Is Psychology Rotten to the Core?It’s not everyday you wake up and find your profession in midst of a holy war.

Yet that seems to be what’s happening in the profession of …

75 Comments to
Is Psychology Rotten to the Core?

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  1. Lengthy but well spoken post. I will state something that will provoke more outrage than support, but it needs to be said, as an overall generalization, NOT an absolute:

    the field of social work has done more to diminish the efficacy and integrity of mental health care in the past 10 plus years by inserting itself too far into clinical interventions. I know social work clinicians who are fine and capable therapists, but as a whole, the profession is not just out of touch with the demands as a mental health care provider, it has cheapened the field literally and figuratively. And I am not going to respond to defenders and apologists who are just in the end looking out for their wallets and standings in the community. Any responsible, credible provider knows it and sees it. So, to those who have gone the full nine yards to get trained and credentialed, more power to you. To those who are just glorified guidance counselors or just plain clueless to providing real therapy interventions, shame on you for claiming to practice a craft that expects training and accountablility.

    FYI: my two experiences in own psychotherapy were with psychologists who had solid clinical training, and were not at all hesitant to note their credentials, and I appreciated that.

    Again, it is time for those who care about the state of affairs in mental health to rise up and refute outside influences that have no commmitment to helping others but just profiting off the field. And start with insurers, as they are the primary culprit to eroding the field.

    Have a nice weekend.

  2. I can see your response to articles from Newsweek and Perspectives on Psychological Science to a fair amount of time to prepare. It was a great response!

    To me, I regard many of the important qualities for psychology as art rather than science. Science might provide new tools for the practice and strengthen the nurturing qualities of psychology. But science really cannot tell anyone how to live wisely within the world of subjective experience.

    I retweeted and linked to your blog from mine.

  3. Dr. John,

    I would like to say that your article is a welcomed breath of fresh air! Bravo!

    My take on the same is that those in charge of setting policy of how psychotherapists and psychologists are trained are folks who have a disconnect between their heads and their hearts. I would risk and surmise that they make poor clinicians in actual practice. They don’t see many miracles of healing. In other words, they are not innate healers of the heart. Hence you have academicians with fancy titles that live in their heads and look at the world and the heart in terms of the linear. I know some academicians who train future psychologists who are dysfunctional and unfriendly. They have many academic accolades accumulated but they are lousy at the interpersonal level. People around them cannot stand them. They are narcissists wrapped up inside their little heads and world.

    Love heals. Love is non-linear. The best person at loving others makes a great healer. If you can have the best researcher with a great heart full of love for people treating people then you will see a revolution in psychology.

    Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D.
    http://www.DrSam.tv

  4. Cole Bitting Wrote:

    “But science really cannot tell anyone how to live wisely within the world of subjective experience.”

    I’m not sure if you are suggesting that psychotherapy is intended for that purpose, but if anyone does think that then they would be wrong.

    Different patients/clients seek therapy for different purposes. For some, it is to reduce social anxiety or depression and become more socially involved. For others, it is to improve their self-esteem or gain unconditional self-acceptance, etc. I doubt anyone who comes to a clinician’s office for a vague and abstract purpose like “living wisely within the world of subjective experience” is going to benefit much from psychotherapy.

  5. Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D. wrote (in quotes of course):

    “My take on the same is that those in charge of setting policy of how psychotherapists and psychologists are trained are folks who have a disconnect between their heads and their hearts. I would risk and surmise that they make poor clinicians in actual practice. They don’t see many miracles of healing. In other words, they are not innate healers of the heart.”

    What does that even mean? “Healers of the heart?” Is that what you define a therapist? It would be nice if you would be more specific and clear instead of metaphorical and figurative. I certainly don’t go to psychotherapy to have my “heart healed.”

    And what do you mean of a disconnect between the heart and the mind? Are you suggesting that the best means of determining the best treatment for clients/patients is through emotional reasoning?

