Dr. Susan Kiss Sarnoff
for the Women's Freedom Network.
Interview with TANA DINEEN,
author of MANUFACTURING VICTIMS
This interview was conducted by Dr. Susan Kiss Sarnoff for the Women's
However, the WFN declined to publish it.
On January 7, 1998, I interviewed Dr. Tana Dineen, the author of Manufacturing Victims: What
the Psychology Industry Is Doing to People (Robert Davies), the second edition of which will be
released this April.
Why did you write Manufacturing Victims?
I can give you a "rational" reason and an "irrational" one. The "rational,"
factual one is that, in 1993, concerned that my profession had become so opinionated that it was
like a religion, I closed my practice in Toronto and moved to California. One day, while reflecting
on what had happened to psychology with an old acquaintance, Sam Keen, a former editor of Psychology
Today, I asked, half jokingly, whether he thought that psychologists might soon start leaving
the profession the way dissenting priests had, some time ago, begun to leave the Church. His response:
"Not a chance. There's too much money in it," stuck in my head and I forced myself to
begin looking at psychology as "big business." The "irrational," symbolic
reason is that, in 1991 I had a dream in which an old woman with a scar across her face screamed,
"Never call me a victim." She literally kicked me out of my bed; I woke up on the floor.
Five years later it was to her that I dedicated Manufacturing Victims.
How does the second edition of Manufacturing Victims differ from the first?
The simple answer is that it has "more meat." I have added new examples of absurd legal
excuses, such as the novelist Janet Dailey's defense that professional and personal stress caused
her to suffer from the "disease" of plagiarism. I have also added more information on
bogus treatments, such as "llama therapy" to combat stress. But more importantly, I
have included new research which questions the role of psychology. While the Psychology Industry
proudly boasts of its ability to help people, using consumer satisfaction and selected, flattering
bits of "data" as proof, it ignores the serious research that challenges its effectiveness.
The Psychology Industry is similar to the tobacco industry, which has recently been exposed for
hiding research that shows smoking to damage health. The Psychology Industry tries to ignore the
studies that challenge its claims. One dramatic example, presented in the second edition, is the
Fort Bragg study, an $80 million, publicly funded project, the devastating results of which shocked
the Psychology Industry. The public is not being informed. I think that people, as consumers,
deserve to know!
Do you still practice, and if not, do you feel there is any efficacy to treatment at all?
Although I am licensed as a psychologist in two Canadian provinces, I do not practice and I think
that it is basically unethical to do so. Curiously, I get calls from people who have read my book
and want me to be their therapist. I suggest that they read my book again and then ask themselves
why the still believe they need a therapist.
Can I assume, then, that your writing is lucrative enough to provide your sole support?
No! I would have starved long ago had I been so naive as to expect that my writing would provide
an income. I run a Victorian Bed & Breakfast which is my livelihood and it subsidizes my research
Why do you think, as you state in the book, that psychology has shifted "from questions
to answers, from curiosity to certainty, from modesty to pretentiousness"?
I think that psychology has been seduced by political power, social influence and money. As I
researched the history and growth of psychology, I discovered that there has always been an arrogant
and paternalistic segment of the profession whether it was selling its skills to the military
in WWI and II, telling parents (particularly mothers) how to raise their children, or persuading
employers that it knew how to increase worker productivity. However, the number of psychologists
was smaller then and the discipline of psychology, as a science, was stronger. It was the scientific
group that asked the questions, expressed curiosity and displayed some modesty. As the number
of psychologists grew exponentially in the 1970s and 1980s, it became necessary to create jobs
and to sell society on what psychologists could offer, even if they couldn't deliver.
Your earliest research observed that "personal beliefs and subjective theories"
influenced psychologists' diagnoses and treatments more than observable information about patients.
Has this changed quantitatively or qualitatively since then?
The situation is worse both quantitatively and qualitatively. The research that you refer to was
done in the early 1970s and looked specifically at the influence of psychiatrists' belief systems.
