Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Pseudoscience’

As part of a smear campaign against me that has nothing to do with TFT, there has been rumor mongering recently on the internet that I have in some way returned to TFT, simply because I choose to call myself an “Independent Scholar”, a title which has been used by TFT proponent Steven Barger, but also many other people who have nothing whatsoever to do with TFT.

Even though to the best of my knowledge, the people involved in this smear campaign are upset about other therapies I have criticized, not TFT, they are attempting to use my past association with TFT to discredit me and are now making insinuations I have returned to TFT when nothing could be further from the truth. I want to state clearly that I have not returned to TFT. I remain and have remained since March 2004, firm and unwavering in my repudiation of TFT. I have had absolutely no regrets or second thoughts about this since that time and as my upcoming publications will show, I remain a critic of  TFT, which still has not met the burden of proof to support its many, grandiose claims.

Steven Barger certainly has no monopoly on the term “Independent Scholar” and I doubt very much he would claim to.

In point of fact, the term Independent Scholar is used by highly respected scholars such as the social psychologist Carol Tavris who uses the term on her CV under “EMPLOYMENT” from 1976 onward, to describe herself. Dr. Tavris’ usage predates Barger’s usage of the term by decades. I consider the work of Carol Tavris, who is among other things, known as a critic of pseudoscientific practices as well as being a feminist writer, to be highly influential on my current work. I consider the career path she has chosen for herself to be a possible role model for my own post-PhD career path and a possible alternative to obtaining a tenure track faculty position. Given the internet smear campaign I have been subjected to, such a faculty position might no longer be possible, although I still remain open to the possibility of accepting such a faculty appointment, should one be offered to me. In any case, Carol Tavris is a prominent example that one does not have to be affiliated with any faculty in order to be a highly respected scholar and make valuable contributions to the field. In addition to being a highly respected scholar, Dr. Tavris also highly values activism and for that reason, I regard her as a kindred spirit since this combination is quite rare and one I value and aspire to as well.

Also relevant to the topic of this article, Carol Tavris and social psychologist Eliot Aronson recently published a book Mistakes Were Made but Not By Me which discusses the unwillingness of people to admit they have made mistakes and the admission of having made mistakes and willingness to change ones position as an admirable quality to be valued, not something to trash a person for as my detractors have attempted to do with me for changing my mind about Scientology and TFT. This topic is even more important for people who are continuing to practice potentially dangerous therapies for children and parents who are listening to such “professionals” who have failed to update themselves on the latest data on the dangers of techniques such as prone restraints and harsh boot-camp style interventions which I consider to be far more dangerous than any tapping therapy. At least no one has ever been asphyxiated by tapping therapies.

In any case to get back to Barger, who at the time he wrote his response to critics of TFT (I have no idea what his current status is), made his living as a bicycle security guard and possessed no advanced degrees in mental health or mental health credentials of any kind, by his own admission, has nothing to do with my choice to use the title Independent Scholar. Barger’s response to critics is still available on the Callahan’s Thought Field Therapy website. Last I heard from Mr. Barger (which was in 2006), he indicated to me that he was working on writing a response to my Journal of Clinical Psychology retraction article and rejoinder to Callahan’s response to me that he claimed would be a devastating rebuttal to my critique of TFT that he indicated he intended to submit to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, but as far as I know, nothing to date has been published in his name in any peer reviewed journal.

Will I ever again embrace TFT? I consider myself an open-minded skeptic, which means I remain open to actual evidence, but I set the bar very high. The only way I would ever again approve of TFT is if double-blind randomized clinical trials were conducted by people who had no vested interest in the practice of TFT and 1) those trials compared tapping on TFT points to sham points; 2) a wait list no treatment control group was also included; 3) the results showed a both a statistically and a clinically significant difference between the group that received tapping on actual TFT points and the group that received the sham points with the TFT group showing superior results.

Such a study would need to be published in a peer reviewed journal with a decent impact factor and would need to meet all the accepted reporting requirements and include features such as fidelity checks and a full detailed description of how the randomization to treatment and control groups was conducted, as well as a full “intention to treat” analysis for any drop-outs.  The study would also need to have a follow-up period of at least one year and would need to use reliable and valid standardized assessment measures for the condition being addressed, not the SUD as an outcome measure. It would need to be replicated at least once. If such evidence were presented, then I might begin to reconsider my current position. I emphasis begin because what it would take to fully convince me is a full, Cochrane-style meta-analysis that included a systematic review and adhered to all the guidelines for conducting and reporting on meta-analyses, showing that TFT vs. sham points produced large effect sizes of between-group differences.

Note that studies comparing TFT to some kind of other control group such as supportive therapy or something not involving alleged “meridian points” would not be acceptable. The mechanism of action would need to be directly tested by having sham points as the control group. Note that changing ones mind based on evidence is not flip-flopping although to date, no such evidence has been forthcoming even though TFT proponents have had decades now to produce it.

