For a long time I've said that a major problem with therapists -- from high school counselors to psychoanalysts -- is that they see abnormal behavior in everything.
That's because they're trained to
define behavior in terms of craziness. They aren't trained to see
normal. Normal isn't their business. Crazy is.
This extends beyond their professional lives and messes with their
personal lives. As the child of a therapist I've seen it mess with my personal life.
Many people mistakenly think that therapists can raise children better
than regular folks. No they can't. They have no idea how to
create a normal child any more than the rest of us. But they're great
at blaming messed up kids on poor parenting, especially moms.
Needless to say, they can screw up just like regular people. Heck, I've lost track of the number of times I've heard someone
insist that a shrink's kids are the craziest of all. What's that old
saying about the cobbler's children going without shoes?
Which brings me to an experiment I just heard about that may prove I
was on to something. I can't believe I didn't know about this
experiment. It is so
Back in the late sixties and early seventies a psychologist named
Rosenhan at Stanford decided to see if he and a bunch of other people
who were normal, i.e., no history of mental illness, could get admitted
to some psych hospitals by claiming they heard voices that said three
words, "empty", "hollow" and "thud."
After they were admitted -- and all were admitted -- they were told to say
they felt fine and then act normal the rest of the time. There were twelve hospitals in
five states involved in this study by the way.
Apparently only the people in the loony bins could tell that the fake
patients weren't really crazy, but the shrinks who admitted them never had a clue.
I remember when someone I knew wasn't happy that she was expected to
help her family get packed for a big move, so she had her shrink admit
her to the hospital until they were finished packing. I went to visit
her on the psych ward and she was on a major dose of Thorazine that
made her a zombie. The only thing wrong was that she was just a lazy
The fake patients were in the hospital for an average of 19 days --
most with a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia or bi-polar disease. They stayed until the doctors said they could go.
Unfortunately when the patients were discharged,
their diagnoses didn't revert back to normal -- they were now called
schizophrenics "in remission." That's scary.
Not one doctor in the study hospitals was able to spot normal.
Then there was a follow up experiment. One hospital that wasn't part of
the first experiment claimed they wouldn't be duped by fake
patients. So Rosenhan told them he would be sending a bunch of
fakes who would try to be admitted.
Their crack staff said "GOTCHA" and claimed that almost half of
the patients that showed up were fake. So there, Dr. Rosenhan -- we're
much better than those other hospitals.
Except that NO fake patients had been sent to them.
Here's one of my favorite parts about the study as it was reported in
Wikipedia -- "During their stay, hospital notes indicated that staff
interpreted much of the pseudopatient's behaviour in terms of mental
illness. For example, the note-taking of one individual was listed as
"writing behaviour" and considered pathological."
All they had to do was ask me. I coulda told them that would happen.
Haaaaaaaaaa. You can read all about it here: