Watch Out! My Intentions Are Clear
Well, it was bound to happen…
As more and more people and organizations place information on the World Wide Web, you’ll begin to find more and more unrefereed and unreviewed sites online. Up until now, that has generally taken the form of a layperson or consumer or patient or friend or family member placing information on the Web about a particular disorder. This hasn’t been harmful — and in fact has been very much helpful to thousands of people — because the people putting the information up have generally been free from any particular types of bias in terms of presenting the information about the disorder and its treatment. Well, no longer.
As I scrounge the Web for ever-new and ever-interesting Web sites devoted to mental health issues, I’m beginning to note an increase in the amount of information being presented by professionals to forward their singular point-of-view of mental illness. I suppose this isn’t so bad in itself, since we all do it to one extent or another, as long as it’s presented as opinion, as I do here.
When it becomes harmful is when an opinion is presented as fact. And that is what I see happening on some professional sites. Professionals presenting mental disorders as purely biological illnesses only in need of medication (and, if it’ll make you feel better, some “supportive counseling.”). Or the other extreme… Professionals presenting mental disorders as only needing counseling or some sort of alternative therapy. Neither extreme is correct. And the facts, as I’ve said here time and time again, are anything but conclusive.
What we do know about mental disorders is that we have a lot of theories, but they all tend to implicate multiple factors in almost every mental disorder, including schizophrenia… They are biological (and genetic), environmental, and psychological, or how an individual’s personality is made up. Anyone who emphasizes any one of these three factors to the detriment of the other two is missing 2/3 of the picture!
What’s the gist of this? Be more wary of information presented online and question the people’s motives for presenting it. I’m still of a mind that most consumer-created Web sites will be more well-balanced and fair than most professional sites, since consumers have nothing to gain by promoting one viewpoint over another (while professionals do).
I’ve even become more open-minded in the past year or so about all this… When I was in graduate school, I used to believe in the credo as did many psychologists-to-be: “There is one truth and psychology is it.” This is not true, nor was it ever true. All professional disciplines in the mental health field have much to contribute to our understanding of these disorders.
As the debate passes about moderating sci.psychology.psychotherapy, a newsgroup I founded a little less than a year ago, for consumers and professionals alike to come together and discuss issues relating to psychotherapy, I become more reflective of what occurred. This has been, to date, the most rancorous and vigorous debate I have ever had to engage in to create a new newsgroup or change the status of an existing newsgroup.