Main menu


Living with children: thoughts on clinical psychology

QUSAGE: Our fifteen-year-old son has serious psychological problems. He deals with multiple anxiety, depression and is painfully shy. You seem to believe that psychological therapy is of questionable value and sometimes even counterproductive when the patient is a child or teenager. If that’s true, we’re still left with a child who is in emotional pain and needs help. If psychology isn’t the right choice, what is?

ANSWER: Allow me first to clarify my position on clinical psychology, which I am licensed by the state of North Carolina. Several facts to consider:

1. No psychological therapy has shown reliable efficacy. To take a recent example, research into cognitive-behavioural modification, the latest therapeutic “eureka,” has not shown it to produce better results than a placebo therapy.

2. There is a significant lack of meaningful standards of practice in clinical psychology, evidenced by a wide variety of largely incompatible therapies, all approved by psychology regulatory bodies. How, say, does a psychology licensing board find it equally valuable to snap a rubber band on the wrist when unwanted thoughts arise (behavioral modification therapy) and to scream incoherently at someone’s dead mother (primal scream therapy)?

3. When the educational level of one’s “therapist” was concealed, consumers rated the effectiveness of doctorates no higher than those with a high school leaving certificate.

4. The drugs commonly used to “treat” mental and emotional problems do not reliably outperform placebos in controlled clinical trials. In fact, the drugs in question are expensive placebos with potentially adverse side effects.

5. Independent field research conducted by the undersigned for over forty years has found that children suffering from various emotional and mental dysfunctions often, if not usually, get worse while in professional therapy. That’s why I stopped talking to kids older than thirty years ago. Caveat: My findings are not based on scientific research, which is why I call them “field research.”

Please note that I have never rejected the value of counseling for personal problems that manifest as dysfunctions of reasoning or emotional expression. I simply find no research-based justification for limiting the practice of in-person counseling to only those who meet the requirements of a licensing government agency. In my experience, being a helpful counselor has little or nothing to do with the nature or length of one’s education.

The bottom line: Your son would probably benefit from an objective and compassionate third party with whom he can talk openly and receive a regular dose of common sense. Such a person can exist in the form of a minister, teacher, shopkeeper, uncle, grandfather, scout leader, coach, or even neighbor.

Don’t look for a professional title. Try to connect your son with a person you feel he can trust. Trust is the alpha and omega of good personal guidance.

[Family psychologist John Rosemond:, Copyright 2022, John K. Rosemond]