    “Hence you have academicians with fancy titles that live in their heads and look at the world and the heart in terms of the linear. I know some academicians who train future psychologists who are dysfunctional and unfriendly. They have many academic accolades accumulated but they are lousy at the interpersonal level. People around them cannot stand them. They are narcissists wrapped up inside their little heads and world.”

    Why do I get the feeling that you are over-generalizing that people who follow Science are bad in interpersonal skills?

  6. Carlos wrote:

    Different patients/clients seek therapy for different purposes. For some, it is to reduce social anxiety or depression and become more socially involved. For others, it is to improve their self-esteem or gain unconditional self-acceptance, etc.

    How is that not about the quality of their subjective lives? Sometimes medication is a tremendous resource alone. Sometimes therapy is the only support needed for these purposes. Sometimes medication cracks the nut so to speak. Combination of those elements are very potent.

    Maybe the concept of ‘to live wisely’ is my own and not readily accessible. ‘To live with a sense of well-being,’ is likely better said.

  7. skillsnotpills,
    I’m not supporting social workers here because in general, you’re right, they don’t know what they’re doing. But I’ve not seen that “trained” psychologists do any better.

    the educational system does not train people to do well with peoples psyches. life may and natural inclinations can too– education will only help those who are naturals.

    no one is an expert in mental health just because they’ve trained at some University and those who think that by nature of having a PHd they are gifted are the worst ones out there.

  8. Samuel said,

    “Love heals. Love is non-linear. The best person at loving others makes a great healer. If you can have the best researcher with a great heart full of love for people treating people then you will see a revolution in psychology.”

    amen…and love does not require an education at all.

    John,
    I liked your article as well…a lot!!

  9. Cole Bitting:

    “How is that not about the quality of their subjective lives?”

    What I’m arguing is that you have to have a specific and concrete purpose to seeking therapy than just “living wisely within the world of subjective experience.” The purpose must focus on the physiological, cognitive and behavioral patterns. Your purpose is too broad and vague and thus, it is difficult to determine if you accomplish it. But a more concrete and specific goal or purpose is far more easy to determine if you accomplish it. For instance, learning to reduce your blushing in social situations, reducing how you negatively evaluate how terrible it is to blush in front of people, and learn to socialize with others despite blushing are far better goals that are objective than what you wrote down.


  10. Carlos,

    I speak in metaphors of the “heart” because it is a universal symbol of the non-linear aspects of our hurts, wounds, traumas as well as those noble things such as joy, love, compassion, etc. Research has a place. Often, what happens is that researchers are very linear folks (not all) who do not realize that things such as “intuition” and real “listening” to subconscious cues are extremely important and skills that cannot be taught in a journal article. I have consistently found that narcissistic and linear psychotherapists who live only in their logic greatly miss connecting because they themselves are disconnected inside.

    If you don’t understand and cannot relate to what I am saying then perhaps these things might apply to your perspective, with all due respect, friend.

    Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D.
    http://www.DrSam.tv

  11. Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D. Wrote:

    “Often, what happens is that researchers are very linear folks (not all) who do not realize that things such as ‘intuition’ and real ‘listening’ to subconscious cues are extremely important and skills that cannot be taught in a journal article.”

    Anecdotal evidence isn’t a reliable way to support a statement, esp. since human beings have a tendency to engage in selective attention and selective memory. In other words, most people (including Psychologists) usually pay all of their attention towards information and experience that supports their beliefs and assumptions while ignoring or reducing the importance of information and experiences that contradict them.

    In addition, intuition and creativity may have a place in formulating hypotheses or assumptions but it is not a means for obtaining knowledge. The only reliable way to obtain knowledge is through the scientific method, not through “intuition,” or detecting for “subconscious cues,” whatever that means. It sounds to me that you have mistaken your intuition as a reliable means of finding knowledge.

  12. Your intuition may be a marvelous device for generating hypotheses, but in the end of the day, we must tests these hypotheses through the Scientific Method. Otherwise, they remain just that: hypotheses.

