IPT Book Reviews

Title: Crazy Therapies: What are They? Do They Work?
Authors: Margaret Thaler Singer and Janja Lalich
Publisher: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1996

Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers
350 Sansome Street
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 433-1740
$23.00 (c)

Crazy Therapies was written to help consumers become aware of the vast array of therapies being offered by a variety of practitioners in the mental health marketplace today. The book's message is "buyer beware" as the marketplace has become flooded with controversial, "far out" therapies practiced by both licensed and unlicensed "healers." Although a number of widely accepted, ethical, and scientifically-based treatments are also available, consumers may end up wasting a lot of time and money pursuing illegitimate, even harmful treatments. Then there are "crazy therapists," who inculcate bizarre ideas in their clients and make vulnerable clients overly dependent on the therapist, or who may exploit the client financially, psychologically, and/or sexually, all in the name of a cure. Singer and Lalich provide a two-page list of "crazy therapies," including chakra and aura readings, angel therapy, past-life regression, entities releasement, alignment of fluid intelligence systems, etc.

At their most benign, questionable methods may have a placebo effect and make the client feel better, at least for a time. In many instances, however, the client is harmed. For example, a client who comes in for anxiety and sleep problems might be convinced by his therapist that he was abducted by aliens and sexually violated on their space ship. The client becomes obsessed with thoughts of these bizarre events and can't stop talking about them, which results in an inability to concentrate at work and as being regarded as deranged by fellow employees and he is soon fired. The book is replete with similar case examples.

The proliferation of questionable, controversial methods is not confined to adults. Parents of emotionally disturbed and learning disabled youngsters are commonly taken advantage of by certain therapists who capitalize on the parents' intense and even desperate desire to help their children. Singer and Lalich discuss the dangers inherent in so-called Facilitated Communication, a technique developed so that autistic children could communicate after a fashion. The trouble is, the facilitator guides the hand of the child and what gets communicated is often the beliefs and expectations of the adult facilitator. There is an alarming incidence of false allegations of abuse against parents, teachers, and program staff arising from this method. One autistic child was reported to have remembered past lives with the help of Facilitated Communication. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association has issued a position statement that the technique has no scientific validity or reliability.

Neural Organization Technique was devised by a chiropractor who asserted that those with dyslexia and learning disabilities suffer from the faulty motion of certain skull bones when the person breathes. Some psychologists and educators soon became advocates of the method since the founder claimed that the painful pressure treatment to the child's head could be used to treat bedwetting, cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome and a host of other conditions. Neural Organization Technique has been described as a form of torture by a University of California professor and chair of a fraud task force.

Singer and Lalich believe that good therapy is available and conclude with a chapter on what to consider in evaluating therapy and choosing a therapist, including red flags that should alert the consumer to the possibility of illegitimate, exploitative, and otherwise useless or harmful treatment.

Reviewed by Deirdre Conway Rand, Marin Psychological Services, Mill Valley, California.

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