Welcome one and all! It’s Conversion* Therapy Week on Shrink Things as this week’s Psych Rounds brings you the latest in therapeutic insanity, ready to rival even that of the DSM-5 committee!
The week started well enough with a most excellent opinion piece in the NYT from a therapist who points out that demonising gay teenagers through the promotion of “conversion therapy” might make them a bit suicidal (ya think?!) and that therefore it should be banned which is exactly what they are going for in the great state of California at the moment.
But then I was introduced… to “NARTH”…
This article in Capitol Weekly has some views from both pro/con conversion therapy sides including a mention of a group called “NARTH” – promoters of reparative/conversion therapy and what da kidz would probably define as “haters”. In reading this, I can’t help but feel that those who consider themselves “converts” sound a little like religious converts rather than sexual orientational ones, to this humble cartoonist.)
And talking of NARTH (if we really must.. **reaches for bucket**) my dear friend and irreverent internet colleague Jason Mihalko did the very brave thing recently of calling one of the proponents of NARTH on a very nasty video she put out of the “gay is evil and must be cured” variety. Frankly, if she didn’t come across as enough of a narrow-minded, utterly bigotted, person-that-you-wouldn’t-let-provide-therapy-to-anyone-ever in the video then she certainly did in her response to Jason’s very polite and professional inquiry regarding the nature and validity of her statements. You can check out the whole exchange on Jason’s most excellent blog “The Irreverent Psychologist“.
And as if it’s not bad enough that the USA conversion therapy thang is kicking off, we have the same shenanigans happening in the UK though fortunately a) on a smaller scale and b) getting slapped down and struck off pretty much immediately for professional misconduct. I speak of course of Psychotherapist Lesley Pilkington who treated a chap to de-gay him in line with Christian doctrine (ahem) only to discover later on that he was a reporter who shopped her to the press and the world in general. Thankfully she was accredited by the BACP who were able to then investigate and suspend her however, due to legislation in the UK being what it is** there are still plenty of conversion therapists practicing “therapy” outside of the established industry bodies. Channel 4 in the UK has been giving this whole case great coverage and, if you can bear it, video content of the lady herself saying that reparative/conversion therapy is a-o-k, although rather amusingly the only actual research evidence for her case that she can cite is the single Spitzer study that the author himself is desperately trying to recant.
Even the comics industry is getting itself in a flap this week over gay characters. Can we not just leave the gay people the hell alone now? Really? Can we not just say “oh, hello fellow human, nice to meet you”, and move along?
I rather think that the whole gender vs therapy/mental health treatment is going to come more and more into the spotlight. Just this week we had an article about a “Transgender 5 year old” with subsequent editorial backlashery.
Right, let’s have some real science now shall we? First up, a really interesting talk (video) on stress and resilience, how it is shaped by social environment and whether or not this has an impact on individual health. Or possibly, you’re too emotionally intelligent to experience stress, in which case you’ll be really, really bad at spotting liars. Though I doubt anyone could be as stressed as this fellow must be – seeing as how he can remember every detail of every day of his entire life. I don’t know about you but there are definitely plenty of things that I’m glad to forget about!
Or perhaps we should be facing our fears this week because apparently, exposure therapy actually works.
This week has also been a great week for the “WOW” kind of brain and psych news. Scientific American has a most excellent and interesting article on someting they’re calling “Mind-Pops” – those moments of memory flash that make you recall strange things at strange times – and also how the conscious-to-unconscious memory poppings might be connected to psychosis or schizophrenia.
Or perhaps you’re more of the Jungian slant whereby psychosis is just part of the creative process. (A nice little article with more references than content which we always like to see).
Another fascinating (if mind bending) article can be found on a website called “Policy Innovations” and the article itself is “Probing the Moral Brain” which is all about ethics and emerging technologies. Can we find the ‘moral centre’ in the brain and if so, should we fiddle about with it?
I also have a couple of weird and wonderful links of randomness for you this week. Firstly, a post entitled “The Psychology of Minecraft” (and everyone knows that “the psychology of” guarantees you instant retweets and shares because you must be right!) For those of you who don’t know what Minecraft is, well done! Clearly you are too busy reading books or having a life. It’s a glorified computer game that is entirely addictive. Apparently. Still, an interesting read, especially for anyone is also happens to be a games designer as it has a whole explanation of how the game design is based on fulfilling Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
And if you want something that’s just plain entertainment, then check out “The 10 TED Talks they should have censored” including “How to use a paper towel” in case that set of directions is missing from your life.
Or you could read about how Tim Burton gave up therapy so he could spend more time obsessing about Johnny Depp.
In books, this week I’ve been sick as a dawg with a foul cold that had me in bed for a day or so. On the upside, I managed to finish reading The Psychopath Test which is an excellent and highly recommended read. (I actually heard such good reviews about it as well as the interview with the man himself that I invested in the hardcopy as soon as it came out rather than waiting for the cheaper kindle option and I’m so glad I did)
I described it on Twitter as “Non-fiction that reads like Fiction but with learny bits” that just about sums it up. Makes you think everyone you know is a Psychopath for at least the first half of the book, and the last chapter is worth the cover price for the insight into the original set up of the DSM (I,II & III) which not only explains so much of its impact on the world of medication and treatment but also really clarifies why DSM-5 is currently in such a mess.
And finally, from my sick bed I took time to ponder on the acquisition of a new therapist***
Have an awesome weekend y’all. And for those in the UK – the sun is coming out this weekend. Try not to vanish in a puff of smoke
* Apparently one can call it either “conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy” indicating only further that it is the proponents’ ethics, morals and basic humanity that is in need of repair, rather than the rainbow tinted ten percent.
** UK legislation monitoring therapists is near non-existent – the only thing you can’t do is say you have shrink qualifications when you don’t but anyone can hang up a shingle saying “therapist” or “counsellor” or “shaman” and start practicing crankery. The public health service vets therapists adequately (imho) however if you want something other than 6 sessions of CBT then you’re going to have to pay privately and many people end up with non-accredited nutcases.
*** not really.