  13. Has anyone here ever heard of EXPERIMENTAL psychology? That is very real. As for “clinical” applications, well, you pay your money and you take your chances…..

  14. Carlos,

    I guess we come to the question of “What is consciousness.” No one can find it. Not in test tubes, not in PET scans, etc. Where is the observer? Is the “ghost inside the machine”? Then some physicists believe that the moment we observe anything, we alter it. If we cannot not know anything outside the scientific method, we are doomed. I guess I could never know if I was in love with the woman who is now my wife and mother of some fantastic kids. How do I put love through the scientific method to know if it really exists? Scientific method… sounds so clinical, cold, faceless, and disconnected. Maybe it is an excuse from many to deny whole realms of reality they cannot understand and a position where one is king, in total control.

    Best regards,

    Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D.
    http://www.DrSam.tv

  15. William, have I heard of ‘experiental therapy’.
    I should not write when I am as tired as I am now.

    But as far as I am concerned, it’s the best of any therapy…totally!

    Skills, I must say that I just met for the first time a social worker who is great. She specializes in breast cancer treatment and does groups and SHE is great. Another good one I came across is a marriage and family therapist trained in CA, and I am really impressed with that CA training.

    Otherwise, every other social worker I have ever come across are total ‘bitches’, and dishonest and horrible. (sorry, I don’t mean to sound opinionated! kidding)

  16. Katrin:

    I said “EXPERIMENTAL” psychology, not “experiential.” Big difference. Big.

    As for Dr. Sam’s musings on consciousness, I can only say that the statement, consciousness is “not in test tubes” would have resulted in major grade deductions if written by one of my undergraduate students. The quality of scholarship in the clinical/counseling/whatever professions is, indeed, rotten to the core…

  17. Sorry, William, I never exactly knew that there was a difference but am more clear about it now.

    I trained for years with the most incredible therapists in ‘Psychodrama and Group Psychotherapy’, and that is considered ‘experiental’

    Which brings me back to the original topic of this article.

    Psychology is in itself not ‘rotten to the core’, and I can say that with a straight face only because I met the very best of what psychology has to offer. It is a true science but needs to be practiced additionally as an art. the best of therapy needs to move the patient in the gut not only the brain.

    But it is so very rare to see and experience really great psychology, and I didn’t know ‘nothing’ about what the hell I was doing and therefore didn’t want to practice something I did not feel competent at. (seems like I was the only one in my class who had that problem, and that is sort of scary)

    I think psychology is not right because it is not correctly understood, and therefore not taught right and therefore mostly /often not practiced correctly.

    Good psychotherapy should move you in a direction where you really want to change not stand still with ‘should change’.

  18. Also, individual therapy, although a good start, is by itself totally self limiting.

  19. And group psychotherapy, most therapists have no clue in how to practice. It’s a completely different thing than individual therapy. The group is the patient and not a bunch of individuals.

  20. Katrin:

    There is an important distinction to be made between the basic science of psychology and its many applications…clinical being the most well-known. As an experimental psychologist, I research brain structure and function, evolutionary processes, and cognitive aspects of consciousness. I have no interest in making people’s lives better (except in my own personal relationships). I am a psychologist in this sense, to understand human behavior and to report on what I find. Much of “therapeutic” psychology is snake oil and I urge you to stay away from it.

  21. Well, that is why I did stay away from it until I finally hit on ….

    I think it is great what you are doing, and much needed. I would participate in any of your research.

    Sorry again that I didn’t get it, and thanks for calling me on it.

    KAT

  22. I mean to also say, William, that all good therapy is, and should be continuous RESEARCH. With, or without a therapist.
    I am constantly doing research, and every form of experimentation is real science?
    Katrin

  23. Have you published anything of interest? Then send it my way to: kreichh@comcast.net

  24. Psychology is not therapy. Remember that. Psychology is the basic science that studies human behavior. Therapy is the attempt to help people to feel better in their life. You are not consulting a “psychologist” if you are seeking to improve your life. You are consulting a “therapist.” Most of whom are woefully ignorant of the variables that influence human behavior.

