Psychotherapists Gone Amok
by Martin & Deidre Bobgan
In 1964, the publication Fact published an article which reported that 1,189 psychiatrists considered U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater to be “psychologically unfit to be president.” A lawsuit for libel, Goldwater v Ginzberg, ensued, resulting in a large settlement for Goldwater and a new rule being added to the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Principles of Medical Ethics.1 The new rule, known as the Goldwater Rule states: “On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”2
The American Psychological Association has a similar statement. In a letter to The New York Times, the president, Susan McDaniel wrote: “When providing opinions of psychological characteristics, psychologists must conduct an examination ‘adequate to support statements or conclusions.’ In other words, our ethical code states that psychologists should not offer a diagnosis in the media of a living public figure they have not examined.”3
Then in March, 2017, the American Psychiatric Association issued the following statement: “APA’s Ethics Committee asserts that while it is perfectly fine for a psychiatrist to share their expertise about psychiatric issues in general, it is unethical to offer a professional opinion about an individual without conducting an examination.”4
“In October ,” Daniel Greenfield reports’ “125 psychologists and assorted mental health professionals marched to New York’s City Hall while wearing red tags warning, ‘DANGER.’” The experts in the “Duty to Warn” march “demanded that Trump be removed from office based on their inability to understand the 25th Amendment [to the Constitution].”
Greenfield further reports on the concurrent book: The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, which contains “unsolicited accusations and diagnoses from ‘27 psychiatrists and mental health experts.’” A psychiatrist, Bandy X. Lee, who is not licensed to practice in the United States, but who claims to have been “licensed on two continents,” edited the book. Greenfield says she was also “the organizer of Yale’s ‘Duty to Warn’ conference… on Capitol Hill to ‘brief’ Dem politicians about Trump’s mental illness that she diagnosed over Twitter.”5
Not all psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and mental health workers agreed. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) rose to the occasion and on January 9 stated: “We at the APA call for an end to psychiatrists providing professional opinions in the media about public figures whom they have not examined, whether it be on cable news appearances, books, or in social media. Armchair psychiatry or the use of psychiatry as a political tool is the misuse of psychiatry and is unacceptable and unethical.”6 They could see how politically driven proclamations, pronouncements, and professional sounding accusations regarding the president’s psychological fitness could harm the credibility of psychiatry and psychotherapy.
James L. Knoll, IV, MD, and Ronald W. Pies, MD, both professors of psychiatry, also responded in an article titled “Psychiatry, ‘Dangerousness,’ and the President.” They begin by saying: “It’s hard to keep up with the flurry of books, articles, op-eds and letters addressing the issue of President Trump’s mental state, many written by well-known psychiatrists.” They further say, “We recognize that opinion among psychiatrists is often sharply divided as regards the Goldwater Rule. Nevertheless, we find the above claims regarding ‘dangerousness’ deeply problematic. When psychiatric terms of art are used capriciously to label a public figure, this stigmatizes not only the person labeled but also those with genuine mental illness. This impedes our ability to provide vitally important psychiatric care and diminishes the credibility of our profession.” 7
Psychotherapizing Social Problems
Both psychiatrists and clinical psychologists are trained to do psychotherapy. While psychiatrists, as medical doctors, can perform both medical and psychological services, we are discussing their nonmedical work of diagnosing and treating mental-emotional-behavioral problems and primarily their diagnostic and predictive activities. Psychotherapists setting themselves up as authorities and publicly diagnosing and predicting future dangerous behavior of a public figure, as described above, reveals the penchant in this country to psychotherapize social and personal problems. All one has to do is slap a psychological label on a person or group of persons and the solution is on the horizon, just like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, known best for his excellent medical research on schizophrenia, gives the reason for this nonsense. He says, “A major impetus behind this tendency to psychiatrize social problems arises from the vacuum of absolutes in our culture. This vacuum is associated with the decline of religious influence—the death of God, some claim. In the past, it has been religion which has supplied absolute values upon which we could base decisions…. As religious influence has died, however, there has been a search for a new set of absolutes. Psychiatry has been willing to sanctify its values with the holy water of medicine and offer them up as the true faith of ‘Mental Health.’ It is a false Messiah.”8
Torrey’s book The Death of Psychiatry reveals why non-medical psychiatry (psychotherapy) should never have become a medical specialty. He explains: “Diseases are something we have; behavior is something we do.”9
Although this psychotherapeutic pretention, marching the streets crying, “danger,” and descending on the capitol to protect the nation, appears to be politically driven and therefore aimed at one person, this article is not a defense of Donald Trump, but rather an exposé of the fraud of the kind of psychology that would come to a Kangaroo Court conclusion about anyone in contradiction to the Goldwater Rule and other professional and ethical violations.
