Thursday, September 9, 2021

What's up, Doc?


Doctor, patient, diagnose – they’re powerful words that imply Science, Medicine and a certain reliability and objectivity.  But if you’re not standing in your doctor’s office, I strongly suggest you’re a bit careful.

There’s a chiropractor just down the road from me who wears a lab coat, calls herself “Doctor” and calls her clients “patients.” She also “diagnoses” her clients with various ailments.

I came across her because she terrified one of my friends with her “medical advice.”

So here are some facts:

Anyone with a PhD is a doctor. You can get a PhD in lots of subjects from Astronomy to Zoology.

Medical Degree holders are called Doctor – although they don’t usually have PhDs.

Vets are called Doctor although they don’t have Medical Degrees and usually not PhDs either.

There are lots of professions with their own courses that confer Doctor titles. This includes chiropractors, people who use massage techniques and exercise for healing.

Does it matter?

Chiropractors can be very helpful and healing, and a PhD in zoology might have some insight into human health too. I have consulted my vet for my own health and had some excellent advice (‘cause I’m a cow 😊)

However, they are not medical doctors.

Transparent and honest professional people will tell you, “I’m Dr Jane, I have a PhD in physiotherapy but I’m not a medical doctor.”  Or they just say, “I’m Jane, I have a PhD in physiotherapy.” They also avoid words like “diagnose” and “patient”.

Should we restrict who can call themselves Doctor?

Frankly, I don’t care what people call themselves, as long as they are transparent about their qualifications.

I run a mile from a chiropractor with a white coat who calls herself “doctor”, just as I run a mile from a clinical psychologist who calls her clients “patients.” I avoid them because anyone who uses souped up words like these is pretending to have training that they don’t have.

I find that misrepresentation extremely concerning. I don't trust people like that.

As there are lots of different doctors about, and social media doesn’t check credentials, I’m extremely careful of what I believe online. I ask a lot of questions and it’s surprising how many shady types are out there without a medical degree are giving “medical advice”.  

Here’s what to know about mental health professionals.

A psychiatrist is a doctor, a personal with a medical degree and also a specialist. They specialise in diagnosing and treating mental illness. As they are doctors, they can prescribe medicine.

Every other kind of mental health professional, whether they are psychologists, therapists, counsellors, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, or other titles, are not medical doctors. They cannot prescribe medicine or sell you supplements. (And if they tell you that supplements are part of therapy, they’re scamming you.

As for my titles, I have a Master’s Degree, so you can call me Mistress 😊 Kidding! I’m not a doctor of any kind.

I have a Bachelors of Science with Honours in Psychology from Stirling University, Scotland and a Masters with Distinction in Counselling from Open University Malaysia. I’m also a member of some fancy schmancy organisations like the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy but I don’t put that anywhere except for my invoices because I don’t want people to be thinking MBACP means I’m a doc. Also, I make it very clear that I cannot diagnose, and I have plain clients who call me Ellen.

I hope you find this interesting. Tell me what you think in the comments?

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Three things I do and one thing I avoid to keep myself balanced


In my day job, I work with people who are anxious and depressed. Many are victims of violence. Some are suicidal. Here are three things I do and one thing I avoid to keep myself balanced.

1. Confide in Target, Tic Tac and Inkie. Talking things through with the furry ones is pawsome because they don't gossip and because they let me pet them as I talk. Stroking their soft fur makes me happy and their purrs are an extra boost.
Tic Tac, the therapist is in!
Tic Tac, the therapist is in!

2. Cook. Actually, I want to write more but when work is really tough, I don't have the mental stamina to work on my fiction. Instead, I am creative in the kitchen. I'm chopping rainbows of veg and trying out lots of different dried herbs (simple and cheap!) so I get pretty and flavourful as well as lots of vitamins. Plus, the chopping helps me get out some of the stress. It's amazing how restful it can be to dice an onion while muttering about idiotic politicians

3. Analysing all of my "shoulds" and dropping the ones that make no sense. Many of the things we do are not really necessary; we do them out of habit. Like, I was checking my neighbour's place every day because I used to look after her cat. Now the cat gas been relocated, it's a crazy waste of time. I now go after it rains only. Saves me 10 minutes a day which doesn't seem much but it's 5 hours every single month - I'm investing that half a day in hanging out and having fun :-)

The one thing I absolutely avoid is mindfulness. Some people like that technique and find it useful, but others find mindfulness sends them into a dark spiral. I'm not spiritual and I spend enough time with my thoughts during the day, so I practice distraction to manage my stress.

If you have stress-busting habits you enjoy, feel free to comment.<- takes you to my FB post

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Thinking about difficult emotions: anger, grief and hopelessness


Why do we have emotions?
Suggestion: emotions are notifications, they tell us about our inner world and our environment

What are emotions telling us?
Suggestion:  scared is a notification of danger, anger is a notification of injustice/disrespect

BUT Emotions are not always reliable/accurate
If you're hungry, you might become angry = hangry so your body influences emotions
Also, how much you like someone can influences emotions

So while emotions are not always reliable, what should you do with anger, grief and hopelessness?
Can you be human without experiencing all emotions?

Suggestion: feel your emotions, figure out what they are telling you. But remember that you choose how you act. Your behaviour is under your control.