  25. Katrin,

    I’m glad I did not take your course because there are scientists and medical professionals that agree that “the observer” has not been found via chemical reactions, scans, etc. Stanford university has built a multimillion dollar lab to study consciousness and yet no one has yet been able to find where it is. I still have not found one textbook (I also teach at an academic institution) that can explain what “consciousnes” truly is and where it is found in a brain.

    See another perspective:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s42mrdhKwRA

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrcWntw9juM&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7p5xHD0Bhk&feature=related

    Best regards,

    Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D.
    http://www.DrSam.tv

    • Highly interesting remarks.
      THANK YOU, and I will research this.
      I also have admired and been enlightened by your earlier/later remarks.

      Don in MN

  26. Katrin:

    I don’t respond to anonymous email addresses but, I have conducted many research projects. If you can let me know more about whom I’m responding to, I’ll give you more info.

  27. Hey William, again I apologize about being careless in my use of words, i.e psychologist, therapists. Of course I know all this but I tend to be sloppy sometimes in my use of words.

    As to my being anonymous and the e-mail thing, I am certainly not about to justify myself….

    Again, I was sloppy in that I did not consider if I am trustworthy or not to you before showing interest in your research, but I was going by my being trustworthy to myself.

    And it’s my most private e-mail with full name and all. Plus you can look me up by just googling my name under Katrin Reichhold, but it’s rather not important to me either way.

    I also have a profile here on this site where you can write anonymously.

  28. Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D. wrote:

    “I guess we come to the question of “What is consciousness.”

    No we didn’t. We have came to the question, “how do we obtain knowledge?” and one which I answered well.

    “No one can find it. Not in test tubes, not in PET scans, etc. Where is the observer? Is the “ghost inside the machine”?”

    First, you need to define what is consciousness before you try to find it. Otherwise you’ll be just doing a goose chase.

    “If we cannot not know anything outside the scientific method, we are doomed. I guess I could never know if I was in love with the woman who is now my wife and mother of some fantastic kids. How do I put love through the scientific method to know if it really exists?”

    Once again, you need to define exactly what you mean by your abstract terms like love. I realize now that you have a tendency to being vague. I would recommend that you start to be more concrete and specific.

    “Scientific method… sounds so clinical, cold, faceless, and disconnected.”

    There’s that emotional reasoning again…

  29. To Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D.

    Human beings are prone towards self-deception. You say that you love your wife and you’re probably honest, but it could also be possible that you are only deceiving yourself and that you actually despise or even hate her but are too ashamed to admit it. Also, the best means of finding out an individual’s personality is through his/her friends and family. Why? Because people don’t actually know themselves as they think they do.

    Observation, experimentation and rational analysis is the best means of finding knowledge. Not intuition.

  30. Also Samuel, you are forgetting that people are prone towards self-deception. Also, people don’t know themselves as well as we like to think. Why do you think that CBT therapists make their patients and clients do self-monitoring exercises? Why is it that the best way to know an individual’s personality is by asking that person’s friend and family members?

  31. Another example of how people don’t know themselves as they would like to believe is that there are some people who are in denial of their sexuality. Even though they really believe they are heterosexual, they are actually homosexual but are too ashamed to admit it.

  32. Interesting, Carlos! And, you are right!

  33. I agree with William in the sense that this article should’ve been entitled “Is Clinical Psychology Rotten to the Core.” I generalized it because I’m not sure the average layperson knows or appreciates how many different sub-fields of psychology actually exist (dozens!). Clinical psychology is one of those sub-fields, and arguably the largest and most well-known. It is also what most psychologists in the profession do — clinical practice.

