Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?

Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?
Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Sunday, May 17, 2015

PRETENTIOUSLY HAZARDOUS Treatments: A New Category, Courtesy of the Post Office

A piece in the Week in Review section of the Sunday Times today described how the writer visited a New York post office, and looking at the rubber stamps available, discovered one marked PRETENTIOUSLY HAZARDOUS. I can’t let this golden trouvaille go to waste. It is the perfect category description for the whole attachment therapy-holding therapy- Nancy Thomas parenting-industrial complex, as well as for more than a few other treatment methods.

Some years ago, the clinical psychologist Scott Lilienfeld introduced the term potentially harmful treatment (PHT), to describe therapies that were already known to have caused harm to patients, or which might logically be expected to do so. This term, of course, did not mean that every use of a treatment would end in harm to a patient, simply that there was a reasonable possibility that this would occur. The PHT concept stressed the fact that despite the etymology of their name, “therapies” might actually do harm—that safety as well as effectiveness could be issues for psychological treatments.  The idea of a PHT was not obvious to a Georgia attorney who cross-examined me in a holding therapy case; he argued that no harm had apparently been done, until I gave him the example of running across a busy highway and by some miracle not getting hit by a car--  he had to agree that this was a potentially harmful act that should be prevented, even though the runner came through unscathed this time.

The psychologist Michael Linden added to the PHT concept by pointing out that various types of harm could be associated with misconceived psychotherapies—for example, that the “emotional burden” of feeling distressed during treatment was harmful and should be avoided if at all possible.

So, why am I not content to call AT-HT-NTP potentially harmful treatments? Why not just point out the emotional burdens children experience when subjected to these methods? In fact, why not stick to the term “alternative psychotherapies”, which I have used myself to designate treatments that are without an empirical evidence basis, that are incongruent with established information about human development, and that are potentially harmful?

PRETENTIOUSLY HAZARDOUS treatments display problems in addition to those just stated as they retrofit theory and diagnosis to support treatment methods that are in fact derived from old ways of punishing children (perhaps even from the old German “black pedagogy”). Proponents of these treatments have spun out of straw a prosperous belief system which meets the definition of pretentiousness given by my big old Webster’s: “making claims, explicit or implicit, to some distinction, importance, dignity, or excellence”. The claims include the putting forward of an unfounded “attachment cycle” theory that states that attachment is affected by caregivers’ boundary-setting in the second year of a child’s life (such boundary-setting is important, but is not a factor in attachment). The “attachment cycle” concept is used to justify age-inappropriate actions like insisting on bottle-feeding a ten-year-old or hand-feeding sweets to a child. It is also used to justify intrusive and rigidly-controlling actions toward children that are defined as equivalent to boundary-setting.

The “attachment cycle” concept and related adult actions make the explicit claims to importance  mentioned in the Webster’s definition of  pretentiousness. But they in turn are based on an implicit claim that is all too easily swallowed by parents and other caregivers—in fact, that may be believed to a considerable extent by many adults. This is the claim of recapitulation, the repetition of earlier events, but it is not the old familiar but faulty idea that the development of the individual repeats events in the development of the species. This concept of recapitulation holds that it is possible to magically cause the recapitulation of past development, and to make it come right where it has gone wrong, simply by ritually re-enacting some past events that might be associated with the desired developmental change. For example, if a child is thought to have problems with attachment because she was not sufficiently cuddled as an infant, cuddling her now, feeding her with a baby bottle, and gazing into her eyes are thought of as ways to recapitulate and correct her early emotional life. If a child’s problems are thought to have come from failures of limit-setting in the second year, rituals of demanding that the child ask for everything he needs or sit motionless for long periods are considered to recapitulate and correct the earlier problems.

There are several problems that make such treatments PRETENTIOUSLY HAZARDOUS. One is that it is very unlikely that attachment does result from feeding experiences per se, and it is particularly unlikely that ingestion of sweet things is related to attachment in infancy. It is similarly unlikely that attachment is the aspect of development affected by boundary-setting. But suppose for the sake of argument we were to assume that those events did cause attachment in infancy? Why would we think that experiences characteristic of infancy would have the same effects on older children as they do on infants? To imagine that would be like thinking that an all-milk diet, healthy and appropriate for young infants, would also be suitable for older children with different nutritional needs and growth patterns. Magical recapitulation rituals cannot return children to the developmental needs and patterns of an earlier stage of life, and it is pretentious to claim that they do. In fact, one might well argue that it is fraudulent to do so.

