You may have heard of Judith Acosta. She’s one of the dreaded Huffington Post‘s resident blogwarts and pimps H2Omeopathy on a fairly regular basis. Yes, I know all the articles in HuffPo’s Healthy Living section should be tagged May Contain Nuts, but Acosta has been trying really hard at beefing up her cognitive dissonance. Try this quote:
When I try to explain it to people — despite years of study and personal/professional experience — I wind up sounding like my worst woo-woo nightmare, stumbling over words like “energy,” “resonance” and “organism.”
And yet the alarm bells don’t go off. If you can’t explain it, you don’t understand it (that was one of Einstein’s, I believe). If, on the other hand, you’re pretty sure you have a strong grasp of the subject, and you feel embarrassed at explaining it because even you can smell the WTF rising off it, then maybe it really is a festering rash of vaccine-preventable Stupid on the arse of Society.
She actually touts two different currents of fuckwittery on her blog Words are Medicine, by the way. In addition to homeopathy there’s “verbal first aid” (+100 WTF points, achievement unlocked) on the strange basis that one (unreferenced) study is supposed to show that “psychotherapy can change brain chemistry as much as psychotropic medication.” Yeah. Me and the SO are taking that with a dose of salt so large it’ll probably send me into terminal hypernatræmia. I might look at that some other time.
Anyway, today’s special guest wants to share some great tips on that very first time you tremblingly consult a homeopath:
I’ve been a psychotherapist for 25 years. I believe it’s an important part of my job to make my clients as comfortable as possible from the first phone contact. Despite all reasonable efforts, though, the first interview seems to still be somewhat awkward and difficult for new patients. Really, it’s very understandable. They don’t know me. They feel vulnerable and unsure because they don’t know exactly what’s expected. They’re sometimes not even fully clear about why they’re there except they know they want to feel better.
Interesting that she admits in as many words that clients… Clients or patients? She employs the words as though they’re interchangeable, yet they’re not. Medical professionals have patients; all other professions have clients. In fact, I’d tend to consider that a psychotherapist (a real one, i.e. a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist) would have patients, whereas a homeopath would have clients. I’m not sure what a social worker, which is what Judith Acosta’s main qualifications are in, should call their paying customers, but it sure as hell isn’t ‘patient’ (“And I’m damn sure in other countries she couldn’t legally call herself a psychotherapist either.” – an irate SO).
Back to the main rant. Whatever a homeopath’s marks should be called to their face, you’ll note that the homeopath is profiting from a state of confusion, liberally laced with ignorance about what homeopathy really is, on the part of the victim. The victim probably isn’t actually ill, just vaguely out of sorts, or maybe has a chronic problem which isn’t life-threatening, but is untreatable, or at least hard to treat, with real medicine (allergies, rheumatism etc). The stage is set, let the embamboozlement commence.
The homeopathic interview may be even more of an unknown for some people. Not only does it start with the same “unknowns” as the social work assessment, but it adds some new ones, like the simple but monumental fact that it turns allopathic or “standard” medical practice on its head. You may have called the homeopath to get rid of that recalcitrant psoriasis, but he or she keeps talking about whether you kick the covers off at night, how you feel about injustice, or whether your sadness is worse in the morning or at night.
So the homeopath confuses them further, and chips away at that tiny feeling of “I should be better” until the bewildered victim ends up believing Doctor Quack has sharper insight than medical doctors because he/she is taking so much more into account. It’s standard procedure for charlatans: tell your victim they’ve got something they didn’t know they had, or that it’s worse than they thought, then promise them the cure. Which will take time. And patience. And money.
I think what burns me up most about these arsebrained fake therapies isn’t just that they operate and self-perpetuate using the same viral infection methods as sects: draw the unwitting in on false pretences, feed them the little lies until they’re so emotionally invested that you can teach them the big lies and be confident they’ll swallow them and teach them in turn to others. It’s that most practitioners are themselves victims, both of indoctrination by their predecessors and their own fantasies of importance.
So how does Acosta go about priming a mark for indoctrination?
Preparing Yourself Philosophically
One of the fortunate aspects of my practice is that I see people more frequently because the primary focus of it is mental health treatment. Even though it also takes physical conditions into account, people almost always call me because they’re sad, anxious, grief-stricken, panicked, or in some way emotionally distressed.
Excuse me for a moment while I pry this axe from the SO’s white-knuckled fists. Being “sad, anxious, grief-stricken, panicked, or in some way emotionally distressed” is not a mental health issue. It’s part of life. Anyone seeing a social worker because they’re distressed in some way is most likely in dire need of a cup of tea, a chat and some useful tips: what help is available for their problem, or how to get in touch with people in a similar situation. Perhaps even help filling in forms or making phone calls for those who can’t do it themselves for any reason (elderly, disabled, poor grasp of the language or paralysed by real depression, for example). Look, what I’m saying is: this is needlessly medicalising normal emotions and therefore dangerous fuckwittery.
Unless a person comes specifically to be treated homeopathically and has already had some experience with the philosophy and practice of classical homeopathy, I usually anticipate spending at least some time in the first or second session on education. I give material for reading, lead them to the National Center for Homeopathy website, and take as much time as he or she needs answering questions.