28 November 2013


Because psychology has woo, too.

On Day Two of the Australian Skeptics National Convention last weekend, clinical psychologist Dr Garry Bakker talked about a range of treatments - evidence-based and otherwise - for depression and other conditions. Like many other areas of health care, psychology is not immune to the creeping influx of woo therapies that ebbs and flows as years go by. 

I studied just enough psychology at university to know that there's a lot more to it than most people who still think Sigmund Freud is relevant would imagine. While psychology has, historically, struggled to convince other doctrines that it is a real science, it can be scientific. But any practitioners who entertain therapies with no empirical evidence of effectiveness to back them up may, if you'll pardon the expression, get the hell off my lawn. 

Here's a wee pome I wrote about such a practitioner. 

Thank you, dear client, for coming to me
To discuss your continuing anxiety.
In a session or two, for a reasonable fee
I’m quite sure we can lessen your stress.

We can try a whole range of creative techniques
Some are new; some date back to the Classical Greeks
But I’ve tried them before, and in just a few weeks
Several clients reported success.

Now, although my advice might sound silly or wrong,
And you can’t see the purpose of playing along,
Anecdotally, evidence seems fairly strong,
So bear with me. Right, here’s what you do:

First, be mindful and challenge those negative thoughts,
While you sew a small crystal of zircon or quartz
In the hem of your jeans or a nice pair of shorts
And reprogram your neurons anew.

Have the static removed from the length of your spine
Try to keep both your feng and your shui in line
Mix with those of a fixed astrological sign
Picture me in a large purple hat.

Slow your thinking and exercise breathing control
Notice birdsong and breeze when you go for a stroll
Put three crow feathers into a platinum bowl
Give your sub-sternal chakra a pat.

Utter positive mantras and visualise calm
Wear a dove on an amulet wrapped ‘round your arm
Smear the end of your nose with olfactory balm
Drink some soothing valerian tea.

Shut your stress in a box by your bed for the night
Bathe your body in nut milk and indigo light.
Toss a mind-juggling ball right-to-left, left-to-right
Stick a needle or two in your chi.

I’m aware it seems strange to use such an array
Of unusual techniques when it’s safer to stay
With a method that’s tested by experts, but hey -
There’s a theory behind such a mixture

‘Cause I’m not very good at this therapy game
All these theories and systems, to me, look the same
But if somehow your symptoms subside, I can claim
It was something I thought of that fixed ya.

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