Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?

Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?
Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Trouble Publishing and Replying on Eye Contact

Terri and Svetlana--  I am having difficulty publishing your comments and my replies. I'll work on this, but maybe there are just too many comments on that post? You might want to try sending comments to this post.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Jean Mercer's CV (Feb. 2, 2016)

Here is an updated CV for anyone who's interested:

                                                CURRICULUM VITAE

                                                   JEAN MERCER*

134 E. Main St., Moorestown, NJ 08057

            Mt. Holyoke College, 1959-1961
            Occidental College. 1961-63; A.B. in Psychology, 1963
            Brandeis University, 1963-67; Ph.D. in Psychology, Feb. 1968

            Assistant Professor, Wheaton College, Norton,MA. 9/67-6/69
            Assistant Professor, State University College, Buffalo, NY 9/69-6/71
            Assistant Professor, Richard Stockton College, Pomona, NJ 9/74-9/77
            Associate Professor, Professor, Richard Stockton College, Pomona NJ 9/77-2/81
            Professor of Psychology, Richard Stockton College, Pomona, NJ 2/81-2006
            Professor Emerita of Psychology, Richard Stockton College, 2006--

            Consulting reader, Infants and Young Children,1992- 2000
            Editor, The Phoenix (NJAIMH Quarterly Newsletter), 1994-1999; Editor,
            Nurture Notes (NJAIMH Newsletter), 2000-2001.
            Vice President, New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health, 1996-2000
            President, New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health, 2000-2005
            Past president, ex officio Board of Directors member, NJAIMH, 2005- 2009
            Member, Prevention and Early Intervention Committee, New Jersey Community
                 Mental Health Board, 2000-2002
            Consulting editor, Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 2002-2010 
            Member, New Jersey Better Baby Care Campaign Advisory Committee, 2002-3
Fellow, Council for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health, 2003-
  Faculty member, Youth Consultation Services Institute for Infant and Preschool Mental             Health, 2003-    
  Chair, Board of Professional Advisors, Advocates for Children in Therapy, 2003--
  Expert witness, Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, 2005
                (license revocation matter)

[*Name was legally changed from Gene Alice Lester, May, 1977]
  Expert witness, Middlesex NJ Family Court, 2005 (best interest hearing)                  
  Member, "Critical Pathways" teleconference on training and credentials (formed after ZTT/Mailman Foundation Infant Mental Health Systems Development Summit Conference, September 2005)
Expert witness, Thibault vs. Thibault, Pasco County, Florida, 2006 (child custody and discipline matter)
Expert witness, California vs. Sylvia Jovanna Vasquez, Santa Barbara County, CA,         2007 (child abuse matter)
  Reviewer, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 2008.
  Testimony, Robertson vs. Mannion, Montgomery County, PA, 2008 (child custody  matter)
  Founding member, Institute for Science in Medicine, 2009; Board of Directors, 2014-
Reviewer, Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, 2009-
Board of Directors, Delaware Valley Group of WAIMH, 2010—2014.
Co-director, PA-IMH infant mental health breakfast series, 2014-
 Editorial board, Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 2014—
Reviewer, Professional Psychology, 2015—
Reviewer, Child and Family Social Work, 2015—
Reviewer, Evidence-based Practice in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 2016


American Psychological Association
Pennsylvania Association for Infant Mental Health
Society for Research in Child Development


Lester, G., & Morant, R. (1967). Sound localization during labyrinthian stimulation.
            Proceedings of the 75th Annual Convention of the American Psychological
            Association, 1, 19-20.
Lester, G. (1968). The case for efferent change during prism adaptation. Journal of
            Psychology, 68, 9-13.
Lester, G. (1968). The rod-and-frame test: Some comments on methodology. Perceptual
            and Motor Skills, 26, 1307-1314.
Lester, G. (1969). Comparison of five methods of presenting the rod-and-frame test.
            Perceptual and Motor Skills, 29, 147-151.
Lester, G. (1969). The role of the felt position of the head in the audiogyral illusion. Acta
            Psychologica, 31, 375-384.
Lester, G. (1969). Disconfirmation of an hypothesis about the Mueller-Lyer illusion.
            Perceptual and Motor Skills, 29, 369-370.
Lester, D., & Lester, G. (1970). The problem of the less intelligent student in the   introductory    psychology course. The Clinical Psychologist, 23(4), 11-12.
Lester, G., & Lester, D. (1970). The fear of death, the fear of dying, and threshold            differences for death words and neutral words. Omega,1, 175-180.
Lester, G. (1970). Haidinger’s brushes and the perception of polarization. Acta
            Psychologica, 34, 107-114.
Lester, G., & Morant, R. (1970). Apparent sound displacement during vestibular   stimulation.     American Journal of Psychology, 83, 554-566.
Lester, G. (1971). Vestibular stimulation and auditory thresholds. Journal of General
            Psychology, 85, 103-105.
Lester, G. (1971). Subjects’ assumptions and scores on the rod-and-frame test.
            Perceptual and Motor Skills, 32, 205-206.
Lester, G., & Lester, D. (1971). Suicide: The gamble with death. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Lester, D., & Lester, G. (1975).  Crime of passion: Murder and the murderer. Chicago:
Lester, G., & Rando, H. (1975). No correlation between rod-and-frame and visual
            normalization scores. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 40, 846.                                                                                                                               