Dr. Thomas Szasz authored over three hundred articles and numerous books. He was one of the most distinguished professors of psychiatry during the past 100 years. Szasz was known during his lifetime as the “great deflator of psychiatric pretensions,” because he questioned the assumptions and practices of his own profession: psychiatry. No matter what his opinion of any sitting president might have been, Szasz would not have involved himself in such psychiatric craziness. In fact, he would surely shame any psychiatrist or psychologist whose testimonies would condemn any person they had not personally and responsibly examined.
Psychotherapy deals with thoughts, emotions, and behavior, but not with the brain itself. Psychology does not deal with the brain’s biology, but with the mind’s activity and the individual’s social behavior. In medicine we understand what a diseased body is, but what is a parallel in psychotherapy? It is obvious that in counseling psychology “mental illness” does not mean brain disease. If brain disease were the case, the person would be a medical patient, not a mental patient. Szasz very sharply refers to the “psychiatric impostor” who “supports a common, culturally shared desire to equate and confuse brain and mind, nerves and nervousness.”10
The assumption that medical illness and “mental illness” are alike only brings confusion. Although one may result from the other, medical illness and “mental illness” are simply not the same. Biological and psychological are not synonymous. One has to do with the organic processes and the other with the thought and emotional life. The word illness after the word mental should have been rejected from the very beginning.
Whores of the Court
Are psychiatrists or psychologists truly experts at diagnosing behavior and can they predict future dangerousness of a client? Dr. Margaret A. Hagen reveals their failure to do so in her book Whores of the Court: The Fraud of Psychiatric Testimony and the Rape of American Justice. We quote from the jacket cover description of her book: “Lawyers often refer to them as ‘prostitutes’ or ‘whores.’ They are the growing ranks of clinical psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals who give expert testimony in our courtrooms today. And in far too many cases their testimony—on subjects as varied as determination of competency, memory, parental fitness, custody, personal injury, memory, sentencing, and rehabilitation—helps determine the final verdict.”
Hagen’s book “reveals how expert psychological testimony is a total fraud, showing how the courts have increasingly embraced not a cutting-edge science but, instead, a discipline that represents a terrifying retreat into fantasy and a discipline propelled by powerful propaganda, arrogance, and greed. There are now thousands of self-styled soul doctors running amok in our courts, bedazzled by spectacular fees and wielding unchecked power and influence in the courtroom.” Hagan’s book highlights “statistics that damn the reliability of clinical psychology” and shows how it “is fundamentally inadequate in diagnosing past, present, or future behavior” (italics in original).11
In their book Making Us Crazy, DSM: The Psychiatric Bible and the Creation of Mental Disorders, Herb Kutchins and Stuart Kirk say the following about the claim of reliability for the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders): “No study of DSM as a whole in a regular clinical setting has shown uniformly high reliability. And most studies, including the DSM field trials themselves, provide little evidence that reliability has markedly improved, much less been ‘solved’ as a problem.”12
Twenty years after the reliability problem became the central scientific focus of DSM, there is still not a single major study showing that DSM (any version) is routinely used with high reliability by regular mental health clinicians” (bold added).13
Kutchins and Kirk further say “The illusion that psychiatrists are in agreement when making diagnoses creates the appearance of a united professional consensus. In fact, there is considerable professional confusion. Serious confusion about distinguishing mental disorders from nondisordered conditions and the inability of clinicians to use the manual reliably make the development and use of DSM vulnerable to a host of nonscientific pressures. If well-trained and well-intentioned therapists often fail to agree on specific diagnoses, how can the incompetent or purposely deceptive diagnostician be identified?”14
Granted, Kutchins and Kirk were criticizing the DSM IV (the 1994 edition), but Allen J. Frances, a leader in writing the 1994 edition of the DSM, is very concerned about the latest edition, DSM 5. He warns practitioners to ignore “Its Ten Worst Changes” and declares that the “DSM 5 Is Guide Not Bible.”15 (See brief summary in “PsychNotes,” PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, Vol 25, Nos. 5 and 6.) The DSM is a very subjective system that could be used to label perfectly normal people with a psychiatric label. Indeed, some people’s behavior may be “sickening,” but that does not mean they are sick. The DSM is also used for obtaining third-party insurance payments. In other words, a mental health practitioner must give a diagnosis to receive insurance reimbursement.
