Evidence of Potentially Harmful Psychological Treatments for Children and Adolescents
- 5.2k Downloads
This paper applies the concept of potentially harmful psychotherapies (PHTs; Lilienfeld, Perspectives on Psychological Science 2(1):53–70, 2007) to concerns about potentially harmful treatments for children and adolescents (PHTCs). I propose that such treatments can be identified by methods derived from the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study and from the NIS-4 study of abuse and neglect, as well as by their plausibility or congruence with established child development theory and research. Five psychological treatments for children and adolescents that have been reported as harmful are examined, using evidence from published materials, journalists’ reports, legal documents and Internet sites. Details of treatment and outcomes are compared to relevant ACE and NIS-4 criteria and to plausibility, and empirical support for the treatments is examined. The examined treatments use methods that would be considered adverse childhood experiences or abusive or neglectful care events if they occurred outside a therapeutic setting. Most, but not all, lack empirical support of effectiveness and are incongruent with established information about child development. Risks associated with PHTCs can thus be identified through close examination before children are exposed to them and harmed. Prevention or reduction of PHTC use may be possible. Public and professional education about PHTCs are essential parts of child protection in this context and are arguably an ethical obligation of both social workers and psychologists.
KeywordsPotentially harmful treatments Child and adolescent mental health Child abuse Professional ethics
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
Jean Mercer declares that she has no conflict of interest.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by the author.
- “Advanced parenting for challenging children: Meet Kali” (n.d.). Retrieved January 7, 2016, from http://www.advancedparenting4kids.com/oregon-trainers/kali-miller/.
- Amended Complaint.(2014). Anna Kouns vs. Blue Sky, Inc., Circuit Court for Knox County, TN; Docket Number 3-668-14. Unpublished document.Google Scholar
- American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. (2009). Report of the task force on appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
- American Psychological Association. (2010). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Retrieved January 18, 2016, from http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx.
- “Attachment therapist Neil Feinberg terrorizes adopted child”. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNollwOulk.
- “ATTACh Position Statement Against Coercive Treatment”. (2006). Retrieved February 1, 2016, from https://attach.org/about-us/attach-position-statement-regarding-coercive-treatment/.
- Benz, U. (2013a). Festhaltetherapien. Giessen: Psychosozial-Verlag.Google Scholar
- Benz, U. (2013b). Langzeitfolgen des Festhaltetherapie. In U. Benz (Ed.), Festhaltetherapien (pp. 121–143). Giessen: Psychosozial-Verlag.Google Scholar
- Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment. New York: Basic.Google Scholar
- Bowman, R., & Baker, J. (2014). Screams, slaps, and love: The strange birth of applied behaviour analysis. Pediatrics, 133(3). Retrieved Nov. 17, 2016 from http://www.pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/133/3/364.
- Burkholder, A. (2014). Controversy over shocking people with autism, behavioural disorders. Retrieved November 14, 2016, from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/controversy-over-shocking-people-with-autism-behavioral-disorders/.
- Butterfield, W. (1975). Electric shock hazards in aversive conditioning of humans. Behavioral Engineering, 3, 1–28.Google Scholar
- “CBS 48 Hours: ‘Afraid of our children’ ”. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaUqeMrkQU.
- “Christian movements and denominations”. (2011). Retrieved May 20, 2016, from http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-movements-and-denominations/.
- Cohen, R. (2006). Coming out straight. Winchester, VA: Oakhill.Google Scholar
- Falk, A. (2012). Woman convicted in her daughter’s death by “water intoxication” released from prison. Salt Lake: Tribune. Retrieved January 18, 2016, from http://archive.sltrib.com/story.php?ref=/sltrib/news/53270884/killpack-board-child-drink.html.csp.
- FDA-2016-N-1111. (2016). Retrieved November 15, 2016, from https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FDA-2016-N-1111.
- FDA Executive Summary: Electrical Stimulation Devices for Aversive Conditioning. (2014). Retrieved November 15, 2016, from http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AdvisoryCommittees/CommitteesMeetingMaterials/MedicalDevicesAdvisoryCommittee/UCM394256.pdf.
- “FDA proposes ban on electrical stimulation devices intended to treat self-injurious or aggressive behavior”. (2016). Retrieved November 15, 2016, from http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm497194.htm.
- Federici, R.S. (2005). Help for the hopeless child. Alexandria, VA: Dr. Ronald S. Federici Associates.Google Scholar
- “Find a therapist in your area”. (2015). Retrieved May 22, 2016, from http://www.attachment.org/find-a-therapist-in-your-area/.
- “Finding a counselor or life coach.” (2016). Retrieved May 20, 2016, from http://www.peoplecanchange.com/support/counselor.php.