Lester, G., Bierbrauer, B., Selfridge, B., & Gomeringer, D. (1976). Distractibility,
            intensity of reaction, and nonnutritive sucking. Psychological Reports, 39, 1212-1214.
Lester, G. (1977). Size constancy scaling and the apparent thickness of the shaft in the
            Mueller-Lyer illusion. Journal of General Psychology, 97, 307-398.
Mercer, J. (1979). Small people: How children develop and what you can do about it.
            Chicago: Nelson-Hall.
Mercer, J. (1979). Personality development and the principle of reciprocal interweaving.
            Perceptual and Motor Skills, 48, 186.
Mercer, J. (1979). Guided observations in child development. Washington, D.C.:    University       Press of America.
Mercer, J., & Russ, R. (1980). Variables affecting time between childbirth and the             establishment of lactation. Journal of General Psychology, 102, 155-156.
Mercer, J., & McMurphy, C. (1985). A stereotyped following behavior in young children.
            Journal of General Psychology, 112, 261-265.
Mercer, J. (1991). To everything there is a season: Development in the context of the
            lifespan. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Mercer, J.,& Gonsalves, S. (1992). Parental experience during treatment of very small
            preterm infants: Implications for mourning and for parent-infant relationships.
            Illness, Crisis, and Loss, 2, 70-73.
Gonsalves, S., & Mercer, J. (1993). Physiological correlates of painful stimulation in          preterm infants. Clinical Journal of Pain, 9, 88-93.
Mercer, J. (1998). Infant development: A multidisciplinary introduction. Belmont, CA:
Mercer, J. (1999). ‘Psychological parenting” explained (letter). New Jersey Lawyer, July    12, 7.
Mercer, J. (2000/2001). Letter. Zero to Three, 21(3), 39.
Mercer, J. (2001). Warning: Are you aware of “holding therapy?” (letter). Pediatrics, 107,             1498.
Mercer, J. (2001). “Attachment therapy” using deliberate restraint: An object lesson on      the       identification of unvalidated treatments. Journal of Child and Adolescent
            Psychiatric Nursing, 14(3), 105-114. This paper is posted at
            with permission of the publisher to the Child and Adolescent Bipolar

Mercer, J. (2002). Surrogate motherhood. In N. Salkind (Ed.), Child Development
            (pp. 399). New York: Macmillan Reference USA.
Mercer, J. (2002). Child psychotherapy involving physical restraint: Techniques used in four         approaches. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 19(4), 303-314.
Kennedy, S.S., Mercer, J., Mohr, W., & Huffine, C.W. (2002). Snake oil, ethics, and the   First     Amendment: What’s a profession to do? American Journal of
            Orthopsychiatry, 72(1), 5-15.

Mercer, J. (2002). Attachment therapy: A treatment without empirical support. Scientific
Review of Mental Health Practice, 1(2), 9-16. Reprinted in S.O. Lilienfeld, J. Ruscio, & S.J. Lynn (Eds.), Navigating the mindfield: A user’s guide to distinguishing science from pseudoscience (pp. 435-453). Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Mercer, J. (2002). The difficulties of double blinding (letter). Science, 297, 2208.
Mercer, J. (2002) Attachment therapy. In M.Shermer (Ed.), The Skeptic Encyclopedia of
            Pseudoscience (pp. 43-47) .Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
Mercer, J., & Rosa, L. (2002). Letter on Attachment Therapy. New Jersey School
            Psychologist, 24 (8), 16-18.
Mercer, J., Sarner, L., & Rosa, L. (2003). Attachment therapy on trial: The torture
            and death of Candace Newmaker. Westport, CT: Praeger. (see also reviews in Scientific     American, PsycCritique, Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice).

Mercer, J. (2003). Letter to the editor. APSAC Advisor,15(3), 19.
Mercer, J. (2003) Attachment therapy and adopted children: A caution. Readers’
            Forum. Contemporary Pediatrics, 20(10), 41.
Mercer, J. (2003). Violent  therapies: The rationale behind a potentially  harmful child        psychotherapy and its acceptance  by parents. Scientific Review of Mental Health
            Practice,  2(1), 27-37.  
Mercer, J. (2003). Media Watch: Radio and television programs approve of Coercive         Restraint Therapies. Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 2(2).
Mercer, J. (2004). The dangers of Attachment Therapy: Parent education needed.
             Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, 20(10), 1, 6-7.
Mercer, J. (2005). Bubbles, bottles, baby talk, and basketty. Early Childhood Health Link
            (Newsletter of Healthy Child Care New Jersey), 4(1), 1-2.
Mercer, J. (2005). Coercive Restraint Therapies: A dangerous alternative mental health      intervention. Medscape General Medicine, 7(3). (see also letters in subsequent issue). 

Mercer, J. (2006). Understanding attachment: Parenthood, child care, and emotional         development. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Mercer, J. (2006). IEPs and Reactive Attachment Disorder: Recognizing and addressing   misinformation. Scope (Newsletter of the Washington State Association of School             Psychologists), 28(3), 2-6.
Mercer, J., Misbach, A., Pennington, R., & Rosa, L. (2006). Letter to the editor (age          regression definition). Child Maltreatment, 11, 378.
Mercer, J. (2007). Behaving yourself: Moral development in the secular family. In D..McGowan (Ed.), Parenting beyond belief (pp. 104-112). New York: Amacom Books.

Mercer, J., & Pignotti, M. (2007). Letter to the editor (neurofeedback research critique).    International Journal of Behavioral and Consultation Therapy, 3 (2), 324-325
Pignotti, M., & Mercer, J. (2007). Holding Therapy and Dyadic Developmental     Psychotherapy are not supported, acceptable social work interventions: A         systematic research synthesis revisited. Research on Social Work Practice,17 (4), 513-519.
Mercer, J. (2007). Systematic child maltreatment: Connections with unconventional parent and professional education. Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice Advocate (Division 37 of APA), 30 (2),  pp.5-6.
Mercer, J. ( 2007).Media Watch: Wikipedia and "open source" mental health information.  Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. 5(1), 88-92.
 Mercer, J. (2007) Destructive trends in alternative infant mental health approaches.           Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 5(2), 44-58.
 Mercer, J., & Pignotti, M.  (2007). Shortcuts cause errors in Systematic      Research          Syntheses: Rethinking evaluation of mental health interventions. Scientific   Review of         Mental Health Practice, 5  (2), 59-77.

Mercer, J. (2008). Minding controls in curriculum study (letter). Science, 319, 1184.
Mercer, J. (2009).Child Development: Myths and Misunderstandings.Los Angeles,CA: Sage.
Mercer, J., Pennington, R.S., Pignotti, M., & Rosa, L. (2010). Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy is not "evidence-based": Comments in response to Becker-Weidman and Hughes (2009). Child and Family Social Work, 15,  1-5. . DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2206.2009.00609.x.
Mercer, J. (2009). Child custody evaluations, attachment theory, and an attachment measure: The science remains limited. Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 7(1), 37-54.

