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The following examples are a few of the many "Psych Notes" provided in the newsletter, but not on this web site:
Faith, Spirituality, and Hope
"The poll, which used telephone calls to survey about 1,500 people in June , was a joint effort of the Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania, The Gallup Organization, and the George H. Gallup International Institute.
"Respondents were questioned in two basic areas of spirituality: ‘inner commitment’ and ‘outer commitment.’ ‘Inner commitment’ was based on responses about personal feelings of connection to a higher power. ‘Outer commitment’ concerned the ways in which a person’s belief is manifested in actions that affect the community and society. An average of scores for both areas showed that 74.7 percent of those questioned determine faith as a significant factor in their lives; however, levels of personal faith ranked higher than the amount of action based on that faith. . . .
"The study also found that most Americans—85 percent—rely on faith for a sense of meaning and that 80 percent said they agreed that there are ‘clear guidelines about what is good or evil that apply to everyone regardless of his or her situation’" (excerpted from Research News & Opportunities in Science and Theology, Vol. 3, No. 9, p. 1).
Schizophrenia: A Brain Disease
"A paper published in the October 2002 edition of the journal Schizophrenia Research confirms that schizophrenia is a brain disease, in exactly the same sense that Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis are brain diseases.
"The paper reviewed 65 research projects carried out on individuals with schizophrenia who had never been treated with any antipsychotic medication. In many, the individual had only recently been diagnosed with the disease. In recent years, many critics of psychiatry have suggested that the brain abnormalities described in schizophrenia are caused by medications being taken by the patients. This review refutes that thesis.
"It is clear that schizophrenia, like many other brain diseases, produces abnormalities in brain structure and function. These abnormalities are inherent in the disease process and not caused by medications . . . .
"The projects measured the structure and function of brains of individuals with schizophrenia and compared these with normal controls. Neurological and neuropsychological measures of brain function showed the most consistent and largest differences between patients and controls. Measures of brain structure, such as MRIs, and measures of brain metabolism, such as PET scans, were also significantly different but less impressive. The brain abnormalities were not localized to a single part of the brain but instead implicated a variety of interrelated regions at the base of the brain" (excerpted from www.schizophrenia.com).
Psychotherapists’ Scientific Illiteracy
"The scientific illiteracy of psychotherapists has torn up families, sent innocent defendants to prison, cost people their jobs and custody of their children, and promoted worthless, even harmful therapies. A public unable to critically assess psychotherapists’ claims and methods for scientific credibility will be vulnerable to whatever hysterical epidemic comes along next. And in our psychologically oriented culture, there will be many nexts. Some will be benign; some will merely cost money; and some will cost lives" (Dr. Carol Tavris, "Psychological warfare between therapists and scientists," Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb 28, 2003).
"If you’re running a fever or break your arm, the first place you turn to is probably a family doctor or a trip to the hospital. But, if you’re mentally ill, where do you turn? The answer will disturb you.
"Many must turn to the biggest mental institution in the country. Only it’s not any mental institution, it is not a hospital or a clinic—it’s a jail. ‘The hospital of last resort is Twin Towers correctional facility,’ said Chief Charles Jackson. Jackson runs the biggest known jail in the world, right here in Central Los Angeles.
"Paul Moyer: ‘So what do you run here? Do you run a jail or do you run a mental institution?’
"Jackson: ‘I run both.’
"‘Both’ means 18,500 inmates—including 2,200 mentally ill men and more than 300 mentally ill women. And those mentally ill swing between jail and the streets and back to jail in a revolving door that ends right here.
"‘The U.S. Justice Department spent a number of years investigating the jail and found out after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars what they could have found out by one intelligent person—who could see and hear walking through there one time—that the place is a hell hole,’ said civil rights attorney Steve Yagman.
"‘The jails have become first care facility for many homeless people. For veterans. For people who literally belong in hospitals and clinics dealing with issues that affect their mental health,’ said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.
"According to federal government estimates, more than 630,000 severally mentally ill adults currently live in California. Many of them are homeless and many of them are in prison. One-hundred-sixty-thousand to 180,000 inmates a year are checked in to the Twin Towers facility—that’s an average of 500 to 600 a day. All are screened, color-coded and sorted—triaged, just like on a battlefield The yellow shirts, the blue pants are everywhere. About 6,000 inmates at Twin Towers are on medication. Some of them lie on cots looking like zombies.