These two peer reviewed published critiques of mine from the Journal of Clinical Psychology, which are highly critical of TFT also illustrate that contrary to what those who would smear me online would like people to believe, my use of “Independent Scholar” to describe myself is nothing new. I used that term in both of those critical articles since at the time (written 2004, published in 2005), I was unaffiliated with any academic institution. In 2006 when I began the PhD program at Florida State University, I dropped that term since I was the affiliated with FSU and I resumed using it following my graduation.

I hope this clarifies any confusion generated by thus-far-unidentified anonymous individuals who lack the courage to put their name to what they post about me — who now (following the dismissal of Federici v Pignotti et al) appear to be desperate to discredit me with any far fetched lie they can make up.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Another reposting from the Monica Pignotti, MSW blog, still relevant today as they are continuing efforts along these lines. Just so readers are clear on what I am referring to, this article is about TFT proponents traveling to Africa and having people tap on acupressure points on the body to supposedly treat Malaria. These efforts, fortunately, began after I had already ceased practice of and involvement with TFT, so I never participated in any of this. In a 2006 NPR interview, Callahan claimed:

Dr. CALLAHAN: Its really remarkable the number of things we can successfully treat. We just successfully treated malaria down in Africa.

Here is the “research” his claim is apparently based on, as published in an Association for Thought Field Therapy newsletter. To date, I am not aware of any peer reviewed research.

So-Called TFT Malaria Research: Sloppy Reporting or Fancy Cooking?

February 19, 2007

A write-up of the TFT “humanitarian” mission to Africa and their so-called “research” has just been posted on the ATFT website [the reference is ATFT Update, Issue 4, Winter 2006, p. 5-6].

I have to say that I have never seen anything like this in my life. The infamous Journal of Clinical Psychology Special Issue Oct 2001 on TFT doesn’t even begin to compare.

First, there’s the stunning theoretical overview that I will fair use quote from without comment (ATFT Update, p.5-6 at above URL):

“Then in September of 2004, during a TFT training in Mexico City, one of the nurses from a nearby village told Joanne and Roger how she helped with dengue fever using TFT algorithms. While at dinner that evening with friends, including Alvaro and Dr. Racquel Hazas, Joanne and Roger talked about an article in Science News that reported that mosquito-born illnesses, such as malaria and dengue fever, are an electrical phenomenon in the body. Racquel, a physicist, verified this fact. They realized this might offer an explanation why TFT has been able help with these problems and talked about the possibility of the ATFT Foundation, of which Joanne is President, sending a team to Africa and explore how TFT might help relieve the suffering caused by malaria.”

And then there is the methodology (although I’m being overly generous to call it that). The report reads (see p. 6):

“In order to determine what kind of effect Thought Field Therapy had on malaria patients, we needed to collect certain data before and after TFT treatment. The plan was to focus on people whose blood tested positive for malaria.

“We would then obtain four pre- and post- TFT measurements of people testing positive for malaria:

“1) Ratings of malaria symptoms, from 0 to 3 (0=none, 1=mild, 2=moderate,

3=severe); “2) Body Temperature (fever is a common symptom of malaria);

“3) Subjective Units of Distress (SUD), from 1 to 10, for the overall problem;

“4) Heart Rate Variability (HRV).”

The most obvious post test outcome is not mentioned here. What about a post Malaria test? Blank out! Malaria tests were only done prior to the treatment, not after the treatment. Instead, they chose to measure relief of Malaria symptoms with subjective ratings of distress, body temperature, and Heart Rate Variability. Some of the patients were on legitimate medical treatments, such as Quinine drips, when the TFT was done. Do any of these folks know what a confound is or has Callahan developed amnesia for his past research training? The report emphasized that the Malaria blood tests were quick and easy to administer. Why not do a post test? Callahan, later in the same newsletter, said that one Malaria test showed changes but “Alas, our researchers did not have time to stay and take further blood tests.” Oh please. Does Callahan really think that any intelligent person would find it credible that these “researchers” who were on what was a very important and meaningful mission to them, would not have “the time” to administer a test that can be easily and quickly done?

And then there are the numbers. They just don’t add up and the report raises puzzling questions that ought to immediately come to the mind of anyone even remotely familiar with the scientific method or basic arithmetic, for that matter. Following the “Methods” section, is a rambling, rather confusing conglomeration of anecdotes, including trivia such as the team leader and then-ATFT President Mary Cowley having her luggage lost and how others would have to put up with the stench of her clothing (talk about TMI — too much information !). Once in awhile, between anecdotes, they threw in a few numbers here and there. They report hundreds of people coming to them for testing. At one site alone, 60 people came in for testing, they reported (p. 10) and 45% of those tested positive. Okay, that would be 27 participants just from that site alone. This raises another question. The “researchers” reported that they came with 200 test kits and ended up with a paltry sample of only 15 people, and only 7 on some of the post tests such as HRV. Did that low a percentage of people test positive for Malaria? It doesn’t seem likely given the numbers earlier in their report. What happened with the others who tested positive that they supposedly treated? Some, they claimed, were treated in groups but why were there no pre or post tests on them of any kind?

