Scary she is a senator, also a bad parent

I know this is long overdue, lost the file. First some caveats to reading this post. This is really an abridged version of what I want to say. Second, someone close to me indicated I need to preemptively indicate some things. Many times, people will read a post and skim the article, missing important details, then surmising incorrect ideas. I pointed out and can’t remember what famous person said something to the following effect: You will spend more time defending what you DID NOT say than what you actually said. (Anyone, know the famous person, please respond or email me at

So, I am not advocating for underage sex, or suggesting it, or saying it is ok. I am not supporting a liberal agenda or a conservative agenda. This is not about a political position either, yet all of what I will say could be interpreted in any of the above ways to build a straw man (look up straw man fallacy). I AM talking about psychosexual education, positive sexuality (though briefly) and a senator’s potential ideas on these things of which scare me.

I have to admit I was in utter shock when I watched this interview. I believe Kirsten unfit to be voting on sex education, much less be talking about the subject in public, given her personal stance. Read her exchange below regarding how she responded to a question from Stephen Colbert:

“I have two young sons, one who is nine, and one who is fourteen, and how am I supposed to describe to them it’s okay to squeeze a woman here and grab a woman there and it’s not okay to grab a woman there. That is not a conversation as a mother I thought was appropriate to be having with a 14 year old boy. None of it’s okay Stephen, none of it’s okay.”
Video can be see here

Lets get some things straight: I am 38 years old, and I can personally name individuals from junior high who actually had sex at 14, 15, 16 etc. This is not even to mention “squeezing” and “grabbing” behaviors at those ages… laughable. I believe many of us have known individuals in the same situation. Now, a quick google search will uncover varying rates, I don’t deny this. As an educated person I understand all the pitfalls of this data. No doubt some people reading this know solid, well replicated research to counter the the averages of males being 16, and women being 17 when first losing their virginity. However, if you understand what average means statistically, some could be down at 14, maybe even 13, while some are at 18, and 19. Taking the simple agreement sex happens amongst teenagers, obviously “heavy petting,” “fondling,” “squeezing,” or “grabbing” does as well. Important distinction, since these touching behaivors are usually precursors to sexual intercourse, statistically. I mean really most did not go from a kiss, or no kiss to a penis entering a vagina sex.

Therefore, as a mother she is amazingly ignorant. She should be talking about these things, as in “squeezing,” “grabbing.” This again is not pushing an agenda, you can be very conservative saying no sex till 30, or liberal sex when you like. Either way discussions with your children should happen regarding sexual touch (or any touch for that matter). This should happen for both sexes. As a parent, you can push any agenda you want, I have my opinions but no matter what, these discussions with teens, AND kids, need to happen. Otherwise, you are simply ignoring research that is well established, regarding teenage sex. (Don’t worry sex positive readers consent is coming).

As part of a university-level psychology department, I have taught a human sexuality course. I can’t believe that a U.S. Senator would say this. The things I heard from college students regarding certain behaviors… Yeah, a 14 NEEDS to be talked to about these things. Squeezing, and grabbing even at that age are just the beginning. Unbelievable. Then I am supposed to respect her vote on sexual education issues, birth control, Planned Parenthood! Come on this is despicable.

I am awaiting a reply to an email regarding research in Europe. I forget the exact country, but they literally start sex education in Kindergarten! (I want to say Denmark) A quick search shows, in Europe their rates on teenage pregnancies, (of which usually includes sexual intercourse) shows 4-6 births per thousand. The U.S. should be proud of our about 30 per thousand. This is a contest right? Bigger is better. They view it as a public health issue, and normal behavior, not pushing an agenda on sexual ideologies or religious values or political ideologies.

When I taught human sexuality back in 2009ish, I asked the students all freshman or above how many had HAD NOT had sex education until a certain grade level. Progressively, it grew from 1st grade up. I was shocked at the number of students who had never had any, until high school!!! Yes, some of those who raised their hand in the “until high school” group had already had a child. No statistics were recorded on these questions (dumb Eli).

