BEWARE SNAKE OIL AND SCIENCE
Without the advances of modern medicine, I would probably have died before reaching my teens. I had Rheumatic Fever and antibiotics were in their infancy. With the exception of polio, I suffered from all the childhood diseases o that are now prevented by vaccines. I don’t remember the measles, mumps, whooping-cough or chicken pox. I do remember the year spent in bed. I also remember being kept home when polio swept in and out-of-town. So I respect science. At the same time, my mother was an astrologer and I eventually didn’t respect that; she tried too hard to force it down my throat. Nevertheless, I have come to see that her common sense advice based on the stars comforted many and was not harmful. Still is pains me when people spend good money on distorted scientific findings.
Science is an art, and in our quest to stay strong, particularly when not feeling well we pursue all sorts of remedies. Sometimes, just believing something will work helps deal with certain problems or comforts while the illness takes its own course. My tip, don’t neglect either the art or the science in your pursuit of health, but be an informed consumer. Here is the review of a book that might help. It focuses on all medical care, but the warning applies to false therapies as well. After reading the look at the questions you should ask of any one treating anything, but particularly emotional problems.
Therapy is one of the softer sciences and its effectiveness much debated. I sought therapy in the sixties when analysis was big–at least in New York City. I spent four years seeing my shrink four times a week, lying on a couch and trying hard to follow the rules to free associate. I went into therapy trying to figure out why all my high school and college friends were married and I was still single. Therapy ended with my single state unchanged, although I did marry two years later.
As therapy ended, I told my shrink we hadn’t met my goal and he agreed. He said, “Now you have insight, but it is your job to figure out how to use it to meet a goal.” I wonder if I would have stayed on the couch if he had told me that when we started. I did gain from analysis, but suspect another form of therapy might have helped faster. No one therapy is for everyone or every problem.
Because therapy is a soft art, it is particularly important for those seeking such help for any emotional problem that creates angst and pain to be an educated consumer. This means learning about the various types of therapy, but also knowing how to interview a potential therapist. These are the questions I would ask:
- What are your professional credentials?
- What is your theory of change?
- How do you explain what you and I will be doing together?
- How long before I feel better or reach my goal?
- What will help us both know when therapy is no longer needed?
- Do you use any outcome measures–which ones?
- Who do you use to help you maintain objectivity and focus? (I personally feel every therapist should be supervised by at least one other therapist and think the best ones uses regular group consultation to keep them on track.)
If you can add to my list, feel free to do so.
For more specific advice, I am happy to offer Email or telephone consultations. Go to Services and Products on my web page for more information. If you want to know more about how my life as a foster parent influenced my ideas, either of my books offers more detail. When Good Kids Do Bad Things is available second-hand from Amazon.com. I don’t have any copies left. I do have copies of Parent’s Are People Too, An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents.