I’m a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating PTSD, and a voracious reader of scientific journal articles and pop psychology books/articles alike. I especially enjoy reading self-help books, both for personal growth and to identify resources that might be helpful to my patients. I’m also infertile, and will likely be growing my family through adoption and/or egg/sperm donation.
For all of these reasons I was very interested in - and really wanted to like - this book. It would be comforting to my patients to know that they aren’t destined to repeat their parents’ mistakes, and it would be comforting to me to believe that my future children could be more like me than their biological parents.
Despite all of these reasons to buy-in to James’ premise, I found that this is one of very few books that I simply couldn’t finish. In the very first chapter, James goes on a bizarre rant against cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which demonstrates a gross misunderstanding (or purposeful misrepresentation) of the science and practice:
“Given the strength of the evidence that mental illness is largely caused by maltreatment, it is bizarre that practitioners of CBT are explicitly required to steer patients away from their childhood memories. The CBT theory ignores causes, forcefully teaching practitioners to concentrate only on how thoughts are causing symptoms.”
CBT therapists focus on challenging maladaptive thoughts (“cognitive distortions” or “stuck points”) in order to help our clients move forward and feel better. This does not preclude a discussion of early life experiences; in fact, it requires it. In session, it is often my clients who want to “put the past behind them,” while I encourage them to revisit painful childhood memories in order to better understand the origin of their current thought patterns and behaviors. It is this understanding that allows us to successfully challenge unhealthy thought patterns and subsequently improve overall functioning.
Although James’ list of scientific references and appendices appears impressive, if his interpretation of CBT is this far off, how can his interpretation of the (arguably, more complex) science of genetics be trusted?
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: VERMILION - MASS MARKET; 1 edition (17 July 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0091947685
- ISBN-13: 978-0091947682
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 240 g
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