Why Therapy Is Doing Far More Harm Than Good

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 22, 2005 | Go to article overview

Why Therapy Is Doing Far More Harm Than Good


Byline: Larry Thornberry, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Good news - the human condition is not pathological. Believe this, even though countless humbugs in various branches of the head trade have been working for decades to convince us otherwise. And they've enjoyed some undeserved success at this.

Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel have the goods on these villains - psychiatrists and psychologists as well as all manner of social workers, counselors, workshoppers and still lower orders of mental health practitioners who seek to convince Americans that they are too emotionally fragile to maneuver the bumpy road of life without endless tender ministrations from them. Children especially must be protected from every rough edge they might encounter.

"Under Therapy" is an important read, though not a happy one. It demonstrates, with supporting evidence, how some very bad ideas whooped up by mental health professionals have taken hold in America (and much of the West) based on questionable evidence, in some cases no evidence at all.

Ms. Sommers ("The War Against Boys," "Who Stole Feminism?") and Ms. Satel, ("PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine") outline the modern plague of "therapism," where mental health practitioners, some with dubious credentials, attempt to convince us that apparently normal, well-adjusted children and grownups are in fact emotionally damaged and in need of mental health treatment. In this book, we see how the resulting culture of therapism is eroding America's traditional stoic, self-reliant, can-do approach to life, the approach that made the United States the great nation it is.

For the most part the national media act as unwitting enablers for these worthless, sometimes harmful nostrums and their purveyors. They pass this stuff on uncritically because they share the ideas behind therapism, such as replacing the old reliance on religion and ethics with reliance on secular relativism and psychology. These are the ideas of the cultural left. So therapism isn't just a nuisance or a form of light comic relief for thoughtful people, but a battle front in the culture war. Ms. Sommers is a former philosophy professor and Ms. Satel is a psychiatrist and lecturer at the Yale School of Medicine. Both are resident scholars at the American Enterprise Institute.

We see a country in the grips of therapism when:

*Teachers put as much or more emphasis on building up students' self-esteem than to teaching them anything - often producing self-obsessed know-nothings with high opinions of themselves but little chance of living a successful life in a complicated, competitive world.

*Kids at school can't play dodge ball (dodge ball!) because it's too competitive and might cause stress. Only "safe and affirming" games can be played and these more often than not are games no kid with the slightest spirit or energy would want to play.

*Every bad behavior known to man is converted to a syndrome and a mental health diagnosis, obliterating the distinction between madness and badness, and allowing malefactors hauled up before criminal courts doctor approved excuses for almost any behavior, no matter how wretched.

*Battalions of "grief counselors" swoop down on schools or work places - like locusts on old Pharaoh - when anything bad happens.

*Every addiction is said to be the result of a brain disease, before which the victim is helpless.

*A recent president of the United States took every opportunity to say, "I feel your pain." He didn't really mean it, but what is instructive is that he thought this was a politically productive thing to say.

*Combat veterans, especially Viet Nam vets, are considered psychiatric time bombs because of the psychic damage their combat experiences caused them. …

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