    Which is to say, this article only deals with clinical practice issues and how to train the best clinical psychologist possible. The problem is that researchers have a very specific idea of what that looks like, which may be very different from that of the people who actually practice psychology through psychotherapy.

    There are many forms of therapy, of course, and many therapists who practice it. It is a misnomer to suggest that the generic term “therapists” only refers to people who practice “issues in life” counseling, as opposed to the treatment of serious mental disorders. It is not a differentiation most people make, as far as I can tell. Most people seem to use the generic term “therapist” to describe any professional who providers psychotherapy — including psychologists.

  34. Carlos,

    Thank you for your input. We both differ in our models. You appear to believe that only what can be proven by the scientific method is valid. I don’t share that. Maybe someday when we have better instrumentation then everything can be run through a gadget and a test to determine what is “truth” about it. I don’t think that day will totally come.

    I understand what you mean by “emotional thinking” but I sense that you don’t respect that in your model. I would simply say that there are many qualitative researchers that pay very closely to “emotional thinking.” They do not discount it. I personally believe that there is no such thing as non-emotional pure research even from quantitative researchers. Qualitative guys have known this all along. The quantitative guys sometimes have fits over this and scream “No way!”

    Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D.
    http://www.DrSam.tv

  35. I agree in that all and every research must include a subjective component if it is to be worth anything. Not only objective observation.

    I worked with some great researchers at New York Hospital in NYC, and only RN’s were allowed to do anything with the research clients, ONLY. Because not just anyone can be trusted with Research and it must be a great question and it must only have interest in the name of truth, and this includes what you were not looking for.

    Good research takes integrity, ability to analyze, and a lot more.

  36. I’m not sure I understand why there’s so much vehement disagreement. What is the problem with knowing what research shows about treatment protocols? Or using those with the most scientific support as the first line of line of defense?

  37. To Samuel:

    “Thank you for your input. We both differ in our models. You appear to believe that only what can be proven by the scientific method is valid.”

    Let me clarify. I believe that one can only obtain knowledge through the Scientific Method; from my understanding, there is no other method of obtaining knowledge. Too many times there are major flaws with the other methods. For instance, some people try to utilize anecdotal evidence to support an idea but that isn’t reliable because first of all people’s memories are imperfect. Second of all, people tend to engage in selective attention and selective bias (or confirmation bias) as I mentioned before. Plus, people tend to engage in self-deception without even knowing it.

    As for emotional reasoning or appeal to emotions, I think it is quite obvious what is the problem with that. For instance, if I like a form of therapy does that feeling prove that the therapy works? No, just as much that just because the feeling of happiness over the idea that my wife is faithful doesn’t mean she is faithful.

    There are other non-scientific ways that people try to find knowledge, but really, only the Scientific Method is the best we have. We may not know everything and we sometimes have to settle with assumptions about our world but everyday we learn something new from it.

  38. Samuel,

    Thank you for your beautiful beliefs you have shared throughout this response forum. In my 3 years of doctoral study in psychology, I have been amazed by the complete “linear” thinking, as you put it, demonstrated by most faculty within my training program as well as by too many of my doctoral colleagues. We as human beings have become so disconnected from what makes us human, what makes us whole. It sometimes makes me sad to see that so many of my colleagues, with the ability to contribute towards one of life’s greatest honors and joys (mending the sick, or strengthening the vulnerable) are instead so in need of help themselves (i.e. this Carlos person on this forum). What a shame that people entering or in one of the great helping professions are so disconnected from the true callings of the field. Thank you again, Dr. Lopez de Victoria, for giving me hope that there are still some professionals out there who truly prioritize facilitating the human soul over publication credits or adherence to “evidence based practices”.

  39. To Doctoral Student:

    It is sad when a person resorts to attacking their opponent’s character rather than refuting their argument. But I guess when you have no evidence or argument to support your position, I guess that is your only resort isn’t it?

  40. Thank you for in fascinating insights Samuel…as doctoral student put it…thank you for being a beacon of hope!

    I do have to say I think it’s time you and Carlos should just agree to disagree…I’m sure you can both go on for hours defending yourselves.