Mercer, J. (2010). Themes and variations in development: Can nanny-bots act like human caregivers? Interaction Studies, 11(2), 233-237.
 Mercer, J. (2011). Attachment theory and its vicissitudes: Toward an updated theory. Theory and Psychology, 21, 25-45.
Mercer, J. (2011). The concept of psychological regression: Metaphors, mapping, Queen Square, and Tavistock Square. History of Psychology,14, 174-196.
Mercer, J. (2011). Some aspects of CAM mental health interventions: Regression, recapitulation, and “secret sympathies”. Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 8, 36-55.
Mercer, J. (2011). Book review: Rachel Stryker’s (2010) The road to Evergreen. Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 8, 69-74.
Mercer.J. (2011). Martial arts research: Weak evidence. (Letter). Science, 334, 310-311.

Mercer, J. (2012). Reply to Sudbery, Shardlow, and Huntington: Holding therapy. British Journal of  Social Work, 42, 556-559 . DOI: 10.1093/bjsw.bcr078.
Mercer, J. (2013). Child development: Myths and misunderstandings, 2nd ed. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Mercer, J., (2013). Deliverance, demonic possession, and mental illness: Some considerations for mental health professionals. Mental Health, Religion, and Culture 16(6), 596-611. DOI:10.1080.13674676.2012.707272.
Mercer, J. (2013). Attachment in children and adolescents. (Childhood Studies section). H. Montgomery (Ed.), Oxford Bibliographies Online.

Mercer, J. (2013). Holding Therapy in Britain: Historical background, recent events, and ethical concerns. Adoption & Fostering, 37(2), 144-156.
Mercer, J. (2013). Holding therapy: A harmful alternative mental health intervention. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 18(2), 70-76.
Mercer, J. (2013). Giving parents information about Reactive Attachment Disorder: Some problems. Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, 29 (8), 1, 6-7.

Mercer, J. (2014). International concerns about Holding Therapy. Research on Social Work Practice, 24(2), 188-191.
Mercer, J. (2014). Children in institutions. (Letter). Zero to Three, 34(4), 4.

Mercer, J. (2014). Examining Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy as a treatment for adopted and foster children. Research on Social Work Practice, 24, 715-724. Doi:10.11771049731513513516803.

Mercer, J., ( 2014). Alternative psychotherapies: Evaluating unconventional mental health treatments. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
[Review: Thyer, B. (2015). Playing whack-a-mole with pseudoscientific psychotherapies. PsycCritiques, 60(28), Article 5.]

Mercer, J. (2014). Parenting: Section deserves a scolding (LTE). Science, 345(6204), 1571.

Mercer, J. (2015). Attachment therapy. In S.O. Lilienfeld, S.J. Lynn, & J.M. Lohr (Eds.), Science and pseudoscience in clinical psychology (2nd edition). New York: Guilford.

Mercer, J. (2015, in press). Attachment therapies. In R. Cautin &  S.O. Lilienfeld (Eds.), Encyclopedia of clinical psychology. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

Mercer, J. (2015, in press). Controversial therapies. In R. Cautin & S.O.Lilienfeld (Eds.), Encyclopedia of clinical psychology. New York:Wiley-Blackwell.

Mercer, J. (2015). Thinking critically about child development: Examining myths and misunderstandings ( 3rd ed. of Child development: Myths and misunderstandings).
            Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Mercer, J. (2015). Revisiting an article about Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy: The life cycle of a “woozle”. Child and Adolescent Social Work, 32(5), 397-404.

Mercer, J. (2015). Examining DIR/Floortime as a treatment for children with autism spectrum disorders. Research on Social Work Practice, 25(1-11).

Mercer, J. (2015), Examining Circle of Security: A review of research and theory. Research on Social Work Practice, 25(3), 382-392.

Lester, G. (1968). Some investigations of the audiogyral illusion. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Brandeis University.
Mercer, J. (1993) The successful single parent. Unpublished book-length ms.
Mercer, J.  The developing child in
            changing times: Infancy through adolescence  Unpublished book-length ms.
Invited comments on the New Jersey Children’s Initiative proposal (March 10, 2000);
             with Gerard Costa and Elaine Herzog.
Invited comments on the U.S. Bright Futures children’s mental health proposal (July 5,     2000); with Gerard Costa.
Mercer, J. (2000). Notes on Attachment Therapy: Relevant Research and Theory. Prepared for    use by the prosecution in the trial of Connell Watkins, Colorado, April 2001.
Sarner, L., & Mercer, J. (2003). Statement to Human Resources Subcommittee of House   Ways   and Means Committee. http://
Mercer, J. (January, 2005). Expert witness report. State of Utah Division of Occupational             and             Professional Licensing. Case number 2002-223.
Mercer, J. (April, 2005). Expert witness report.  Child custody case, Middlesex Family Court,       New Brunswick, NJ.
Mercer, J. (October, 2006). Expert witness report. Child custody case, Pasco County,      Florida.

Mercer, J. (ed.) (in preparation). Encyclopedia of child development. Vol. 6 (Family). Wiley-Blackwell.


“Attachment therapies and associated parenting techniques.”

“Critical thinking and the mastery of child development concepts.”

Various presentations on child development and parenting issues to parent groups and
            training workshops, including CASA.

“Law, policy, and attachment issues”; presentation at the Second Annual Conference on   Attachment of the New Jersey Psychological Association. June 9, 2000, Newark, NJ (Social work CE units).

“Custody changes and their effect on children’s development”; presentation at New Jersey State Child Placement Advisory Council conference, April, 2001 (Social work CE units). 

“Bad language: How the professions confuse each other with words,” welcoming address             at conference on Attachment, New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health,
            Piscataway, NJ, April, 2002 (Social work CE units).

