PSEUDOSCIENCE: THE HARDER QUESTIONS
When psychology was that new kid on the block in Malaysia, it promised to enhance our lives through empowering our minds with better understanding of the science of mind. But outside of educational fairs and some journalistic work, how often has our psychology offered the incredible value it promised locally? And how often has pseudoscience replaced real psychology in life?
There are these scary little questions that legitimate psychologists and counsellors have to ask themselves. Are we really the real thing? Are we really better?
A counselling trainee, Jackie Yong, offered a fresh, if not unpopular perspective on this matter based off his experience applying for internship positions.
TESTIMONY OF A PRACTITIONER
“The public could not differentiate legit and quack practitioners just as how we could not differentiate legit and quacks in other industries. In the midst of anger of quacks making money and “scamming” other people, what are we doing? Have we reflected how what causes people to choose quacks over the legitimate ones?
I personally sent out 35 emails to 35 different centres, schools and NGOs to look for an internship placement. The response rate was low and slow. Only 7 out of 35 replied which makes up to 1/5. The other 4/5 went without news. In fact, it took some of them up to a week to reply Facebook message or WhatsApp which is also a medium to seek for help from them. It is not the other party’s obligation to reply the email but do we uphold the professionalism to reply to every email not to mention how nasty the replies are? Quacks can reply professionally within hours of the same day!
Also, quacks gives opportunities and trust. For a 26 year old with only 7 years of working experience as a part time tutor, I knew I could not compete with my classmates who are older and have much more experience in workplace than me. I developed my own module in my area of interest for specialization and some “legit” places who replied either offer to “use my module for themselves on my behalf because I am not a professional” or offer to “put their logo on my module ” in which in return trying to ignore me as a person. Wonder how quacks work with that? Talk to one and see how much effort and money they would invest on a project.
Therefore, who gave quacks the opportunity to grow? No other than we ourselves. Most people could not reply to communication channels they set for the public to contact them soonest possible. Quacks can. I knew of many legitimate places that are not even willing to invest in anything (training new people, advertising etc). Quacks are willing. Some legit places are turning people away if unable to pay. Quacks search for sponsors for them. Possibly quacks knew that they need to work extra hard to be known and seen therefore the public knew their existence as the very first image. My personal belief is that quacks cannot be toppled IF legit places are not upholding communication professionalism as well as doing equal or better than quacks do in the area of portraying themselves.”
This lengthy anecdote is from a vantage point of a student struggling to get into the industry with good faith, I can only imagine in extension how these unnamed professionals choose to treat others. This invites some questions that people working in counselling and psychology have to ask themselves.
Have we acted professionally and compassionately in all aspects of our professional lives?
Have we done our best to make ourselves to accessible and helpful?
Were we in this industry because of some unresolved need to have power over others?
I don’t have answers to all these unpleasant questions, but I hope to point out that pseudoscience thrives not because our research is not good enough or that we don’t have enough professionals. But rather, it is because of how vulnerable the average citizen can be if they have no one to turn to. If pseudoscience peddlers become more accessible than legitimate practitioners, it is no surprise that they can stubbornly persist even under scrutiny.
But we can all start somewhere by putting our compassionate selves out there.
You can read this article on why pseudoscience thrives in psychology.
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