One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance

One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance

by Christina Hoff Sommers

Americans have traditionally placed great value on self-reliance and fortitude. In recent decades, however, we have seen the rise of a therapeutic ethic that views Americans as emotionally underdeveloped, psychically frail, and requiring the ministrations of mental health professionals. Today---with a book for every ailment, a lawsuit for every grievance and a TV show for every conceivable problem---we are at risk of degrading our native ability to cope with life's challenges.Drawing on established science and common sense, Christina Sommers and Dr. Sally Satel reveal how "therapism" and the burgeoning trauma industry have come to pervade our lives, with a host of troubling consequences, including:*The myth of stressed-out, homework-burdened, hyper-competitive, and depressed schoolchildren in need of therapy and medication*The loss of moral bearings in our approach to lying, crime, and addiction*The unasked-for "grief counselors" who descend on bereaved families, schools, and communities following a tragedyIntelligent, provocative, and wryly amusing, One Nation Under Therapy demonstrates that "talking about" problems is no substitute for confronting them.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 3.58
  • Pages: 310
  • Publish Date: June 27th 2006 by St. Martin's Griffin
  • Isbn10: 0312304447
  • Isbn13: 9780312304447

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The book argues against much of pop-psychologys assessment and various pseudo-scientific psychotherapy that is rampant in todays society. For example, the book documents recent advocates who say males today have psychological problems because of our society's high standard of responsibility imposed upon them thats unrealistic; then theres the anti-homework crowd who say school work are psychologically damaging upon minors; and the anti-tag and anti-dodge ball experts who don't want kids to be "it" or "out" lest these kids feel excluded and get messed up for life. - The book has a sobering analysis of "unmerited self-confidence promoted among leading experts of children education with the unintended consequences of producing a generation of narcissists. - In a 1973 article titled "Case for bottling up rage" in Psychology Today it criticizes venting therapy: other studies agree and confirm talking about trauma per se has little effect despite what most people think. The largest study on group therapy for longevity of cancer patients proved that those who talk about their problems only survive 9 more days on average rather than the previous claim of a two year difference -Perils of overthinking not accounted for in the grief industry which fail to take into account people grieve in different ways and there's nothing wrong with not "talking about it" -Grief industry had two presuppositions that need to be reconsidered: strangers are assumed to be always welcomed during grief and grief needs specialized assistance - The phenomenon known as delayed grief (technically, not the same as repressed grief) in which not grieving now can come back to haunt you later on with the feeling of grief has not been proven empirically. They proposed that it was a unique experience to Vietnam veterans suffering from self-punishment for being duped by society in an unjust war with the lack of a proper home-coming which result in the symptom of a delayed traumatic response.

I'd suggest people reading the book to come to their own conclusion. For instance in Origins: How the 9 Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives, there was some starting research done on women (all ages) who survived a major crisis and grew up to have children. The crisis could be period of starvation and stress during WWII, surviving terrorist attacks, or even something like a major earthquake or disaster- so long as it was a pretty big event. These females grew up to have children that had some serious problems that the research attributes to the female's having lived through the event. But their la-te-da "just get over it" "get busy and deal" attitude towards people who had lived through an event is dismissive of potential effects that go far beyond the emotional.

Authors: Therefore, all grief counselors are worthless and harmful and need to get a life. This book picks the worst examples of how psychology has failed and then applies it generally to the whole field.

The author skips too many steps in her argument and seems to count on a complete consensus of agreement from her readers.

People are responsible for their behavior - Determinism vs. People have natural fortitude and the capacity to make behavioral choices (244) and drugs dont neutralize free will (105) - Addiction relapse is inevitable vs. Individual choices and behaviors mitigate risk and addiction has both a biological and ethical/moral component (which is a more hopeful view) (100) - Failure to express distress is denial vs. Pain is a normal part of life (217) - Self-absorption and moral debility vs. Self-reliance, stoicism, courage in adversity, valorization of excellence, problem-solving, perseverance, achievement (218) The authors summarize Bernie Zilbergeld regarding the therapistic sensibility, which holds that 1) people are really sick even if they dont appear to be, and especially if they deny it; 2) everyone can benefit from therapy; 3) normal problems are to be made into mental health issues; and 4) those problems are widespread and are unlikely to be solved without professional help (200). Treating addicts as morally responsible, self-determining human beings free to change their behavior is, in the end, more effective, more respectful, and more compassionate. Naturally, professionals should be ready and available to treat people with disabling levels of distress, but in general the peoples psychological well-being is best maintained through non-clinical means.

People are fundamentally well, and usually do not need help from Mental Health Professionals, unless they specifically ask for such help. I agree with her with rejecting the brain disease model, however I also reject the personal responsibility model as the cure to addiction. Her thoughts on grieving and trauma are reflective of my own, that responses to grief and trauma is complex, and that people should not be forced to talk about their feelings. It reinforced my personal philosophy of minimalism in the treatment of trauma and distress. Christina Hoff Sommers remains an intellectual I respect, but she does have an agenda (but so do I as a Mental Health Professional so I might be sub consciously protecting my own turf).