It’s clear that AT-HT-NTP methods are PRETENTIOUS. Need I also argue that they are HAZARDOUS? Proponents of these methods have stated that they no longer lie down on top of children or do other things that have caused death by asphyxia in the past, and perhaps they do not. Nevertheless, the recent license revocation case of “Kali” Miller in Oregon has shown the suicidal response of a boy to treatments that did not risk suffocation but appear to have carried an unbearable emotional burden. In my opinion, this is hazardous enough to argue against use of any such methods.


These treatments are not prohibited, in spite of all we know about them. But there should be large PRETENTIOUSLY HAZARDOUS stamps on all their websites.  

18 comments:

  1. This totally qualifies! It's from the same lunatic self-proclaimed trauma mama who has written a few doozies:
    https://talkinrealhere.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/house-in-lockdown

    Pretty much all the advice this nut job blogger gives is BAD... You should write a post or two debunking all the seriously misleading and flat out bad advice she gives!

    I will simply limit my comments to LOCKING UP ALL THE FOOD IN YOUR HOUSE TO PREVENT KIDS WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED HUNGER FROM "STEALING" it:

    (With the disclaimer that none of the kids have Prader-Willi Syndrome, in which case food has to be locked up for the kid's safety):

    1. The kids are *family* members and the food belongs to the *family* ... ergo the food can't be "stolen" by family members.

    2. A kid who has a legitimate fear of starving needs whatever's necessary to reassure them that there is ALWAYS plenty of food. Let them stare at the pantry. Give them snacks to carry on their person at all times. A dear friend grew up in foster care, is now a foster parent and makes a point of giving every kid a brand new big Tupperware container, a sharpie to write their name on it and invites them to fill it with whatever pre-packaged snacks they'd like to keep in their room. (She's got a pantry filled with Sam's Club goodies). She suggests they pack extra snacks in their school bag... whatever it takes to keep the fear of hunger away (and after 3-6 months, most of the kids no longer feel the need to keep 34 granola bars or whatever in the giant Tupperware under their bed).

    3. My grandmother survived Auchwitz, my grandfather survived Dachau and their pantry was ALWAYS filled to the brim. They had a giant freezer in their basement that HAD to be filled with 1/4 cow or they literally could not sleep. Both my grandparents ONLY experienced extreme hunger for about a year (between Budapest falling and the liberation in 1945... they were both college-educated & upper middle class pre-fall-of-Budapest and again within a couple of years of arriving in the U.S., ie learned English & had accounting/physician credentials recognized). They. Could. Not. Sleep. Literally, unless their house was full of food. So I cannot imagine what it's like to be a little kid who spent their whole 7 years of life without adequate food, to be placed in the home of a foster/adoptive mom who doesn't understand Maslow's Hiearchy of Needs enough to let you check the fridge/pantry to reassure you that you don't need to worry about being hungry!


    https://talkinrealhere.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/house-in-lockdown

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    1. Yes, you are right, I should write about this-- sounds as though it's getting worse and worse-- and it's on my list-- I will get there one day I promise!

      What you say about hunger is well substantiated, for example by studies of people who were adrift in lifeboats for weeks and could never again feel as if they could count on having enough food.

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  2. Behold Laurel D, adoptive mommy who adopted 3 kids, disrupted one a year later and shipped the third one off to "ranch" for "kids" with "RAD", whom she hasn't really bothered to visit in THREE YEARS!

    THREE YEARS!

    She is commenting on another amom's blog, who has also exiled one of her adopted sons FAR FAR AWAY!
    http://nomoremoves.blogspot.com/2015/05/reflecting-back.html

    "Hi Kelly. Our daughter is too far away to see on a regular basis. The trip is too expensive for our limited budget. She has not been home in nearly 3 years. I am hoping that we may take a family camping trip in her area this summer, so that she may join us for a day or two.

    The past 6 months or so, she has asked several times if she can come home. While this may look like a good sign, it only happens when she is getting in trouble more and more where she is at. Our original plan states clearly what is expected before she comes home. It's really simple:

    1. Be ready and willing to build a relationship with mom and dad. (Be respectful, etc... )
    2. Work through trauma-based issues in counseling.