  41. Doctoral Student:

    I agree with Carlos that your comment is really off, and childish and unprofessional.

    Yes, I wrote a pretty ‘bad’ comment myself, but I do not advertize as a third year doctoral student, and plus, I have lived long enough, and through enough, that I allow myself some ‘off’ comments.

    But someone like you should really take in, and listen to someone like Carlos, because he has a good point whereas you sound like a preacher.

    Also, you will have many clients yet to come (hopefully) whom you won’t like and/or agree with, and who will push your buttons a lot more than Carlos’ comment. So start practicing. (not to mention for future kids you may have)

    Katrin


  42. No problem. I agree to disagree. :)

    I would like to say that we each have perceptual filters that influence how we see the world and how we get results in our research methodologies. Everyone here, myself, Carlos, Katrin, Doctoral Student, etc. have biases that affect how we approach the discussed topics. We tend to project our issues on others and the discussion. This is a good example of how easy it is to misunderstand each other and that it takes much grace, patience, and skills that go beyond being technical experts of some area in order to create a harmonious accepting of views, even if they are diametrically opposite of ours.

    This has been a great discussion. Thank you to all!

    Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D.
    http://www.DrSam.tv

  43. Oh, and I forgot to say that I agree with you and really liked this article a lot and certainly am on your side of the point.

    Thanks, and sorry I did not mention this earlier.

    Kat

  44. And then there is one thing for sure, and that is that if one cannot change one’s mind, then one really cannot change anything.

    (I did not make that up but forgot who said this and exactly how he said it)

  45. correction: I really liked your comments, Dr. Sam.

  46. Last, for those who have become familiar with my style of commenting, and you see me do better sometimes than other times?

    Forgive me as I am really senile these days, or call it chemo-brain on top of menopause.

    Kat

  47. Dr. Sam, just now saw that comment to me about your being glad you did not take my course. I really think I am senile if I came across as telling that psychology is a pure science, and are you referring to the Psychodrama?

    There is a science underlying groups which is called ‘Sociometry’; it applies to how people relate to each other but that’s it. I won’t say more in order not to mess up more.

    Otherwise, even if I said the opposite, I am really with you.

  48. Katrin,

    Do not worry, in my book you are still cooool! :)

    I have read some on psychodrama but do not consider myself competent enough to give you a good opinion. I know it has been around for a long time and some family psychotherapists use it a lot.

    The modalities that I use are based on a model of trauma/belief that, in my humble opinion, is the best model to help people to heal with. There are a variety of techniques that use this model and I have used many of them and have developed my own over the years. Some of these approaches are such like NLP, EMDR, EFT, Energy Therapies, Applied Kinesiology, etc. I’ve seen too much healing with these that I cannot help but think that much of what is taught in grad schools today is ancient technology that works slowly if at all. Part of the reason for this is that academicians tend to be of a certain ilk or they cave in to a mindset of being stuck in their head and disconnect from intuition based treatment. Just my two cents. It is just another opinion.

    Thank you, Katrin. :)

    Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D.
    http://www.DrSam.tv

  49. Sorry Katrin,

    I see you are the highly mature one on this blog:

    Katrin at 9:50 pm on October 3rd, 2009

    William, have I heard of ‘experiental therapy’.
    I should not write when I am as tired as I am now.

    But as far as I am concerned, it’s the best of any therapy…totally!

    Skills, I must say that I just met for the first time a social worker who is great. She specializes in breast cancer treatment and does groups and SHE is great. Another good one I came across is a marriage and family therapist trained in CA, and I am really impressed with that CA training.

    Otherwise, every other social worker I have ever come across are total ‘bitches’, and dishonest and horrible. (sorry, I don’t mean to sound opinionated! kidding)

  50. Thanks, Doctoral Student, and also sorry for bring so hard on you. Cheers, Kat

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