On March 1, 2010, I celebrated my 6th anniversary of being clean and sober from pseudoscience. I severed my ties with Thought Field Therapy and related associations on March 1, 2004. Since that time, I have authored numerous publications related to pseudoscience and critiques of interventions that make unsupported claims. The result has been that I have been the target of personal attacks. Most of these attacks have been not from TFT proponents, but rather, from proponents of so-called attachment therapies and therapies that employ coercive restraints or questionable parenting methods with children. These interventions lack evidence to support their efficacy and yet make claims of superiority to existing interventions that do have evidence.
An analogy occurred to me. Suppose there was someone who had an alcohol abuse and dependency problem who managed to remain clean and sober for more than six years. Now, suppose that a person who currently has a serious problem with alcohol abuse and dependency, while in a drunken stupor, begins to attack the clean and sober person, put blogs up about that person and repeatedly attack that person for being an “alcoholic” neglecting to mention their own current problem and neglecting to mention that the person they are attacking has been clean and sober for six years. Any rational person would immediately see how ridiculous that would be.
Something very similar to this is happening with me, having nothing to do with drugs or alcohol, to which I have never felt any particular attraction. Although, I do not consider the practice of pseudoscience to be an addiction, the fact is that I have not practiced or endorsed any form of pseudoscience for over six years. Clean and sober is an appropriate description because refraining from the lure and highs one can get from pseudoscientific placebos indicate a sort of sobriety and clean, honest, critical thought. Yet there are malicious blog postings being spread all over the internet, playing up my association with Thought Field Therapy, which I have not practiced for over six years. The people doing these postings have current involvement in pseudoscientific practices that like TFT, pretend to be based on scientific theories, yet actually have no scientific evidence to support their efficacy and have no more evidence than TFT does. Having my past so excessively focused on by people who are currently practicing unsupported therapies would be like a drunk, raging person staggering over to his computer and posting blog after blog about someone who has been clean and sober for six years, calling them a drunk. It is all too obvious who has the real problem.
Instead of twelve-step programs (which are actually controversial for alcohol problems, but that would be a topic for a different blog entry), the way to become clean and sober from pseudoscience is to learn all about science and evidence-based practice and why it is important to do well-designed, randomized controlled studies rather than to rely solely on anecdotes from personal and/or clinical experience. Understanding cognitive biases that all human beings have is key. My aha moment came after increasing doubts, while reading the book, Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology and coming to realize that TFT proponents, including myself, were engaging in confirmation bias, focusing on successes and explaining away failures, not because we were being dishonest, but because we were unaware of the tendency all human beings have to do this. As Paul Meehl pointed out, therapists are vulnerable to the same kinds of biases all human beings are and thus have to move beyond their own experience into rigorous testing in order to know whether what they are doing is effective.
I have been clean and sober from pseudoscience for six years. My critics, unfortunately cannot validly claim the same although they are probably only at the first stage of Prochaska’s levels of change, pre-contemplation. In other words, they don’t even know they have a problem.