"To be cured against one's own will of a state we
do not regard as a disease is to be put on the level of those
who have not yet reached the age of reason, or those who never
will, and to be classed with infants, imbeciles and domestic
WHEN A TRAGEDY occurs at some school, office or worksite, policemen,
firefighters and paramedics will rush to the scene to provide
much needed services and save lives if necessary. Increasingly,
however, we see another "helping" professional, the
trauma or grief counsellor who has been called in to save psyches.
Somehow it is now the norm that after every school shooting
(or threatened shooting), car crash or airline disaster to call
in the psychologists who, in Moses-like fashion, are expected
to lead survivors of tragedy, or even tragedy's witnesses, to
the promised land of "wellness." Somehow in our fear-filled
society we have come to believe that a stranger with a few initials
behind his or her name is necessary to attaining "healing"
or "closure" after we experience or witness violence
Where does this notion come from? Where did we get the sentimental
idea that after every tragedy - a parent's loss of a child,
for example, we are supposed to be "healed"? In her
book Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology Industry is
Doing to People, Dr. Tana Dineen answers those questions. And
the answer is devastating. Well researched, sharply focused
and leavened with numerous examples, her analysis of the profession
of psychology should make you want to burn your self-help books
and motivational tapes or, as the case may be, cancel the rest
of your therapy sessions.
The book's opening paragraphs succinctly sums up her argument:
"Psychology presents itself as a con-cerned and caring
profession working for the good of its clients, but the effects
are damaged people, divided families, distorted justice, destroyed
companies and a weakened nation. Behind the benevolent facade
is a self-serving industry that offers "facts" which
are often unfounded, provides "therapy" which can
be damaging, and exerts influence which is having devastating
effects on society
"This is the era of licensed, accredited, certified, proclaimed
or self-proclaimed psychologists. With degrees in psychology,
medicine, social work, and nursing or with no academic qualifications
at all, the expanding workforce of the Psychology Industry relies
for its survival and growth on its ability to create markets
and manufacture victims. Specializing in trauma, stress, abuse
and addiction, an increasing number of psychologists are competing
for "victim fees." Few of them ask any questions or
show any reservations about their business. Most equate expert
status with their own adamant beliefs which, with no pause for
critical thought or responsible reflection, they present as
"findings" and "facts."
Now that is a stinging indictment. And after reading Dr. Dineen's
book you will be hard pressed to argue it is entirely unjustified.
To be sure, Dr. Dineen is careful to acknowledge that in the
hands of dedicated and scientifically-grounded researchers,
psychology remains a worthy and respected endeavour. As she
observes, not all psychologists allow themselves to be "swept
along by seductive theorizing and popular belief."
The focus of her scorn are those "psychologists"
- whether clinical psychologists, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists,
grief therapists, mental health workers, high school counsellors,
sensitivity trainers or even hypnotherapists - who distort and
misapply the research, reducing it to ego-stroking psychobabble
and feel-good placebos. Unfortunately, she says, there are more
and more of these kinds of psychologists and few of the more
Dr. Dineen knows whereof she speaks. A PhD in psychology, she
spent nearly 20 years in the field as a clinical psychologist,
holding positions in psychiatric facilities and counselling
clinics in Ontario. She was also a psychotherapist in Toronto
for many years. But she packed in her career in the mid-1990s.
As she put it in a newspaper interview "I couldn't maintain
my integrity in a profession that is almost devoid of integrity.
This book is my apology for decades of biting my lip about the
pernicious effects psychologists are having on individuals and
Among Dr. Dineen's most explosive argument is her refutation
of the concept of recovered memories, particularly in regard
to alleged sexual abuse. She cites numerous cases wherein people
- usually men - have been falsely accused of crimes based on
such "memories." But there is, she says, no reputable
scientific evidence that these memories are anything more than
fanciful inventions. Because of this and other misuses of research,
she argues that psychologists should be barred from testifying
in court as experts on human behaviour.
Dr. Dineen goes ever further, though. One of the more devastating
analyses in her book is her dissection of the sharp marketing,
political pandering and misuse of research that goes into the
industry's efforts to perpetuate and promote itself. The burgeoning
field of trauma and stress therapy is, for the most part, a
"scam," she argues. Indeed, she regards the diagnoses
and therapies of such practitioners as little more than job
creation projects for the psychology industry. Therapists need
patients, so they create disorders with which to label erstwhile
clients. Eventually, of course, everybody can be described as
"abnormal" and in need of treatment.
The psychology industry is also fond of inflating symptoms,
augmenting their scope far beyond the original condition they
once described. For example, the word trauma once referred to
a physical injury. But now, after considerable "semantic
inflation," trauma covers anything that upsets us. Ditto
for addiction: it no longer refers to drug or alcohol abuse,
but also to those who like sex too much, play video gambling
too often or even indulgent in too many trips to the local mall.
That's right, even shopping is now considered a psychological
problem. A California psychologist has claimed that extreme
shoppers are not responsible for what they do because they suffer
"compulsive shopping disorder."
