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Abigail Shrier — Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up

Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren't Growing Up (book cover)

In virtually every way that can be measured, Gen Z’s mental health is worse than that of previous generations. Youth suicide rates are climbing, antidepressant prescriptions for children are common, and the proliferation of mental health diagnoses has not helped the staggering number of kids who are lonely, lost, sad and fearful of growing up. What’s gone wrong with America’s youth?

In Bad Therapy, bestselling investigative journalist Abigail Shrier argues that the problem isn’t the kids—it’s the mental health experts. Drawing on hundreds of interviews with child psychologists, parents, teachers, and young people, Shrier explores the ways the mental health industry has transformed the way we teach, treat, discipline, and even talk to our kids. She reveals that most of the therapeutic approaches have serious side effects and few proven benefits. Among her unsettling findings:

  • talk therapy can induce rumination, trapping children in cycles of anxiety and depression
  • social Emotional Learning handicaps our most vulnerable children, in both public schools and private
  • “gentle parenting” can encourage emotional turbulence – even violence – in children as they lash out, desperate for an adult in charge.

Mental health care can be lifesaving when properly applied to children with severe needs, but for the typical child, the cure can be worse than the disease. Bad Therapy is a must – read for anyone questioning why our efforts to bolster America’s kids have backfired – and what it will take for parents to lead a turnaround.

Abigail Shrier received the Barbara Olson Award for Excellence and Independence in Journalism in 2021. Her bestselling book, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters (2020), was named a “Best Book” by the Economist and the Times. It has been translated into ten languages. Her new book is Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up.

Shermer and Shrier discuss:

  • Irreversible Damage redux: WPATH Files
  • Darwin’s Dictim: “all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service.” What view is this book for or against?
  • What’s the problem to be solved? Anecdotes vs. Statistics
  • Theories: coddling, social media, screen time, generations/life history theory
  • Good and bad therapists and therapies
  • Does it work?
  • Bad therapists or bad parents or bad schools?
  • Parenting styles
  • As with trans, social contagion vs. real phenomena now acceptable?
  • Iatrogenesis: “originating with the healer” (a healer harming a patient)
  • Anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, autism
  • ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience): Physical abuse, Sexual abuse, Emotional abuse, Physical neglect, Emotional neglect, Mental illness, Divorce or parental breakup, Substance abuse in the home, Violence against the mother, Incarcerated household member
  • Trauma, stress, PTSD, The Body Knows the Score
  • Punishment and spanking (corporeal punishment) vs. time outs etc.
  • Anti-fragility and resilience
  • Diagnosis self-fulfillment: placebo / nocebo effect
  • “Doing the work” of therapy
  • Goodwill Hunting view of therapy
  • Previous quack therapies and psychological pseudoscience:
  • The Subliminal Messages scare, the Satanic Panic, the Recovered Memory mania, the Self-Esteem movement, the Multiple Personality craze, the Left-Brain/Right-Brain fad, the Mozart Effect mania, the Vaccine-Autism furor, the Super-predators fear, Attachment Therapy, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program that increased teen drug use, the Scared Straight program that made adolescents more likely to offend, the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) program that worsened anxiety and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and many more that have plagued psychology and psychiatry.

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This episode was released on March 24, 2024.

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