In the Room

A blog focussing upon cognitive behavioural & psychodynamic techniques & issues “in the room” rather than case or theoretical discussions.

Chris Allan is a Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Psychology Clinic at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia. His weblog In The Room addresses a range of therapeutic issues and the related literature.

Each post illustrates a problem encountered by therapists and offers insights into this problem, often with extensive quotes from relevant textbooks and journals. As a round up of “therapy tips & techniques you will find in your textbooks”, In the Room should be of use to any psychological therapist and is well worth a read by physical therapists also.

BPS Research Digest

A newsletter-cum-blog from the British Psychological Society. Summarising a dozen psychology journal articles each month in accessible prose, the Digest is a good light read and a useful pointer to the full articles.

Unlike the American Psychological Association, the British Psychology Society does not make the members’ monthly journal available online, but does offer the BPS Research Digest: a round up of interesting and thought-provoking recent research.

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BBC Health

A source of good advice and good links to other reputable sites. BBC Health can be recommended by therapists who wish to encourage or support internet research by their clients.

Searching the internet for health related topics is a risky business. A site with a professional appearance need not have content of similar standard. BBC Health is a subsection of bbc.co.uk, the British Broadcasting Corporation’s website. The BBC has an international reputation for good journalism

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APA Monitor on Psychology

The newsletter of the American Psychological Association. Discussion articles and summaries of research which will be of interest and use to any therapist, be they American, psychologist or neither.

Online resources for therapists are relatively few in number and the authority of some is questionable. The decision of the American Psychological Association to make its monthly newsletter freely available online is therefore laudable.

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Demon Haunted World

An accessible argument in favour of the scientific method. The book provides tools for discriminating science from pseudoscience and knowledge from speculation.

The late Carl Sagan was a strong proponent of science and the scientific method. The Demon Haunted World (subtitle: Science as a Candle in the Dark) revises a number of his magazine articles into a larger argument.

Sagan’s central thesis is that we should take nothing for granted. We should acknowledge that what we “know” is a collection of theories which have not yet been disproved, but which should continue to be tested in order that, if they fail, they can be replaced by more complete theories. There is no place for ego or privileged beliefs in Sagan’s world.

The highlight of the book is the twelfth chapter, entitled “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection”. The earlier chapters cover phenomena ranging from crop circles to demons, faith healing to alien abduction. In each case Sagan highlights the personal and cultural biases which permitted or permit these memes to thrive.

“The Fine Art of Baloney Detection” lays out a series of tools for sceptical thinking. Sagan advises us not to get overly attached to an idea, but to examine why we like it and to ask ourselves if we can find reasons for rejecting it (because if we don’t, others will: in our case, our clients!).

The chapter ends with a list of fallacies of logic and rhetoric for us to avoid. These include arguments from authority (“trust me, I’m a doctor”?) and considering only the two extremes on a continuum of intermediate possibilities (biological or psychological?).

The Demon Haunted World is an interesting read for scientist and lay person. Chapter 12 is highly recommended to both therapists, clients and anyone hoping to make sense of the “evidence base”.

Reference

Sagan C (1997) The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Headline: London.

Rules of thumb are dumb

Some rules of thumb are derived from experience, accurate or otherwise, (eg: the praecox effect) and some from hard research (eg: people with memory problems don’t admit to them), but all have a common flaw: even if true, they are both generalisations across a population and specific to the circumstances of their origin.

In an undergraduate lecture over twenty years ago, a senior Clinical Psychologist described the “praecox effect” (as in dementia praecox, or schizophrenia):

if, after having spoken to someone for half an hour, you have no idea what they’re on about, they’re schizophrenic

To an undergraduate struggling to cope with the complexities of psychology, psychiatry and mental health, any simple rule was welcome. Reading the literature on the high rate of psychotic diagnoses in immigrant populations, it didn’t take me too long to see the problems with this rule of thumb.

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