I ended 2013 and am beginning 2014 with some good news received the day before Christmas when our proposal was accepted. I will be presenting at the upcoming Annual APS Convention in a symposium in May 2014 in San Francisco on New Developments in Science and Pseudoscience with Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven J. Lynn, Carol Tavris and Lawrence Patihis. I am honored to be part of this organization’s conference.
The Association for Psychological Science (formerly known as American Psychological Society) was started as a more science-based alternative to the American Psychological Association.
Scott LIlienfeld will be presenting on The Comeback of Facilitated Communication: Lessons for Psychological Science.
Steven Lynn will be presenting on Does Trauma Produce Dissociative Identity Disorder? Case Not Closed.
Lawrence Patihis will be presenting on A Scientist-Practitioner Gap in Beliefs about Repressed Memory and will present his latest research findings.
Social Psychologist Carol Tavris will be the discussant.
My presentation will be on Pseudo-Evidence Based Practice: Thought Field Therapy and Other Energy Meridian Tapping Therapies as Exemplars. Go here for details about the presentation and symposium.
I am also very much looking forward to the conference, which offers the very best the field of psychology has to offer.
For those who haven’t read it, thanks to a Psychology Professor at the University of Wyoming, my article, Thought Field Therapy: A Former Insiders Experience published in Research on Social Work Practice in 2007 is now available. Click here to read it. This is a full account of my experiences in the TFT community, for those who are wondering what led me to get involved and what led me to change my mind about it.
On November 4, 2013, Roger Callahan, the Founder of Thought Field Therapy and someone with whom I shared quite a history, passed away. It has been nearly 10 years since I had spoken with him and even longer since I had seen him, since we parted ways in February, 2004. There was only one brief obituary I could find in his local paper (Palm Springs, CA), but there was an outpouring of love and support from therapists and others who had trained with him over the years.
Others who saw his high fees and grandiose claims for his novel unsupported therapy thought he was a con man, but I have to say that having known him quite well I don’t believe that to be the case. As a human being, he had many strengths. He was a genuinely caring person who sincerely believed he was helping people with the therapy he developed that he believed to be the most effective therapy on the planet. Although in his last video posted on the Callahan website he said evidence for TFT was strong, this was far from being the case by any recognized scientific standards. In spite of the fact that there have been studies published on TFT, the only two that actually tested its mechanism of action showed null results. It doesn’t matter if you tap on meridian points and the sequence, upon which he based his most expensive advanced forms of TFT, does not matter.
Nevertheless, Roger to the very end of his life, sincerely believed otherwise. He seemed to exemplify the saying that the strongest form of deception is self-deception. As I reflect on my time with him I remember our conflicts, but on a personal level, I also remember good times with Roger as a friend and a colleague. I remember his generosity with his time and always being willing to speak with people who he didn’t even know who called him and wanted to understand more about TFT.
I remember witnessing the genuine love Roger Callahan displayed for his wife, children and grandchildren and his concern that his family be cared for. His wife, Joanne, also took very good care of him. They were married for nearly 25 years. On his website, one of his daughters wrote that it was thanks to Joanne, that he was able to live as long as he did. For the past 30 years or so, he had survived cancer and heart disease, and while he attributed this to TFT, I think his daughter’s attribution to Joanne for taking care of him for the past 20+ years is probably more accurate. Roger also had a genuine love for animals. I recall him shedding tears when I was visiting him in 1998 for one of his dogs who had recently died and I also recall having dinner with him years later at a fish restaurant in San Francisco, as we brought food to the alley cats at the back of the restaurant. In spite of the fact that Roger was very opinionated and could judge people harshly, he was a kind man who treated people with gentleness and respect. He was uncomfortable with direct conflict to the point where he would not engage in it and walk away if someone became contentious. I recently learned that he declined to even read my TFT: A Former Insiders Experience. I suppose to him, I have been dead for many years now. That being said, as a fellow flawed human being, I extend my heartfelt condolences to his family and I wish that he rest in peace. Whatever else may be said about him, Roger Callahan lived long, prospered and died a happy man.
A memorial website has been put up by his family for him.