“That cranky, crying baby”; presentation at National Association for Education of Young             Children  Conference on Health in Child Care, Princeton, NJ, May, 2002;      repeated May,             2003,  May, 2004.

“Warning Signals: When parents consider unusual mental health treatments for their          children”; presentation at Third Annual Multicultural Health Conference, Richard       Stockton College, Pomona, NJ, Sept. 2002.

“Misuse and abuse of attachment theory”; keynote speech at 2002 Annual Meeting, New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health, Piscataway, NJ, Nov. 2002.

“Attachment Therapy: Science adversaries appeal to scientific evidence.” Institute of        Contemporary British History conference, “Science, Its Advocates and Adversaries”,       London, July 7-9, 2003.

“Analyzing Attachment Therapy”, at “Right From the Start: Supporting the Earliest          Relationships and their Impact on Later Years,” professional conference presented by Youth Consultation Services  Institute for Infant and Preschool Mental Health,        Newark, Sept. 24-25, 2003 (continuing professional education credit-bearing).

“Principles of Infant Mental Health”, at “What Does Infant Mental Health Mean to Me?”,            professional conference sponsored by New Jersey Association for Infant Mental            Health,            Gateway Maternal-Child Health Consortium, Northwest Maternal-Child Health         Consortium, Piscataway, NJ, Nov. 13, 2003 (continuing professional education credit- bearing).

“Attachment and Attachment Therapy: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, at  annual       meeting, Gateway  Maternal-Child Health  Consortium. East  Orange, NJ, March          25,       2004 (Continuing professional education credit).
“Attachment.” Annual conference of New Jersey Association for Education of Young      Children, East Brunswick, NJ, Oct. 16, 2004 (continuing professional education
Discussion of Attachment Therapy. “All in the Mind”, Australian Broadcasting Company,            Dec. 18, 2004. Transcript available at

“Attachment: Social and Emotional Development from Birth to Preschool.” Conference    of         Coalition of Infant and Toddler Educators, East Brunswick, NJ, March 18, 2005.
“Attachment Therapy: Concerns on Unvalidated Treatments.” Institute for Infant and       Preschool Mental Health Didactic Series, Youth Consultation Service, East    Orange, NJ, May 12, 2005.

"Violent therapies with children: History and theory.” 9th  International Family Violence Research Conference, Portsmouth, NH, July 11, 2005.
Invited state delegate and New Jersey presenter, Infant Mental Health Systems Development Summit conference, sponsored by Mailman Foundation/Zero to Three. Washington DC, Sept. 22-24, 2005.
New Jersey Perinatal Mood Disorders training program presentations, 2005-2006.
“Dangerous therapies”, with Alan Misbach. LCSW.  Independent Educational Consultants Association conference, Philadelphia, Nov. 14, 2005.
"Attachment Therapy". Institute for Infant and Preschool Mental Health Didactic Series, Youth Consultation Service, East Orange, NJ, April 27, 2006.
"Attachment Therapy" comments, Paula Zahn show, CNN, Nov. 14, 2006.
"Attachment Therapy" comments, Court TV, Nov. 27, 2006.
"Understanding attachment." Delaware Valley Group, WAIMH. Dec. 1, 2006.

"Strategies for picky eaters." Jan 31, 2007, NJ WIC training, Ewing, NJ.
"Just the facts, ma'am: Asking and answering the right questions about evidence-based treatment." May 17, 2007. Florida Association for Infant Mental Health, Ft. Lauderdale.
Panel on secular parenting, moderated by Dale McGowan. Atheist Alliance International,
             annual conference, Arlington, VA, Sept. 29, 2007.
"Circumstantial Evidence: Evaluating Design and Details of Outcome Research" (poster presentation). Dec. 1, 2007. Zero to Three National Training Institute, Orlando, Florida.

"Theory of Mind: A New Approach to Attachment." Conference of Coalition of Infant and Toddler Educators, New Brunswick, NJ, March 14, 2008.
"Novel Unsupported Therapies: Pseudoscientific and Cult-like". With Monica Pignotti and James Herbert. International Cultic Studies Association conference, Philadelphia, June 27, 2008. 
"Attachment Theory, Evidence-based Practice, and Rogue Therapies: Using and Misusing the Concept of Attachment." With R.S. Pennington, L. Rosa, and L. Sarner. Wisconsin School Psychologists Association conference, LaCrosse, WI, Oct. 29, 2008.

"Are There Research-based Child Custody Evaluations? An Ongoing Case and an Ongoing Discussion." Annual  Conference, New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health, Dec. 12, 2008, North Brunswick, NJ.
“A Problematic Parenting Pattern Associated With Child Deaths.” Eastern Psychological Association, March7, 2009, Pittsburgh, PA. 
“Personalities and Power Struggles: Discipline, Temperament, and Attachment.” Coalition of Infant and Toddler Educators Annual Conference, March 14, 2009, Somerset, NJ.
“Don’t Be So [Un]critical! Using Critical Thinking to Foster Mastery of Child development Concepts.”  Developmental Science Teaching Institute, Society for Research in Child Development, April 1, 2009, Denver, CO.
“Psychological Concepts and Measures in the Family Court”. Judicial Orientation, Essex Vicinage (NJ). Princeton, NJ, Oct. 2, 2009. (With Michelle DeKlyen, Ph.D.)
“Are There Research-Based Child Custody Evaluations?”. Conference on Infants and Children in the Courts, sponsored by Youth Consultation Service and NJAIMH; Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville, NJ, March 19, 2010.

“Unconventional Psychotherapies: Some Questions About Their History.” Eastern Psychological Association, March 11, 2011, Cambridge, MA.
“Myths and Misunderstandings.” Conference of the Delaware Valley Group of the World Association for Infant Mental Health, Feb. 3, 2012, Philadelphia, PA.
Comments on Attachment Therapy and treatment of Russian adoptees. “Life with Mikhail Zelensky”, Rossiya-1 TV, Feb. 21, 2013.
“Fetal Psychology in Psychohistory.” Eastern Psychological Association, March 2, 2013, New York.