I found that these beliefs were far more influential in determining how people were diagnosed
and treated than the patients' histories, stated problems, behaviors or symptoms. I thought that,
because of our research backgrounds, psychologists would be different. But I was wrong. At that
time, psychologists strongly opposed the application of the medial model which turned psychological
problems into diseases; but now psychology promotes its own "germ theory," attributing
almost all psychological problems to an "infection" of abuse or trauma. Everything,
from a failed marriage to overeating, shopping too much to committing a murder, is assumed to
be due to earlier trauma, remembered or repressed. This psychological orthodoxy, which extends
beyond the consulting room into education, politics and culture, implicitly defines people, especially
women, as wounded, hurt and damaged, weak and vulnerable, having someone else to blame, and needing
to be healed and protected. Quantitatively, the problem has increased as the ranks of psychologists
have swollen and as many other groups of licensed, certified and self-proclaimed "experts"
have joined the Industry.
There is so much controversy around the use of hypnotism in treatment, which I note that you
used in your practice. What is your opinion on the appropriate use of hypnosis?
I wrote my first paper on hypnosis in 1968 and I used it in my practice in two ways, the first
being for the relief of pain with, for example, sufferers of migraine headaches, and the second
being for "play." Sometimes with patients magical things, which I will never understand,
did happen when people played with fantasies and symbols. Unfortunately, the Psychology Industry,
by misinterpreting and taking too literally what people experience under hypnosis, has killed
the mystery and the magic. Today fantasy and reality are so easily confused and the powers of
hypnosis have become so exaggerated that I think it is too dangerous to use hypnosis in this way.
Likely, the only appropriate use now is in some very specific medical applications.
Given your negative feelings about psychologists, do you believe that the professions should
have higher standards, or that standards should ignore professional orientations for more generic
ethics and standards?
Psychology should never have become a profession and should cease to be one. It does not have
a sufficient knowledge base to qualify as a profession. Licensing of psychologists began in the
1950s, when the medical establishment was threatening to designate psychotherapy as a medical
procedure. It was to protect themselves that psychologists established the profession. Once that
was achieved, they focused on using their licenses to create monopolies and to qualify themselves
for third-party payments. Some argue that ethical standards protect the public. But, in truth,
the licensing boards have reduced ethics to a to a set of rules and regulations which serve more
to maintain the fraternity (or the sorority) than to protect the public. A case in point is that
of "recovered memory therapy," a treatment which can put clients at great risk of harm.
What has been done to control this practice or warn the public? Nothing!
What do you think motivated psychology to move away from its scientific orientation?
The discipline of psychology, which involves research into memory, perception, thinking and behavior,
is not quite dead. But this scientific orientation is threatened both by lack of funding and by
lack of interest. Answers sell. Questions don't. Clinical psychology, which spawned the Psychology
Industry, never was really scientific despite its initial attempts to appear so. These psychologists
just used science, like a Gucci label, to lend credibility to their work. Psychology is a very
immature discipline, with very few tangible answers; so, anecdotes and opinions abound. The voices
of the serious researchers are rarely heard above the marketing noises of the Psychology Industry.
Women are both the primary recipients and, increasingly, the primary providers of psychotherapy.
How do you perceive gender as a factor in the manufacture of victims?
Since the time of the hypnotist Mesmer, women have been the primary targets of therapists and
healers. Despite accusations of paternalism and misogyny against Freud, he was only part of a
whole culture that considered women to be weak, fragile and prone to psychological and emotional
problems. At the turn of the 20th Century, it was women who sought the "cures" for their
"wandering uteruses" and bouts of hysteria. Except for brief periods in this century,
when women struggled for independence and equal rights, not much has changed. In the 1890s, women
were considered too fragile to leave the house; in the 1990s, women are portrayed as fearful and
helpless at home and at work. In 1914 a Good Housekeeping article described motherhood as "the
last stand of the amateur;" now, if a prominent Wisconsin psychiatrist has his way, women
will need licenses to qualify as mothers. And as lovers, women, in the 1990s, are again portrayed
as objects, lacking passion, incapable of seduction and powerless in relationships. A married
woman who has an affair is just exhibiting "stress-induced straying." To put it bluntly,
the Psychology Industry preys on women as customers and cannot afford women to see themselves
as competent, responsible adults. Some areas of the mental health field, such as social work,
have always been predominantly female. And clinical psychology, which used to be a male-dominated
profession, is now two-thirds female, with the balance continuing to shift by 2% each year. Women
assume that this is good and that women are treated more empathically and respectfully by women.