In a 2009 study of college age males regarding pornography viewership, they could not find a control group of men which means, DID NOT view porn regularly. Many of which had been viewing porn for up to 10 years (See video directions at end). As a male of this species, I do think I remember stumbling upon pornography online, in 1997, at the age of 18. Anyways this number of viewing pornography up to 10 years before college put males in the past (study conducted 2009), as seeing pornography as early as before 14. Fast forward 9 years later. Do you think it is more difficult for this age group in 2018 to find pornography? My guess is NO. Furthermore, the same study, indicates that boys at the age of 10 back then in 2009 would actively seek out online pornography. Needless to say in this conversation for this present purpose, we do not need boys and girls at this young age viewing pornography as being how sex is or should be done in real life. I think that is a safe statement.

Now, for those in the sex positive community, reading this. Many will not agree with her assessment at all regarding where it is ok to squeeze and or grab a woman. INSTEAD, in the sex positive community it is about MUTUAL CONSENT. This issue of consent has nothing to do with age period. It does not matter, if it’s two 10 year olds or two 50 year olds. This is about consent. I am completely disappointed that this was not the main point. Yet, frankly, sadly understandable. If she is so out of the informational loop that teenagers can, do, and have been having sex for years, much less squeezing, and grabbing…. I think she needs to learn about consent, regarding touching period. Not just in a sexual context.

In summary, regardless of my agreement of her position on guns, I am scared for the future, when she states: “That is not a conversation as a mother I thought was appropriate to be having with a 14 year old boy.” It should be not only appropriate, and expected but mandatory, GIVEN THE DATA.

These can be found on the web, from
Stephen Colbert interview at 8:00 or 8:30 to start…

2009 pornography study… Need to listen to all of it.

Language issues in science

My ultimate goal here is that when you are done reading this you understand the importance of respecting scientific terminology. When reading a term used in a professional field context, that does have an everyday meaning, do not assume it has that same meaning in every day life.

I just received an email regarding a form of therapy where, the question came down to a problem of words….One of the problems I have noted throughout the years in psychology is our use of language as a field. We tend to use somewhat, and the key here is somewhat seemingly accurate language that describes a highly technical concept. Furthermore, the term does have an everyday meaning (i.g. defensive). of which is sometimes radically different than what we do mean in psychology or any professional field for that matter. For example, “social comparison theory,” well upon reading it at face value a person may say something like, “you compare things in a social setting,” vague I admit, yet accurate. However, it has a very specific meaning in psychology, whereupon a person compares their situation or self worth to others around them, to determine how they should be feel or how they are doing. An example is a professional athlete. They may come from a poor area, then get a 10 million dollar contract. They feel great for a moment. Then they now find out they are the lowest paid player on the team, and feel bad. The key is due to social comparison they went from feeling great, to bad! Yet, in reality they are in the top .01% of the nation.

In medicine on the contrary. They use old latin and greek words or complex compound words to describe relatively easy to understand concepts. They will use hypertension. This word we mostly known as being “high blood pressure,” which is a more easily understandable combination of words to describe a medical condition. As a side note… hypertension actually when broken down means increased tension generally, medicine just coined the term for themselves. You could argue and you are technically using the term correctly, that your calf is hypertensive. Yet medically this is wrong. So, they could simply say high blood pressure for people to have a fast grasp of the concept. I remember having an inflamed taste bud on my tongue. The resident in training gave a complex multi word statement I can’t even remember (in front of the training physician to show she knew the term), yet it was a damn inflamed taste bud.

There are many terms in psychology a few examples are…Plus examples of words people think are psychological but NOT…

Therapeutic relationship (as can be read about in a previous post)
Demented (very different meaning in psych)
Crazy (actually was a legal term and don’t even use in psych)
Insane (again not in psych, we have psychotic)
Genius (Very Superior Intellectual Functioning)
Stockholm Syndrome (never heard it even uttered, at the MA level, PHD, or at Vanderbilt)
“OCD” (People really mean Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, which focuses on details and such that take over the purpose of the task)
Hard-wired (misleading at best, I’m unsure what it means)
Obsession (very specific again in psych)
A person HAS a mental disorder yet they ARE smart (logical inconsistency when saying has vs are)
My Theory (a theory is well developed, with usually hundreds of studies over decades, not your armchair psychology, over night)
Positive Punishment
Negative Reinforcement

One conceptual thing that is most disturbing for me is when someone calls any disorder X, a “medical issue,” when actually dealt with as well in psychology. So, technically it is in both arenas. Sometimes, the disorder is exclusively dealt with in psychology, and NOT in medicine at all like the personality disorders. There are no effective drugs or medical treatments for these, but we do have therapies.

