Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Grief counselling is a scam…

…suggested Duck earlier.

This article from Reason Magazine last year would seem to support his case:

The Mental Health Crisis That Wasn’t
How the trauma industry exploited 9/11

On September 14, 2001, three days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a group of psychologists sent an open letter to the American Psychological Association. The 19 signatories, all established experts in trauma research and treatment, were concerned that thousands of people in New York City and elsewhere would receive dubious, even damaging, counseling. “In times like these,” the letter said, “it is imperative that we refrain from the urge to intervene in ways that—however well-intentioned—have the potential to make matters worse.…Unfortunately, this has not prevented certain therapists from descending on disaster scenes with well-intentioned but misguided efforts. Psychologists can be of most help by supporting the community structures that people naturally call upon in times of grief and suffering. Let us do whatever we can, while being careful not to get in the way.”

The letter voiced a second powerful warning: not to mistake normal reactions—intense sadness or sleeplessness, jumpiness, and so on—for mental abnormality. The letter was posted online and picked up by a New York Times science reporter who fast-tracked the controversy into Sunday’s paper, five days after the attacks. As Gerald Rosen, a Seattle psychologist and one of the letter’s authors told the reporter, “The public should be very concerned about medicalizing what are human reactions.”

By then, though, the trauma industry had shifted into high gear. Roughly 9,000 counselors raced to lower Manhattan, advocating, in the words of one observer, “intervention for any person even remotely connected to the tragedy.”


Therapism is a worldview that valorizes openness and emotional self-absorption; it assumes that vulnerability, rather than strength, characterizes the American psyche, and that a diffident, anguished, and emotionally apprehensive public requires a vast array of therapists, self-esteem educators, grief counselors, workshoppers, healers, and traumatologists to lead it through the trials of everyday life.

In fact, there is no evidence that large segments of the population are in psychological free fall.

The biggest challenge for grief therapists presumably lies in jockeying for position with the personal injury claim lawyers, as they all gallop headlong after the ambulances.


Blogger Duck said...

I knew it! The whole notion of grief counseling just gave off the aroma of fraud.

I'm reminded of the aphorism "If you can hold onto your wits while all those around you are losing theirs, then you just don't know what's going on." This whole notion of medicalizing emotional states is pernicious, as pernicious as the ancient religious notion of moralizing them. Both notions require an elite priesthood of practicioners to tell people how they should think and feel. Call it the Oprah-fication of society.

One quote I heard from a grief counselor on TV was "It is important for people to know that it's OK to feel sad and helpless". This is both blindingly obvious and a sign of a professional class usurping individual authority for defining valid and invalid emotional states.

September 05, 2006 9:34 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

My daughter-in-law just missed getting killed at the World Trade Center, and it shook her up badly.

I feel pretty sure that grief counselors would have made it worse.

Although, while we are beating up on these nosy-parkers, I cannot see how what they say and do is significantly different from what you hear from mainline Christian counselors.

No doubt there are a range of good responses to difficult times, but I was raised in the 'It can't be too bad, I don't see any blood' tradition of shuttin' up and keepin' on.

September 05, 2006 12:32 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

By the way, thanks Brit for the title. As realization dawns on others about the true nature of grief counseling, and they do a Google search for "grief counseling is a scam", the Daily Duck will be Information Central for this topic. It may help the ad revenue as well!

As of today we are sitting on a war chest of $4.80. I can feel the momentum building!

September 05, 2006 7:57 PM  
Blogger Brit said...


We can buy several pencils with that!

September 06, 2006 1:00 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

duck wrote: "...they do a Google search for "grief counseling is a scam", the Daily Duck will be Information Central for this topic. It may help the ad revenue as well..."

Interestingly, I noticed that there is a single word that when googled lists only Daily Duck entries and nothing else. Any guesses as to what that word is?

BTW, congrats on the huge revenue stream!

September 06, 2006 1:20 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Oh, realistically I'll probably forget that I've commented on this particular thread.

The word is Himpeldorpher.

September 06, 2006 1:23 AM  
Blogger Brit said...


I would have guessed 'dunnoism', but although we're top of the tree, I notice there are a few other converts out there.

