"HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE?" Francis Schaeffer

Friday, April 15, 2005

ONE NATION UNDER THERAPY Christina Hoff Sommers & Sally Satel

Rich Lowry of NationalReviewOnline comments on the therapeutic nation

"The universal prescription for trauma [is to] talk about it with any trusted person who will listen, writes one psychologist, capturing the therapeutic conventional wisdom.

But it’s not so. Studies of earthquake victims and Gulf War veterans show that talking about their experiences didn’t have any effect on their trauma-related anxiety one way or the other.

Such is our faith in talk that it has become widely accepted that if cancer patients attend group-therapy sessions they are likely to survive longer. If only it were true. An extensive 2001 study by Pamela Goodwin an oncologist worried that patients felt obliged to participate in group therapy found that expressive group therapy does not prolong survival in women with metastatic breast cancer.

Those disinclined to share their emotions might actually be harmed if forced to participate in therapy. In a Montreal study, heart-attack victims with a repressive coping style i.e., they just don’t want to talk about it who received monthly phone calls to monitor their psychological distress became more psychologically distressed. They were more likely to visit the emergency room or be prescribed tranquilizers than repressors who were left (blessedly) alone.

In a passage that will lift the spirits (although they won’t tell you about it) of repressives everywhere, Sommers and Satel summarize the research thusly: Repressors report less internal conflict, test better at solving problems, exhibit better social skills and have higher education performance. Repressors report less depression, are more popular with peers, are given higher teacher ratings and report better self-image. In other words, they sound pretty well adjusted.

Dwelling on your feelings can be a problem, especially if you’re feeling down. A researcher who compared depressed individuals told to ruminate on their feelings with those not so instructed found that over-thinking tends to impose a lens that shows a distorted, narrow view of our world. Indeed, it can take you down paths to hopelessness, self-hate and immobility.

All of this means that there is a risk in forcing therapy on the bereaved, who might be perfectly capable of handling their loss on their own (some people, of course, will not).

A 2000 study by University of Memphis researchers found that nearly 40 percent of those receiving grief therapy actually faired worse than a matched group not receiving treatment. A 2003 report by the Center for the Advancement of Health found that grief counseling and therapy may not always be effective, and in some cases may be harmful.

It is enough to make many of us want to join Sommers and Satel in saying, Thank you for not sharing."

JB here: You do have to wonder about the efficacy of much of psychotherapy. Do people just sink deeper into self absorption? Does that help? Hmm, what do I do for an encore.

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