When “professionals” don’t think twice, and snake oil sales go unchecked…

Snake Oil by Mike Licht - 2014 Flikr Creative Commons attribution licenseIn my feed this morning:

From someone describing themselves as a “Researcher/SPSS Analyst/Systematic Reviewer/Psychologist/Counsellor & Coach Specialist for Professionals & PhD Students”;

This mind/body split (apparantly due to Descartes, a philosopher) is rapidly changing. If you look at recent TV documentaries, medical doctors and scientists are taking a holistic approach to physical and mental functioning and wellbeing, much of which we have control of through our behaviour and attitudes, and mental health stigma is rapidly shifting as most people now have some exposure/experience (personal or via social network) of mental health issues, interestingly, as our social connectedness has decreased (and our online social networks/stressors increase), people have experienced greater vulnerability to stress and all of its physical/mental and aging prematurely implications. They say 90% of all GP visits are stress-related.

For someone who claims to be an SPSS Analyst, I’m rather amazed at the faulty logic. SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) is a widely used software program for statistical analysis in social science. The individual makes some pretty rudimentary mistakes for an ‘analyst’.

My response;

I would agree with most of what you say, but I’m concerned that some people reading it might attribute cause and effect to these two variables: “interestingly, as our social connectedness has decreased (and our online social networks/stressors increase), people have experienced greater vulnerability to stress” It is equally ‘interesting’ that as driving tests have become more rigorous, so there are more road traffic incidents. Nor, for that matter, am I aware of any direct correlation between “social networks” and “stressors” – that may be your experience, but you’ll find a lot of people for whom the ability to engage with distant friends through social media is a significant coping mechanism.

I neglected to challenge the 90% of all GP visits claim. That is just too ridiculous to waste our time on.

We know that many people don’t trust experts. Indeed, one Leave Campaigner said as much when offering another complete distortion in their favour prior to the referendum. Sadly, it’s poor communication of the kind I’ve highlighted here that undermines those experts and leads to all kinds of travesties.

Worse though, IMHO, are modern-day snake oil sales people who KNOW that they are peddling stuff that doesn’t work, and yet persist. Worse still, is when they can only reply in vulgarities…

For the record, there is no evidence that NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) works. There have been extensive attempts to replicate its claims and they consistently fail to do so. This was summed up in a 2012 paper in the British Journal of General Practice (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3481516/). Sadly, there are still some well qualified and experienced psychologists who persist in selling quick fixes to vulnerable clients (usually at a substantial cost). When I pointed out the lack of evidence to one such purveyor (in this case, 8 days for £2000), I was offered the following wonderful response;

“Graham I spent 6 years studying psychology and more years studying counselling, psychotherapy and doing mental health training. All research has to be paid for and vested interests pays for it. As someone who has run a private practice for 22 years, run a non-profit for 8 years, worked in education, PRUs, and with those who have been abused I can honestly say that you cab stuff your conventional models where the sun don’t shine. Give me NLP, EFT and Amygdala Depotentiation Therapy (Havening) any day of the week 🙂 May your arrogance and assumptions keep you company. And heaven help your clients.”

So far, there’s virtually nothing published about Havening, but Emotional Freedom Therapy (EFT) is a different matter, with a growing body of evidence that it does work in clinical settings.

One Comment

  1. Predictably, this individual continued to rant, fueled by a couple of her fans. When confronted with facts that conflict with their beliefs, many people are not able to give up their belief and accept something different. Instead, they shift the argument to something that can’t be proven. In this person’s case, they resorted to personal attacks and projections about me. There’s an interesting article in Scientific American about this phenomenon (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-people-fly-from-facts/). One of the subsequent comments quoted from Robert Heinlein: “What are the facts? Again – again – and again, what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell”, avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts.” Robert A Heinlein.
    And the commentor went on; “If someone is going to ignore fact, and behave based on myth or bias, the best response is to minimize their influence on and time associated with your life. You can then be a model of getting the facts.”

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