One of the terms in psychology that tricks up people yet does use normal every day terms in simple combination is “negative reinforcement.” It has a very precise behavioral meaning, yet at first blush puzzles many people thinking its a contradiction. The reciprocal example “positive punishment” has the same effect, puzzlement.

In all fields you will find this happening… Anthropology, politics, engineering, physics, etc. One of my favorites is debit vs. credit, in accounting, very confusing, look it up.

In conclusion, I wonder myself who is to blame, psychology or other fields. Some use latin/greek, or other terms from languages to describe a concept. All in all, you can use as psychology does, actually somewhat accurately worded concepts, that do describe what we are talking about. Yet when done the general public thinks, they have the concept not only down pat, but can utilize it actively in a situation. Yet, many of these concepts take months of clinical training to be used effectively. I have had to deal with physicians who make errors in diagnostics. As the saying goes they have enough knowledge to be dangerous, just like the general public.

All in all, as Bill Nye pushes. We simply need more science education.

Education SHOULD override Experience

Have you ever been told you don’t have enough experience? Or need more experience. Any derivation of the implication you need experience for a job? This includes a comment on something in life in general? Ever heard the cop-out of, “once you are older you will understand?” I have had it happen numerous times and I find it quite frustrating, condescending and flat out offensive. Clearly many times its also used to avoid disagreement. I have found many times if not avoiding disagreement, I have already know the person does not have enough information to debate the topic appropriately.

My main point is education actually circumvents the need for years of said experience. Otherwise, if I am not correct why are we not back in the days of apprenticeships? These lasted years or even decades in all domains. Your dad was a blacksmith, you would become one, and train for years in it to shoe a horse. That is not how life works now.

There are a few base problems with the notion of having “experience.” First, when is there enough? When I have asked a person how many days, weeks, months or years you need for a given ability or task… Usually, at this question I get a blank stare. Even worse, many times they will then invoke their own personal experience of the number of “days, etc” they have had to do the task. Here are some examples in different domains of life of how much is necessary.

Point #1 How much time?

Driving (most can relate)
How many hours of training does one need to become a competent driver? How much experience to be a good, safe, or great driver? How many weeks, or years? Take a driver that has driven one year in total after their test. Now, compare them to someone who has been driving for 30 years. In this example, we all can clearly guess its the person with 30 years. However, the next point is even more important, and will override years of experience. However, first are some examples in different areas for those who can relate, still on the topic of time.

In my MA and Phd programs we had to accrue enough hours to be deemed competent to do therapy, assessment, supervision etc. Now after, a person with a PhD in counseling or clinical finishes school they need a year long internship. Well, I recently read a peer reviewed article in which they indicated they studied the need for this internship year. The article indicated there was no measurable outcomes between the psychologists who did the year internship, and those that did not. Here is where I take a personal vendetta against psychology even though I love it. We are the ones who tout, evidence based practice. We are trained in these sophisticated research methodologies, and especially testing and assessment. We should be the ones being the model, and showing the way to measure these things and practicing/training in an evidence based way. Here we are mandating an internship when evidence is NOT showing a difference between groups. Shame on psychology and the American Psychological Association. Again, how many hours of supervised therapy, assessment, and supervision do we need? Please show me the outcome research substantiating your claim. The onus is on you to show a need, not for me to refute a claim that has no basis. As Hitchens Razor states… “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

I have known physicians (OB/GYN) who have been required to deliver a certain (forget the exact number) number of babies before being deemed qualified. The question any good researcher will ask is…Why that number? Have you tested physicians who have made that many deliveries against physicians who have accomplished half that number, or double that number? Second follow up, was there a meaningful difference between those three different groups of physicians. The researcher will then say. “If I cannot tell a difference between those three groups you have no scientifically valid reason for any three of those numbers and need to establish a baseline number that does show a difference.”

Point #2 Variation in experience

Second/Most important point
When we invoke the word experience, we actually are expecting without saying (implied premise), that they have a VARIED experience. First is the number of whatever it is in the above examples… Hours, days, weeks, months, years. The problem is that this concept of VARIATION, “goes without saying” when invoking experience.To illucidate this I have applied this to the above domains.