"‘It’s an insane environment that’s underfunded, understaffed, in which nobody gets proper treatment,’ said Yagman, who has represented mentally ill inmates against the Los Angeles County jail and won (excerpted from www.nbc4).
What’s Wrong with the Rorschach?
"The answer to the question asked in the title of the book under review here is simple: Pretty much everything that can be wrong with a test. Anyone who has even cursorily followed the Rorschach debate over the past years would be aware that the test is neither reliable nor valid. What readers of this excellent and comprehensive review of the history of (and literature on) this famous test will be surprised to learn is how truly terrible the Rorschach is and how shoddy the evidence is for its continued use. . . .
"It was noted above that the great majority of scores generated by a Rorschach are invalid. This does not necessarily mean that the test simply generates random results. In fact, one of the most serious problems with the Rorschach, especially with Exner’s system of scoring, is that it significantly overpathologizes—it classifies as psychologically disordered a large percentage of individuals who are normal. Since the test has been and continues to be widely used in such vital decisions as which parent gets custody of a child, whether a child has been sexually abused, whether a prisoner should be allowed out on parole, etc., it is hard to overemphasize the seriousness of this characteristic of the test. Specifically, "Research suggests that the Comprehensive System misidentifies about 75 percent of normal individuals as emotionally disturbed" (259). This is an absolutely horrendous result. Imagine a test for some type of cancer that classified 75 percent of people who were cancer free as having cancer. No ethical practitioner would even consider using such a test, let alone publicly advocating its continued use. In fact, Gregory Meyer, a proponent of the Comprehensive System, actually claims that it can "predict the occurrence of cancer" (244).
"One important question is why, given the overwhelming evidence that the Rorschach is essentially useless, some psychologists continue to believe so strongly that it reveals important aspects of personality. Wood et al. discuss this issue at some length, and the answer will not be surprising to Skeptical Inquirer readers. Psychologists continue to believe in the Rorschach for the same reasons that Tarot card readers believe in Tarot cards, that palm readers believe in palm reading, and that astrologers believe in astrology: the well-known cognitive illusions that foster false belief. These include reliance on anecdotal evidence, selective memory for seeming successes, and reinforcement from colleagues. So, again, the parallel between the Rorschach and other pseudoscientific and paranormal beliefs is clear. There is also a financial interest at work here. If the proponents can convince others that the Rorschach is a legitimate psychological tool, then third-party payers will pay for Rorschach interpretation. This is not a trivial sum; given the time involved, the charge would be around $350" (excerpted from the Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 27, No. 5, pp. 53-56).
Emotions and Cancer
"An opinion once widespread and still occasionally heard is that the risk for cancer is raised by depression or a depressive personality—sad, submissive, with a tendency to suppress or repress feelings. Research findings are to the contrary. After correction for other risk factors, large studies and analyses of pooled data from many studies have found no evidence that personality or mood has any influence either in preventing or in promoting the onset of cancer. For example, surveys including thousands of women in Denmark, Australia, and the Netherlands have found no evidence of a cancer-prone personality or a higher-than-average rate of depression in people who develop cancer.
"The influence of acute or chronic emotional stress is also doubtful. Danish researchers found that the death of a husband had no effect on the rate of breast cancer in women during the next 15 years. A study of all firefighters over age 43 in Stockholm, Sweden, found that they had the same rate of cancer as the general population, despite the strain of their occupation. Schizophrenic patients, although they are under severe stress and often depressed, have only an average rate of cancer. . . .
"But a recent study of more than 200 women with breast cancer found no evidence that stress in the year before or five years after the diagnosis affected the rate of recurrence. A meta-analysis of 26 studies on fighting spirit, helplessness, hopelessness, denial, and fatalism among cancer patients found these attributes had no effect on survival or recurrence" (excerpted from the Harvard Mental Health Letter, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 1,2).
"Is ‘Pedophilia’ a Mental Disorder?"
"Philosophically, the definition of ‘pedophilia’ is winding along the same course that ‘homosexuality’ and so-called ‘trans-sexualism’ took 50 years ago. If psychiatry is consistent with its principles of ‘helping the client above all else,’ all the so-called ‘paraphilias’ will be abandoned. In the not too distant future, those who crave sex with children, or to torture or be tortured when they have sex, or to enjoy sex with animals, et cetera, will have to be judged mentally ‘OK.’