What gives here? Were the “researchers” on some kind of permanent safari or did they tap their left brains away so they could no longer perform simple arithmetic? There was no accounting of any kind in this report for the discrepancy in the numbers. What comes to mind here is the famous saying: If it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense. This is simple, but good advice since the more common human response is to try to rationalize or explain away things that just don’t make sense.

I have to wonder, was this just incredibly sloppy reporting or did these “researchers” fail to report all of the results, especially if they conflicted with their desired outcome? We’ll never know. A reasonable person might think that if they really wanted to see whether TFT helped with Malaria, the easiest most obvious test to do, pre and post, would be the Malaria test which they report is quick and very easy to administer. Instead all we have are subjective reports and meaningless HRV tests (there are no publications testing the reliability and validity of HRV as a measure of malaria whatsoever). And of course, as usual with Callahan TFT testing, there was no control group. Callahan doesn’t believe control groups are needed because TFT is so “robust” and “powerful” and he claims HRV doesn’t respond to placebo (even though most HRV testing in journal studies does use control groups).

It doesn’t look like this report is going to convince anyone who is not already such a true believer they have lost their ability to think critically or question the obvious gaping holes in this report. If there are any of Callahan’s therapists (or as he likes to call them, “trainees”) out there who still have any kind of ability to question, please, for starters, ask him and the “research” team the following (come on, I dare you):

How many people in the sample tested positive for Malaria? (according to their own report, there were at least 27 at one site alone, yet the final report had an N of only 15)

How many of those were included in the study? How do you explain the discrepancy?

How many post Malaria tests did you actually do? Was it just the one Callahan reported and if so, why didn’t you bother to post test the very small number of people in your sample (15) with such a quick and easy test? Why didn’t you have the time (as Callahan claims) to stick around for a few extra minutes and run a test that might actually measure what you’re claiming to treat?

Alas, I doubt we’ll ever get answers to these questions, but I want to put Roger Callahan, Joanne Callahan and the so-called “research” team on notice that they are being asked.

PS: Since I see in my blog stats that someone Googled the question of whether ACEP is connected to Scientology, the answer is no, definitely not. ACEP has no connection or relationship whatsoever to Scientology. In fact, active Scientologists in good standing are forbidden to do the sorts of practices promoted by ACEP — that would be considered “mixing practices”, a major no-no in Scientology. Scientologists are forbidden to do any kind of “other practices” while doing Scientology. I’ve seen this come up before on the internet where someone apparently has the misconception that tapping therapies have a connection to Scientology. They definitely do not. I am wondering if this misconception got started due to the internet smear campaign against me, where I have constantly been hammered for my long-ago involvement in Scientology, which the cyber smearers conveniently neglect to mention that I fully repudiated and left 34 years ago.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

In memory of Martin Gardner (1914-2010), he wrote a prescient essay  in 1950, entitled “The Hermit Scientist”. What comes to mind for me is a memory I have of a conversation with Roger Callahan in the early 2000s, where he told me he felt nobody, not even the people who studied with him, truly understood his work. He informed me that he thought that I came closest of anyone who had studied with him (at the time of his remark, of course, not anymore), but after something I had said he did not agree with, he informed me that not even I, completely understood his work.

I will present a quote from Michael Shermer’s synopsis in his Scientific American column, of the essay without further comment, since the reason it is relevant to this blog, speaks for itself.

How can we tell if someone is a scientific crank? Gardner offers this advice: (1) “First and most important of these traits is that cranks work in almost total isolation from their colleagues.” Cranks typically do not understand how the scientific process operates — that they need to try out their ideas on colleagues, attend conferences and publish their hypotheses in peer-reviewed journals before announcing to the world their startling discovery. Of course, when you explain this to them they say that their ideas are too radical for the conservative scientific establishment to accept. (2) “A second characteristic of the pseudo-scientist, which greatly strengthens his isolation,is a tendency toward paranoia,” which manifests
itself in several ways:

  1. He considers himself a genius.
  2. He regards his colleagues, without exception, as ignorant blockheads …
  3. He believes himself unjustly persecuted and discriminated against. The recognized societies refuse to let him lecture. The journals reject his papers and either ignore his books or assign them to “enemies” for review. It is all part of a dastardly plot. It never occurs to the crank that this opposition may be due to error in his work …
  4. He has strong compulsions to focus his attacks on the greatest scientists and the best-established theories. When Newton was the outstanding name in physics, eccentric works in that science were violently anti-Newton. Today, with Einstein the father symbol
    of authority, a crank theory of physics is likely to attack Einstein …
  5. He often has a tendency to write in a complex jargon, in many
    cases making use of terms and phrases he himself has coined.

We should keep these criteria in mind when we explore controversial ideas on the borderlands of science. “If the present trend continues,” Gardner concludes, “we can expect a wide variety of these men, with theories yet unimaginable, to put in their appearance in the years immediately ahead. They will write impressive books, give inspiring lectures, organize exciting cults. They may achieve a following of one — or one million. In any case, it will be well for ourselves and for society if we are on our guard against them.” So we still are, Martin. That is what skeptics do, and in tribute for all you have done, we shall continue to honor your founding command.

Read Full Post »