“Jirina Prekopova’s holding therapy: Scientifically founded or otherwise?” Conference of the International Working Group on Abuse in Child Psychotherapy, April 20, 2013, London.
“  ‘Nancy Thomas parenting’ in the U.S. and Russia: Another part of the holding therapy problem.”  With Yulia Massino. Conference of the International Working Group on Abuse in Child Psychotherapy, April 20, 2013, London.
Testimony on “conversion therapy” bill, New Jersey State Assembly committee, June, 2013, Trenton.
“Evidence-based treatment versus alternative psychotherapies.” APLA  (Associace pomahajic lidem s autismem; Czech division of Autism Europe), October 17, 2013, Prague, CR.
“What are holding therapies?” APLA, October 19, 2013, Samechov, CR.

“About attachment”. PA-IMH breakfast group, Oct. 3, 2014, Philadelphia, PA. APA CEUs given.

“Systematic misunderstandings about attachment. Nov. 20, 2014, ABCT, Philadelphia, PA. Preconference, “Social Learning”.

“Legislation to prohibit potentially harmful psychotherapies for children: Three cases.” Poster presentation, APA, Toronto, 2015.

“Challenges of disseminating evidence-based material through the Web.” . Symposium: The Role of Technology in Disseminating Psychology. APA, Toronto, 2015.
“Born that way! The role of temperament”. PA-IMH breakfast group, Oct. 2, 2015.

“Temperament.” Philadelphioa School for the Deaf, Jan. 27, 2016.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

One More on IACD: You Knew They Had to Talk About "Neuroscience"


 I hate to do one of these “research shows” numbers, but in fact there is a good deal of evidence that throwing irrelevant neuroscience references into an argument makes it harder for most people to detect logical errors (see, e.g., Weisberg et al., [2008]. The seductive allure of neuroscience explanations. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20, 470-477). This persuasive device has even been referred to as “neuroseduction”, and it is used freely by those who want to sell a practice or idea that is not really all it is claimed to be. Not surprising, then, that we see many such references at
Let me begin by talking about some of the logical problems that arise when people refer to mental illness as a brain disorder, as IACD does with reference to RAD. In this discussion, I am indebted to a recent article in American Psychologist (Schwartz, Lilienfeld, Meca, & Sauvigne’, [2016]. The role of neuroscience within psychology: A call for inclusiveness over exclusiveness. Vol. 71, 52-70).  These authors have produced a very clear and complete statement of the issues about neuroscience and mental health issues, and while I will summarize some of the high points, I would really recommend the article to anyone who has a serious interest in this area.

To begin with, of course mental or behavioral disorders are all associated with unusual brain functioning. To say this is simply to confirm that we don’t think a  disturbed noncorporeal mind or spirit is at work in mental illness. Thinking, feeling, and acting emerge from events in the brain and other parts of the nervous system and would not exist without an active brain. However, there is presently no information supporting the idea that a specific event in a specific area of the brain causes a predictable behavior, thought, or emotion. Given that most of our brain-behavior information comes from work on non-humans, a great deal of generalization is required even to think we have knowledge of general connections between brain areas’ activity and other observable events. Indeed, we may never have specific information about such connections, because behavior, thinking, and emotion are all events that occur in a historical and place context that may influence them as much as activities in the nervous system do.

In addition to the issue of context, we also have the fact that the rules that govern the functioning of parts of the brain may not apply in the same way when parts are working together with other parts. We may have an excellent understanding of the internal combustion engine, braking systems, and so on, but these do not help us prevent or disentangle traffic jams where many brakes and engines come close to each other, or contribute to the creation of codes of traffic laws. No matter how well we know about how brains function, we may never be able to jump from that knowledge to mastery of rules of human psychological functioning--- like traffic events, those rules may well have to be studied separately from the nervous system. They operate at a different level of analysis, just as engines and traffic do.

Why then do we have so many people, including governmental agencies, talking about “brain disease” and “brain disorder” rather than mental illness? My guess is that this began with advocacy groups like the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), who recognized the stigma attached to mental illness and the lingering belief that the mentally ill could be all right if they just exerted themselves a bit. “Diseases” and “disorders” can’t on the whole be blamed on their victims, whose brains have been “struck” by events beyond their control, so it’s very legitimate to fund programs to study and treat these problems, while such funding for mental illness might be seen as questionable. But when NAMI and other advocacy groups got this new locution in place, of course, they provided  powerful help for other organizations who were happy to throw “brain” into their mix and benefit from the resulting confusion.

Let’s look at some of the “brain” claims made by IACD. Here’s one: “Here at IACD we’ve learned that past experiences actually change  our brain patterns.” This is not a discovery that was made at IACD, nor is it actually a discovery at all--  instead, it is a viewpoint based on the current paradigm that rejects the idea of noncorporeal mental elements. Experiences are remembered and alter behavior, and the only way this can happen (without the existence of a nonmaterial mind) is by changes in the brain. In other words, this is not a discovery, but an assumption that most psychologists make nowadays. So what is the point of announcing that IACD agrees with the mainstream that memory results from changes in the brain? To use Benjamin Spock’s statement about alcohol rubs as an analogy, this statement “smells important”. In addition, it enables the author of these IACD remarks to continue and state without evidence that early adverse experiences cause the brain to be organized in a maladaptive way, and then to make a second logical leap and claim that the result of this organization is denial of painful feelings and avoidance of affection and nurturing interactions. This, of course, makes poor parent-child relationships all about poor brain organization, and not at all about parenting skills or parental empathy.

The view just described can also be used by IACD to state without evidence that attachment disorder “delays brain growth. … the kids in our program are ‘stuck’ developmentally and neurologically” ( Confusion and circularity reign here. If brain events cause attachment disorder, how can attachment disorder alter brain events? (Of course, this does not matter if the neuroscience references are simply for persuasive purposes.) However, the statement about being “stuck” is the important one, common as it is in attachment therapy circles. It suggests that both physical and mental development cease and remain in a holding pattern as a result of early adverse experiences. This is not the case. Where a problem exists, developmental change can be distorted, whether because there is no solution to a problem or because a “work-around” draws from usually-unrelated structures or functions, but development does not stop.