The Council for Evidence-Based Psychiatry in the United Kingdom, which consists of psychiatrists, academics, withdrawal support charities and others, clearly states concerns about the DSM-5: “Psychiatric diagnostic manuals such as the DSM and ICD [International Classification of Diseases] (chapter 5) are not works of objective science, but rather works of culture since they have largely been developed through clinical consensus and voting. Their validity and clinical utility is therefore highly questionable, yet their influence has contributed to an expansive medicalisation of human experience.”16
Indeed, unless there are physical tests (such as blood tests), there is no way to diagnose so-called “mental illness” apart from a subjective analysis with the help of a list of possible behavioral or emotional symptoms that may be indicative of any one of the many psychiatric designations or a false alarm. Therefore, psychotherapists who attempt to diagnose individuals are dangerously susceptible to being wrong, especially when presumptuously diagnosing someone from a distance and proclaiming it on Twitter.
The University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter reports: “Mental illness is both extremely common—one in five Americans will experience a mental disorder in any given year—and extremely hard to diagnose in some cases, since no simple biological tests exist to detect them. There’s no blood test for, say, depression or a personality disorder; no scan that can reveal attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Instead, a clinician must rely solely on a patient’s symptoms and observation of his or her behavior to reach a diagnosis.17
Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, who is chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University and the current president of the American Psychiatric Association, says: “With rare exceptions such as narcolepsy, which can be diagnosed by testing cerebrospinal fluid, there are no objective biological measures for mental illness.”18 What does this say about the 300 DSM non-medical designations, which are being used to diagnose many individuals, including public figures like Donald Trump?
In 1979 the American
Psychiatric Association presented
a Brief Amicus Curiae regarding whether psychiatrists are able to
reliably predict the future “dangerousness” of persons who have
committed a crime. The APA
In an article titled “Employing Psychiatric Predictions of Dangerous Behavior: Policy vs. Fact,” Dr. Henry J. Steadman says that one of the purposes of his paper is “to update the documentation that psychiatrists are poor predictors of dangerousness when the ratio of false positives or criminal justice system tenets are considered.”21 He says: “Psychiatrists make predictions of dangerousness under a wide variety of circumstances. These circumstances may be civil or criminal and they may relate to admission, institutional placement (within or between institutions), or discharge.” Steadman notes: “This belief in the psychiatrists’ capacity to make such predictions is firmly held and constantly relied upon, in spite of a lack of empirical support” (bold added). 22
Dr. Seymour Halleck, Chief Psychiatric Consultant to the Wisconsin Division of Corrections, says: “In addition to criticisms of the theoretical basis of psychiatric testimony and the deficiencies of any legal test of criminal responsibility, it must be noted that many practical inconsistencies and injustices can arise through psychiatric involvement in the courtroom.”23
Halleck further said: “Medical involvement in issues of criminal responsibility is without a scientific basis, is socially impractical, and has probably done harm both to society and to the psychiatric profession” (bold added).”24 Halleck declared that ‘if the psychiatrist, or any other behavioral scientist, were asked to show proof of his predictive skills, objective data could not be offered.”25
The vice president of the Japanese Psychiatrists’ Association says that it is “impossible for medical [psychiatric] science to tell whether someone has a high potential to repeat an offense.”26
In Whores of the Court, Margaret Hagen quotes researcher Terrence Campbell’s article in the Michigan Bar Journal: “The accuracy with which clinical judgment predicts future events is often little better than random chance. The accumulated research literature indicates that errors in predicting dangerousness range from 54% to 94%, averaging about 85%” (bold added).”27
Reviews of the research on the accuracy of predicting dangerous behavior indicate that a large number of persons who have been predicted to repeat a crime do not, in fact, repeat the crime or reveal any other dangerous behavior. The conclusion of a large study reported in the British Medical Journal states: “Although risk assessment tools are widely used in clinical and criminal justice settings, their predictive accuracy varies depending on how they are used. They seem to identify low risk individuals with high levels of accuracy, but their use as sole determinants of detention, sentencing, and release is not supported by the current evidence.”28 In other words, predicting behavior of high risk individuals lacks accuracy and ends up over-estimating the possibility of danger.
