by Donald Meichenbaum, Ph.D

Consumers of psychotherapeutic procedures are confronted with a challenge about how to make an informed decision, given the wide variety of alternative treatments. Moreover, the selection process is made even more perplexing when psychotherapeutic procedures are accompanied by exaggerated claims of effectiveness, much of it filled with HYPE. Recently, we (Meichenbaum and Lillenfeld, in press) developed a 19 item HYPE CHECKLIST of  "warning signs" to be on the look out for.

Some of the "red flags" include:

1. The treatment advocates use promotional phrases such as "break through treatment," "miracle cure," "transformative," " life changing," and the like.

2.They convey a high expectancy of " lasting changes " , accompanied by patient testimonials , video  case demonstrations, and the use of endorsements from " gurus " in the field.

3.The proposed treatment approach has inadequate empirical support  and little connectivity between the proposed mechanisms of behavior change and  any scientific basis. The advertisements for the treatment procedures are filled with "psychobabble" and "neurobabble".

4 The advocates of a proposed treatment procedure are not open to , nor responsive to, criticism  of their approach.

They are insulated and have a specific coterie of followers , almost cult-like .  They establish Certificate  programs, Website and newsletters, sell  treatment paraphenalia, each with outlandish claims of efficacy .

5. They use after-the-fact explanations to dismiss any unsupportive findings and establish criteria whereby their approach cannot be falsified.

6. You would be EMBARRASSED  to describe this treatment  approach  to your grandmother! 

About the Author

Donald Meichenbaum headshot_0_0.jpgDonald Meichenbaum, Ph.D is the Research Director of the Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention, Miami.