 Imagine, for example, physical damage to the brain that might result from an injury or from surgical treatment for cancer. If this occurs in the first months of life, other brain areas may be recruited to perform the function that would otherwise be lost. If it occurs during the preschool years, the child can be helped to find ways to compensate for the loss and come close to normal functioning. In neither case does the traumatized individual remain at the level of functioning present at the time of the injury, but development continues and turns toward the typical trajectory.

Is someone saying that emotional traumas are different? Sorry, you can’t do that if you’re going to define emotional problems as “brain disorders”. What then is the point of talking about this at all? Very simple--  it lays the IACD groundwork for the idea that treatment involves re-enacting the “attachment cycles” posited by attachment therapy, through a ritual dramatization of baby experiences, and thus, of course, rebuilding that brain. It also justifies another service offered by IACD, neurofeedback, which is claimed to alter frequencies of brain waves and “therefore” to improve daily life. Interestingly, the claims about neurofeedback, which actually does involve some aspects of brain functioning, are much less elaborate and vivid than other assertions about brain events on the IACD site--  but they do include an article by the egregious Sebern Fisher, well-known neuropseudoscientist.

Is all this fraudulent advertising as well as  a blow against critical thinking? It’s hard to say, because there are so few specifics given, except for the neurofeedback bit. It is not, however, the transparent reporting so much advised by all mental health and public health groups. And the “neuroseductive” aspects are more than plain.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Brand Loyalty: IACD Redefines Reactive Attachment Disorder for You

What if your child had an ingrown toenail and you took him to the pediatrician? What would you think if the doctor said, “All right, we’re going to call this chickenpox. And we’re going to treat it with a method that that’s not known to be effective and is possibly harmful for both ingrown toenails and chickenpox.” Would you, perhaps, seek a second opinion?

Sounds goofy, but in fact this is exactly parallel to what the Institute for Attachment and Child Development, and many related organizations, are doing with respect to Reactive Attachment Disorder.   The IACD website redefines Reactive Attachment Disorder as equivalent to, or another name for, the following list ( ,and yes, it does say ong. I make plenty of typos but this isn’t one.) : Reactive attachment disorder or RAD, attachment disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, childhood trauma, PDD, and pervasive developmental disorder (sic--  does someone not know that PDD is the abbreviation for this term, which has been used to describe a form of autism?). Thus, it appears that in the IACD viewpoint, all of these childhood behavioral, mood, and cognitive problems are the same thing. Why DSM, ICD-10,  and the Zero to Three early childhood classification  system struggle so to distinguish among these categories--  well, one hardly knows; it would appear that they simply neglected to bring the IACD experts on board.

All right, so just as an ingrown toenail is chickenpox, it appears that PDD is Reactive Attachment Disorder. What are we told that the problem is, behaviorally speaking? It looks like the Randolph Attachment Disorder Questionnaire, so long debunked, is the focus of description, although I will concede that no one mentions Randolph’s claim that she could diagnose RAD when a child could not crawl backward on command (I not only did not make that up, I would not have had the imagination to do it). Here are the problems that identify Reactive Attachment Disorder, defined as including PDD etc. etc.: does not trust adults in authority (perhaps quite rationally?), has extreme need for control , is manipulative and hostile, has no empathy, remorse, or conscience, resists adult guidance and nurturing, lacks cause and effect thinking (but apparently this really means the child doesn’t anticipate being punished), provokes anger in others (the little beast!), lies, steals, and cheats, is destructive and cruel, argues excessively, is impulsive, and is superficially charming. Interestingly, at , the IACD site notes that the children “often treat dads better than the  mom”, and apparently being nice to your mother is the essential point of good mental health in this belief system (perhaps a throwback to Bowlby’s original assumption that only one attachment relationship could exist in early life). As I’ve pointed out before, none of these characteristics jibe with the symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder as described in any edition of DSM, although it’s possible that some of them could be associated with ODD or PTSD--  not superficial charm, though, which comes straight out of a decades-old effort to create a checklist for psychopathy.

So why classify this long list of symptoms and diagnoses all under the rubric of Reactive Attachment Disorder? Why not do some differential diagnosis and recognize that children with different problems may need different handling? Why declare that it’s all RAD and one size of treatment fits all? Well, folks, I would suggest that this is a matter of branding.

IACD and similar groups have spent many years developing their brand and attempting to spread their definition of Reactive Attachment Disorder through on line advertising and the work of unwary journalists (see They are the RAD brand for the great majority of people who never heard of DSM or ICD-10  and accept that an expert is someone who says he is an expert. Operating outside the mainstream of mental health work, they are little constrained by the professional ethics that require statements to be based on evidence; certainly, none of the research that is so vaguely alluded to has ever been published. And who is going to complain about them, after all? The children can’t do it, at least not until they reach adulthood, and the parents are not likely to do it, because this was all their idea to begin with, and they are happy recipients of sympathy, support, and unlimited references to their “awesomeness”. Also, they don’t have to mind their children while they’re in the “respite home”.

As we can see, although the IACD group may lack remorse or empathy and do not trust adults in authority (e.g. the various DSM committees), they do seem to be very good at associating cause and effect. Beat the drum loud and long for your brand, and people will buy it without examining your statements too closely. It’s worked so far, it seems, so I don’t expect them to stop unless someone takes legal action about fraudulent claims (of which I’ve listed a bunch here and have more to talk about in my next post). Where county social services have bought into the brand, by the way, the False Claims Act would allow an award to a whistleblower. Are there any takers?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Caveat Emptor: Looking Further at Claims by the Institute for Attachment and Child Development (IACD)

In my last post, I examined some assertions put forward by supporters and members of the Institute for Attachment and Child Development, a Colorado organization with a long history of various versions of attachment therapy. Today I want to spend some time examining the claims made by IACD at  (N.B., the page actually says www.institutefor, but I don’t see how that will work.)