Think of the driving example, since most reading this can relate to driving. Imagine, the person with one year of experience grew up in Minnesota as I did. We learned how to drive in heavy rain, inches of snow, on ice, and black ice, hail, and even got to hydroplane. We learned how to steer out of a spin, or attempt to control a spin on ice and snow. Keep the wheel straight when hydroplaning. Now, if you compare us Minnesotans with one year of driving “experience” to someone with 30 years of “experience” think about this. They may have merely driven in southern Californian weather, with maybe some rain… There really is no comparison. The Minnesotan will be better. Furthermore, to take this example one step further. I dated a German citizen. For those of you, who have been to Europe, you know the streets can be extremely narrow. Now, she had to take her drivers test, on a manual (stick shift), and had to park the car on a hill facing up the hill. Then if when parked facing uphill, and attempting to start forward up the hill if the car rolled back at all, it was an automatic failure. It is normal in Germany for people to take the test two, three, and even four times to pass it. Plus, these people are driving (due to latitude) in the same weather conditions as the Minnesotans I speak of. So, arguably they probably are better drivers due to the increased testing standards, plus narrow streets, and same terrible weather conditions. That would at least be my hypothesis going into researching Germans vs Minnesotans.

Think of the psychology example. If I have seen patients for 1000 hours, who are 16/17 year old white girls, with anorexia, how varied is that? Should I take on patients who have depression, anxiety, PTSD, couples issues, who are hispanic? Clearly no. In the medical example, the physician has delivered 1000 babies, with absolutely no complications (which would never happen). How competent are they then to take on “high risk” (however they define that) pregnancies?

I have seen for years these questions/points tend to rub people the wrong way, and they walk away uncomfortable. This is skepticism people, they must be questioned.

Point #3 Education should override experience

In conjunction with these two above mentioned points, number/time and variation, critical to the discussion is education. The point is education is a shortcut to having to do the literally thousands of hours of experience. Much less worry about variation as well. In a MA program in counseling we learned how to ask questions. We learned an overarching theory of how people create their own misery, and problems in life. We don’t need to have 50 patients commit suicide to figure it out how to predict it. We are taught what to look for.

In driving, you learn cognitively, without a wheel, to hold the wheel straight when hydroplaning. Otherwise, if you turn, you will go off the road when the tires catch. You don’t have to be in 20 accidents to figure it out.

In medicine, they learn time frames, for the umbilical cord being wrapped around a babies neck, to keep them alive. They don’t have to have 20 babies die, and watch the clock to figure it out.

Education gives us overarching concepts, and even the nitty gritty details of how to manage certain circumstances. This is the goal of education. We each don’t need to suffer all these failures (learning opportunities) to get the point. Education, gives us this information on a silver platter. As a personal example, I have not had direct experience doing therapy with someone with schizoid personality disorder. It’s very obscure, and they rarely come to therapy due to the very nature, and definition of the disorder. Most of you have never heard of it. However, with my theoretical orientation, I at least have a game plan on how to deal with them. Of course, I’d refer them to someone more educated on this disorder, but in a pinch I can deal with it.

Once during my training with a psychologist, who had been practicing for 20 years asked my opinion on a diagnosis. This was not a training exercise, he stated “you have studied diagnostic reasoning, what do you think the diagnosis should be?” So he deferred to someone still training to make the call on a diagnosis. This is not to brag but to illustrate we all have our own specialties, especially in graduate level training.

So, the ultimate three points here to take away, are.

One, what is the necessary number of X, or hours to years you need to be deemed competent?

Two, did they have enough varied experience to be deemed competent?

Three, education can and much of the time should override “experience” when done appropriately.

Also, (my psychological opinion) I have noticed it is usually people who don’t have a lot of education who invoke “experience” as being so important. It appears as if they are, hurt, offended, put off, whatever. The point is they are having a negative reaction to the concept of education, versus experience. You have heard people say, “I went to the school of hard knocks.” I am not rejecting experience. I am simply saying that education is the shortcut and superior. It renders experience obsolete in many ways, unless carefully prescribed.