    Every time she asks when she can come home, we refer back to those goals. As long as she refuses to face the issues that caused her to move out in the first place, we will not discuss the possibility of her coming home. Period.

    Sadly, many (most) of the children/teens that move to our daughter's facility do not return home. But, they are not in the habit of putting band-aids on gaping, oozing, infected wounds. So sorry you all are walking the same hard path that we are."

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    1. So, they have to "confess" before being allowed to go home, and the more they confess, I suppose, the more reasons to stay they are found to have... and if they don't confess, they haven't "faced the issues" and must stay because of that.

      This is all really reminiscent of Rachel Stryker's description of adoptive parents who took their children to Evergreen around 2000-- if all was not satisfactory to the parents, they could choose to "love at a distance" and not be faulted for their decision even though the child
      was kept elsewhere until he or she aged out-- then the kid was on his or her own. These were "loving parents" according to themselves and the Evergreen staff.

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  3. One more for your records -- turns out the parents of Rachel Dolezal (NAACP Spokane ex-leader who pretended to be black) exiled her adopted siblings to the ghastly Ranch for Kids in MT
    http://itsthelife17.blogspot.ca/2014/01/story-of-my-life.html?m=1

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    1. Oh good heavens-- this story is so complex and so disturbing at the same time-- I hardly know where to begin looking at it!Thanks for sending this.

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  4. One more awful self-proclaimed trauma mama for your list:
    https://mamaporuski.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/ptsd-in-adoptive-parents/

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    1. Thank you-- honestly, I have this on low heat on a back burner-- I'm embarrassed that I haven't gotten to it yet--

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  5. One more:
    http://talesfromourhouse.blogspot.com/2015/07/control-rad-post3.html

    I have to keep posting these someplace because they're THAT horrible.

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    1. What a chilling list this is getting to be. I am going to be presenting at APA about problems presented by technological/media advances and I will include this bunch.

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  6. for news... thank you very much ^_^

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    1. I'm not sure what this is about-- I'm only publishing it so I can inquire, how is your friend Parvovirus B19?

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  7. A totally fawning article about the Huangs, who were eventually cleared of killing their adopted daughter with RAD in Qatar.

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/07/gloria-huang-qatar-court-case.html#

    The article notes that the Huangs locked their adopted daughter in her room overnight, didn't bother to worry despite the fact that she hadn't eaten/drunk in FOUR DAYS or take the girl to the doctor, merrily ignored the fact she was severely underweight --- and chalked it all up to RAD.

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    1. Yes, one of the terrifying things about this is the way this has been politicized into nasty Qataris being mean to nice Americans.

      But no doubt they were praying for her, so to seek medical help would have been showing a lack of faith in Jesus, right?

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    2. The Qatar justice system is a mess, it's pretty clear the Huangs didn't adopt the girl to sell her organs but, dammit, how could such well-educated people with equally well-educated friends merrily spend FOUR YEARS in the U.S. watching a kid NOT EAT OR DRINK for days at a time, become severely underweight and NOT ask the parents what's up with Gloria, and upon receiving an unsatisfactory answer ("not eating and being underweight FOUR YEARS after adoption is normal! No worries!!") not tell them to get her to a doctor and call CPS if they didn't!

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    3. If all the friends share the same belief system/religion,I suppose they will all support each other's misunderstandings. After all, people in the U.S. still let children die of preventable diseases when they believe God will be offended if they seek medical care,and all their friends and co-believers support them-- and don;t report them.

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  8. Susanna Musser has been approved to take in a "rehomed" child with special needs, despite the fact that her home doesn't have the space to accommodate another kid (she expects her church to pay for it):

    http://theblessingofverity.com/2015/07/a-new-chapter/

    This is a woman who JUST LAST YEAR didn't bother to supervise Tommy in the tub and he died a terrible, 100% preventable death as a result.

    Witnessed by his sisters, Katie and Verity, from 18 inches away on potty chairs.

    http://theblessingofverity.com/2014/12/catching-up-ii-after/

    15 years of horrific neglect in a concentration camp like Bulgarian orphanage couldn't kill Tommy.

    1 year in Susanna's care proved fatal.

    The social worker that placed another vulnerable child in her care deserves to have their license revoked.

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    1. So unfortunately, this situation echoes the findings of the Barahona grand jury some years ago: that some caseworkers develop relationships with foster parents that blind the workers to the most obvious possible problems.

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