pseudoscience in clinical psychology by elise simonds
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Pseudoscience in Clinical PsychologyBy Elise Simonds
Clinical Psychology:Concerned with the nature, diagnosis, classification, treatment, and prevention of mental disorder and disabilities
Psychology is a Science (or should be one)Just like any other science, they employ the scientific method when testing a hypothesis or a theoryFalsifiableReplicable Testable Lacking in biasBut there are a lot of other psychologists who give us a bad name
Deeper look at:Facilitated Communication (FC) for autistic childrenQuestionable Psychological Assessment TechniquesSt. Johns Wort and Other Herbal Treatments for Psychological Disorders
Facilitated Communication (FC):Used for individuals with Autism and other disorders that severely effect their ability to communicate with others.Autism: a disease which causes verbal, communicative, and relational problemsOnset is 2 years oldUsually, communication is completely absent
Facilitated Communication (FC):To help autistics communicateInvolves initial hand-over-hand and/or arm support, pulling the hand back after each selection, slowing down the movements, assistance in isolating the index finger, verbal reassurances, and encouragementHow do we know the facilitators are only supporting rather than influencing what the patient is typing? Could be conscious or unconscious Regardless of empirical support, it became very popular in the 90s and has not subsidedLast weeks People Magazine ran an article supporting its use
Facilitated Communication (FC):ResearchStudies on FC present pictures, movies, objects, or verbal questions to see if patients can type in correct answersMost studies attempt to prevent the facilitator by influencing responses by keeping him uninformed of the stimulus or tasks goal:Ask patient questions, but not the facilitator incorrect answersPresent questions or information in the absence of the facilitator no correct responsesUse a table divider to compare trials when the facilitator cannot see stimulus to trials when he can see stimulus incorrect responsesCompare trials where facilitator provides no help, hand-over-hand assistance without prevention of errors, and hand-over-hand assistance with prevention of errors correct only when facilitator was aware of the stimulus and full support was providedSome cases have even described children who get correct answers without attending to the keyboard or the stimulus!
Facilitated Communication (FC):Obviously no paying attention to what hes doing, so how can he possibly independently produce correct answers?
Facilitated Communication (FC):The Supporters Side of the StoryThese studies were done in a lab where performance was compromised due to the unfamiliar environmentStudies done at two childrens schools disproved this argumentThe Facilitated Communication Institute at Syracuse University claims There is empirical research to support the validity of FC: Controlled studies (e.g. Intellectual Disabilities Review Panel, 1989; Calculator & Singer, 1992; Vazquez, 1994; Weiss, Wagner & Bauman, in press), observational studies (Biklen, 1990 and 1993; Attwood & Remington Gurney, 1992; Biklen, Saha & Kliewer, 1995) and autobiographical accounts (e.g. Eastham, 1992; Oppenheim, 1974; Nolan, 1987; and Crossley & McDonald, 1980) provide evidence that the method works. The method may be useful for any individuals who cannot speak or whose speech is highly echoed or in other ways limited and who cannot point independently *and* reliably. But we have not selected a random group of people classified as autistic or developmentally disabled and tried the method with them, so we cannot say with what percentage it might work. (Biklen, 2005)They cant even state with confidence that it works!!Theyre openly admitting to a serious lack of empirical data on their part!!
Conclusion:Does FC Work? NO!
