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Thursday, September 27, 2012

David Brooks, "The Psych Approach": But What About the Devolution of Psychological Treatment?

Steering away from the cavernous darkness of America's dysfunctional campaign season, David Brooks makes the case, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Psych Approach" (, that childhood trauma is linked to scholastic failure and subsequent problems in adult life. Brooks writes:

"When you look over the domestic policy landscape, you see all these different people in different policy silos with different budgets: in health care, education, crime, poverty, social mobility and labor force issues. But, in their disjointed ways, they are all dealing with the same problem — that across vast stretches of America, economic, social and family breakdowns are producing enormous amounts of stress and unregulated behavior, which dulls motivation, undermines self-control and distorts lives.

Maybe it’s time for people in all these different fields to get together in a room and make a concerted push against the psychological barriers to success."

In fact, Brooks is only describing one side of the coin.

A penurious American health care system no longer has the funds to cover psychological treatment lasting more than a few sessions. Faced with the need to cut corners, psychological treatment is devolving into a limited number of sessions with a psychologist or social worker, followed by a prescription for pills intended to mask the problem.

Often the pills are consumed without follow-up involving a mental health care professional.

As reported by Janice Lloyd of USA Today (

"Use of antidepressant drugs has soared nearly 400% since 1988, making the medication the most frequently used by people ages 18-44, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

Eleven percent of Americans ages 12 years and older took antidepressants during the 2005-08 study period, the authors write. They add that though the majority of antidepressants were taken to treat depression, the drugs also can be used for anxiety disorders and other conditions.

. . . .

[L]ess than one-third of Americans taking one antidepressant and less than one-half of those taking multiple antidepressants have seen a mental-health professional in the past year, the report shows."

It's time to "make a concerted push against the psychological barriers to success"? Perhaps it is first necessary to study the devolution of psychological treatment and to review the wholesale dispensation of pills as the standard of care for an increasing number of Americans.

Can tranquilizers, antidepressants and antipsychotic medications cure a nation gone awry? Why do I doubt it?

1 comment:

  1. Oh, the nation really gone awry. And the problems are profound - wrong values, wrong heroes, wrong goals, wrong ... everything.
    It isn't surprising that obesity, increase in mental problems etc. started to rise in the late 1970s when the New Deal started to be dismantled.
    One of memories of my first days in this country is praising by Regan of some billionaires for ... giving some money to charities: "These are true heroes," declared the popular President. I fainted. "What a country,"- I thought. I was right.
    We live in a country where those work, work 70-80 hours a week (usually in constant horror and terror of losing jobs, homes, families, friends, etc.) and come home to collapse in front of TV (to see "heroes") with some pizza in hand and "I love my job, I love my boss" on their lips. Neglected children, sick and elderly are ... well neglected. The same neglected children are also ordered to fill every moment of their lives with actions, or they won't be rich and famous and their lives will be worthless. Scribes like Brooks preach that the rich are rich because they deserve to be rich and the rest is garbage.
    I will never forget a teenager who the day after a spring semester at Princeton, started a summer session at Columbia. A year later she dropped out from formal education (and life?) altogether. The craziness of American rat race was too much for this artistically inclined girl. That it is was too much for her was obvious to me who just had an hour conversation with her. Why not for her American born parents whose house she hasn't left since (for some six years).
    America made a wrong turn. Instead of strengthening New Deal by introducing universal health care among other things, fulfilling promises that new technology would allow humans to be humans - short workweek, long vacations, time for families, creativity, oneself - the country plunged in insanity of enriching of the few and exploitation and destruction of the many.
    There is no way out. This is a road to a tragedy with millions of victims left already on the road.