Another important point to note, is experience by definition with a lack of education is as stated in other posts is personal experience. I have numerous times, in relation to psychological concepts have heard people with years! and I mean years with some psychologically related concept, say something that flies completely in the face of either modern education or research. Look back to the post of NOT recommending medication or therapy. I once had a conversation with a man, regarding the foremost relationship expert in the U.S. about relationship psychology. He had been married over 35 years with 3 kids. He said, “I don’t think she’s getting the whole picture, since she doesn’t have any children.” I thought that is ridiculous considering other researchers are naming her as the top researcher, who do have children.

Many of you may be thinking that experience is a part of educational process of which it true in the above examples. True, however, since everyone can relate to driving a car… You simply did not drive as your parent, sat chatted about the days events. Both of you were hyper vigilant and they were talking you through things. Looking over your shoulder. Use your blinker. Creep out to see around a car. All those annoying but necessary commands. Now, you do it without paying active attention to these details. So, that experience, is what I would consider “educational training experience.” There is active attention drawn towards what you are doing in the moment, or worst case, after a particular task has been executed. Where you look back, assess, and think about what you did in a critical way, complementing and criticizing your own actions. This last point is what we did in therapy training.

The beauty of research/education (more for research in a later post) is it will circumvent bias, plus you have large numbers that are representative of a population under study. It is peer reviewed, and as researchers we are testing against our hypothesis. Also, for research to be reputable, we don’t want simply a novel one shot study reported on the news, but instead something that has been studied again and again and the same result occurs (replicability). As dramatic examples, I can read 100 journal articles, and say that two gay parents are able to raise an emotionally healthy child, just as a straight couple. I can’t witness a hundred couples in an unbiased way, when the 100 journal articles are tapping potentially, over 1000 couples. Furthermore, researchers are putting in safeguards, as written in the articles, which show how it is unbiased.

Again many of you may still be saying that experience is required as part of the educational process, and I agree. However, the experience you gain when in a training program is quite advanced. When I was in graduate school, we had practicum placements. They had to be where I could see a diverse population, and have a licensed therapist, or psychologist supervising us. Other details as well such as discussing ethics, and legal issues. Furthermore, we were expected in supervision with our licensed therapist or psychologist to extensively discuss our reactions to therapy, analyze our own work. Finally, we had assignments in the course associated with the practicum related to the above issues.

Finally, of course the astute reader will ask, “how are we defining varied?” “What is enough variation?” “How is it measured? All legitimate questions.

Do not make therapy or medication suggestions based on your experience

People think because they were diagnosed with a disorder at one time, or their friends, or family members were that they have some basis for suggesting mental health remedies in the lives of others. It can be actually dangerous, a waste of time and money, and actually detrimental for a lay person with mere “experience” to make such a suggestion. Please keep in mind, if you suspect a friend or family member to have some mental issue, always encourage professional help specifically a therapist, psychologist or even social worker, NOT your family practice physician! This example illustrates why…

I once dealt with a clinical situation as follows. Joe had an uncle who was 62 and went on medication for depression. Joe had known the uncle had been widowed, but was dealing with that quite well. This is all that Joe knew of his uncle. The medication worked quite well for the uncle, depression was effectively gone!

Joe’s niece was Jenny (well still is) and 20, who also indicated she was depressed. Jenny’s mom and dad were very religious and expected her to go into accounting while in college. As, a result of Joe learning of the depression, and critically, not knowing of the religious part and school expectations he suggested that Jenny go on the same medication as his uncle.

Here is where the problem occurs. When I met Jenny, I found out she was depressed specifically that she was now a confirmed lesbian in her mind and wanted to go into english vs accounting. Her family was expecting her to help with the family business, and was very conservative and religious. Hence, she was depressed because she was not able to be educated the way she wanted in english vs accounting. Also, was not being able to “be herself” a lesbian around her family of which she did love.

I ended up finding out (long story) that the uncle who was depressed, actually had long standing depression for decades in which he attempted multiple modes of therapy. In his case it was actually according to research appropriate to go on medications.

You make think you know someone, yet you don’t know the personal struggles that they are dealing with in life. Specifically, their private life they don’t want friends, family, co-workers, and even including you to know about. Also, simply because two people are labeled with Depression, PTSD, Anxiety, etc. the genesis or underlying cause, may be radically different. Furthermore, different therapeutic interventions will work better for different conditions, and personality types. This is why you must have a professional do the analysis, not you as a friend, loved, one etc.

