Review of Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology Industry Is Doing to People, Second Edition. Montreal: Robert Davies Multimedia Publishing, 1998.

Review written by Dr. Susan Sarnoff

This review was prepared at the request of the Womens' Freedom Network. It was never published. So much for 'freedom.'!

  As the accompanying interview demonstrates, Tana Dineen is a dangerous woman—so dangerous that charges are pending against her for being "a threat to the television-watching public." She is also a very gutsy woman, having closed a thirty-year psychology practice due to her disgust with her profession; and now operating a Bed& Breakfast to afford the "luxury" of time to write an expose of the increasingly unprofessional nature of her former profession, which she refers to as the Psychology Industry. As she puts it, "There can be no pride associated with belonging to a group which is intent on interfering in people's lives as it promotes its own interests under the guise of an established science and the deceptive image of a responsible profession." And, having given up on the idea that change might come from within, Dineen has written her book for the potential consumers of psychology "products," including those of us who support them through tax dollars.
While some have tried to vilify Dineen as a gadfly or worse, Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology Industry Is Doing to People, is thoroughly-researched evidence of the worst she has to say about psychology. And its second edition, which is being published [this month/in April], offers even more examples than did the original of bogus "treatments," ignored research demonstrating psychology's ineffectiveness and the economic and social costs not only of labeling people victims, but of affixing that label to people for whom it is not even remotely appropriate.
Dineen explains how the profit motive increasingly guides not only individual psychologists, but the professional associations that represent them. Demonstrating the insidious effect of "advocacy statistics," she explains how the Industry has redefined "victims" so that nearly anyone can "qualify" for the label. She calls them "fabricated victims," created by reducing real experiences to theories, labeling all victims damaged and blurring the line between ordinary and extraordinary experiences. In doing so, she notes out how the Industry shuns real victims for people whose problems are more easily overcome; and she also points to studies that show that victims are far more resilient that the Psychology Industry admits, and that individual coping styles are hardly affected by therapeutic interventions.
The most impressive as well as most controversial section of the book explains how little scientific research supports the Psychology Industry, and how that little is generally ignored or misinterpreted; while satisfaction surveys, placebo effects and "spontaneous remissions" are passed off as "proof" that psychology works. Even more disturbing are Dineen's accounts of research that demonstrates the negative effects of therapy, such as encouraging dependency, false optimism and externalized responsibility. Of course, Dineen addresses the fallacy of "recovered memory therapy," but, to her credit, she places it in the context of the Industry's overall attempts to convince patients of its beliefs while ignoring both research and concerns that clients can be harmed by any inadequately-tested therapy. Her analysis suggests that "recovered memory therapy" did not simply grow out of psychology's infatuation with repression, but in response to the shift in attention (and funding) from "health and welfare" to "law and order." Dineen offers another interesting analysis when she suggests that psychology has been "taylored" (referring to industrial psychologist Friedrich Taylor's division of work into component parts requiring minimally skilled labor), with marginally skilled practitioners working with single issues, such as substance abuse or trauma, and seeing all clients through their single, exceptionally small, lens.
Dineen concludes the book with several prescriptives, including making therapists legally responsible for poor outcomes, cutting insurance coverage for therapy and eliminating recognition of psychologists as court experts. However, her most important prescriptive is stated in the title of her final chapter: "Taking Back Our Private Lives." For at the core of Dineen's thesis is the concern that, among the current obstacles to women's independence, are the exaggerated fears of victimization, labels of psychopathology and seductions of abuse excuses which not only drive some women out of the wider world, but lead them to believe that doing so is their choice. Manufacturing Victims is a powerful means of overcoming these obstacles, offering hard data to counter these ridiculous, but pervasive, beliefs. It should be required reading for anyone who has ever been in therapy, anyone who might consider therapy, and all of us who are paying for the therapy of manufactured victims.
@ Dr.Tana Dineen