"But to what will a psychiatric ‘stamp of approval’ translate when it comes to social policy regarding adult-child sex? There is no logical reason why sex with the underage would be more apt to be regarded as non-criminal if the perpetrator were not ‘sick.’ Indeed, if perpetrators were considered ‘mere criminals,’ the situation might be better. After all, so many of the recent, successful lawsuits against the Catholic Church resulted from two decisions by the Church: 1) its trust in the diagnosis by psychiatrists of child-molesting priests as ‘pedophiles’; and 2) its acceptance of psychiatric treatment of such ‘pedophiles’ and psychiatric pronouncement that they were ‘cured.’
"Of course, those who want to have sex with children may take the same tack as homosexuals or those who want a ‘sex change.’ Since ‘psychiatry has proclaimed us not "sick," we should be legally and socially accepted. Nor should our behavior be criminalized.’ Such a strategy—‘a winner’ for homosexuals and those desiring sex changes—will undoubtedly be pursued by those who want to have sex with children. But they will have to contend with the forces that have led to raising the age of consent much higher than it has been in most of human history (Dr. Paul Cameron, excerpted from Family Research Report, Vol. 18, No. 7, p. 2; www.familyresearchinst.org).
Misogyny to the Max
"What Karl Menninger [a founder of the world-famous Menninger Clinic] derived from his personal psychoanalyses and his study of Freud was a single overriding belief that dominated his thinking about all human behavior, including criminal behavior. Menninger believed that mothers are the cause of virtually all psychopathology, both at a personal level and as reflected in problems of civilization, and he developed this belief in two remarkably misogynistic articles published in the Atlantic Monthly in February and August 1939. Menninger’s concept of original sin was ‘the childhood experience of having been frustrated too considerably and too rapidly’ by mothers. This experience of frustration leads in turn to ‘the hate that burns in the child’s heart,’ for the mother is ‘the one who first stirs up bitterness and revenge wishes in the child.’ Menninger continued: ‘It is the mother toward whom the deepest layer of resentment attaches itself. . . . If we penetrate the many layers of hatred we come eventually to the deepest hurt of all—"Mother failed me."’ The hatred engendered by mothers then became, in Menninger’s view, the direct cause of neuroses, psychoses, alcoholism, sexual problems, marital problems, personality disorders, crime, and even war—indeed virtually everything wrong with both individuals and civilization had its roots in mothers’ frustration of their children. . . .
"In an article in 1937 . . . with Hitler threatening to draw Europe into an armed struggle, Menninger emphasized his thesis that mothers activate the death instinct and are thus the cause of wars, and noted that ‘it is on the basis of Freud’s work that others have proposed applications of our psychological knowledge to the elimination of war.’ Similar themes were sounded in Menninger’s Man Against Himself (1938) and Love Against Hate (1942). . . .
"The roots of crime, Menninger asserted, could be traced to early childhood experiences and especially to mothers. As he explained in a 1959 article in Harper’s: ‘The offenders who are chucked into our county and state and federal prisons are not anyone’s beloved children; they are usually unloved children, grown-up physically but still hungry for human concern which they never got or never get in normal ways. So they pursue it in abnormal ways—abnormal, that is, from our standpoint.’ To punish such offenders is therefore not only illogical, but it is also unfair. . . .
"Freudian theory is inherently misogynistic and patronizing. Freud said that women are more narcissistic than men and have ‘little sense of justice.’ . . .
"When Menninger wrote in 1939 about ‘the deepest hurt of all—"Mother failed me,"’ he was reflecting a view of mothers that is inherent in Freudian theory. This theory has led logically to an epidemic of mother-blaming and women-bashing among mental health professionals. . . . A social worker recalled that during her training, ‘We took it for granted that mothers caused much pathology. . . . If a patient is in trouble, the underlying assumption is that the mother must have done something wrong. . . . If [the problem] is not viral or bacterial, it must be maternal.’ The concept of pathogenic mothering has come to permeate almost all forms of psychotherapy and is used to explain most individual and family pathology" (excerpted from Freudian Fraud by E. Fuller Torrey, pp. 161-163, 250-251).
"The Death of Grief Therapy?"
