Sex: Swinging

Why not be a swinger is what I ask people? This post will clearly be a mixture of academic knowledge as well as opinion. Read it then pose questions/comments. Either do it online, or personally through facebook or my email . Trust me if emailed or through facebook, it will be kept completely confidential. I would rather have people comment or criticize me and I respond than people thinking their identity will be exposed.

The world of sex has always fascinated me in psychology. I understand this topic is off-putting to many, however I think sex absolutely needs to be discussed openly and honestly in our culture. As I indicated in the post with the senator especially with teens. In the world of sex educators and sex positive community everything is on the table from normal sexual functioning to impairment, kinks, abuse and especially consent. However, at a societal level it is a topic avoided by most, or makes many uneasy in their seat when it is brought up.

Having listened to podcasts, taught human sexuality, read articles on sexuality there is not total consensus. I have not found total agreement on what swinging is versus open relationships and polyamory. Do not be surprised if the definition that I will be using here is idiosyncratic compared to others. Swinging, as I have read, can be defined as engaging in sexual activity with other people while emotionally committed and dedicated to your partner.

When I present being a swinger to people I invariably get push back most of the time. First off psychologically I believe it shows cognitive flexibility and open-mindedness to be a swinger. I do not doubt some people have such die hard religious or philosophical predilections against it yet, however I believe we all need to have our belief systems questioned. To be able to separate love/intimacy and the sexual experience I see as a distinct advantage. Many people view sex as an “intimate” personal bonding moment. I understand this position, yet if your main bonding aspect of life is through sexual intimacy I feel genuinely sorry for you. Sex can be simply a fun activity, like tennis, or cards. Yes, for some it can be a deep transcendental emotional experience. When discussing this topic with people who do push back on the concept of swinging I go down the same line of reasoning all the time. I ask them same thing every time: “if your partner came home from work and told you they were deeply in love with someone at work yet have had zero physical contact would you be okay with it?” Invariably people indicate they would not at all be okay with that.

The point here is the physical touch is not the issue, it is the emotional connection we feel for another person and dedication to the relationship. There is no doubt we all define and attach importance to certain types of touch or activities we engage in with people in our lives. I am just amazed at the sex part of it. I also point out to people that you can play tennis, cards, go running with someone that you are in love with just as you can with someone you are not in love with. The question becomes, why can’t you have sex with someone you are not in love with when you can engage in other activities with people you are not in love with? Or should we only engage in any and all activities with people we are in love with and in a dedicated relationship? In philosophy we are dealing with the logical fallacy of argument of special pleading which is making something exempt from a rule. Therefore sex in this case is exempt from the rule of engaging in activities with someone we are in love with.

One objection I have also dealt with are the STI rates. I have actually looked into this research and it shows that swinging is not a high risk activity. It’s funny to me when discussing swinging I ask, “how many couples do you know of who actually went hand it hand to a physician, Planned Parenthood, or clinic and get STI tested?” Come on most of us use condoms and such, then eventually go to no condoms without any testing whatsoever. Be realistic people, this is how it really does happen. Yes I agree I know of a few couples and I mean few who have done the testing, yet it is rare. The thinking behind it is piss poor. I hear statements like, “I know them well enough…” “they aren’t a risky person…” “blah blah blah.” These are ridiculous notions. Plus even with proper testing STI’s can lay dormant for years.

I think intimacy and bonding can take many forms. My previous two ex-girlfriends as simply an example know things about me that absolutely no one else in the world knows period. I know things of them as well in the same way. This is how it is for many people, and should be, that can be intimate and bonding. It does not have to be through sexual expression. Our culture and many others simply function this way and I think it is an arcane simple minded and resticitive.

I will admit I have caveats when it comes to a person engaging in swinging. First off, they need to have the introspective capability to know exactly why they are engaging in the behaviors. Second, and critically important is the question of one partner pressuring the other to do it. Third, extremely open and honest discussion absolutely needs to take place between the partners about engaging in it. Fourth, rules need to be established in whatever way a couple sees fit. This means is kissing okay, meeting others alone, must be planned, both partners present, the list goes on. Things need to be anticipated in advance. There are more issues but those are the basics.

These are pretty much my thoughts on this. I WANT people to pose objections or alternate opinions on this. I will respond to all of them! Please bring up something novel that will be fun to respond to. For those of you who know me personally, some knew my thoughts on this and others did not. I am really at the point now, where I believe it is well reasoned, and ultimately quite a healthy outlook.

Comment on Trump’s Cognitive Status

Please note this post is completely independent of recent events with Jackson. This is a criticism of all physicians who need to refer out patients to psychologists who perform cognitive and psychological testing. Furthermore, this is a criticism of physicians using psychological screening devices inappropriately to make sweeping statements regarding patients’ psychological states. It would be equivalent to a psychologist reading some medical screener, then making a sweeping statement of physical health. I will make clear why a physician should be referring out vs. not referring out to psychologists. Also, making clear why they need to understand some of these these “tests,” “assessments” are screeners, and not powerful to make sweeping judgements.