In this case, therapy was appropriate for Jenny, and it worked out well. Yes, the family was not as close in the end, yet when checking with her years later, she was happy, with no need for medication.

Many may be thinking that trying the medications could have helped or worth a try, with very little side effects except wasting time! I would agree! However, when you consider other more intensive forms of intervention in Jenny’s case such as hospitalization, treatment centers, and even relocation. These can actually be detrimental to the person, when professional help is not involved. You may for example think pulling them from college for a year will help, Jenny divulged the family was thinking of it. When in actuality the person, Jenny being in college (in this case of depression) may be the only place they feel they can express themselves. In fact, she may have committed suicide if brought back “home” where she feels isolated and not around other gays and lesbians. In Jenny’s case she opened up to talking about depression because she actually felt free finally, around people she can relate to in the college setting. The point is you want a professional involved and not giving “arm chair” psychological advice simply because something worked for you or someone you know!

Again, note how this post dovetails nicely with the previous post on personal experience.

AA & 12 steps are not good

I have had academic and research issues with AA for years. Here are my five main reasons I think AA is terrible. However, I have chosen to restrict my criticism. A close friend Sue, brought up some quotes out of the “big book” of which just plain irritated me. She tends to remind me of good points I even try ignore. In all honesty, I had forgotten about them. I tend to attempt to not clutter my mind with non-sense that is not scientific and useless.

Here is the reality…. I see people who adhere to the dogma of AA just like religious people. They ignore the research and science that completely debunks, refutes and shows its just plain wrong. Instead, AA, people like religious people back track, and try to salvage what they can as the science undermines their beliefs, showing its just not true! They say things like, “take what is useful,” “it’s a metaphor,” “you don’t have to believe it all,” “don’t take it literally,” blah blah blah….As stated in point 1 (see below) decades of research and no adaptation! That is an Anti-Science position period, end of statement. So, in light of Sue’s astute points privately made, I will not waste my time, rereading the “big book” (which I already did academically) and then deconstructing and tearing apart with research citations the dogmatic, blind adherence to ideas presented. Simply a waste of mental rent, here the the top five!

1. The 12 step model published in 1939, has not been adapted in now officially… 78 years. This is completely inappropriate in science. Models or theories of which are representations of the naturally occurring world, are best approximations. They are not perfect and should be adapted as research comes in! Come on! We have had over seven decades of research, and are applying the same model, this is ridiculous. Then on top of it the 12 steps treat “hard” drugs, the same as alcohol, sex, and video games. All are under the same concept as “addiction” of which is not properly operationally defined. Not operationally defining it leaves it vague and allows for “wiggle” room and reinterpretation depending on the debate. Addiction is being applied basically to any maladaptive use of anything, those last four words before the comma, actually start to approximate an operational definition.

By the way an Operational Definition is how the concept is measured, and defined precisely. If we can’t measure something then we cannot study it scientifically, that is how science works. Philosophy of science issue there. A simple example will suffice.. If you measure depression on a 1 to 5 scale for study and I measure it on a 1 to 10 scale, these results will be difficult to compare in two different studies. Clearly a 5 on each scale represents something completely different! So, when comparing studies, you need to make sure both groups operationally defined the variable the same/similar way.

2. Same twelve steps apply to all types of people, and addictions. As we know, not all medications work for each person in medicine, one works for me while another one works for you. In therapy, yes we start with a theory, and hypothesis deductively drawn from said theory, but then adapt to every patient. The AA 12 steps don’t do this….It’s the same twelve steps for every person. Yes, I know the frequent cop out is to take from it what is useful…. come on, it’s like people with the bible saying these stories are metaphors when shown via science they could not be true. It’s trying to salvage what you can, grasping at straws. We could also, go to a psychic, church where they speak in tongues, palm readers, astrology, etc and find something useful!

