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Is it necessary to meet a therapist to criticize his or her claims and writings?

September 28, 2010

In a word, no, it is not.  As professionals, therapists are responsible for what they write and any public statements or claims they make about the interventions they offer. It is not necessary to meet the therapist in person to criticize them, as far as their professional presentation is concerned (note: this does not mean that it is valid to personally attack the therapist and make inferences about the mental health of someone one has never met, much less examined). If a therapist develops an intervention and then writes about that in a book, it is legitimate to hold that therapist accountable and if necessary, criticize what was written. Ditto for mental health professionals who make media appearances. If anything, people who have not met them can be more objective than people who have had personal contact and may have developed some biases.

Let’s take Roger Callahan and Thought Field Therapy as an example. I have, of course, met Roger Callahan and at one time was in almost daily contact with him. However, my having known him has nothing to do with my criticism of him. The results of my study on Voice Technology are what they are, and having met him in person has nothing to do with it. Callahan has many critics (such as the authors of the Journal of Clinical Psychology articles — James Herbert, Brandon Gaudiano, Jeffrey Lohr, Richard McNally, to name a few) who have never met him. Does that make their criticisms any less valid than mine? Of course not. Does that mean that they are waging a hate campaign against him? Of course not. Does that mean Callahan can sue them? Well, anyone can sue anyone else, but suing someone solely on the grounds of criticizing a person one doesn’t know are not grounds someone would be likely to win on.

People criticize Freud all the time, yet few people are old enough to have met him in person. Yet it would be absurd to tell such critics to shut up because if they have not met Freud in person, they have no right to criticize him. Anyone making such a suggestion would be laughed out of the room. Having read Freud’s writings are basis from which to criticize his work. It is not necessary to have been present in the room him where he was treating his patients.

People have the right to criticize the books of authors they have never met in person. If anything, the criticism by Callahan’s critics’ who never met him in person might be viewed as more objective than mine, although of course I offer objective evidence for my views on Callahan’s TFT and the critics who never met Callahan completely agree with me. Callahan has written about his therapy in books and articles and thus, anyone who reads them or views his many media appearance can legitimately criticize him. Such criticism has nothing to do with waging a hate campaign, nor does my criticism of certain other therapists I have never met.

The assertion that I have no right to criticize someone I have never met in person is the most absurd, to date. I made the statement that I have never met Ronald Federici and thus cannot comment on what he actually does in his therapy, and I am not commenting on that. I also cannot comment on what Sigmund Freud did in his therapy with his patients, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know much about his work. Mental health professionals are accountable for what they write, which anybody is free to criticize. By the line of reasoning of the Blogger who slammed me for this, he would have to slam anyone who gave any book a negative review. Most reviewers have never met the authors of the books they criticize, nor do they need to. Are all book reviewers who give a negative review on a hate campaign? Of course not.

I have never personally attacked Dr. Federici. I have criticized his writings and the intervention he has presented in his book and in the media. In contrast, look at all the highly personal attacks I have received from anonymous people who are his supporters (as evidenced by their laudatory comments about Dr. Federici in some of the same articles, for instance in this Indymedia article comments section, that simultaneously contain highly vicious, personal attacks on me) that included vicious lies about me that I was “bounced out of FSU” when I was not — I graduated and left in good standing in every way. All kinds of malicious lies have been posted about me in relation to FSU that are completely fictitious. Now that is a hate campaign.

The days of the therapy guru who is immune to criticism are thankfully, over. Nowadays if a mental health professional writes a book or has a website that makes certain claims, these can be legitimately criticized and one does not have to meet that person to criticize him or her. Whether done by followers or the guru himself, waging a smear campaign against the critics only makes the therapy guru look worse.

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