Diseases and distresses of the mind can’t be diagnosed as readily as physical problems, and proper treatments are even more difficult to develop, test and implement. More than any other discipline, psychology/psychiatry teeters on the dividing line between the hard and soft sciences, the “soft” part being precisely the difficulty in definitively nailing down what the problem is and whether it’s been treated. Some are more amenable to objective measurements, like schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder, but those tend to be the more serious illnesses. And when there’s money to be had coupled with people with problems, every kind of garbage solution conceivable will flood into the arena of possibilities.
That’s where a new book, Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology comes in.
This review by Brandon A. Gaudiano is a good summary of both the problem and the ways the book tries to address it. Basically, prominent research clinicians in psychology tackle the primary areas of their discipline that are susceptible to pseudoscience, and both debunk the garbage solutions and outline what research says about what really does work. If you’re interested at all in psychology, or have yourself struggled in that realm, it sounds like a good book to read.
But therein lies another problem. From Gaudiano:
The editors have presented the evidence in as fair and balanced a way as possible. They urged contributors to remain objective and dispassionate in their presentations, attempted to provide constructive criticism, and chose not to only debunk these techniques when necessary, but also to discuss techniques that are scientifically supported. Furthermore, each chapter contains a glossary of terms to aid the reader in the sometimes dense terminology. Although the book is accessible to the nonprofessional, the volume is most appropriate for the mental health professional or student.
One of the reasons that pseudoscience gets a foothold in society is the lack of a crossable bridge between scientists and lay-people. “Objective and dispassionate” sounds like “boring and superior” to most people (including me), and that impression is supported by the fact that this contains a glossary for “the sometimes dense terminology”. I think it’s fantastic that they’ve tackled the therapies they call “pseudoscience” straight on, but regretable that very few people who could actually use the information will ever find it penetrable. They need to find a way to make a real bridge, one that invites understanding, not impedes it.
[cross posted on cut on the bias]