Science's Contamination of Psychoanalysis
Scientism Inhibits the Creativity Required for Psychotherapy (Vol 3; Issue 20)
The emphasis on science elicits my ire, even rage, whenever it dominates the realm of psychotherapy. Actually, I’ve been consistently ranting about the issue since noticing monthly scientific meetings held at the psychoanalytic institute where I trained in the 1990s—the New Center for Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles (NCP).
Were they kidding?
Did psychoanalysts themselves intend to reduce the mind to hydrogen atoms?
Science only contaminates working one-on-one with individuals struggling with normal life transitions, existential concerns, or actual mental illnesses. And, yet, scientism reigns supreme in psychiatric residencies, clinical psychology programs, and various graduate schools, i.e., social work, marriage and family counseling, etc., devoted to training psychotherapists.
Several podcasts I’ve heard in the past few months brought indignation to the fore: One by Sam Harris (2012), a podcaster who interviews experts in the realms of rationality, free will, and philosophy of mind, and another by Paul Bloom (2022), a Canadian neuroscientist. Also, Steven Pinker (2002) comes to mind and not because of his wild-haired appearances on Bill Mahr’s Real Time, but because, although a brilliant scholar, he, too, similarly indulges in reductio ab absurdum. These Caucasian men of the dominate culture distill unimaginably complex topics into rationality, the neurosciences, and evolution, respectively.
(They seem like decent men, in fairness, and perhaps even they’d agree with where I journey today).
But, first, please note:
I’m anything but a science-hating, MAGA supporting, Marjorie Taylor Green type. Au contraire, I adore science. In 2008, I began my first two misadventures with endocarditis—both requiring intensive antibiotic treatment to kill potentially lethal bacterial infections and open heart surgeries to replace infected aortic valves. I owe my continuing life to the careful work of an array of scientists: microbiologists, cardiac surgeons, infectious disease specialists, and others. Open heart surgeries only began during the 1960s and, without that type of precise, and carefully studied surgical intervention, I’d have vanished long ago.
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