The IACD page expresses concern about the “stigma” associated with attachment therapy. This term, of course, has an emotional appeal, as we all know from Erving Goffman and others that stigmas are bad, unfair, and especially in the case of mental illness should be fought and contradicted by all right-thinking individuals. In the case of attachment therapy, however, it is hardly the case that there is a “stigma” attached to it. To reject something is not to stigmatize it. Most mental health professionals have never heard of attachment therapy, and those who have have made clear public statements rejecting it on logical and evidentiary grounds as well as in terms of its potential to harm children. The 2006 Chaffin et al task force report which advised strongly against the use of attachment therapy is a case in point. A negative task force report is not a stigma, any more than the current deep concerns of psychologists “stigmatize” torture during interrogations.

The IACD page references as a source of the claimed “stigma” the unintentional killing of a child by a Colorado therapist in the course of a “rebirthing” session in 2000. This, it is argued, somehow caused “respected therapists” to be blamed. The two therapists involved, of course, were Connell Watkins (AKA C.J. Cooill) and Julie Ponder, who were assisted by a number of helpers. The child was Candace Newmaker, who had been brought by her mother for a course of attachment therapy sessions, with the “rebirthing” just a frill that was added because an itinerant rebirther, Doug Gosney, had recently passed through the area offering training sessions.

As Michael Shermer cogently argued a few years later, Candace’s death was a “death by theory”. It would have been harmless, though silly, to play out the rebirthing drama with this child, as had been done with other children in episodes lasting only a few minutes. But Watkins and Ponder were deeply committed to the attachment therapy belief system promulgated by Foster Cline, and they believed that the child’s reported difficulties were simply resistance. For therapeutic success, they had, they thought, to force her to acknowledge the authority of adults by obeying their instructions to emerge from the flannel sheet that wrapped her.  It was this set of beliefs, long associated with the alternative developmental theories of attachment therapy, that caused them to ignore her 40 minutes of pleas for help, her vomiting, and finally 30 minutes of unresponsiveness during which Watkins and Ponder leaned on her wrapped body and discussed real estate (as clearly shown in the session videotapes). Watkins and Ponder killed Candace because of what they believed, not because of the specific techniques they chose. It is perfectly disingenuous to attribute this death to rebirthing, but of course this was the position taken by many who wished to weaken legislation that tried to prohibit potentially harmful treatments.

Let’s go on to look at a later part of this IACD page, the purported history of attachment therapy. First, let’s examine the statement that attachment disorders were discovered in 1972 by persons in Evergreen, Colorado. I am afraid this does not hold up under a strong light. John Bowlby in the 1930s was already looking at connections between disturbed early relationships and later delinquent behavior, and following World War II wrote extensively about the effects on young children of separation from parents associated with evacuation from British cities during bombing. Anna Freud did the same, and Rene’ Spitz focused on the depression and physical illness of babies grieving over separation. At a far less respectable level, Robert Zaslow, a California psychologist, began in the 1960s to use a form of holding therapy to create attachment, whose absence he considered the cause of autism and schizophrenia. After losing his license following a serious injury to an adult patient, Zaslow traveled the country giving demonstrations (one person who was present has reported to me that these included a 12-hour holding session with a young schizophrenic man). He encountered Foster Cline, a physician, in Colorado and recruited him to the attachment therapy doctrine. Cline later surrendered his Colorado medical license as part of a disciplinary proceeding after a child was injured. Cline preached that “all bonding is trauma bonding” and that physical restraint and authoritarian methods were the essence of child mental health treatment. (Zaslow went to Germany, where he published his new theory of the “Medusa complex” and the power of eye contact.)

Meanwhile, beginning in 1980, DSM had listed a syndrome called Reactive Attachment Disorder of Infancy and Early Childhood. This was a problem of babies and toddlers, and involved apathy and disengagement; it was seen as a feeding disorder, of concern because the children were not thriving physically. Later versions of DSM suggested that the real issue had to do with  inappropriate social engagement on the part of toddlers and preschool children. Cline and his group quickly picked up this term--  indeed, Zaslow had years before based his views on a mélange of Bowlby’s early, ethological attachment theory, and on the claims of Wilhelm Reich. By 2000, the checklist by which Cline’s followers diagnosed Reactive Attachment Disorder had been formalized by Elizabeth Randolph (N.B. license also revoked)  into the Randolph Attachment Disorder Questionnaire, whose manual plainly stated that the problem was not RAD, but something else that they were calling just “attachment disorder”. (This issue about what is RAD and what isn’t also comes up on the IACD website, but I will save that discussion for later.)

The IACD “history” proceeds to say that in the early 1990s, the organization ATTACh (Association for Treatment and Training of Attachment in Children) had already begun to be concerned about Cline’s “rage reduction” therapy. I do not believe this is true, although obviously I am not privy to all of the discussions that went on in ATTACh at this time, and I would be most interested in any substantiated correction. ATTACh materials up until about 2004 continued to list the names of therapists who certainly were using Cline-like treatments (in fact, it would appear that some of these are still listed). Only after Candace Newmaker’s 2000 death, and more importantly her therapists’ 2001 conviction and imprisonment, did ATTACh make public statements that rejected coercive treatment of children. This was in spite of the fact that the social worker Beverly James had already, in a 1994 book, expressed outrage and concern about the methods being used by this group.

One more rather interesting point about the IACD “history” (which seems to have been shaped to position Forrest Lien as the great leader of treatment for unhappy parents, and perhaps incidentally, their children): the page states that holding therapy “should consist of: essential components that include eye contact, appropriate touch, empathy, genuine expression of emotion, nuturance [sic], reciprocity, safety, and acceptance, While a variety of holding positions can be used, the physical safety of the client is the primary consideration” (italics removed). (Does it not boggle the mind, by the way, that any psychotherapist, far more one treating children, would have to state explicitly that he or she will avoid physically harming the patient? ) This statement appears to omit any consideration of either demonstrated effectiveness of the method (an outcome checklist seems to be in use, but no outcome research has been published), or, just as importantly, of emotional harm. Children who have experienced abuse or been engaged sexually by adults, or who are in treatment at the behest of adoptive parents, may experience being held as threatening and overwhelming, especially if they are past the preschool period when physical holding by parents is culturally acceptable.  The burden of proof is on IACD and its supporters to show that these techniques do not result in later emotional disturbance such as depression and suicidal thinking or actions. A discussion of the nature of informed consent for children, and the extent to which children who are under the control of adults are able to exercise this, would be most relevant here.