It gets more pathetic. Feel guilty at getting rich during the
high-tech boom? Another California psychologist says you are
suffering "sudden wealth syndrome." Look into the
mirror too often? You are not conceited you have "narcissistic
personality disorder." Are you a bad-tempered lout in the
morning? Tell the spousal unit it is only "intermittent
Psychology may once have been part of science's laudatory effort
to mitigate life's hardships, but Dr. Dineen's book ably demonstrates
how the psychology industry has gone, well, crazy in its attempt
to pathologize every aspect of the human condition and turn
every upset into a disease in need of therapeutic treatment.
Dr. Dineen is not the first psychologist to question the merits
of her profession, of course. For example, the late Garth Wood,
an eminent British psychiatrist, wrote in his 1983 book "The
Myth of Neurosis" that many patients in psychoanalysis
would get as much benefit from confronting their problems as
they would from being "in therapy." He was particularly
incensed by the "insidious myths" of psychotherapy
and the "unstoppable streams of verbiage intelligible only
to the arcane practitioners of these disreputable "disciplines."
What sets Dr. Dineen's book part, takes it beyond the isn't-this-awful
level, is that she asks the larger question of what the colonization
of society by the psychology industry portends. Her final judgment
is scathing: "The psychology industry is separating people
from their families, promoting stereotypic and hostile views
of men and women, degrading friendship and generally promoting
distrust and suspicion."
Ultimately, what Dr. Dineen's book exposes is the steady sentimentalization
of society. To be sure, that is not a word she uses, but when
understood comprehensively it helps to account for the kind
of fearful narcissistic society she sees "psychologists"
producing. "The theories of the psychologist industry exist
as totems which reduce people to whining, weak, passive and
vulnerable children, more intent on nurturing their inner child
that on strengthening their resolve as adults."
That's a pretty good definition of a sentimentalist. A sentimentalist
is someone who denies reality, someone who evades the concrete
facts of the world. Sentimentality inhibits rational judgment
in favour of emotional satisfaction. Patients are particularly
tempted to react sentimentally, denying, say, a diagnosis of
cancer by seeking out bogus therapies. Such a reaction can masquerade
as courage. But denial is not courage. Denial avoids the facts;
courage faces them. Refusing to despair is well and good, but
willful self-deception is cowardice.
Such sentimentalism might be tolerated if it were confined
to a deluded few. But western societies are increasingly driven
by sentimentalists of all persuasions and ideologies promoting
social-engineering schemes. Sentimentalists are particularly
attracted to political programs that promise utopia without
struggle or sacrifice. They assume that good ends can be achieved
without unpleasant effort, self-discipline or patience. More
and more, we are a society in which any misfortune that befalls
us is somebody else's fault. So we grab a lawyer to sue those
who trespass on our egos or elect politicians who feel our pain
or run to therapists who will assure us we are victims of something
(life perhaps?) and therefore aren't responsible for anything.
The result, says Dr. Dineen, is a society of damaged and dependent
people, divided families and weakened communities. As she writes,
"The psychology industry casts a long shadow over life
in North America ... While psychologists say 'trust me,' they
question and often discourage one's trust and reliance on family
and friends. As a substitute they offer artificial empathy,
cultivated warmth and phony genuineness, through which they
can persuade people to see life they way they see it, and to
live their lives in a psychologically ordered fashion."
How did this come about? Apparently, in our increasingly secularized
world, psychotherapy has replaced religion in the sense that,
like religion, it is what we turn to when we need to cope with
the vagaries of existence. But, unlike religion, psychology
seeks to eliminate the very experiences that define what it
is to be human. At the core of human experience is the mystery
of the grandeur and the misery of self-conscious mortality.
Unlike animals, humans know they will die. Yet, if they have
courage, they also learn that awareness of death gives life
its juice and joy. It is because life is so painfully transient
that it can be so achingly meaningful
Psychotherapy seeks to deny humans the very experiences that
allow them to appreciate the rich depths of life. And that,
of course, means it is a threat to human freedom. As philosopher
Leon Kass states, the ultimate goal of psychotherapy is "to
order human experience in terms of easy, predictable contentment."
But for those haunted by death, character and courage - those
ingredients of genuine freedom - are essential in order to live
with the knowledge that death is inevitable. Psychotherapy,
however, makes emotional security easy by negating the certainty
of death, and thus eradicating the need to practise those moral
virtues necessary for being free.
Obviously, this implies that the conduct of the psychology
industry has political consequences. Indeed, individuals freed
from moral responsibility are no longer citizens (in the political
sense of the word), but patients or victims who need someone
else to manage their lives. As Dr. Dineen writes: "The
psychology industry considers and treats people as children
who, regardless of age, experience or status, must be protected,
guided, sheltered and disciplined." But by smothering individual
responsibility for the sake of self-esteem or wellness, psychotherapy
creates a depoliticized society of contented creatures who need
only to be organized and pacified.
And that is a form of tyranny. It may produce a society that
looks and feels much nicer than that established by, say, communist
China, but it is still a tyranny, albeit a soft one. As C.S.
Lewis once put it, "Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely
exercises for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive."
Dr. Dineen's book exposes the threat to human freedom posed
by those rushing to rescue our poor, shivering psyches.