One would expect that psychology, like all other academic and health-related professions, would be going woke, though I haven’t heard much about this area beyond the “affirmative care” controversy with respect to transgender people.
But this article below, whose title implies that wokeness is invading psychology, also implies that the influence of “politics” on psychology is pervasive, and is having unhealthy results on patients. It’s from the journal Psychreg, which describes itself this way:
Founded in 2014, Psychreg is a free, award-winning digital publication dedicated to keeping everyone informed about psychology, mental health, and wellness. The publication, as well as the open-access Psychreg Journal of Psycholgy, are published by Psychreg Ltd, a media company based in London, United Kingdom.
Click to read:
I’m going to summarize the thesis in one sentence: psychology has adopted a “politicially correct” narrative, which is that nearly all mental illness or mental disturbance, including schizophrenia, can be traced back to “trauma and attachment narratives”: i.e., the sufferer must have experienced trauma and a loss of attachment some time in their lives.
Now this seems overly simplistic for several reasons. For one thing, it implicitly blames parents or friends for someone’s mental illness, which is not only hurtful when incorrect but can derail therapy. And, as Marshall says “Clearly people can develop psychosis with no trauma or threat in their lives.” He points out that the heritability of schizophrenia is about 80%, which doesn’t rule out environmental causes as contributors to the condition, but also implies that their role is relatively minor.
What I wonder is if this “trauma and attachment” narrative is somehow conditioned by psychologists becoming woke. We all know how loosely the term “traumatized” is thrown about, even used to one’s reaction at hearing “hate speech”. It is one of the three dicta of Lukianoff and Haidt that are said to explain the fragility of today’s youth:
1) The Untruth of Fragility: aka “What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker,”
2) The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: aka “always trust your feelings,” and
3) The Untruth of Us vs. Them: aka “life is a battle between good people and evil people.”
If you are fragile, you can make sense of your illness as a result of trauma. And if you have a Manichean view of the world, as in #3, you can pin your problems on other people: a breaking of attachment.
Now I’m not trying to denigrate the mentally ill here, for Ceiling Cat only knows how many conditions can be unbearably painful. Rather, I’m trying to understand why the “attachment/trauma” explanation is, according to Marshall, taking over psychology. Just a few quotes:
As a clinical and forensic psychologist, I’ve always been interested in the causes – not correlates – of mental health, because associations, masquerading as causal mechanisms, bedevil psychology. Our profession is at a crossroads between science-based causal reasoning and knowledge versus politically biased narratives, where scientific evidence is irrelevant – and trauma is all that matters.
This part implies that it’s affecting diagnoses:
. . .Clinical culture is creaking under the weight of a blank slate trauma assumption. Even when it comes to the adversity to trauma pipeline, the position is unclear. In outpatient psychiatric clinics in New York, a review of newly admitted patients found 82% with at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE), 68% with two, and a staggering 42% with four or more ACEs; these are correlational studies, telling us nothing about what causes what.
And a bit more:
My experience, and that of others, particularly of child mental health service, is constant reference to trauma and attachment which in turn can leave the impression that this is all that matters. Imagine any other field of study or science that paints a two-dimensional picture of causal mechanisms in human well-being, ignoring decades of science on other factors? Physics without gravity; biology without natural selection. The over-focus on adversity then attachment/trauma, while well-intended, can lead to two-dimensional contaminated mindware, over-applied to every person’s emotional struggles.
. . . . Critical psychiatry approaches can highlight the presumed damaging effects of diagnosis. The problem is that deprived people are desperately seeking diagnoses for themselves, their children, and relatives in their droves. When a person can label pain and distressing emotions, this can alter positively such experiences and is relieving. An excellent diagnostic process should be collaborative and include a causal formulation. A diagnostic process should describe and classify problems, not the person. An ideal diagnostic assessment can view issues on a spectrum and blur the line between normative and pain. What’s the alternative? Well-being descriptions based on poverty, attachment and trauma for profoundly psychotic or seriously depressed people? The risk is that clinicians who overapply trauma/attachment models could explain autism, fetal alcohol spectrum, ADHD, and a raft of neurodevelopmental disorders from this blank slate standpoint.
Now the article isn’t written very well, but I did want to call your attention to what may be a misguided form of ideology creeping into psychology and psychiatry. Do weigh in if you have any experiences about the stuff above. And note that “diagnoses” are often tentative, sketchy, or weird in psychology, as evidenced by the continual changes of the DSM “diagnoses” in successive editions.
h/t: Ginger K.