About

My name is David Ferraro, and I am a psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist based in Melbourne. This site is intended to be an archive of my papers and presentations and, occasionally, reflections.

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16 thoughts on “About

  1. Thank you so much for doing this work. I went recently to a workshop at the Beck Institute in Philadelphia and came out saying, “What on earth was I thinking?” You have captured and fully articulated every single one of my own concerns. Just to add my own experience to the mix, the “Master Clinician” had us watch a 20 minute video segment of AT Beck doing therapy with someone in the 1980’s, and then asked participants to respond. I raised my hand and wondered if, by repeatedly asking the patient whether she felt any better after talking with him, he wasn’t eliciting a care-taking response from the patient. I was told that my reaction was the result of an Automatic Thought. There was not a single critical or challenging remark or question throughout the two days I was there, which struck me as odd. At points, it felt no different from being on the set of an infomercial. There were clinicians there from all over the world, and the Institute was clearly tickled by this and hoped people from other countries would go and tell their colleagues about CBT. Anyway, thanks again for the work you are doing. You are very brave.

  2. Thank you for clarifying my innate ‘uneasiness’ with currently being subjected to this form of ‘group CBT’ – under the guise of providing professional development – using Seligman’s positive psychology. I have an undergrad and some post-grad understanding of psychology, and being part of this massive group ‘PD’ has had me concerned for some time. I am employed as a teacher in a disadvantaged school in Melbourne, and when I read the following passage from your post “Two Case Studies in Biopolitics: A Critique of CBT as Ideology (Part 6)”
    – the penny dropped.
    “The cajoling of individuals into a positive affect and ‘motivated’ stance with regard to their own subordination (with ‘negativity’ held to be intrinsically irrational); the conjoining of ‘good functioning’ with compliance; the use of ‘assertiveness training’ – all these are the hallmarks of CBT.”
    I’d appreciate any suggestions on further research that, at the very least, can support a case to remove myself from this program immediately. Many thanks.

    • Thanks for visiting. A starting point for research questioning CBT and positive psychology can be found at this website, which was based on a conference:
      http://www.limbus.org.uk/cbt/
      Many of the individuals who spoke at the conference have published works challenging the claims of CBT and related approaches. In particular, Oliver James has had a number of articles published in the mainstream press likening CBT to a scam.

      Positive psychology is younger than CBT, and so has relatively less literature. One recent book has examined some of the political and economic interests behind the positive psych movement:
      http://www.amazon.com/The-Happiness-Industry-Government-Well-Being/dp/1781688451

      Even more damning than this, the British Psychological Society are actively campaigning to have positive psych training removed from (mandatory) workfare programs for the unemployed. And lest anybody be confused about the ethics of positive psychology, the movement’s guru, Martin Seligman, inspired many of the psychologists who were involved in ‘enhanced interrogation’ programs at Guantanamo. There are many components to positive psych, which make it hard to pin down, but the different elements are gradually coming undone. For instance, an absurd claim (that a ratio of 3:1 positive to negative thoughts allow a person to ‘flourish’) has been exposed as a fraud:
      https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/side-effects/201401/the-mathematics-happiness-turns-out-be-fraud

      • Many thanks, for your response and the links.

        I have followed the threads and found them to be very illuminating.

        Regards,

        JV

  3. David, thank you for sharing all of your insights with the world and I hope you continue to do your blog. It provides both validation and the vocabulary to describe the experiences I’ve had as an aspiring therapist in training.

    I myself have many thoughts on the terrible content of this article, but I would love to hear your reflections: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/17/magazine/the-happiness-code.html

    It seems to me that, with CBT being a mechanical technique of thought control, that the next logical step is its internalization, either through live “training” programs such as the one in the article, or the online “therapies” that are apparently emerging. If the therapeutic relationship is not a relationship at all but merely thought-coaching, then the therapist becomes largely irrelevant..

    The other thing I’ve been reflecting on, in relation to all this, is that “cognitivism” seems to simply be an elaboration on the kind of thinking that we are already taught in schools, that is already assumed as a culture as a whole (and for those that fail to adopt it then, prisons, asylums, court-ordered therapies, and for the voluntary, regular old “therapy”). It’s as if cognitive “therapy” is simply making up the gap of the self-surveillance techniques we failed to adopt/internalize in our primary thought control training, for those with a “remainder” of heart that refuses to conform..

