Therapism Matt 28 Jun 2005

36 comments Latest by glenn

The American Psychiatric Association criticized Tom Cruise for calling psychiatry a “pseudo science” and disputing the value of antidepressant drugs. He might actually get some support from the authors of One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance though.

According to the book, America is suffering a crisis of therapism, a pervasive belief that nearly any state other than happiness can — and should — be pathologized and treated. A review of the book in Time Out magazine (print version) summarizes:

Therapism is what the authors call this movement, and they say its widespread practice is robbing Americans not only of the very essence of what it means to be human but of our self-reliance, ultimately rendering us ill-equipped to deal with stress, sadness, criticism, loss, and a host of other emotions that are life’s givens. Worse yet, they claim that therapeutic intrusion when none is warranted can actually trigger debilitating conditions.

36 comments so far (Jump to latest)

RS 28 Jun 05

Related: Thomas Szasz’s controversial classic, The Myth of Mental Illness.

Brad 28 Jun 05

Back in the days of Freud and Jung, sure, psychology was a pseudo-science, and even as recently as the 1970s/early 80s (when I studied it a bit) it seemed on very shaky scientific footing. But from what I’ve heard, psychology has come a long way in recent years.

As for psychiatry (which of course is not the same as psychology), I think that’s really more of a practice than a science…doctors aren’t scientists, they’re using science in their practice.

andrew 28 Jun 05

Americans are over-medicated. every drug that is born out of the ashes of a pharmaceutical company’s failed r&d is matched to a symptom or condition that some significant percentage of Americans can identify with. package it up, sell it directly to the patients, instead of the only people legally authorized to prescribe it, and get a culture hooked on chemical fixes with unknown long term side-effects (both physiological and environmental).

still…….. tom cruise is an opportunistic, dangerous idiot with a pseudo-political agenda and an irrational cult’s message to deliver. and he’s a scientologist. which is totally rock solid science, of course.

Alexandre Simard 28 Jun 05

nearly any state other than happiness can � and should � be pathologized and treated

It’s a Brave New World.

FineJames 28 Jun 05

My meds make me happy

JohnO 28 Jun 05

Reminds me of this piece by Malcom Gladwell:

I generally agree though. People are hyper-dramatic, over-medicated, over-analyzed, and generally unhappy in their own skin. It has everything to do with the ‘keeping-up-with-the-jones’/instant culture that surrounds us. Also, that (no offense to any parents, nor my own) parenting skills are seriously lacking. People as a whole do not stop to think about how they communicate to their children, or to one another. They only think in the short term, and about themselves.

sloan 28 Jun 05

Over medication is a huge issue. Doctors are diagnosing mental illnesses that are beyond their expertise and just giving out more drugs.

But that is a completely separate issue from therapy and its value and the proper diagnosis of mental illnesses. This kind of backlash is ridiculous when it is generalized and unfocused.

L A Silberman 28 Jun 05

Like all ideas in American it has gotten out of hand.

Which idea? The idea that you need to medicate everything, or the idea that mental illness is a sham?


Yes there are mental illnesses and chemical imbalances. But medication should be the last resort and not the first. It�s ok to feel bad� it�s ok to feel. If the person is a danger to themselves or others, try drugs. Otherwise try diet, exercise, meditation, counseling etc first.

And Tom Cruise seems to be acting in a completely irrational manner, totally unlike his previous under-the-radar personae. Maybe he�s in love, or suffer from a chemical imbalance ;->

Charbel 28 Jun 05

The difference between a mentally ill person and a non-mentally ill person is the mentall ill person actually went to the doctor…

We’re all mentally ill to some degree, and there are both right and wrong ways to treat that…Over medication is definitely wrong, as it can become addictive and would be the same as taking “illegal” drugs…

Darrel 28 Jun 05

Sloan is right.

And, really, what’s Tom Cruise’s point? Therapy and medication is wacky but scientology is scientifically grounded?

Adam C 28 Jun 05

I agree with Silberman. I find what Cruise said is insulting. It’s been talked about in a few gossip magazines that he’s getting this way because he now has his sister as his publicist and she doesn’t control him very much. Scary, the way he’s been. I also hear that War of the Worlds is a bomb. When a movie isn’t released to critics before it’s release date it’s generally a bad sign.

