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The use of experimental therapeutic methods has proliferated -- particularly in the U.S. and Canada. Two examples are:

bulletRecovered memory therapy. This is highly dangerous because it seems capable of converting the therapist's abuse belief systems into images that appear like memories of childhood abuse in their clients. Yet, neither is typically aware of the process.
bulletDiagnoses of Multiple Personality Disorder, now usually called Dissociative Identity Disorder, increased enormously in number during the 1980s and early 1990s, even though most mental health practitioners believe that it is an iatrogenic phenomenon -- one that does not appear in nature, but is an artificial artifact produced during suggestive therapy.

These, and similar, therapies are resulting in deaths -- largely through suicide, -- emotional disability, and the destruction of thousands of families of origin in North America.

Some leading mental health professionals have reacted to this type of dangerous therapy by forming the Council for Scientific Mental Health Practice. They are "committed to the objective scientific evaluation of all novel mental health practices and are dedicated to disseminating only those practices that have been shown to be effective or valid."

Almost all countries in the world carefully regulate the introduction of new medications. The Council's aim seems to be to require similar evaluations in the mental health field before they are allowed to be propagated into widespread use.

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Excerpts from the Mission Statement of the Council for Scientific Mental Health Practice:

Over the past several decades the field of mental health has witnessed a widening gap between researchers and practitioners. This growing divide has led many observers to contend that the scientific foundations of clinical psychology and allied disciplines are steadily eroding. A wide variety of unsubstantiated or untested treatments, such as facilitated communication and hypnotic age regression, and assessment methods, such as human figure drawing tests and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, have flourished in popularity in recent years. Still other techniques, such as anatomically correct dolls and the Rorschach Inkblot Test, are widely used even though they are highly controversial or questionable on scientific grounds. Although some of these techniques may ultimately prove to be effective, it is disturbing that the frequency of their use greatly outstrips their evidentiary base.

The field of mental health is in crisis. The public's perception of mental health practice is shaped far more by self-help books, radio psychologists, and sensational media stories of dramatic "cures" than by objective scientific evaluations. Self-proclaimed gurus are often heralded in the mass media even though their treatments have not been submitted to randomized, double-blind trials, which should be standard procedure in the scientific evaluation of claims. Psychiatric labels that lack adequate research support, such as codependency and sexual addiction, are used with increasing frequency in the popular press and courts of law. Many treatment and assessment techniques promulgated to the general public rest on tenuous scientific foundations. Some of these techniques, such as compression therapy and highly suggestive therapeutic methods (e.g., hypnosis) to recover memories, are almost surely harmful in some cases. The former has caused deaths due to physical abuse. The latter has caused major mental degeneration in the patient as a result of the creation of false memories. In some cases, patients have ended their life by committing suicide. Still other techniques, although not harmful per se, may deprive individuals of valuable time and financial resources that could be more effectively spent on other treatments.

Despite the continued proliferation of invalidated therapeutic, assessment, and diagnostic techniques, there has existed no journal devoted to the objective evaluation of unconventional or untested claims in clinical psychology and psychiatry. As a consequence, we believe that a new peer-reviewed journal is sorely needed.

We believe that the founding of the The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice will help to bridge the gap between the experimental scientist and the practitioner by encouraging researchers and clinicians in psychology, psychiatry, social work, counseling, psychiatric nursing, and allied disciplines to adopt rigorous scientific standards when evaluating mental health claims.

The principal goals of this council are:

bulletFirst, to insist on rigorous standards in evaluating mental health therapies and assessment/diagnostic methods:
bulletSecond, to call for randomized, controlled tests in the evaluation of all novel treatments; and
bulletThird, to make knowledge concerning untested and unconventional mental health claims readily available to both the practitioner and the general public.

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  1. The Council for Scientific Mental Health Practice maintains a web site at: http://www.scientificmentalhealth.org/
  2. The Council publishes The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. It is an  "interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the objective investigation of novel, controversial, and unorthodox practices in clinical psychology, psychiatry, social work, and other mental health disciplines (e.g., counseling, forensic psychology, psychiatric nursing, school psychology). Its primary mission is to assist researchers, practitioners, educators, mental health consumers, and others to distinguish scientifically unsupported from scientifically supported techniques in the field of mental health." See: http://www.scientificmentalhealth.org/
  3. The web site at: http://www.scientificmentalhealth.org/SRMHP/current.html contains abstracts and the occasional full article from the most recent issue of the periodical.

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No copyright is claimed by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Written on: 2002-OCT-8
Latest update: 2003-JUL-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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