3. It’s a one sided, or as I say half of therapy. You  go in vent, listen to stories, but there is not an expert to “correct” thinking as we do in therapy and see underlying patterns. People vent, yes I admit if you give them measures regarding how they feel after a meeting damn right they feel better! Who doesn’t after venting. The issue is there is not the same substantive change like you find with therapy. People usually go to a therapist after friends and family can’t and have not helped them, people who know them very well unlike randoms in a meeting. Therapists are trained to point out these common errors unique to the individual patient as to how they are screwing things up! So a professional, who is trained to not just listen to a venting session, they instead, actually tell you what you are doing wrong.

4. Unethical
People as stated in the previous 3 points, do all of this and waste for some hundreds of hours of time! They keep going too as they say after treatment “90 in 90” so 90 meetings in 90 days! Oh my god!!!!! If I see a patient therapeutically for that many hours (actually many less with current, research on outcomes) or even just 30 hours lets say. I have to be able to stand before an ethics board and justify why treatment is taking so long! When I was trained cognitive behavior therapy was 15 to 20 sessions, now I have heard outcomes stating 10 to 12 sessions should be expected. What I am saying is it would be better for a patient to work extra hours at their job each week, or an extra shift to be able to cover actual therapy. Instead, I have heard of and met people who have been going to AA meetings for literally 20 years continuously.

5th point just since its irritating to hear…
People say its a support network. Yeah, again it was intended to be more therapeutic, especially historically since back then there were few treatments available and the term was ill defined. Again, its a back tracking method like the bible to hold on to precepts that are frankly just not useful now. If ideas that seem as if they come from AA they are parsed into finer detail. So in reality many times they were not even culled from the 12 Step model to begin with! It’s like freud saying the brain, is ultimately responsible for the mind. Yippee so vague absolutely any neuroscience finding falls under that “prediction.”

All of  these above points are valid and have been written about by other psychologists. So, any professional reading please realize I am not stealing the ideas. I am not taking credit that these five criticisms are of my own invention, but combinations, adaptations, and adjusting what I have learned. Again, attempting to respond with some sob story or personal experience of you or some friend, does not validate the 12 step model. It’s merely an anecdotal observation at best.

A final statement, on that note regarding the statement “it works for me.” Yes, something may work for you. Look at it this way, some intervention may increase your productivity, by 20% lets say, or decrease negative effects by 20%. However, another intervention may help/ameliorate by 70%, or 80% vs your pittyful 20% intervention. I look at this comparative clinical effectiveness of interventions, I get it… AA is free, people may perceive some benefit. I still think it preaches too many dogmatic, anti-scientific ways of thinking that ultimately undermines mental health treatment of drug an alcohol issues. Not even to mention this silly 12 step model is used in more far reaching areas when originally only meant for drinking.

So in summary, AA is dogmatic, like religion, it ignores science. Decades of research have information to give to people. I have never recommended it to individuals, instead I always suggest therapy, and guess what we have group therapy as well, for those who love the group format!

Questions and/or Comments please!

I would like people to send in any and all questions you may have specifically regarding psychology. I am quite familiar with the philosophy of science as well, as well as issues related to sexuality, so they are welcomed as well. It should be made clear that you can ask any question. If you want a name associated with your question, I will indicate the name you indicate. If you would like it as an anonymous question no problem either. Feel free to simply send a comment to my email I will respond to the question or comment. For those, of you who know me personally, and know I could comment on something or have an idea for a post, please definitely dro me an quick email.

Personal Experience = Invalid, Useless

Ok I admit that title is a bit hyperbolic. I get very tired of people invoking their personal experience on most topics, but especially when it is related to science, and of course psychology. Here are my two main issues, this post will relate to many others in the future, so please read, and take it to heart! There will be a part two as well to this…

Point 1… Standstill, stalemate.

One of the things I have always loved about philosophy are thought experiments. This is where you simply ask someone to think of some case or situation of which usually you can’t actually engage in. This one you actually can… Yet since you are reading this please do in fact think of it. Imagine you are in a room, with another person, me lets say me, arguing about discrimination against black people. Remember the ONLY information we have available is our experience. We can’t cite news, research, hearsay, tv, reading we have done or anything else… Purely and only our personal experience counts.

You tell me that you throughout all of grade school, middle school and high school witnessed discrimination against black people. You give examples, and tell stories and such. Now, here is the crux of the issue, that is your personal experience that you witnessed, were exposed to etc. Now enter me. I then come back with the fact which is a true statement in actual real life, that I have never throughout my grade school, middle school, and high school ever witnessed discrimination against black people. Now, this is the essence of the problem with personal experience. You had yours, I had mine, and they are opposites. Now the standstill, or stalemate happens.

