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Disclaimer: The purpose of this Blog

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do bad things, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” – Albert Einstein

This blog expresses my (Monica Pignotti) opinions and analysis based upon evidence and facts, as I understand them. See my other blog, Monica Pignotti: The Truth for rebuttals to the internet smear and disinformation campaign about me initiated by people who are obviously upset by my evaluation of certain mental health practices. Go here to read a Statement of Support  from social work, psychology and other mental health professionals.

Monica Feb 2014

The intent and purpose of this blog is to provide the readers with information and points of view that they might not otherwise be provided with by proponents of the therapies I am discussing who may sincerely believe they are helping people. It is not the purpose of this blog to give any specific advice on specific professionals and it is not the purpose of this blog to dissuade anyone from seeing any particular professional or to recommend any particular professional and my positive or negative views ought not to be interpreted in that manner. My purpose is to provide the reader with accurate information so that the reader can make more informed choices, should they or anyone in their family need help from a mental health professional, but the choices are yours and yours alone to make. The opinions I express on this blog are solely my own and ought not to be interpreted as advice. I would urge people to consult a wide variety of sources of information before consulting any mental health professional. The decision you make is yours and yours alone.

Please note that contrary to misinformation that has been posted about me where I am falsely accused of being a “paid shill”, I am not paid, nor have I ever been paid  for any positive reviews I give with regard to any mental health professional on this or any other blog or internet forum, or anywhere else and such positive reviews are not intended to be specific recommendations for any specific reader. I have no business relationship whatsoever with any mental health professional and I provide information, simply as an expression of my constitutional rights to express my opinions and as a public service.

Straw man argument alert!

To correct misinformation about me that is on the internet, nothing that I do or write about here had any basis whatsoever in Scientology. I am a very strong critic of Scientology, a group I left and completely repudiated over 35 years ago, 20 years before I ever became a mental health professional in 1996. Scientology has nothing whatsoever to do with the work and writing I presently do. One person whose intervention I expressed concerns over used the straw man argument that I use Scientology as the basis for my credentials. Obviously I do not. Scientology was a mistake I made as a teenager and after spending only two and a half years of my adult life in it, have long since repudiated. It has nothing whatsoever to do with my professional credentials. My credentials include  an MSW, a PhD from a Research One university and extensive training, publications and experience in evaluating mental health interventions. This makes me very well qualified to critique certain therapies for lack of evidence to support them and raise questions about them.

And  in response to the argument I have to have internationally adopted children with serious behavior problems to critique interventions aimed at this population, no, I do not have to have raised an adopted child to know it is not a good idea for parents to use prone restraint on their children at home,  any more than I would have to have a sleep problem to know that it is not a good idea to ingest the surgical anesthetic propofol at home and if an MD told me it was okay, I would challenge that, just as I challenge the use of prone restraint on a child at home, even if self proclaimed experts chastise me for challenging them.

Additionally, nothing in this blog is intended to be legal advice in any way, shape or form.  I am simply expressing my opinions on certain cases. As a human being, I make no claims of being infallible. If any reader believes that I have made any factually incorrect statements, I welcome feedback and correction, as long as adequate evidence is provided.

Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology: Second Edition

Guilford Press has just announced the Second Edition of Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology which can be ordered in hard back or a less expensive paperback and available October 2014.

I am honored to be the author, with Bruce Thyer of Chapter 7: New Age and Related Novel Unsupported Therapies in Mental Health Practice (Scott O. Lilienfeld, Jeffrey Lohr and Steven Jay Lynn, editors). This was the chapter that was authored by Margaret Singer in the first edition, so I am especially honored to have been asked to author this. The First Edition from 2003 was a major influence on my professional life and was very instrumental in the epiphany I had about Thought Field Therapy and also what is wrong with some of the “parts” therapies and other questionable spin-offs of the highly discredited therapies of the 90s that have morphed into other things – and a great deal more. Although not discussed specifically in the chapter, some of these same techniques have been used by self-proclaimed “cult experts”.

There are also updated chapters on the DID controversy, recovered memories, child and adolescent disorders including a chapter authored by Jean Mercer on “attachment therapy” as well as controversial treatments for autism and ADHD. This book will be well worth the read.

Presentation at Upcoming 26th Annual APS Convention on New Developments in Science and Pseudoscience in Psychology

Update: The conference is this weekend.

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.

Update: John Knapp’s NYS Social Work License Revoked

As an update to postings from 2011 about this matter, after a very lengthy process which began in October, 2010, as of January 14, 2014, thanks to the persistence and courage of a former client, John Knapp’s New York State Social Work license has been revoked. Click here to read the Board’s decision. As indicated on the Board’s website, Knapp has been found guilty of professional misconduct, negligence, incompetence and unprofessional conduct. This is a very serious action and it is rare that State Boards, who will, based on other cases I have been privy to, give the practitioner every benefit of the doubt and chance to improve, would take such an action.

Go here to read the client’s complaint, which she chose to post to her blog with names redacted, which gives more detail regarding this social worker’s behavior towards his client, including engaging in dual relationships, negligence and professional misconduct.

Although it is not ever a pleasant matter to see a mental health professional who has gone so far that remedial action is not possible and the license needs to be revoked, what this shows is that although there are never any guarantees, it is possible, with persistence to stop a licensed mental health professional from doing further harm, at least as a mental health professional. He can operate under another job description, such as “coach” or thought reform consultant, but when it comes to dealing with unlicensed people, it’s buyer beware. That said, recent reports indicate that at least for the time being, he has given up the practice of therapy altogether at least for the time being, and has become a singer in a duo with his wife.

Another point for mental health consumers to be aware of is that the complaint was originally filed in October 2010. This process took over three years and these long, drawn out processes are not uncommon, during which time the disciplinary action does not appear on the person’s record until the final decision is made and published. The moral of this story is don’t assume that just because you do a search on a licensed professional’s record and it comes up clean, that there have been no complaints. There could be complaints in the process of being heard or what is very common is that the Board chooses to issue a warning or reprimand to the professional and nothing appears on his or her record. This particular case involved a clinical social worker practicing psychotherapy, but can also apply to psychologists, marriage and family therapists, licensed mental health counselors and other mental health professionals.

Another common tactic is for the person to claim an “expertise” that makes them above the rules mental health professionals are required to follow. So-called “cult experts” may try to claim this, but this case demonstrates that in reality, they must follow the same rules as everyone else in their profession.

Again, I applaud the courage and persistence of this former client in coming forward and seeing this through. She has done a great service to many future clients seeking help.

Thought Field Therapy: A Former Insider’s Experience

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.

RIP Roger J. Callahan: 1925-2013

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. 

The Jodi Arias Defense Expert: More Myths About Psychology and Mental Health Assessment

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.

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