008 phone call to Western State Hospital Public Information Coordinator.
17 Robert M. Johnson, op. cit, p. 246.
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, March-April 2009, Vol. 17, No. 2)
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