Giving a screening device of this nature is totally within a physician’s scope of practice. Yet not okay to then make a sweeping statement of the patient’s psychological status. After all, this physician (and others) is/are medically trained, and psychologists are not. However to make a sweeping statement that the president is cognitively fully functioning is not okay. My criticism is that I wish he would have enlisted psychologists. Again, do not dismiss my points hereafter due to recent ethical charges against Jackson. That is the easy copout in a situation such as this. It is a pervasive problem therapists and psychologist come across in practice.

A patient coming in with diagnosis made by a physician based on some screener only is inappropriate. In the situation with the president a psychologist could have stepped in and assessed at a much more advanced level the president’s cognitive status. Psychologists do not assess the medical status of patients so I do not understand why medical doctors think they can assess complicated nature of cognitive functioning. We have psychologists where their entire careers are dedicated to assessments alone.

This is critical for the reader to know because if you go to a physician or bring in a loved you should know physicians are not at all competent to evaluate the psychological status of a patient. Just like if you go to a therapist/psychologist they are not at all competent to evaluate your physiological/medical status. If this were a case where a therapist/psychologist were making medical status statements I’d be just as critical.

This is not my opinion – both groups have ethical codes and principles of which indicate to practice within their scope of education and ability. The principles for physicians indicate to use other professionals when needed (Principle V). For psychologists it is under the section of Competence, part (b). These documents can be found online free of charge.

This paragraph is entirely my opinion. I believe that in the U.S. people deify physicians, as do other countries. Many people think that because a physician said the president is cognitively functioning at whatever status people believe it as accurate.

I elaborate in detail below.

No doubt Trump achieved a perfect score on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. First off, it is accesible online by anybody, plus COACHABLE. Coachable in the sense that anyone reading this can access it right now! Then, practice it and you will get a perfect score, unless you have true cognitive impairment. Second, calling it an “assessment” gives it far more credit than it deserves. To psychologists it is a mere screener. This means if the person scores below a certain level (or above), then we give sophisticated assessments. Third, physicians, MD’s who do not have a PhD education CANNOT give the sophisticated assessments psychologists have. The assessments psychologists will give are not accesible online. Furthermore, these assessments take again a PhD level of training in psychology to administer/score/interpret which physicians do not have. As an example, the notorious IQ assessment takes a full semester course alone. Yes, technically one can achieve both an MD and PhD. However, this is rare to begin with. Most MD PhDs that you may have come across, which seems so lofty and impressive, have a related biological, chemistry etc. PhD. In these cases the courses and training overlap. I have never met someone who has achieved both back to back. I know they exist, yet are rare, and would be well over a decade of education and training to achieve.

What I am trying to say is that for a psychologist to hear Trump passed this specific screener is perfunctory. Then for a physician to make a sweeping statement of cognitive functioning is reckless and inappropriate. When you consider the president or anyone could have practiced this screener it becomes meaningless. I say this because we have numerous instruments that assess very specific cognitive issues. These are inaccessible to the general public and in many cases you cannot practice them anyways.

Examples include but are not limited to the list that is on the website: Pull up this site you will be shocked! I was as well at the number of assessments we have, and I have been trained in assessments! Many of them REQUIRE a PhD level of training. Yes, on the site some are to be used for screening purposes by other professionals. A free screener can then be administered to literally hundreds of people at the same time. Then if any individual in a group falls below or scores above a certain level, they are then passed on to psychologists for further assessments. A good example would be an elementary school teacher giving to a class of 30 students a screener, something for ADHD, Depression, or Anxiety. Then if any student’s score is above or below (whatever number) then they are referred to the school counselor and or psychologist.

The take-home point is that Trump was administered a basic screener. So basic, for example it “tests” for short term memory, yet not other types. We have assessments for long term, working memory, auditory, visual, delayed types of memory and the list goes on! Trump may have long term memory issues, or any number of them.

Addressing “fit for duty” is a massive blog entry itself. Frankly, in my opinion fitness for duty should be multi disciplinary, not for psychology alone. However, once you look at the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, you notice in no way it assesses for:

Anti-Social Personality Disorder
Learning Disabilities
Drug Issues
Autism spectrum disorders
The list goes on..

Any of these could be argued would impact “fitness for duty.” Again, that is an entirely different conversation.

Finally, shame on both groups for not stepping in. The American Psychological Association should have been jumping up down and on the news to point these basic facts to the media. The fact that a sweeping cognitive functioning generalization was being made based on a mere common screening device. The American Medical Association should have jumped in stating that referring out to psychologists would have been most appropriate.

Clearly, in summation, I believe that for any statement regarding the cognitive functioning, especially for the leader of our country, psychologists should be involved.

Quick note on shootings

Just because people engage in mass shootings, bombings or the use of vehicles to kill DOES NOT mean they have a mental disorder. What amazes me is I have spent up to a 4 hours of a clinical interview. Then did psychological testing with the individual for up to 12 hours, and people still questioned my judgement/analysis of that person. Now, someone engages in one of the above acts, and people don’t even hesitate to assign a mental disorder! For most people reading this, we consider intellectual conversation the means by which to resolve problems or differences of opinion. That is our philosophical stance. We need to accept that others believe in the use of force, and killing, the way to deal with problems.

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.