Psychotherapy Out of Bounds

PSYCHOTHERAPY Out of Bounds, continued
But that refers to the effects of a simple expectation. [In my opinion, there is no such thing as “a simple expectation.” I think that I have told you the story of the psychology experiment in which a school class was divided randomly into two groups, and the teacher was told that one of the groups was bright and the other groups was dull. The group that had been labelled as bright made two grades’ progress in reading that year while the group that had been labelled as dull made only half a year’s progress. Expectation is also the basis of the placebo effect, the sugar pill that often works just as well as the medication that it has replaced. Expectation is very powerfull indeed! RR]
Here is another story which is even more instructive and more serious. A young person in his late teens was admitted to the old mental hospital where Felicity had worked. The presenting symptom was ‘head banging’. Everybody assumed he must be mentally retarded, doing as many mentally disadvantaged people were known to do, namely, to rock and to bang their heads on the wall fairly continuously. Still, there was a risk that the concussion from the head banging might do harm to his brain, his skull or the retinas of his eyes. So the staff thought something ought to be done about this symptom. Felicity was asked to see him.
Psychologists do psychological tests, right? So Felicity administered an intelligence test to the patient to confirm that he was mentally handicapped. The patient did not like the testing, and he winced repeatedly when Felicity asked him questions. But the intelligence test score was well within the ‘normal’ range. Ouch! This young person was not mentally retarded. So what was the matter? Felicity bugged the medical staff to check him out. Finally, they did. He was found to have an abscess in the middle ear. It hurt like hell, and he preferred to distract himself from the earache with the pain from the head banging. It’s not a bad idea to find the cause of something before you spend too much time trying to treat the symptom(s).

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