Scientists and Therapists and the Mind-Body Problem

One comment, by Guy Sapirstein, on the New York Times Freakonomics article on the prospects of psychology and psychiatry lamented that psychology has been:

“hijacked” by the “therapist” types, particularly those who have forgotten that not all behaviors are symptoms. It is quite lamentable that therapists of different disciplines have, for years, been ignoring the parts of the person that are below the chin: i.e. the body (including musculoskeletal and endocrine/neuroendocrine systems). As a result only few have bothered to integrate the body into the curative or healing process.

This comment reminds me of something Bessel Van der Kolk said at his address to the Los Angeles Psychological Association (LACPA) conference some months ago. In working with traumatized patients he found that physical re-enactments of the trauma could be very effective interventions. When he started meeting with dancers, physical therapists, and other professionals that work with the body he came to realize that they had much more to teach him than he they.

On the other hand, the pharmaceutical industry:

has forgotten that psychological processes not yet accessed by Big Pharma do, in fact, exist.

This is that brain thing again. We actually have no idea how most of the psychoactive drugs work. That includes SSRIs such as Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro. That includes the anticonvulsants or “mood stabilizers”. And it includes the atypical antipsychotics. We know that, in some cases, they work. But we don’t know how.

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.


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Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

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