Again we are not allowed to bring in any outside information into this room. Well, we by definition are now at a standstill. Since, we can’t bring in outside information, your experience can’t outweigh mine or mine outweigh yours, they are equal! For you reading this type of description, you probably want to know where we both grew up, socioeconomic status, and variety of other pieces of information. You want this information to determine which person is more representative of the population. In other words, whose experience should in the discussion outweigh the other persons. Obviously, the easy answer is well I saw … on the news, and  you start to think of various research projects that have been done on discrimination. Again, all of that is null and void when we use personal experience in this room, and give such psychological weight to personal experience.

See this is where the power of research and information from sources other than our own experience absolutely should override your personal experience. Yes, personal stories are great at touching people, however, when we get down and dirty, we need outside information. It sounds silly but how do I know kangaroos exist. I have never seen one in person, even at a zoo. Yet, I have seen them on tv and learned about them in school. A well educated and literate person should necessarily go beyond their experience to gain information. Personal experience, will by definition result in a standstill discussion eventually with someone that you meet.

You can always find someone who counters you. Yes, then it becomes a debate as to which experience should carry more weight in the discussion. However in the end in almost every discussion I have witnessed or been a part of, both parties bring in information outside their personal experience to ultimately support their point of view.

Point 2… It’s emotionally manipulative.

The second reason why I dislike personal experience points of view is how usually they take on an emotionally manipulative stance in a discussion. Forget, about being in a room closed off from everything. Now imagine you and I are at a dinner party at someones house, say a group of ten of us.

Now in this situation, we are arguing guns in the U.S. In this discussion, a woman cites the fact that her teenage son was shot by a person, during a drug deal of which he was not even a part of, innocent bystander. She goes into a lengthy explanation describing it, how tragic it was that someone innocent was shot. She is crying during it yet maintaining a description of the story accurately and passionately.  Now, if I (which is not my stance on guns) started to point out how statistically this is such an anomaly and rarely ever happens. I quote stats and blah blah… Imagine to yourself, how big of an insensitive jerk I would appear to the other dinner guests. I would be considered to be the root of all evil in that situation, regardless of the statistical accuracy, and research based results that I’m spewing forth during my “rebuttal.”

The point here is that people like to give passionate stories to try to persuade people regarding a certain point of view. They utilize the social situation, which is very specifically that IF a person denounces their personal experience/story, they appear as the rude insensitive person in the discussion/social interaction. This is the second reason, which I have such an issue with these experiences/stories. All, I have to do is start to tell you how badly something went for me or a friend of mine, and bam, you can’t touch it otherwise you look like a jerk!

How many of you watch TED talks? Ever noticed how they have people speak who literally only, have personal stories? Sure they are well told and interesting and even tug at your heart strings, may even make you cry. Yet, after, that’s all they have, a story, not some extensive background in that area, but simply their personal experience, in an attempt to persuade you with emotions to do something or donate or support their cause! I find it as a cheap unfair social psychological ploy that people use all the time. Personally, and I will toot my own horn, have been in arguments/debates where I have had extensive personal experience with something. Yet, I’ll maintain a stance of research, and academic thought on the topic, and not use the cheap ploy of experience.

In conclusion to both of these two main points I believe that people should base opinions and decisions on research, education, and/or sound philosophical principles. I am the first to admit we don’t have research for all the different types of information available. Then yes, start from some well thought out philosophical position! At worst, yes use personal experience. However, be ready to immediately change your stance when you become educated, research is done, or someone deconstructs your position, and shows flaws. Furthermore, some issues transcend research, after all it is a lot of the time descriptive, not prescriptive. Just because something happened in the past research does not mean it should or ought to be that way. This is where adhering to a basic philosophy comes in. I for example believe in gay marriage. This is not at all because I have had friends who are gay and in love (personal experience), actually, never had close friends who are/were. Yet, my basic philosophical stance is that if two people are in love they should be able to get married! That’s it, not based on research, some religious text or otherwise. It’s a basic premise that is part of how I think and who I am. It has nothing to do with personal experience.