Rebecca Wigod
Vancouver Sun,November 22, 1996

    A psychologist who had practised for more than two decades in an impressive variety of settings is denouncing her profession as a sham.
    Tana Dineen says psychology is neither a science nor a profession, but an industry that turns healthy people into victims to give itself a constant source of income.
    Dineen, who has practised mostly in Ontario but now lives in Victoria, was in Vancouver Thursday, promoting Manufacturing Victims, the scathing new book in which she rakes her own profession over the coals.
    She accuses psychologists of warping people's understanding of themselves so as to funnel endless services, of dubious quality, into their lives.
    She says psychologists do this warping not only through recovered memory therapy ("the black eye of psychology"), but also by translating all of life into a series of "abuses, addictions and traumas."
    But Robert Tolsma, executive director of the B.C. Psychological Association, calls Dineen the author of "a conspiracy book" that weaves together examples of poor practice and presents them as truth.
    Tolsma said people who have received psychotherapeutic services feel "overwhelmingly positive" about them. As evidence, he cited a recent survey that U.S. psychologist Martin Seligman did for Consumer Reports magazine - a piece of work Dineen flays in her book.
    Recovered memory therapy is rightly recognized as dangerous by society at large, said Dineen, who has worked at Toronto General Hospital, as treatment director of a large Ontario psychiatric hospital, as supervising psychologist at a treatment centre for children and in private practice.
    "The synthetic victims people are most familiar with are those who, somehow or other, come up with memories they never used to have."
    But, she said, psychologists have also worked on their clients to warp their images of themselves, using "subtle comments like, 'When he yells at you, isn't it just like he's hitting you? Doesn't that hurt you as much?"
    Dineen got her Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Saskatchewan in 1975. She is licensed to practise in Ontario and B.C.
    "When I first started in psychology, I thought psychologists were different than psychiatrists," she said.     "We would be scientific. We would go in there and base what we did on facts and information."
    But, she said, "over the years, I have seen psychologists become just as bad, if not worse."
    She doesn't respect psychologists, she said, because they either pretend to have knowledge and expertise when they don't, or they realize they lack expertise but take clients, anyway.
    To prove her point, she quoted Ronald Fox, a recent past president of the American Psychological Association. Speaking to colleagues, he said: "The work to be done is so enormous, and the boundaries of our ignorance so extensive that we cannot be other than humbled by the process.
    Nonetheless, we need to wade right in, with no apologies for how little we know."
    Dineen also brought up critical incident counselling, in which a team of psychologists is brought in to assuage shock and ease mental anguish - in school, after a child is attacked or killed; in banks after a holdup, or among rescue workers after an airplane crash.
    She was once retained to speak to men who had picked up charred body parts after a plane crash in Newfoundland. The men, whose performance of the grisly task she had watched on videotape, seemed to have managed by staying focussed on the job at hand.
    Yet she got the strong sense that she had been employed to say things like, "Maybe something is bothering you," and "Maybe later you will get nightmares."
    Afterwards, she felt the whole premise under which she had been hired was wrong. Mostly, she said, the men "wouldn't have problems if psychologists weren't in there, stirring it up. Most people are more resilient than psychologists would have us believe."
    Tolsma, of the B.C. Psychological Association, conceded that not all people setting themselves up as psychologists have equal skills. He said consumers should shop carefully for the best psychologist for them.

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