September 06, 2006 1:27 AM  
Blogger David said...

Let me say half a word in support of grief counseling. If someone is suffering inordinately from their grief, and is unable to put it behind them, then they can benefit from counseling. The key is to remember that people who have been through horrifying events will be horrified; that people who have lost loved ones will feel grief; and that experiences that are depressing will make people feel depressed. People don't need special counseling to go through the ordinary ups and downs of life.

September 06, 2006 2:57 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

I think we all acknowledge that certain people will need counseling during certain life events. I'm not making a blanket condemnation of counseling. But it is this notion that counseling needs to be pushed onto populations en masse after high profile tragedies. I'd say that it is such tragedies that affect so many people where such counseling is least needed, because there are so many people sharing the same grief that there is a built in support group for everyone to help each other through it.

It is private grief that challenges individuals more and makes external counseling more beneficial.

September 06, 2006 4:52 PM  
Blogger David said...

I mostly agree with that.

I do think that there are people whose own personal problems will emerge in overwrought grief over large public occurrences.

September 06, 2006 8:54 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I'd like to revive my idea of FBS.

Since 60%, at least, of doctor visits cannot be related to any organic problem, if we could divert these anguished people to some cheaper venue, a lot of money would be saved (and the overall economy, which is only expanding if you factor in health care, would contract).

When a malingerer/hypochondriac comes to his gatekeeper physician, the doctor says, gravely, 'This is not something I can deal with, or that can be cured by a simple prescription. You have FBS, and I'm sending you to a specialist.'

FBS stands for Feels Bad Syndrome, and the specialist is a kindly, sympathtic granny or other underemployed person, who presents a cuppa and pats the hand and listens.

FBS treatment would, I feel sure, work just as good for grief -- even genuine grief -- as grief counseling. Better, even.

September 06, 2006 9:54 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Righto, Harry. At bottom, what is offensive and potentially dangerous about grief counselling is the notion of technique--the idea that the empathy and compassion the hurting crave can be systemtized and administered by any stranger with the proper training, and for money. Part of the source of this is the general Freudian notion that we all are carrying hidden psychic demons that have to be exorcised through talk. The other is the AA experience, which is built on the insight that for many folks talking about drinking can be a substitute for drinking--it gives the same high. What the grief counsellor doesn't see is that it only works if you talk about it to other bad drinkers--it doesn't work if you talk about drinking to teetotallers. And the hard truth is that AA can be every bit as addictive as alcohol for some. I've seen guys abandon families for it.

All the money the Armed Forces is spending on counselling for PTSS would probably be better spent on poolrooms and cheap beer for the American Legion.

One truly scary expression of this madness is the modern school craze for bullying-counselling. There is nothing crazier or more cruel than a young female teacher, fresh from a weekend course, bringing together a 12 year old male bully and his victim to share their feelings. Child abuse!

September 07, 2006 2:30 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I don't know anything about anti-bullying counseling, but that sounds awful.

I guess we are agreed that grief assistance is one field that has not -- probably cannot -- benefit from professionalization.

Although I guess it beats slashing yourself with knives and knocking out your teeth.

People are, taken in the large, crazy.

September 07, 2006 10:52 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

People are, taken in the large, crazy.

But what can one do if we're hard-wired that way?

September 07, 2006 3:30 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

I've noticed that everyone is crazy except me.

(I'm merely eccentric.)

September 07, 2006 4:04 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Hmmm. Mr. Blogspot said he saved my comment but it doth not appear. Near as I can recall, it went:

I don't think being crazy is wired in.

We have, probably, some innate behaviors that don't work very well under changed conditions that evolution has not yet had time to deal with. They are not, of themselves, crazy. More like a broken watch that once kept accurate time but no longer does.

Even so, while some innate behaviors may be very difficult to override (and therefore also difficult to realize that they are there), to override, use discipline.

We are wired to eat as much fat as we can. We do not always do so.

September 07, 2006 9:50 PM  
Blogger Mick Tripps said...

"with well-intentioned but misguided efforts" .. What makes you think they are well-intentioned? They are profiteers, plain and simple.

March 29, 2013 11:26 AM  
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