When you feel anger, grief, hopelessness, think and then actively de-stress. Pet the cat, go for a walk, water the plants

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Why EMDR and other nonsense hangs around


When Prince Harry talked about EMDR, my heart sank. People talking about mental health is usually good, but when they promote quackery, they do a lot of harm.

But EMDR is reckoned okay by organisations like the NHS and more, you might say. Yes, and the lobotomy was considered brilliant and the doctor who pioneered it was awarded a Nobel prize.

So, am I trashing the profession? No, I’m using this to explain some of the issues you should be aware of so that you can make more informed decisions.

The thing is, we are constantly learning more about our world and ourselves. As a result, ideas and theories are accepted one year and discarded the next.

The lobotomy is an extreme example that I used to get your attention but it’s not strictly speaking in the field, so let’s take something more appropriate and accessible.

About 100 years ago, Alfred Adler proposed that personality is linked to birth order. Being the eldest, youngest and middle child shapes who you are, he said.

For some years, his theory was accepted. A load of people wrote papers and books supporting the idea.

However, evidence disproving the theory also emerged. Lots and lots of evidence. Loads of it. As it piled up, Adler’s theory became less popular and less accepted.

Today you’ll not find many psychologists who believe that birth order influences personality. But that doesn’t mean it’s vanished. There are people who hang on to the idea.

The question is why. I think there are several answers.

1. Understanding scientific method takes training. Critically evaluating a quantitative psychology experiment, for example, includes knowing how sample selection, methods of statistical analysis and other elements affect the work. On top of that, you need to relate the findings into context of other work.

It really is a challenge. Although all practitioners are trained, it is generally the academics who are more practiced at this. And even many of the academics struggle to evaluate and keep up with new work.

Also, as psychology is a massive field, professionals tend to work in niche areas. Me, I read papers devoted to depression, anxiety and abuse but I’m hopelessly lost reading papers on other subjects. Reading out of your field is like a marathon runner having a go at sailing.

2. Practically speaking, a new theory is always controversial. Informed evaluation takes a lot of time.

It typically takes years for a new idea to be thoroughly examined.

During this time, people become attached to the work. This is quite normal. When you've spent months or years on a subject, it's very hard to say, "Well that sucks. On with the next idea."

So ideas hang around a lot longer than they should within the profession.

3. The public also become invested. Theories need to be tested, and it’s rare for a new approach not to help someone, somewhere. So when professionals announce that their last idea hasn’t panned out, there is public disappointment.

As explaining why a theory or approach is problematic or even bogus can be difficult, and "because I said so" doesn't go over well, a lot of us don't speak up.

Maybe we should, but there’s another problem...

4. Crooks, cons and folk intent on making money and gaining influence work very hard to market nonsense. They typically offer absolute certainty (i.e., a sure fix) with a touch of scientific sounding hocus pocus. Very often, they set up schools and associations with themselves as chief guru. Scammers are really hot at monetising!

When consumers are faced with a choice between, "There are few certainties and we're learning constantly but I'll do my best for you" and "Here's a sure-fire fix, cross my palm with silver for total satisfaction guaranteed, you can trust me, honest" it's terribly tempting to settle for the nonsense. Because we desire certainty in an uncertain world.

5. When professionals see consumers falling for scams, outdated theories and so on, they want to speak out. However, the quacks who have invested in the scheme scream blue murder. Very often, the quiet words of sense are drowned out by those who yell loudest.

Whistle-blowers tend to be punished and mental health professionals are human. We get tired of being attacked by mobs demanding we respect quack theories. Because of public pressure, now even hospitals have "alternative therapy" and "complimentary therapy."

Below is a list of therapies that professionals believe are harmful or bogus (from a journal paper published in 2008) It’s an eye opener. You'll see that EMDR has been on the nonsense list since 1996.

6. Finally, as nonsense is easier to sell and takes less effort, some mental health professionals give in and join the dark side. Doctors too. I know of several psychologists and two local doctors who have left proper practice in order to sell quackery.

Frankly, sometimes I think I should increase my fees tenfold and sell neurolinguistic programming (NLP), EMDR and dream interpretation. But I just couldn't face myself in the mirror. It's a real shame because my crazy cat lady image would fit in really well.

In short, it takes an awful lot of work to tell what's what. And as 'truth' is temporary and evolving, there is a lot of controversy.

As for EMDR, read the articles below that dig into it. They explain simply what’s wrong with it

Having said all this, if you want to go for it, feel free. You're an adult and you make your own decisions. Thankfully, EMDR won't hurt you. Except that it tends to cost a lot more than plain old exposure that does the job and without the hocus pocus.

So, there's my take on the subject. If you want to fight, that's cool. I'm available Tuesday afternoon.

If you have questions or comments, say so below or PM me. I’ll try to answer and if I don’t know, I will ask others to contribute. Do note that they may be shy because of point 5.

Here's a list of topics I’ve seen this week that I put firmly in the nonsense and avoid section. I'll add some web sites and papers at the end of this post.

Attachment therapy
Conversion therapy
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
Law of attraction
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)

Some good resources

An easy-to-read paper, Psychological Treatments to Avoid, by Dr. Timothy C. Thomason, Northern Arizona University

Index of Questionable Treatments from Quackwatch
A nice easy paper on some of the common research study problems Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

It's free, easy to read, and there's a chapter on avoiding scammers
Why EMDR is bogus

Image courtesy of Gerd Altmann from Pixabay