The state of evidence-based therapy in colleges and how you can help make it better

I once posted a guest entry from Patty Guzikowski about how to find a therapist for atheists.  In it she discussed evidence-based treatment in psychology and how it is not the default means of treating people with mental illnesses.

Well, today I received the following email.  If you are a psychology student, take particular note.

Hey there,

There’s a point and a question to this email, but also a wee bit of a preface. Feel free to skip to paragraph 3 if you’re short on time/patience.
I’m a psychology and Human Development & Psych Services double major at [a university in Chicago]. I applied here specifically for their focus on research and picking therapies and treatments that have been shown to work.  I also grew up in a family that used almost exclusively alternative medicine. Homeopathy, essential oils, energy healing, applied kinesiology, crystals, cranial sacral therapy, and on and on. My mother makes her business out of some of this. I’m a skeptic.

So when I was taking a class on psychotherapy (an upper level seminar, no less), I nearly fell off my chair when the professor started spouting the importance of getting our patients onto vitamin mega-doses, and 4x the FDA recommendation for fish oil. What she said about replacing SSRI’s as compared to dietary changes doesn’t bear repeating. She also informed us that one of the most ignored causes of depression was ‘mirror neurons taking in ugly buildings’. I promptly dropped the class. I hadn’t bought the book, and my schedule wasn’t constrained, so it was easy. But this wasn’t the first time evidence went out the window in my psych classes. And I know I’m not the only one with this trouble.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has The Therapist Project to collect names of LT’s who don’t use supernatural stuff in their practice. I want to create a database of programs and specific program information about psychology graduate and undergraduate programs and their support of evidence based treatment versus alt-med or other unhelpful/harmful treatments. We need the next generation of therapists to focus on what actually works, and to pick universities that will support that. Ive offered to do this with the FRFF, but haven’t heard back yet. Regardless, I think it’s an important enough job to do, and I’m willing to do it.

So here’s what I spent a wayyy too long preface getting ready to ask. Would you be willing to help spread the word, or suggest people who could? I know mental illness has been a newer blog topic, and you’ve discussed the level of ridiculous it is that we need to clarify between EBT (evidence-based therapies) and non-EBT. I’m looking to reach out to anyone who has majored in psychology at any American university in the last ten years. I’d want to know about any experiences they had with professors encouraging alt-med, their overview as a skeptic of the program they were enrolled in, etc. I’m not sure what the end format would be to the database, but names would not be published without permission. However, I need to start with some raw anectdata. Any help you could give in passing the message on or linking me to people who can would be much appreciated, and could be redeemed for a huge hug and impromptu happy-dancing if we’re ever in the same area. Contacts could email me at this address (donovanable[at]gmail[dot]com) or through pervasivegoodness.com. The more people I can get to respond, the more helpful this will be to future students.

Thanks so much :)

Why yes, I am very willing to help spread the word.  Mental illness, especially with non-evidence-based therapy lurking about, is definitely a cause the skeptic movement needs to take up.  We have the potential to make a positive change in so many lives and to convince people that their sickness can be managed.

If this is a project with which you can help, you can also go to http://evidencebasededucation.weebly.com/ to submit stuff.

Spread the word far and wide.

Michaelyn on Godless rEvolution talking about mental health.
MENTAL ILLNESS: I see affection as a competition.
MENTAL ILLNESS: Today's session.
MENTAL ILLNESS: Time to go be a lab rat.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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