- Forbes, H., & Dziegielewski, S. (2002). Reactive attachment disorder. In S. Dziegielewski (Ed.), DSM-IV-Tr in action (pp. 143–168). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Gray, E. (2015). Advocates hopeful Obama’s support will end gay “conversion therapy”. Time. Retrieved January 19, 2016, from http://time.com/3815996/gay-conversion-therapy-barack-obama-lgbt/.
- Grebenik, D. (2016). A new definition of attachment/regulation. Retrieved May 24, 2016, from http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/adoptive-families/attachment-and-bonding/new-definition-of-attachment-regulation.
- Haldeman, D. C. (2003). The practice and ethics of sexual orientation conversion therapy. In L. D. Garnets & D. C. Kimmel (Eds.), Psychological perspectives on lesbian, gay, and bisexual experiences (2nd edn., pp. 681–698). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Hammond, F., & Hammond, I. M. (2010). Pigs in the parlor. Kirkwood, MO: Impact Christian Books.Google Scholar
- Hicks, K. (1999). “Reparative” therapy: Whether parental attempts to change a child’s sexual orientation can legally constitute child abuse. American University Law Review, 49, 505–547.Google Scholar
- “In the matter of Debra (Kali) Miller, Ph.D.” (2012). Retrieved January 7, 2016, from http://www.obpe.alcsoftware.com/files/miller.debra%20(kali)%20a.f._559.pdf.
- Israel, M., Blenkush, N., von Heyn, R., & Rivera, P. (2008). Treatment of aggression with behavioral programming that includes supplementary skin-shock. Journal of Behavior Analysis of Offender and Victim: Treatment and Prevention, 1, 119–166.Google Scholar
- James, B. (1994). Handbook for treatment of attachment-trauma problems in children. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
- Jongsma, A.E., Peterson, L.M., McInnis, W.P., & Bruce, T.J. (2014). The child psychotherapy treatment planner, 5th edn. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Kaufman, L. (2007). Parents defend school’s use of shock therapy. Retrieved November 14, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/25/nyregion/25shock.html.
- Lester, V. S. (1997). Behavior change as reported by caregivers of children receiving holding therapy. Retrieved February 28, 2013, from http://bellsouthpwp.net/e/i/eiseles/research_lester.html.
- Lipsey, M. (1992). Juvenile delinquency treatment: A met-analytic inquiry into the variability of effects. In T. Cook, H. Cooper, D. Cordray, H. Hartmann, L. Hedges, R. Light, … F. Mosteller (Eds.), Meta-analysis for explanation: A casebook (pp. 83–127). New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
- Marlan, T. (2000). A most dangerous method. Chicago: Chicago Reader. Retrieved November 17, 2016, from http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/a-most-dangerous-method/Content?oid=903012.
- “Martha Welch ‘Mothering Center’ Clip”. (n.d.) Retrieved January 17, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPaNe0g9_-ww.
- McKeachin, J., Smith, T., & Lovaas, O. I. (1993). Long-term outcome for children with autism who received early intensive behavioral treatment. American Journal of Mental Retardation, 97, 373–391.Google Scholar
- Mercer, J. (2015). Attachment therapy. In S. O. Lilienfeld, S. J. Lynn, & J. M. Lohr (Eds.), Science and pseudoscience in clinical psychology (2nd edn., pp. 466–499). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Mercer, J., Sarner, L., & Rosa, L. (2003). Attachment therapy on trial. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
- Morrison, L., Duryea, P. B., Moore, C., & Nathanson-Shinn, A. (2002). The lethal hazard of prone restraint: Positional asphyxia. Retrieved January 17, 2016, from http://www.disabilityrightsca.org.pubs/701801.pdf.
- Perou, R., Bitsko, R., Blumberg, S., Pastor, P., Ghandour, R., Gfroerer, J. … Huang, L. (2013). Mental health surveillance among children—United States, 2005–2011. MMWR: Morbidity & Mortality Monthly Report, 62, 1–35.Google Scholar
- Petrosino, A., Turpin-Petrosino, C., & Buehler, J. (2005). Scared Straight and other juvenile awareness programs for preventing juvenile delinquency. Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 4, 48–54.Google Scholar
- “Portland therapist loses license after prescribing bottle feeding, confinement for 11-year-old boy.” (2015). Retrieved January 7, 2015, from http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/03/portland_therapist_loses_licen.html.
- Prekop, J. (1983). Das Festhalten als Therapie bei Kindern mit Autismus-Syndrom. Anwendung der Therapie durch ‘Festhalten’ nach Welch/Tinbergen. Teil 1. Fruehfoerderung Interdisziplinaer, 2, 54–64.Google Scholar
- Prekop, J. (2006). Der kleine Tyrann [The little tyrant]. Muenchen: Goldmann.Google Scholar
- Prekop, J., & Hellinger, B. (2010). Wenn ihr wuestet, wie ich euch liebe [If you knew how much I love you]. Muenchen: Knaur TB.Google Scholar
- Prekop, J., & von Stosch, T. (n.d.). Festhaltetherapie in Urteil von Eltern—eine Nachuntersuchung zur Wirksamheit ein psychotherapeutischen Vehrfahrens. Retrieved February 28, 2013, from http://www.prekop-festhalten.de/festhaltetherapie.html.
