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Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Those Book Reviews

On both Amazon and Barnes & noble, several of my books-- including Myths and Misunderstandings--have been the targets of attacks by review. Curiously, one such review appeared when Myths and Misunderstandings was still in production, weeks before it was released to the public, but the "reviewer" apparently thought he knew what was in it. He posted almost identical reviews for two other books on quite different topics, as well as for Myths.

Here are some points made in these attack reviews, and some needed corrections or elaborations:

1. The reviews say that child development textbooks are more appropriate than Myths .

Comment: How true! Myths is not a child development textbook and could not take the place of one. It is a supplementary text, to be used parallel with either a chronologically- or a topically-organized child development text. The two types of books are like apples and apple pie, related but not the same thing.

2. The reviews note that I am not a mental health professional and conclude that I am without training on child development.

Comment: No, of course I am not a mental health professional, nor have I ever claimed to be one. I have a doctorate in general experimental psychology and have worked in the area of developmental psychology for 35 years. As a matter of fact, I was for 5 years president of the New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health and am still an officer of that organization, so I have some expertise in the problems of parents and young children, but like many people working in infant mental health I am not licensed and do not regard myself as a therapist. I taught courses on child and adolescent development and on infant development for over 30 years. I recently gave an invited presentation on critical thinking in the teaching of child development at the developmental science teaching institute of the Society for Research in Child Development.

I should point out that most mental health professionals have very little formal training in child development, with a single undergraduate course as the most common preparation. References to licensure are certainly impressive to the layperson, but let's recall that barbers have to be licensed too; academic training and licensure are not necessarily the same thing.

3. The attack reviews claim that Myths is poorly written and inaccurate.

Comment: Like all books brought out by legitimate publishers (as opposed to vanity presses or "printer-ready" publishers), Myths went through several rounds of reviews by experts in the field, was copy-edited, and received further attention in the course of production. Any book may contain errors in spite of all efforts, and if the reviewer has seen some, I wish he would point them out specifically. As he has not done so, I assume that he is simply grasping at straws in this attempt to find negative statements to make.

What is it all about? Readers who have seen the negative reviews may have noticed one signed by Arthur Becker-Weidman. In fact, the others are either written or instigated by the same person. Becker-Weidman is given to the use of various "sock puppets" as a way of avoiding genuine discussion, and as a consequence of this habit he has recently been banned from Wikipedia for the second time.

Becker-Weidman is a licensed clinical social worker in New York state and a practitioner of a treatment called Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy(DDP), used primarily with adopted children. He would like to present DDP as evidence-based and therefore appropriate for coverage by private and public health insurance , but the research done so far does not qualify it for that category. Becker-Weidman's motivation to attack my books stems from the fact that I have pointed out in print that DDP is not evidence-based. An additional issue for him is that I have pointed out to journal editors his penchant for self-plagiarism and submission to journals of material that has been published elsewhere.

There is more to tell about this situation, but I will keep that back until events warrant telling it.

Meanwhile, I hope readers will become aware that public "reviews" and sources like Wikipedia may be far from objective in nature. Personal axes are readily ground in these ways.

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