John 28 Jun 05

You folks make really great software. I am a big fan of backpack. That all said, it is not clear what relevance to project management there is to reporting that Tom Cruise shot off his mouth on a topic he has no professional expertise in. I think 37signals should confine themselves to their core competencies and to not lend credence to people who use their fame as a way to opine on topics they know nothing about. I fail to see what this site has to do with judging the efficacy of the mental health profession.

DearJohn 28 Jun 05

This is Signal vs. Noise, a weblog by 37signals about design, customer experience, entertainment, politics, Basecamp, products we like, small business, ourselves, and more

Jeff Koke 28 Jun 05

John, read the top of the page:

“This is Signal vs. Noise, a weblog by 37signals about design, customer experience, entertainment, politics, Basecamp, products we like, small business, ourselves, and more.”

8500 28 Jun 05

“37signals should confine themselves to their core competencies”

First of all, this blog has always covered a lot of ground and it one of the reasons a lot of us have kept coming back over the years. We like variety.

Second, the header on all 37s posts says that the topics covered in this blog will be varied and can cover “customer experience, entertainment, politics” etc.

Third, this post has everything to do with pyschology and many universities place their Human Factors / Human-Computer Interaction academic divisions in the school of Pyschology. It doesn’t seem like that large a stretch to expect many visitors who come here for thoughts on usability would also find this interesting. It’s less about Tom Cruise and more about how the mind works.

8500 28 Jun 05

About once a month someone comments that a post on this blog is outa line. I guess it’s like a reflex now to pull that quote and pummel the objector with it.


Idiot... 28 Jun 05

Who is the bigger idiot, the idiot who says something stupid, or the idiot who repeats what they heard the other idiot say?

JohnO 28 Jun 05

idiot.. that is a good question. I would have to say the second one. Because if the first person said something true, and the second was simply a sheep, they would garner no respect anyhow. They should garner even less respect for a sheep following error.

Liz Tracey 28 Jun 05

Are there people who have been told that feeling “blue”, “unhappy”, “sad” or “anti-social” who take these messages and end up in a doctor’s office (most likely their GP) asking for a script for Zoloft? Absolutely. Why? Well, big pharma marketing is ubiquitous, preys on insecurities and thus is successful.

Are there people for whom these drugs have saved lives? Absolutely. While the abuse and overperscription of psych meds is undoubtedly true, don’t use that as a way to generalize about the dramatic advances in mental health that have been made for depression, anxiety and other disorders. Good old US “self-reliance” can be a excellent way to live one’s life, but when you’ve been sitting in your house for three days trying to figure out which way to kill yourself because you can’t see any way out of the misery that has colored one’s every day for years, well, then self-reliance is just one more voice telling you you’ve failed. Again.

(Note: I am not a psychiatrist, or psychopharmacologist. Yet.)

Idiot2 28 Jun 05

I agree with Idiot…
Those who repeat what they heard other idiots say are idiots.

johnnie utah 28 Jun 05

heard on the radio ( just this morning:

Ray Moynihan, Journalist and author of Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients (Nation Books, 2005)
- claims pharma companies are overmedicating

Ben Whitehouse 28 Jun 05

Okay, wait when have we started talking Tom Cruise seriously? The Top Gun guy? The dancing guy in the tighty-whiteys and the dress shirt? That guy right? He is now a respected pundit for mental health? Tom Cruise right? The guy who doesn’t even have a college education?

This is who we’re talking about, right?

Sam 28 Jun 05

There are people that could not function without certain medicines.

Are there issues, duh.

I like my thetans, they keep me company.

John 28 Jun 05

I am sufficiently pummelled. I read your charter. My comments are feedback to the hosts of the site not the self-appointed protectors. I suspect that these folks can take care of themselves judging from the quality of the software and content. This one seemed uncharacteristicly lame. Hence I pointed it out.

You may pile on again.

Darrel 28 Jun 05

Those who repeat what they heard other idiots say are idiots.

If you repeat idiotic statements enough, they become fact. ;o)

andrew 28 Jun 05

let’s get back to the real issue at hand here folks…that scientology is as rock solid and non-pseudo as science rocks can come.

Darrel 28 Jun 05

I’m all for signing a petition to get Scientology taught as yet another competing ‘theory’ in science classes in Kansas. GO KANSAS!

lisa 28 Jun 05

LOL andrew!
And let’s remember…this debate has been stirred by an ACTOR.

Tom’s not a doctor but I’m sure at some point he’s playing one on TV. heh.

