Bad Therapy

Author Note

Some children have mental illness and need therapy, this book focus on a separate and large group of children who the author doesn’t label precisely.


  • Anecdote about taking her child in for a stomach ache and the practitioners wanting to administer a mental health screening
  • Anecdote/testimony about her rearing and an extrapolation on how her generation raises children with a focus on therapy and pathologies.
  • Scare quotes around “mental health”, “resilience”, “accepting your trauma”
  • Basically “kids these days”, and it’s therapy’s fault

Chapter 1

  • Anecdote about her therapy
  • Good point: Adults often have a better sense of self and therefore can assert in therapy when the therapist has missunderstood or has arrived at a conclusion that isn’t correct in their opinion. This avenue is not/lesse available to children.
  • Any medical intervention procedure has risks, therapy is not an exception. Applying an intervention to a unhealthy individual the cure may be worth the risks. Applying an intervention to a healthy individual only carries risks.
  • Psychotherapy carries risks:
    • Studies have shown PTSD symptoms can get worse through therapy, she cites a Lancet study1,a Perspectives on Psychological Science paper2, and a Contemporary Clinical Trials paper3.
    • 20% of patients can experience harm according to a paper confined to CBT4 (she doesn’t call out that this is only one therapeutic approach)
    • “Therapy can lead a client to understand herself as sick and rearrange her self-understanding around a diagnosis.” this is based on a single article5 from The American Journal of Psychology which reads like a letter, maybe a meta-analysis, but certainly not an RCT
    • Family estrangement, increase marital stress, compromise resilience, undermine self-efficacy, more depression, “render more traumatized” all comes from Schermuly paper4
    • Create dependence on the therapist which cites5
  • Therapy isn’t for everyone - she cites2,3,6


Lilienfeld, S. O. Psychological Treatments That Cause Harm. Perspectives on psychological science 2, 53–70 (2007).
Jonsson, U., Alaie, I., Parling, T. & Arnberg, F. K. Reporting of harms in randomized controlled trials of psychological interventions for mental and behavioral disorders: A review of current practice. Contemporary clinical trials 38, 1–8 (2014).
Schermuly-Haupt, M.-L., Linden, M. & Rush, A. J. Unwanted Events and Side Effects in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Cognitive therapy and research 42, 219–229 (2018).
Boisvert, C. M. & Faust, D. Iatrogenic symptoms in psychotherapy. American journal of psychotherapy 56, 244–259 (2002).
Bonell, C., Jamal, F., Melendez-Torres, G. J. & Cummins, S. `Dark logic’: Theorising the harmful consequences of public health interventions. J epidemiol community health 69, 95–98 (2015).

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