    The cognitive therapist seems to be, in the best possible case, a “rational friend”, in the rare case (if that case even exists..) that the person is literally just having a hard time thinking through something because of some kind of simple oversight. I suspect that in the research, when CBT is claimed to “work” so well for those few at the far end of the bell curve, perhaps they really just didn’t realize that if they made their grocery trip at the same time they picked up their kids from daycare they’d free up some time to spend with their kids which will lead to a more satisfying life. But does this really constitute therapy? This isn’t anything a friendly teacher or professor or parent couldn’t help with. And something tells me that, in a society of mass addictions and alienation, that most have far deeper problems.. Part of my motivation for thinking about CBT at all is that, as a graduate student at an Ivy league school (which has recently completely abandoned all things psychodynamic for a cult-like dedication to “EBP”), I’m being forced to waste my time learning EBP, rather than something that actually matters. My own extended experience in analysis, many years as a (non-co-opted) Zen practitioner, and my overall critical approach to society not surprisingly rails against the indoctrination process I’m being subjected to. This is what one has to do (as an American) to get the overpriced piece of paper which will give me the legal right to practice, and I have to make a Chomsky-esque note that, like becoming a professional academic, that there’s no centralized conspiracy per se; instead there are certain kinds of hoops one has to jump through and this creates a self-selecting process, since most people with heart would have a very hard time bearing this nonsense, they’d be “sniffed out” and would not be allowed to advance. Ideology. In an interview for a program here I was asked, as if being queried by a scientologist, if I “believed” in EBP and if I was able to “simply observe” human behavior without being interested in any deeper meaning or investigation. Seriously. In order for me to continue I literally have to play a role and be careful what I say. What kind of person is now attracted to graduate clinical training, with these barriers in place?.. With all that said, with all of the plentiful and often far too easy critique of EBP today, I’d be happy to hear if you have been able to find any redeeming qualities whatsoever to the cognitive approaches, beyond the basic practice of being a “rational friend”. It would make my time here more useful and maybe feel a little less harsh.

    Take care and thanks again,

    Richard

    • Many thanks for your comments. The NYT piece certainly looked sinister, and I expect that we will see more of these systems of control developed in the years to come.
      My psychology training involved doing quite a bit of CBT. I recall one lengthy placement, at a public hospital, wherein student clinicians were expected to do CBT by the manual. Inevitably, patients did not feel obliged to stick to the clinicians’ scripts, and virtually all students had to depart from the manuals and do some actual therapy. I felt that I learnt a great deal from the patients, even though the use of the manuals itself had a stupidifying effect.

  4. David,

    I’m trying to set up a new blog myself. I’m wondering what theme/setup you used for your wordpress blog, or if you paid to do the custom option? I like your simple layout but can’t seem to achieve it myself, and know nothing about web design otherwise.. Thanks,

    Richard

      • David, thanks for the info. After a lot of experimentation I found a simple one that is ok, we’ll see how it goes. I’m glad to finally have a place to put my essays, some of which will have to do with my reflections on the bizarre ideas presented to me as I go to graduate school for therapy in the US. If you are ever interested: postedup.net. I’m also hoping to see more posts on your blog one of these days..

        Richard

  5. Hey David, I’ve enjoyed your thoughts. I’d love to ask you a couple questions about the literature via email, but I don’t have your email. Would you mind?

  6. Dear David Ferraro,

    I have been reading your blog for the past months and I wanted to thank you for sharing your very interesting thoughts. I studied psychology and psychoanalysis in Spain and in England and I have moved to the US recently. Since foreign degree are not accepted here, I am forced to study psychology again. As some of your posts have emphasised, psychology here is reduced to what is measurable and quantifiable, following the traditions of empiricism and pragmatism. The psychological language is very poor, limited to “operational definitions”, “key points”, “bullet points”, “summaries”, which is translated in the extensive amount of reading that students are required to do, albeit very superficially. I have met some ego psychologists and it is interesting how the psychoanalytical work is very focused around the discourse of self-control, self-regulation, executive functions, delay of gratification, etc. The only thing that keeps despair at bay is the fact that I am interested in comparative psychology and psychoanalysis and enjoy studying theoretical and cultural differences. Best regards.

  7. Hi, I’m in melbourne receving CAT therapy for body dysmophia (a diognosis that I think fits) at Orygen youth health. What is your opinion on Orygen and CAT therapy. While they’ve helped me a lot, I still feel lacking and frankly suicidal. I’ve been hospitalised before and likely will have to be again.
    Making sense of my experience is difficult.

    • Hi Jack,
      I can’t comment on your particular situation, though it sounds like you’ve had a very difficult time. I can make some fairly general remarks.
      What I’ve heard about Orygen is fairly similar to what I hear about many Australian mental health organisations, namely, that results are rather varied. I believe Orygen ceases to provide a service once the ‘client’ is 25, which is very likely to be far too soon for many people. Much of the focus at Orygen seems to be on so-called ‘personalty disorders’, and this is not a category of any relevance to Lacanian psychoanalysis. CAT – Cognitive Analytic Therapy – is something of a misnomer, since there’s nothing ‘analytic’ about it. Essentially it’s a subspecies of cognitive-behavioural therapy, albeit, longer-term in focus and more nuanced than some of the clumsy and brutal versions of CBT that one finds in treatment manuals. As with any talking therapy, a lot depends on your relationship with the therapist and institution.

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