- Reber, K. (1996). Children at risk for reactive attachment disorder: Assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. Progress: Family Systems Research and Therapy, 5, 83–98.Google Scholar
- “Recognition of psychotherapy effectiveness”. (2012). Retrieved January 19, 2016, from http://www.apa.org/about/policy/resolution-psychotherapy.aspx.
- Rohmann, U. H., & Hartmann, H. (1985). Modifizierte Festhaltetherapie (MFT). Eine Basistherapie zur Behandlung autistischer Kinder. Zeitschrift fuer Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie, 13, 182–198.Google Scholar
- Schlanger, Z. (2015). Jonah, the largest Jewish gay conversion therapy organization, takes its last breath. Newsweek. Retrieved January 18, 2016, from http://www.newsweek.com/life-and-death-jewish-exgay-therapy-organization-406898.
- Schopler, E. (2012). Changing parental involvement in behavioral treatment. In M. Rutter & E. Schopler (Eds.), Autism: A reappraisal of concepts and treatment (pp. 413–421). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
- Schroll, J. B., Penninga, E. I., & Gotzsche, P. C. (2016). Assessment of adverse events in protocols, clinical study reports, and published papers of trials of orlistat: A document analysis. Retrieved August 18, 2016, from http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.10021101.
- Sedlak, A. J., Mettenberg, J., Basena, M., Petta, I., McPherson, K., & Li, S. (2010). Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4): Report to Congress. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.Google Scholar
- “Seminars”. (2015). Retrieved May 22, 2016, from http://www.attachment.org/seminars/.
- Soke, G., Rosenberg, S., Hamman, R., Fingerlin, T., Robinson, C., Carpenter, L., … DiGuiseppi, C. (2016). Brief report: Prevalence of self-injurious behaviors among children with autism spectrum disorder: A population-based study. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 46, 3607–3614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- State of North Carolina v. Paul Joseph Salvetti. (2010). Retrieved January 19, 2016, from https://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/?c=2&pdf=5372.
- “STOP Jirina Prekopova Attachment Therapy” (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7w3Ihg65HV8.
- Stryker, R. (2010). The road to evergreen. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Ending conversion therapy: Supporting and affirming LGBTQ youth. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4928. Rockville, MD: SAMHSA.Google Scholar
- The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2016, from http://www.acestudy.org.
- Thomas, N. (2000). Parenting children with attachment disorders. In T. M. Levy (Ed.), Handbook of attachment interventions (pp. 67–111). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Thyer, B., & Pignotti, M. (2015). Science and pseudoscience in social work practice. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
- Tinbergen, N., & Tinbergen, E. (1983). “Autistic” children: New hope for a cure. Hemel Hempstead: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
- “Trial set in malpractice suit”. (1971). Flagstaff, AZ: Sun, p. 2.Google Scholar
- Vandiver, S., & Malcolm, K. (2009). Adoption USA: A chartbook based on the 2007 national survey of adoptive parents. Retrieved November 17, 2016, from http://www.aspe.hhs.gov.
- van Oorsouw, W., Israel, M., von Heyn, R., & Duker, P. (2007). Side effects of contingent shock treatment. Research on Developmental Disabilities. Retrieved November 14, 2016, from http://www.effectivetreatment.org/SideEffectsContingent.pdf.
- Walsh, C., Reutz, J. R., & Williams, R. (2015). Selecting and implementing evidence-based practices: A guide for child and family serving systems. Retrieved January 17, 2016, from http://www.cebc4cw.org/implementing-programs/guide/.
- Waschbusch, D., Bernstein, M., Mazzant, J., Willoughby, M., Haas, S., Coles, E., & Pelham, W. (2016). A case study examining fixed versus randomized criteria for treating a child with conduct problems and callous-unemotional traits. Evidence Based Practice in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 1, 73–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Weaver, J. (2015). The new apostolic reformation. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.Google Scholar
- Welch, M. G. (1989). Holding time. New York: Fireside.Google Scholar
- Young, S. (2006). Does “reparative” therapy really constitute child abuse? Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics. Retrieved January 12, 2016, from http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjhple/vol16/iss1/3.
- Zaslow, R., & Menta, M. (1975). The psychology of the Z-process: Attachment and activity. San Jose, CA: San Jose State University Press.Google Scholar
- Zorzela, L., Loke, Y. K., Ioannidis, J. P., Golder, S., Santaguida, P., Altman, D. G., … PRISMA Harms Group. (2016). PRISMA harms checklist: Improving harms reporting in systematic reviews. British Medical Journal, 352. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/352/bmj.i157.full.pdf.