Curiously, the lengthy IACD statement about the nature of holding therapy is followed by the assertion that no form of holding is now used there, but no details of the actual treatment are provided, other than a reference to “revisiting the attachment cycles” by therapeutic foster parents. I’ve followed a number of links that purport to tell me more about the IACD treatment model, but they all end up with the same vague discussion.  

And there’s more: we’ll look on another day at IACD claims about what RAD is, and, most interestingly, about the idea that therapists are dealing with a :brain disorder”.    

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

True or False? "Ordinary Therapists Can't Treat RAD"

Once again I must thank Yulia Massino for pointing out a claim that needs refutation. In a tweet, Dawn Teo says “Traumatized kids don’t respond to traditional treatment. They need assistance from specialized clinicians.” This claim has been put forward by attachment therapists since the ‘90s, although initially they said not only that the children did not respond—they added that conventional treatment actually made the children’s conditions worse.

It’s hard to know where to begin to parse these statements. They provide not only an embarrassment of riches, but a good deal of embarrassment that people claiming to be mental health professionals would say such things. But we can begin with the simple fact that although attachment therapists have made these claims repeatedly, and have even provided lengthy rationales for why the claimed event might occur, they have never provided the slightest empirical evidence to support their statements. They have stated a hypothesis that is quite testable through systematic outcome research: that is, that when children with similar problems are assigned randomly to conventional treatment or to “specialized” attachment treatment, the latter group will have significantly better outcomes. They have not tested this hypothesis, but have simply asserted that the results of such a test are already known. This form of argument is common among alternative practitioners, who “already know” that their methods are effective and don’t feel the need to examine or allow for their own biases. For the rest of us, however, that approach is not adequate. The burden of proof for the statement is on the attachment therapists. (I would point out, by the way, that when parents pull their children out of conventional treatments because the therapist asks them to consider how they are contributing to a problem, this is not the same thing as the treatment “not working".)

What is “traditional treatment”, anyway? Does this mean a Freudian psychoanalytic approach, or Reichian character analysis? If so, no doubt it is true that these will not be very helpful for children (not that this means that attachment therapy is effective, of course).  There are excellent evidence-based treatments for children who are struggling with trauma, however. One of these, Child-Parent Psychotherapy, focuses on the needs and problems of preschool children who have endured traumatic experiences like seeing violent attacks on their mothers. Perhaps Dawn Teo and her colleagues do not regard evidence-based treatments as “traditional”? There would be a good deal of truth to that, historically speaking, of course, but her statement seems a bit different when we make it “traumatized kids don’t respond to evidence-based treatment”, so my guess is that this isn’t what she meant—but what she did mean, I am not sure.

Now, how about “traumatized kids”? There is a lot being said about trauma these days; in fact, trauma is the new fad word taking the place of attachment. This is not to deny the real importance of a trauma-informed view for those working with children’s disturbed moods and behaviors. But not everything is about trauma, any more than everything was ever about attachment. When children have actually experienced traumatic events, they need trauma-informed care—but undesirable behavior or moods do not necessarily show in and of themselves that they are caused by trauma. There are plenty of other factors that are possible causes of childhood disturbances, including genetic and prenatal problems, poor nutrition or exposure to toxic substances, delayed cognitive and language development, visual or hearing impairments, and physical illness. “Traumatized” is not a word to be used as shorthand for “adopted” or “Reactive Attachment Disorder” or “not behaving to parents’ standards”, nor does it mean the same thing as conduct disorder. If Dawn Teo was using the term in this shorthand fashion, her statement is not meaningful; if she really meant that there are no evidence-based treatments for traumatized children, she is simply wrong.

What about the “specialized clinicians” Teo references? Since she also alludes to an article from Forrest Lien’s Institute for Attachment and Child Development website, I can only assume that she means people like Lien and his staff, who were for many years involved with the alternative psychotherapy called attachment therapy by its practitioners (not the same thing as attachment-based therapies, by the way).  They have been committed for a long time to non-evidence-based treatments and have never published any reports on the outcome of their methods—in addition, as Rachel Stryker pointed out in her book The road to Evergreen, this group has defined long-term residential care as being a successful way for a family to “love at a distance”, so outcome measurements might have some unusual definitions.

Lien and similar practitioners have made much of their “specialization”, and this goes over well with the public. After all, if you have a Sears refrigerator, you call a Sears repairman; if you have gum disease, you go to a periodontist, so wouldn’t you seek a specialist for your child’s problems? The big difference is that although you can tell if your refrigerator isn’t working, and your regular dentist can tell you if your gums are in trouble, you, as the parent, are not likely to know which among many possible factors (some including your own behavior) are causing your child to be in difficulty. Indeed, you may not be able to ascertain on your own whether there actually is a problem or whether you are defining a normal child behavior as pathological simply because it is a nuisance. All this means that if you seek a “specialist”, you may be doing so on the basis of a misunderstanding of the child or family issues, and that “specialist” may define all problems as resulting from and treatable by aspects of his or her own “specialty”, like the little boy with the new hammer. In fact, contrary to Teo’s advice, parents who are concerned about child mental health need a person with broad general training in child development and clinical work with children, who will explore and consider all of the child and family factors that may contribute to a problem. That person may have been trained in an evidence-based treatment method, but he or she will never say that ALL other methods are ineffective, because there can be more than one effective method for a problem. (The person may, of course say that SOME methods are ineffective or even potentially harmful.)

What does this all add up to? Dawn Teo’s statement and those of all the others who have said the same thing over the years, are false.

Up next: a look at the IACD claims mentioned by Teo.