The following is excerpted from remarks Joyce Milton gave to the IWF in October. Her new book, The Road to Malpsychia: Humanistic Psychology and Our Discontents, has just been published by Encounter Books.
“There’s been an attack on traditional values, and consequently the teaching of humanities has collapsed. Psychology rushes in to fill the void. One example of this is grief counseling. It is a very brave high school teacher nowadays who can venture to say something about death without a pre-approved curriculum because whatever he or she says is going to get them in trouble with some parent. To talk about death, you have to have a grief counseling certificate.
Small business owners in New York are still trying to obtain money to rebuild their businesses destroyed on 9/11. But we have Project Liberty, which has millions of dollars to do grief therapy and develop curricula for teaching children what they should feel on the anniversary of 9/11. I believe they have $125 million in funding.
There is no agreement on whether this therapy works. In fact the NIH came out just the other day with a study that questions whether the therapy that is being used by Project Liberty actually does more harm than good. Some of the new research suggests that people who don?t talk about grief actually do better than people who do. Mainly because they seem more positive and other people respond to them positively. They receive a lot of social feedback that people who are more open about their grieving don’t receive.
That’s not very acceptable to humanistic psychology because there is a double mission: You are committed not only to the patient, but to saving the world. And so you want to underwrite those therapies which agree with your idea of how social change should take place.”
My advice for young people, if you want to learn about what makes people tick, don’t major in psychology. Read Dickens. Read Sophocles.