Pseudoscience in children’s psychotherapy: skeptical inquirer tackles dubious claims

January 2, 2020

Well-meaning parents can endanger their children when they are fooled by the false promises of pseudoscientific “natural” alternative medicine and the fears stoked by anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, and this is no less true when it comes to mental health. The latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer, the magazine of science and reason, assembles a roster of experts to take on the dizzying array of fad psychotherapies to which children are subjected, evaluating what evidence exists for their efficacy, and weighing what risks they might pose to our kids.

With its first issue for 2020, Skeptical Inquirer begins a three-part series based on findings published in the new book Pseudoscience in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy, edited by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville psychologist Stephen Hupp. Scholars and science communicators such as Scott O. Lilienfeld, Indre Viskontas, Lori Marino, and others look at pseudo-therapies that purport to address neurodevelopmental issues in children such as craniosacral therapy, “brain-balancing,” and even dolphin-assisted therapy. In each case, there is a sobering lack of scientific evidence for their efficacy.

As a special bonus, Henry Hupp, the teenage son of Stephen Hupp, makes the case for critical thinking in educational systems. “The importance of pseudoscience has fallen between the cracks for many educators in American schools,” writes Hupp the younger. “If more teachers incorporated critical thinking about pseudoscience into lectures and discussions, students would be able to better prepare themselves for a future of differentiating what is truth and what is fiction.”

Also in this issue: Jeanne Goldberg explores why religious belief is waning among Millennials and post-Millennials; Felipe Nogueira interviews Dr. H. Gilbert Welch on what he sees as the danger of over-screening for diseases; Matthew Nisbet warns against tribalism in the fight to address climate change; Benjamin Radford confronts conspiracy theories about imagined government efforts to keep us stupid; and so much more.

Skeptical Inquirer is available in both print and digital subscriptions.


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