QUESTION: Our fifteen-year-old son has pronounced mental health issues. He deals with multiple anxieties, depression, and is painfully shy. You seem to believe that psychological therapy is of questionable value and even sometimes counterproductive when the patient is a child or teen. If that is true, we are still left with a child who is in emotional pain and needs help. If psychology is not the way to go, what is?
ANSWER: First, allow me to clarify my position on clinical psychology, which I am licensed by the State of North Carolina to dispense. Several facts to consider:
1. No psychological therapy has demonstrated reliable efficacy. To take a recent example, research into cognitive behavior modification, the latest therapeutic “eureka,” has failed to find that it yields better results than a placebo therapy.
2. Meaningful practice standards are significantly lacking in clinical psychology, which is demonstrated by a broad range of largely incompatible therapies, all sanctioned by psychology oversight agencies. How, pray tell, does a psychology licensing board find equal value in snapping a rubber band against one’s wrist whenever unwanted thoughts occur (behavior modification therapy) and shrieking incoherently at one’s deceased mother (primal scream therapy)?
3. When the education level of one’s “therapist” was concealed, consumers rated the effectiveness of Ph.D.’s no higher than that of persons with terminal high school diplomas.
4. The drugs often used to “treat” mental and emotional distress do not reliably produce better results than placebos in controlled clinical trials. In effect, the drugs in question are expensive placebos with potentially adverse side effects.
5. Independent field research conducted for more than forty years by yours truly finds that children suffering from various emotional and mental dysfunctions often, if not usually, become worse while they are in professional therapy, which is why I stopped talking to children over thirty years ago. Caveat: My findings are not based on scientific inquiry, which is why I refer to them as “field research.”
Please note, I do not and never have dismissed the value of counseling for personal problems that manifest as dysfunctions of reasoning or emotional expression. I simply find no research-based justification for restricting the practice of personal counseling to only those who satisfy the requirements of a government licensing authority. My experience leads to the conclusion that being a helpful counselor has little if anything to do with the nature or length of one’s education.
The bottom line: Your son would probably benefit from having an objective and compassionate third party to whom he can talk openly and from whom he can obtain regular doses of common sense. Such a person may exist in the form of a pastor, teacher, shopkeeper, uncle, grandfather, scout master, coach, or even next-door neighbor.
Don’t go looking for a professional title. Try to connect your son with a person you feel you and he can trust. Trust is the alpha and omega of good personal counseling.
[Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com. Copyright 2022, John K. Rosemond]