The following is a sidebar to DIVISION/Review’s interview with Jonathan Shedler
In your interview in this edition of DIVISION/Review, you alluded to the widespread misconceptions and negative stereotypes about psychoanalysis. What can the Division do?
Quite a lot, actually. But our challenges are internal as well as external. Psychoanalysis as a profession has a deeply rooted culture of insularity. We tend to occupy ourselves with internecine issues instead of engaging with professional colleagues outside our own circles. This no longer serves us. Actually, it is suicidal.
The perception of psychoanalysis in the eyes of policy makers and the educated public could hardly be worse. Barely a month goes by without an article in a major news outlet saying that manualized, “evidence-based” therapy is superior. Misinformation and disinformation about psychoanalytic treatment abound.
Here’s one concrete example of something the Division could do. In the midst of all the buzz about “evidence-based” therapies, APA actually commissioned a blue-ribbon panel of experts to review the scientific literature. They concluded that the therapies that are being promoted and marketed as “evidence based” are not more effective than other forms of psychotherapy. APA (2013) issued a formal policy resolution saying so. (For more on this, see my blog Bamboozled by Bad Science).
How many Division 39 members even know about this APA resolution? How many are talking about it? If the Division can’t find ways to educate the public, we could at least launch an information campaign to inform our own members. So the next time any Division member talks to a patient who has been told that “evidence-based” therapy is superior—or to a fellow psychologist, or a medical professional, or a student or supervisee, or a journalist, or simply an interested layperson—they could say, “No, actually scientific research does not show that. That is not just my personal opinion. That is the official scientific conclusion of the American Psychological Association.”
If every Division member could have this conversation, it would go a long way to changing the dialog in our profession.
There are many more things the Division could do, but our collective attention seems to be elsewhere. Change begins with self-examination. We need to examine our tendency to retreat into intermural quibbles at the expense of our survival. We need to reflect on why we communicate in arcane jargon, which creates an impenetrable barrier for many students and colleagues who would otherwise be receptive to psychodynamic thought. They are interested and curious, but they find a “not welcome” mat at our door. We need to reflect on how we ourselves have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the misunderstanding and prejudice that threaten what we cherish.
American Psychological Association (2013). Recognition of Psychotherapy Effectiveness. Psychotherapy, 50, 102-109.
Shedler, J. (2013, October 31). Bamboozled by bad science: the first myth about “evidence-based” therapy. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psychologically-minded/201310/bamboozled-bad-science