Reviewed Books & Films

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May 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dissociative Identity Disorder: Legitimate or Faddish Diagnosis?

APA Scott O. Lilienfeld and Joanna M. Berg are enthusiastic about Debbie Nathan's book Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case. They note,

Nathan's book is a must read for clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, as well as for students in all mental health professions. … [It] is a devastating cautionary tale of psychotherapy gone terribly wrong and of what can happen when healers place fame and fortune above patient care. It is also a needed reminder that certain urban legends can have baleful consequences, shaping our conceptions of ourselves and others for the worse.
It is interesting to note that Sybil was once treated by Dr. Herbert Spiegel, an expert on hypnosis and father of David Spiegel, the Stanford psychiatrist who chaired the DSM-5 Task Force on Dissociative Disorders, and it appears that Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) will be retained as a diagnosis in the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, due to be published in May 2013.

Is DID simply a fascinating but faddish diagnosis that grew from an urban legend, or is there legitimate science supporting the existence of patients with multiple personalities who genuinely suffer from this condition?

Read the Review
ReviewA Psychological Urban Legend With Disastrous Consequences
By Scott O. Lilienfeld and Joanna M. Berg
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(20)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

101 Ways to Increase Billing

APA In a review of the book Internet Addiction: A Handbook and Guide to Evaluation and Treatment, Tracy Knight calls attention to an online petition sponsored by the Society for Humanistic Psychology (2011). The petition questions the inclusion of questionable "disorders in the proposed Diagnostic and Statistical Manual–5 (DSM–5)," in addition to expressing other concerns. Knight asks, and I join in asking, whether every behavior that might have negative consequences should be labeled a disease. If we are honest, making problematic human behaviors into diseases, disorders, and mental illness is a way to make money. We are attempting to enhance reimbursement; otherwise, we would turn most of our attention to work on prevention and the development of policies promoting healthy living environments and wellness. We would not fall over each other in the attempt to provide every service reimbursable through the third-party payment system of the medical industry.

Read the Review
ReviewThe Addiction Addiction?
By Tracy A. Knight
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(12)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Competent Teaching Is an Ethical Issue

APA Professional psychologists (clinical, counseling, and other) complete extensive training programs to become licensed to practice. That training should give the public confidence that these psychologists will be competent and ethical or they will face sanctions. In my review of the book Teaching Ethically: Challenges and Opportunities, edited by Eric Landrum and Maureen McCarthy, I note that,

Competence in practice is a major item in the American Psychological Association's (2002) "Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct" [section 2.01a], and that is generally understood to mean that psychologists receive appropriate training, followed by supervision and evaluation. When that does not happen, it is not ethical.
However, psychology teachers have no specified training designed to ensure competence. Is teaching really that much easier than counseling? Does this lack of training mean that undergraduate students are being subjected to legions of marginally competent teachers? We really don't know. I have attended dozens of teaching conferences and convention programs on teaching where the teachers I met were dedicated and creative. However, after 40 years of faculty life I am aware that cases of at least marginally competent teaching are not rare.

The Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP, Division 2 of APA) has done a lot to contribute to developing standards for excellence in teaching. Many of the contributors to Teaching Ethically are STP leaders, and this book is a fine example of consciousness raising. However, I believe we need more than books, reports, and "best practices" conferences, so I present these two suggestions:
  • APA with STP should develop a model training program, including coursework and supervised experience.
  • Completion of this program should become a requirement for hiring new faculty, at least in departments where teaching is the primary mission.

Read the Review
ReviewEthical Challenges for Teachers
By James H. Korn
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(18)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

When Does Science Go Too Far?

APA Project Nim is a documentary film depicting the life of the now-famous chimpanzee Nim Chimpsky who was raised by humans and taught to read sign language. In gathering research data on their subject over several years, scientists put Nim through a variety of hardships such as various transfers, poor living conditions at times, and forcing him into a variety of situations he was unprepared for.

The project revealed a number of insights about human–animal communication and the science of animal learning. At the same time, there is controversy as to whether the experiment should have even been started, in addition to whether the research study went on for too long. In her review of the film, Judith Stillion observes that this is an example where psychology lost its way and learned from it. Stillion goes on to say,

The film tries to show that there were no real villains in Nim's case, just human beings who did not have the vision to understand the consequences of their actions. With the benefit of hindsight, all of the principals in the project who were interviewed in the film were unanimous that this study was a mistake.
In considering the risks and benefits of these kinds of projects (also recall the Zimbardo Prison Experiment and the Milgram studies), to what extent do you believe scientific pursuit should compromise the well-being of other beings? How might a researcher best balance consideration of harm and the promise of scientific findings? To what extent do your views change when the subjects are humans, dogs, primates, or rats?

Read the Review
ReviewPsychology: Losing Its Way and Learning From It
By Judith Stillion
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(15)

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Are For-Profit Universities Expanding Access or Exploiting Students?

APA Alliant University president Geoffrey Cox recently reviewed Andrew Rosen's book Rebooting for the New Talent Economy, and his review was generally sympathetic. However, Cox points out the inherent conflict between the need to maximize shareholder profits and the need to provide high-quality—and sometimes expensive—educational opportunities for students.

For-profit colleges are receiving increasingly close scrutiny from Congress, and critics claim for-profit schools routinely recruit poor, working-class, and unqualified students who are unlikely to graduate and who often default on the loans they take out to support their education. According to a recent New York Times article, "for-profit colleges enroll 12 percent of the nation's college students, [but] they soak up about 25 percent of the federal government's student-aid budget." The article further notes that fewer than half of students who enroll in 4-year for-profit schools graduate, and almost half of students who were paying back student loans in 2009 defaulted by 2010.

In toto, do for-profit universities expand access for underserved and nontraditional students who might not otherwise receive a higher education, or do they simply exploit vulnerable students to generate the highest possible returns on shareholder investments?

Read the Review
ReviewHigher Education's Brave New World—Again
By Geoffrey M. Cox
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(17)

Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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