Dan Boland 28 Jun 05

Screw Tom Cruise. He hasn’t been in a societally relevant film in years and his “religion” is Puritanical nonsense. Maybe his next “girlfriend” will remember where they met.

Rob Cameron 28 Jun 05

Tom Cruise’s opinion matters because he’s famous and therefore a better human being than the rest of us. And he’s rich.

James Coats 28 Jun 05

I have two degress in Psychology as does my wife. We both work in a local non-profit mental health agency serving a geographical area the size of delware and 7 other states. I’d agree that overmedication “can” be an issue, but I’d like to see Tom, Katie, or Lisa Marie Presley come and work with some of our most psychotic clients and “teach” them to function without their medications. I’d like for Tom to spend 6 hours like I did yesterday trying to a client to realize that eating a dead bird off the road and wrapping his head in foil to keep me from reading his thoughts isn’t the best way to go about remaining productive in our community.
Yes, we all have some “abnormatilities” but that is not chronic mental illness. Meds are only a part of the answer, Psychosocial Rehab is another piece fo the puzzle. Cure schizophrenia, then get back to me. Help me console the wife of the man who sat in a fireant bed for 27 hours (not on any illegal drugs by the way) and died because he didn’t realize where or who he was. Nah, he doesn’t need medications to fix malfunctioning neurotransmitters… he just need Ron L. Hubbard and Tom to “show him the way”. Years of working with chronically mentally ill people that have improved drastically on medications is proof enough (for me, my family, and my community). There are always individual differences, where meds will help some more than others, and meds are not perfect, but again, they should only be part of the solution.

Oh, and what of MR people that also have a MH diagnosis? Will Scientology work for them.? Benny has an IQ of 3 and we found him living in an 8 by 8 shed being fed through a hole in the wall (for the last 30 years). Oh, he doesn’t need meds…. talking & reasoning with him works just fine when you’re trying to keep him from spreading his feces all over the walls. Tom come visit us and work here, work with their families, pull guns out of their mouths, and tackle them as they wonder into highway traffic - then let’s debate how to treat them. Sorry for the long post. James

Gene 28 Jun 05

Your right James!

I may be way to much of an ass but I can’t wait to see how much of this is relevant after War of the Worlds dies down… I just can’t help but think it’s all some ass backwards publicity stunt. I seem to remember that Tom was going to marry Penelope Cruz back when he release that Samuraii movie… I guess none of the Bushido wore off on him after all eh?

H 29 Jun 05

James Coats… Your post was excellent. You should send Cruise’s reps an email asking him to accompany you for one day at work. (Like you’d get an answer, but anyways).
It’s ridiculous the crap that comes out of ignorant people’s mouth. Why do we even bother to this kind of garbage?

patrick h. lauke 04 Jul 05

where’s Xenu?

michael hammond 14 Jul 05

In the recent interview with Matt Lauer this is the point that Tom Cruise didn�t make.
Do you know how much prescription drugs are worth to Big Pharma? On a world wide basis about a trillion + dollars. How far do you think they would go to protect this income? How much do you suppose the pharmaceutical companies spend advertising drugs on TV, Radio, Magazines and News media? How much do they spend lobbying Congress to look the other way? How much do they pay (Grants) universities such as Harvard and Columbia to agree that drugging children is scientifically valid? Right now Ritalin is being dispensed in schools under the guise of treating over active children(ADD and so many disorders that it could fit anyone of us). Ritalin is a form of amphetamine and of course as time goes by and it doesn�t �work� the school psychologist then prescribes a higher dosage and higher dosage and the end product is the teenager becomes a drug addict and a lifetime client. Please don�t believe me but take the time to research it, Google is a great tool for this. Keywords are Prozac, Ritalin, School shootings, Suicide, and�Chemical Imbalance�. Regards Michael Hammond

glenn 23 Aug 05

I disagree with most people about medication. I think more people should be taking medication.
Scientology has brainwashed everyone just a little. They don’t think like tom cruise but they often say that they think that too many people are taking medication, especially children. THis is exactly what the scientologists were trying to accomplish.
It’s like overkill. If you make outlandish claims, most people may not believe them but most of them will believe your statements to a lesser degree. Even though many of you have not listened to expers about medication, you accept what scientologist say about medication as being partly correct. I say, scientologist are completely wrong about medication because they don’t even believe chemical imbalances exist. How can you believe them about anything.