Thursday, Richard Samuels, the defense psychologist expert witness in the Jodi Arias case answered questions from the jury and was then once again questioned by the defense and then the prosecution began a re-cross examination of him. A common theme throughout his testimony is how many years of experience he has had and the assertion that this makes him more credible and accurate at what he does when he assesses and diagnoses people. As I have written previously, the scientific evidence shows that this is not necessarily the case.
Samuels and the defense counsel trying to play the experience card, I suspect is a way subtle way for them to take a swipe at the prosecution’s rebuttal expert. Although I haven’t seen her full CV, she is obviously much younger and a more recent PhD (2009). Does this mean that her opinion is inferior to Samuels? Research evidence says not necessarily. She might actually have an advantage over Samuels, being more recently in school and being more up on the latest research. Some of the statements made by Samuels displayed an astonishing ignorance of developments over the last decade or so. For example, he testified that sodium pentathol and hypnosis were good ways to recover repressed memories when these methods have been discredited as unreliable and even dangerous because they may produce false memories and do great harm. Even though he made it clear he didn’t think Jodi Arias had repressed memories, he still presented these myths to the jury about what he thought was a good idea for people who did have them. He thought Jodi Arias had dissociative amnesia, due to the hippocampus shutting down completely during the part of the murder she says she cannot remember. That too, is a highly questionable notion, as the literature shows that this is very rare and when amnesia does occur during a murder, it is usually temporary. More typically trauma is very well remembered and people with PTSD have the opposite problem — they wish they could forget the trauma but cannot stop thinking about it.
Samuels would do well to review the literature on psychological assessment and whether psychologists learn well from experience and improve. There is quite a large body of literature showing that this is not the case and also how unreliable clinical judgment is. He was correct to call it “speculation” and Juan Martinez was very correct to pin him down on what he said. Some of this literature is reviewed in Howard Garb & Patricia Boyle’s chapter in Scott Lilienfeld’s edited volume, Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology on “Understanding Why Some Clinicians Use Pseudoscientific Methods” (2nd Edition to be published soon). Garb & Boyle discuss experienced vs. less experienced clinicians. They write:
For the task of interpreting personality assessment test results, alleged experts have not been more accurate than other clinicians, and experienced clinicians have not been more accurate than less experienced clinicians.
They cite a large body of literature accumulated over 30 year period that supports this. One of the examples they provide is about one of the tests used by the Jodi Arias defense, the MMPI. Two groups of psychologists were presented with MMPI protocols. One group consisted of PhD psychologists who had routinely used the MMPI in practice for 5 years, the other group were psychologists who had used the MMPI for over 5 years and demonstrated a broad knowledge of the research literature. Both groups were asked to interpret the MMPI. The findings showed that the psychologists with more experience were no more accurate in their interpretations than the group with less experience. The two were completely unrelated.
We can only hope that the prosecutions’ expert Janeen Demarte is aware of this literature so she can soundly refute any attempts by the defense to make less of her by claiming that because she has less years of experience than Samuels, she is not as credible — this is absolutely false.
Once again, we are seeing myth after myth presented on national television for all to see, although for the purposes of this case, from the juror’s questions that were asked last Thursday, it doesn’t look like the defense has been very successful in persuading the jury of his credibility.
During the last hour of court yesterday, prosecutor Juan Martinez’s cross-examination of psychologist defense expert Richard Samuels began and it has already been devastating. Martinez demonstrated that Arias lied on the assessment for PTSD, listing the main event responsible as the one she now admits she lied about, that two intruders broke into Travis’ home and murdered him. Amazingly, Samuels gave her this test and accepted her answer, even though he knew her story was not credible and strongly suspected she was lying. He admitted he made a mistake in not readministering the test.
Prosecutor Martinez also exposed the fact that Samuels exceeded his role, which was to evaluate Arias, by sending her a self-help book and cards when he learned she was depressed and suicidal.
The cross-examination is available on YouTube and there will be more to come today. Martinez has just barely gotten started. Stay Tuned.
I do hope his grossly inaccurate claims about dissociative amnesia and PTSD get challenged and the actual controversy over this exposed, but for the purposes of the case, that might not even be necessary, given that it was shown the test results were invalid to begin with, since she lied.