Psychological Assessment Tests:Used by psychologists to measure personality and psychological functioningTwo kinds:Projective Tests present an ambiguous stimulus and asked a series of open-ended questionsSelf-Report Inventories a statement is made and you must indicate if you agree it is true for youTo gain acceptance as scientifically sound assessments, they must meet the following criteria:Standardization of test so results can be replicated by any other assessorReliability internal consistence, inter-rater reliability, and retest reliabilityValidity measures what it claims to measureNorms cutoff scores to determine the meaning of the test results
Psychological Assessment Tests:The Rorschach Inkblot TestProjective testShown ten cards and asked what you seeAssessors focus on: The nature of what is seenWhat aspects of the card are used in the responsesThe sequence of responses given during testingThe examinee's nonverbal reactions to the inkblot
Psychological Assessment Tests:The Rorschach Inkblot TestDoes it measure up?Standardization Yes & No; Exner developed a system (The Comprehensive System) to ensure standardization, but many do not use itReliability No; inconclusive resultsValidity No; some scales may be valid, but overall there is no correlation between it and other more supported tests of personality and psychological functioningNorms No; good norms set for the different age groups, but not for minorities who tend to score differentlyConclusion: insufficient scientific evidence to justify the continued use of the test in clinical settings
Psychological Assessment Tests:Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)Self-report inventory126 M.C. questions based on Jungian personality theoryClassifies people into 16 types which are used to identify personalities and make predictions for ideal job placement
Psychological Assessment Tests:Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)Does it measure up?Standardization Yes; good when administered properly, but there are questions regarding the type cutoffsReliability No; mixed results, more research is neededValidity No; no proof it makes accurate predictionsNorms Yes; good norms set for both sexes, all ages, all occupations, and across minority groups and culturesConclusion: The MBTI lacks strong empirical support for its use and should not be heavily relied on for its predictive capabilities
Psychological Assessment Tests:Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)Projective test31 picture cards used to reveal dominant drives, emotions, and conflicts of the personalityConclusion: There may be a promising future for the TAT, but there is no support for it as it is currently employed
Psychological Assessment Tests:Projective DrawingsProjective testDraw a person, a house, a tree and a person, or a family engaged in some joint activityAmong the ten most commonly used assessment strategies by cliniciansMeasures psychological functioning, emotional intelligence, and intellectual functioningConclusion: Should not be heavily relied on due to their vulnerability to many weaknesses and errors in administration, scoring, and interpretation
Psychological Assessment Tests:Anatomically Detailed Dolls (ADDs)A.K.A. anatomically correct dolls or anatomically explicit dollsProjective testPrimarily used for young children with restricted cognitive and verbal skills to determine existence of sexual abuse Conclusion: lack of support for the use of these dolls to screen for sexual abuse
Herbal Treatments for Psychological Disorders:Becoming increasingly popular with the current trend towards natural, holistic, and ecological approaches to lifeUsed by about 12 to 42% of AmericansNot regulated by the FDAPuts people at risk because the use of these treatments may stop seriously ill individuals from seeking medical attentionPeople assume that everything natural must be good and harmless, but this is not necessarily accurate
Herbal Treatments for Psychological Disorders:St. Johns Wort (hypericum):Used to treat depressionConclusion: Lacks strong empirical support and should not be used to replace traditional medicinesGinkgo Biloba:Claims to slow down aging process and to diminish the cognitive deficits of old ageConclusion: a look at the research renders mixed results, leading one author to conclude that although Ginkgo may slightly improve your memory, so will a candy barKava Kava:Used in rituals in the islands of the Pacific and as a relaxantConclusion: Inadequate research designs with questionable results has led to close scrutiny of its usefulness. Additionally, long term use has been reported to lead to severe liver damage and liver failures
Conclusion:Just because a professional psychologist or the media supports an idea does not mean they are necessarily correctUnsupported theories and practices are frequently advertised as the newest answer to your biggest problemsIf something sounds questionable or too good to be true, do your own research; pop-psychology is all around us
Curiosity how many psych majors?Im a psych major Next year Im going to grad school for my doctorate in clinical psychologyFeel like there is too much bad science in psychologyAlthough most psychologists strictly employ the scientific method to conduct research and develop new practicesThere are also a lot of practitioners that have not been trained in critical thinking and end up giving the rest of us a bad name
Due to these people there is a long list of pop-psychology theories and therapies that are seriously lacking in empirical support I have chosen to talk about a small proportion of these
First, facilitated communication is a method of communication for individuals with autism and other disorders that severely effect their ability to express themselvesUsually these individuals are completely unable to communi