Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Quack Child Psychology: The experts are not fooled by pseudoscience

A recent study polled child mental health experts on the credibility of questionable psychological practices. The experts, mainly child psychologists, rated assessments and treatments on a scale ranging from "not at all discredited" to "certainly discredited" or in lay terms, "not too bad" to "utter b.s." 

Many finely honed psychological instruments such as Enneagrams, biorhythms, handwriting analysis and the Fairy Tale Test did not pass muster with the professionals. The Rorschach, in comparison, received mixed reviews. Treatments that got the skeptical side-eye include but are not limited to past life regression therapy, crystal healing, and withholding food or water. I can only hope, since I’ve yet to read the entire study, that Conversion Therapy got skewered in the hot mess of harmful and hateful cures.

Anti-Pseudoscience SuperHero and Certified Quack-Busting Therapist, Gerald Koocher (photo credit: DePaul University)
No one here is surprised the research team could piece together over 100 questionable mental health protocols. I am slightly surprised however and disappointed the media ignored this story. A quick Google search revealed no mainstream or really much of any media save those content-gobbling curators picked this one up. Not even Natural News.

It is fabulous starting with lead author, Gerald Koocher, dean of the College of Science and Health at DePaul University, past president of the American Psychological Association and author of the not-published-soon-enough book, Psychoquakery. He should step out into the media spotlight more often and not just because he rocks nerd better than Bill Gates or any Brooklyn hipster.

The Huffington Post and others should heed his advice:

There are several signs that a psychological assessment or therapy is “quack,” said Koocher. First, it addresses a challenging or hard-to-treat problem by proposing an overly simple solution. Psychoquackery also is usually in sync with the spirit of the times and is often promoted by a charismatic expert. Science Daily

Be still my heart.

Charismatic expert. Psychoquackery. Spirit of the times.

...paging Dr. All-Natural, Organic, Neuro-Imaging, Lactating, Brain-Training, Endocrine-Disrupting, You’ve Already Messed Up Your Kid So You Must Be Vigilant In The Small Remaining Time You Have Left…

Fortunately Koocher got to the other clues you should forget recovered memories and other psychobabble that give psychologists a bad rep:

“Parents must be able to ask the right questions. ‘What studies have been done to show the effectiveness of this?’ And if someone says to you, ‘Medical science is keeping a lid on this because it’s too powerful and will put them all out of business,’ that’s a strong sign that a treatment is too good to be true,” Koocher said.

It might also be a sign someone is either sociopathic or delusional. No, I'm not a licensed clinical psychologist so I can't accept third party payments or charge you for that totally accurate diagnostic assessment-atizing. I can however keep this on my website because of that disclaimer below.  

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go delete "Certified on the Fairy Tale Test" from my LinkedIn profile.

UPDATE: My third-grader came home from school and reported he was an Orange. Naturally he took this as confirmation he should play as many sports as possible. Rest assured, the True Color Personality Test is somehow based on the Meyers-Briggs and as I am clearly a Green l will spare you any links to the no doubt highly valid and reliable online proliferations of the test.


Gerald P. Koocher, Madeline R. McMann, Annika O. Stout, John C. Norcross. Discredited Assessment and Treatment Methods Used with Children and Adolescents: A Delphi Poll. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1080/15374416.2014.895941

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