One Nation Under Therapy
Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel, M.D., wrote a book with a title that aptly describes the United States: One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance.29 Indeed citizens live under the dominance of psychotherapeutic guesses, questionable treatment, and a conglomeration of psychological ideas that not only contradict each other, but nevertheless carry a weight of authority. Why? Because: people have a high regard for psychotherapeutic pronouncements, practices, and practitioners, in spite of the damage that has been wrought through this “science falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20).
Contrary to the general, acceptable, cultural view, psychotherapy is riddled with myths. Psychiatrist Garth Wood, in his book The Myth Of Neurosis, describes the bankruptcy of psychotherapists: “Cowed by their status as men of science, deferring to their academic titles, bewitched by the initials after their names, we, the gullible, lap up their pretentious nonsense as if it were the gospel truth. We must learn to recognize them for what they are—possessors of no special knowledge of the human psyche, who have nonetheless chosen to earn their living from the dissemination of the myth that they do indeed know how the mind works, are thoroughly conversant with the ‘rules’ that govern human behavior” (bold added).30
In testifying at a murder trial (for the prosecution) psychiatrist Lee Coleman said, “I think common sense wins hands-down in a race with psychiatry” (bold added).31
The Church Under Therapy
Worse than the nation being “under therapy,” the church eagerly places herself under the pronouncements and pretensions of psychotherapists instead of trusting Christ, who died for her and has espoused her to Himself. For years pastors have looked to psychology and psychiatry for answers to problems of living instead of trusting in the sufficiency of Scripture regarding why we act the way we do, how to change, and how to live. A pastor may preach about how God uses trials of living to conform believers into the image of Christ but then send his suffering sheep out to a psychotherapist or a psychologically contaminated so-called “biblical counselor.” We pray that the church will wake up and renounce such influence. Psychotherapy and its underlying theories are false gospels.
Paul was concerned when the Galatians added Judaism to the Gospel and wrote: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7). He asked them:
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Gal. 3:1-3.)
Christians need to ask themselves the same questions, because psychotherapeutic theories and therapies comprise a humanistic, man-made religion with a conglomeration of other gospels. Just as when the Judaizers added circumcision to the Gospel, they actually took away the essence of the Gospel, so also, when Christians add the psychological way to the Word of God, they are subtracting from the Gospel. But, they are worse than the Judaizers, because they are adding the wisdom of men and the works of the flesh. They are following another religion, one with many gods and many conflicting ways. They are turning to other gospels, which are no Gospel at all. They are returning to the ways of the flesh.
In writing to the Colossians, Paul declared:
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Col. 2:6-10.)
Too many Christians are being beguiled by the enticing humanistic “philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” And too many pastors are sending their sheep out to psychological counselors rather than establishing them in the faith and in their knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Believers are complete in Christ, but they will be running on empty as they turn to psychological counselors instead of the Lord and His Word.
In his book titled The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion, psychologist Dr. O. Hobart Mowrer asks the following question: “Has evangelical religion sold its birthright for a mess of psychological pottage?”32 Christians need to remember their birthright and carefully, objectively, seriously, and prayerfully examine and eradicate this mess of psychological pottage.
1 Aaron Levin , “Goldwater Rule’s Origins Based on Long-Ago Controversy,” American Psychiatric Association, Psychiatric News, August 25, 2016, https://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.pn.2016.9a19.
2 American Psychiatric Association, “The Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry,” 2013 ed., Section 7, Number 3.
3 Susan H. McDaniel, “ Response to Article on Whether Therapists Should Analyze Presidential Candidates,” New York Times, March 14, 2016, archived: https://web.archive.org/web/20160420031828/http:/www.apa.org/news/press/response/presidential-candidates.aspx.