"Thirty years ago, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross crystallized our popular understanding of death and dying by proposing a five-step model of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although she intended to describe the experience of the dying person, her model quickly became the accepted template for mourners as well. Kubler-Ross’s work helped spawn the notion that therapists could help people grieve more efficiently; after all, who’s a more capable guide to take people through a painful emotional journey?
"Now an examination of about 500 studies on grief and bereavement, led by social worker Janice Genevro, concludes that there’s no one-size-fits-all model for grieving, that grief therapy doesn’t shorten grieving, and that it doesn’t significantly alleviate the intensity or side effects of grief" (excerpted from Psychotherapy Networker, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 21, 22). [The 182-page report discussing Genevro’s work is issued by the Center for the Advancement for Health and is available free at the Center’s web site: <www.cfah.org/programs/grief_research.cfm>.]
Teenage Killers and the Death Penalty
"Later this year, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether federal law should continue to permit executions of 16- and 17-year-olds convicted of murder. On this life-or-death issue, controversial legal and ethical views on teenagers’ capacity to control their behavior and obey the law will take center stage. However, a relative new-comer to the debate—the burgeoning science of brain development—may critically influence the high court’s final decision.
"A coalition of psychiatric and legal organizations plans to submit a brief to the justices contending that teenagers often make poor decisions and act impulsively because their brains haven’t attained an adult level of organization. Consequently, the coalition argues, teenage killers are less culpable for their crimes than their adult counterparts are. Capital punishment of teens thus violates the constitutional amendment protecting citizens from cruel and unusual punishment. . . .
"UCLA’s Elizabeth Sowell, another prominent brain-development researcher, takes a dim view of the movement to apply neuroscience to the law. Delayed frontal-lobe maturation may eventually be shown to affect teenagers’ capacity to make long-term plans and control their impulses, she says, but no current research connects specific brain traits of typical teenagers to any mental or behavioral problems" (excerpted from Science News, Vol. 165, No. 19, pp. 299, 301).
Myths About Mental Health Services
[Leonard Bickman was recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA) for "Distinguished Contributions to Research." Award winners are invited to deliver an award address at the APA’s annual convention. The following is excerpted from his talk titled "Practice Makes Perfect and other Myths About Mental Health Services."]
"Expenditures for mental health services, as a proportion of health care expenditures, have plummeted in the past decade.
"Concurrently psychologists have been unable to muster scientific evidence for the effectiveness of typical services. . . . Psychologists seem confident that effective services are assured by (a) more experienced clinicians, (b) degree programs, (c) continuing education, (d) licensing, (e) accreditation, and (f) clinical supervision. After reviewing relevant scientific literature, the author concludes that these are myths with little or no evidence to support them (bold added). . . .
"I label these beliefs as myths because they follow the Webster’s dictionary definition of a myth as ‘a belief given uncritical acceptance by the members of a group especially in support of existing or traditional practices and institutions.’ . . . I have identified six beliefs that are routinely used to bolster our confidence in the effectiveness of mental health services and yet have very little scientific support.
"Myth 1: We Can Depend on Experienced
Clinicians to Deliver Effective Services. . . .
"The influence of philosophy on psychology is undeniable and is particularly evident in psychotherapy. For example, philosophical influences can readily be found in the use of the Socratic method for questioning dysfunctional beliefs in Beck’s cognitive therapy or with therapists who espouse an existential-phenomenological theoretical orientation, which developed directly from a philosophical movement that was popular in the mid-20th century. However, Lou Marinoff, philosophy professor and president of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, is unsatisfied with philosophy’s influence on mental health practice and therefore proposes a therapeutic alternative to traditional psychotherapy called philosophical counseling in his recent book Plato, Not Prozac! (1999).
"Philosophical counseling (PC) is characterized by Marinoff as ‘therapy for the sane’ (p. 11), and he objects strongly to what he sees as psychology and psychiatry’s ‘disease-ifying’ of mental health problems. He argues that emotional problems are not ‘mental illnesses’ and that many modern-day difficulties are philosophical rather than psychological in nature. Therefore, philosophers, who presumably have acquired knowledge from studying what some of the greatest thinkers in history have said about a particular problem, are best equipped to assist clients in finding a philosophical theory to help navigate common difficulties arising in life" (excerpted from The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 82).
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