Many female therapists have found that they can create a niche for themselves in the field by
supporting the messages "women are safe" and "men are dangerous." This may
be one of the reasons that the "don't trust men" message is so much a part of current
practice and why it is so popular to portray men as villains and the cause of most of women's
problems. I think that what these women are doing is perpetuating the same old arrogant know-it-all
attitude and I'm starting to see them, not only as part of the Psychology Industry, but as "the
patriarchy in drag.".
What kinds of responses have you received about your book a.) from colleagues? b.) from patients?
c.) from the media?
Aside from Dr. Laura Schlesinger, who has publicly declared herself to be my fan, most of the
supportive colleagues I have heard from tend to express their concerns to me privately. Those
colleagues who are the most vocal are those who condemn me, usually without even reading the book
or listening to what I am saying. I have been accused of "writing a conspiracy book,"
"traumatizing psychologists," and of being a bad therapist. I have been diagnosed as
suffering from a range of disorders, including "burnout" and "depression."
And one psychologist, after watching me on a national television program, lodged a complaint with
my licensing board in Ontario; so, I am currently being investigated as " a threat to the
television-watching public." A few patients have contacted me wishing they had read the book
before they began therapy and thanking me for making sense of their experience. An increasing
number of Christians have shown interest because they feel that their churches are being harmed
by psychological theories and practices, which are destroying the essence of their religion. However,
the most frequent calls are from lawyers. Last year, I was invited to address the National Association
of Provincial Court Judges, and, in a few weeks, I will give a talk entitled, "Are We (Psychologists
& Lawyers) Manufacturing Victims?" to a meeting of lawyers specializing in sexual harassment
litigation. The LA Daily Journal, the largest law newspaper in the U.S., recently did a story
on me entitled, "This Gun Is Not For Hire," challenging the use of psychologists as
experts in court. As for the media, when the first edition was released, reports went over the
Canadian news wires with the lead: "Psychologist calls her profession a sham!" That
got attention from some but, as I quickly discovered, many in the media chose to ignore the book
and its unpopular message. But I have discovered as well that there are media people who are curious
and enjoy getting their teeth into challenging topics; a number of reporters have done provocative
articles. When the second edition comes out, we'll see what hits the news wires and who responds.
Naturally, I want the book to get a reaction.
Dr. Paul McHugh considers "recovered memory therapy" a "fad" that is already
on the decline. Do you agree? If so, do you care to hazard a guess about what the next mental
health "fad" will be?
I would not call "recovered memory therapy" a fad. It has done too much harm to be dismissed
so flippantly. I prefer to think of it as the first psychology "product" in history
that made people aware of how harmful a psychological service can be. Other questionable "products,"
including trauma counseling, grief counseling, marriage counseling, play therapy and violence
prevention are being vigorously marketed. I hope that these, all of which research studies show,
at best, to be ineffective, will come under scrutiny as well. In terms of new trends or products,
I can foresee two. I can see a shift toward interpreting everything according to a biological
model. With psychologists now actively seeking the right to prescribe drugs, we can look forward
to a lucrative collusion between two large industries, the Pharmaceutical and the Psychological.
There will be a lot more prescriptions handed out for Prozac and other already overused medications.
As well, I predict a "repackaging" of many therapies under labels that make them look
as if they are effective treatments. I suspect that more and more psychologists will be claiming
to specialize in "cognitive-behavioral therapy" and other forms which the Psychology
Industry claims have been proven to work and for which insurance companies are willing to pay.