4 Maria M. Oquendo, “APA Remains Committed to Supporting Goldwater Rule,” American Psychiatric Association, March 16, 2017, . https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/apa-blog/2017/03/apa-remains-committed-to-supporting-goldwater-rule.
5 Daniel Greenfield, “Who’s Crazy? Trump or the Anti-Trump Shrinks?” FrontPageMag.com, Jan. 8, 2018,
6 “APA Calls for End to ‘Armchair’ Psychiatry.” January 9, 2018, https://www.psychiatry.org/newsroom/news-releases/apa-calls-for-end-to-armchair-psychiatry.
7 James L. Knoll, IV, MD and Ronald W. Pies, MD, “Psychiatry, ‘Dangerousness,’ and the President,” Psychiatric Times, posted January 25, 2018.
8 E. Fuller Torrey. The Death of Psychiatry. Radnor, PA: Chilton Book Company,1974, p. 107.
9 Torrey, op. cit, book jacket.
10 Thomas Szasz. The Myth of Psychotherapy. Garden City: Doubleday/Anchor Press, 1978, p. 7.
11 Margaret A. Hagen. Whores of the Court. New York: Regan Books, 1997, jacket cover.
12 Herb Kutchins and Stuart Kirk. Making Us Crazy, DSM: The Psychiatric Bible and the Creation of Mental Disorders. New York: The Free Press, 1997, p. 52.
13 Ibid., p. 53.
15 Allen J. Frances, “DSM 5 Is Guide Not Bible—Ignore Its Ten Worst Changes,” Psychology Today blog, posted 12/2/2012.
16 Council for Evidence-Based Psychiatry, http://cepuk.org.
17 “4 Controversial Mental Disorders,” Paula Derrow, Berkeley Wellness, 9/10/2015, www.berkeleywellness.com.
18 “DSM-5: Psychiatrists’ ‘Bible’ Finally Unveiled,” Huffington Post, 05/16/2013, www.huffingtonpost.com.
19 File Brief Amicus Curiae for the American Psychiatric Association, Supreme Court of the United States, October term 1979, Case No. 79-1127, “W.J. Estelle, Jr., Director, Texas Department of Corrections v. Ernest Benjamin Smith,” pp. 14-15.
20 R. Kirkland Schwitzgebel, “Prediction of Dangerousness and its Implications For Treatment,” in W J. Curran, A.L. McGarry & C.S. Petty, Modern Legal Medicine. Psychiatry, and Forensic Medicine, 1980, p.786.
21 Henry J. Steadman, “Employing Psychiatric Predictions of Dangerous Behavior: Policy vs. Fact,” https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/digitization/54293ncjrs.pdf, p. 133.
22 Ibid., p. 125
23 Seymour L. Halleck, M.D., “A Critique of Current Psychiatric Rules in The Legal Process,” Wisconsin Law Review, Vol. 1966, No. 2, Spring, p. 389.
24 S. L. Halleck and W. Bromberg. Psychiatric Aspects of Criminology. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1968.
25 Seymour Halleck quoted in Steadman, op. cit., p. 25.
26 Kimio Moriyama, quoted by Hiroshi Matsubara, “Diet mulls fate of mentally ill criminals,” The Japan Times, 8 June 2002.
27 Terrence W. Campbell, “Challenging Psychologists and Psychiatrists as Witnesses,” Michigan Bar Journal, Jan. 1994, quoted by Hagen, op. cit., p. 165.
28 Seena Fazel et al., “Use of risk assessment instruments to predict violence and antisocial behaviour in 73 samples involving 24 ,827 people: systematic review and meta-analysis,” British Medical Journal, 7/24/2012, http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e4692.
29 Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel. One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005.
30 Garth Wood. The Myth of Neurosis. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986, p. 3.
31 Lee Coleman quoted by Richard Aguirre, “Psychiatrist: Colleagues Too ‘Naive, Trusting,’” Santa Barbara News-Press, 3/18/1986, p. B-1.
32 O. Hobart Mowrer. The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1961, p. 60.
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, March-April 2018, Vol. 26, No.2)
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, March-April 2018, Vol. 26, No.2)