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Author interview - Bad Therapy: Why The Kids Aren’t Growing Up, by Abigail Shrier

Abigail Nobel
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Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 484
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Weak parenting is a growing problem, and it's showing up in children incapable of coping. Independent Women's Forum is one of the organizations zeroing in on the issue.

Today I attended one of their virtual #IWReads Book Club with Abigail Shrier discussing parenting and high-intrusion mental health.

She relates high rates of child suicide, self-harm, and otherwise opting out of life to several problems:

  • #1: disempowered parents
  • too much deferral to experts
  • mental health overdiagnosis (school mental health clinics, anyone?)
  • clinical therapy's failure to acknowledge that therapy can make things worse

Her book is Bad Therapy: Why The Kids Aren’t Growing Up. Sounds like it's worth a read.

Abigail Nobel
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Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 484
Topic starter  

Interviews and reviews all over the place! This book is flying to the top of the charts. 

Today from Zerohedge, an eye-popping long-form article lifted from The Epoch Times. I excerpt a short segment here, and recommend the whole.

Abigail Shrier's 'Bad Therapy' Exposes How Therapeutic Culture Harms Children

BY TYLER DURDEN  |  MONDAY, APR 01, 2024 - 09:40 PM


‘Surveillance Parenting’

While generations of older Americans, including conservative opinion hosts, have mocked the rising generation, often calling them “snowflakes” who need “safe spaces” and “therapy dogs” so they don’t melt over comments they find offensive, Ms. Shrier says the problem runs much deeper than thin-skinned youth.

“It’s worse than that,” she said. “Kids are not able to deal with normal problems in adult life because they’re genuinely believing themselves sick.”

American society has been immersed in trauma and therapy culture for more than a generation, and its effects are “profound,” she said.

“Now kids don’t say ‘I’m shy,’ they say ‘I have social phobia.’ They don’t say ‘I’m worried,’ they say ‘I have anxiety.’ They don’t say ‘I feel sad,’ they have depression,” she said. “That is proof that they were swimming in the language of psychopathology.”

These parents bought into the notion that preventive therapy was an innocuous intervention, “but it’s not,” she said.

“It’s false. It’s never been true, but they believed that,” Ms. Shrier said. “Where did they get that idea? They’d all been teased, they’d all been neglected, they’d all had their hearts broken, so why did they become convinced in one generation that their children couldn’t survive that?”

The answer: “Because the experts told them.”

This parental generation trusted the mental health experts and believed the “trauma narrative” they were selling, she said. Some became “obsessed” with normal problems children face at school because they grew up to think everybody can use therapy like “a mental tune-up,” even though there is a body of research called iatrogenesis “when a healer introduces a harm.”

Most parents weren’t aware of the negative side effects therapy can cause, especially for children who don’t need it, Ms. Shrier said.

Preventive Mental Health

Some of this therapeutic culture stems from rising divorce rates over the last few decades.

“A lot of us went to therapy as adults and we thought that really helped, and we assumed it would be the same for a kid,” she said. “It’s not.”

Mental health experts—the American School Counseling Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Psychological Association—that had nothing to say as children headed into the second academic year of lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the lockdowns were “the most obvious detriment to kids’ mental health,” she said, “now present themselves as the cure.”

These mental health experts behave more like groups that want to enrich themselves than people who are “actually trying” to help the mental health of children, she said.

“Now, if you need therapy, if you have a disorder, if you have a real problem, it’s worth the risk. It’s when you don’t have a problem, that you only stand to face the risk because you don’t stand to benefit,” she said. “So, I’m not against treatment. What I’m against is what they call ‘preventive mental health,’ which has no proven track record of helping anybody. And, by the way, of course it can’t. It’s treating people who don’t have a problem.”

Abigail Nobel
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Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 484
Topic starter  

Interestingly, researcher-author Jonathan Haidt starts with a different villain, but lands at a very similar conclusion. He offers intriguing policy solutions, too.

Featured in the March 30 episode of "The Good Fight - The podcast that searches for the ideas, policies and strategies that can beat authoritarian populism."

Includes a full transcript.

Jonathan Haidt on The Anxious Generation

Yascha Mounk and Jonathan Haidt discuss the end of the play-based childhood and the rise of the phone-based childhood.

Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist and the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU's Stern School of Business. He is also a member of Persuasion's Board of Advisors. Haidt is the author of The Righteous Mind and, with Greg Lukianoff, co-author of The Coddling of the American Mind. His new book is The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness.

In this week’s conversation, Yascha Mounk and Jonathan Haidt discuss the significant rise in mental illness among teenagers, particularly young girls; why social media has a negative impact on childhood development; and how we can mitigate the damage by cultivating phone-free norms and more childhood independence.

The transcript and conversation have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.



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