June 14, 2021

Controversy over pseudotherapies divides psychologists | Science

Controversy over pseudotherapies divides psychologists | Science

The world of psychology was already upset by the dubious usefulness of certain techniques and treatments little or no supported by scientific evidence to prove its usefulness. And the arrival of the plan of the Government of Pedro Sánchez to combat pseudotherapies It has been like stirring up a hornet's nest in Spanish psychology.

"Some of those that can be considered pseudotherapies can have proven benefits for the health of patients," says the Council

The General Council of Official Colleges of Psychologists (COP), the body that represents Spanish professionals, published at the beginning of the year a position on this government plan. In your textHe regretted that most of the Council's contributions had not been taken into account, and proposed to add an ambiguous paragraph that has caused concern among many psychologists. "Some of those that can be considered pseudotherapies can have proven benefits for the health of patients, when they are used correctly by professional psychologists," says the statement proposed by the representatives of Spanish psychologists.

This positioning, and specifically that proposal, has raised blisters among the world of psychology because, they believe, it defends the use of pseudotherapies whenever they are used by professionals. A group of professionals then decided to respond publicly to the Council with a letter that has already signed more than 1,300 graduates. In his missive they describe that phrase as "an erroneous and extremely worrying statement coming from an organ that, among other responsibilities, must ensure the quality of teaching and the practice of psychology in all areas".

In the same way, two scientific societies have reacted with "concern" and asking the Council for clarifications. On the one hand, the Society for the Advancement of the Scientific Study of Behavior (SAVECC) "considers that these statements contribute to sink the credibility of psychologists and psychologists as health professionals by requesting a special, arbitrary and vaguely defined condition." On the other hand, the Spanish Society of Clinical Psychology and Health (SEPCyS) has contacted the Council to convey that paragraph "generates an important concern as it goes against Article 18 of the deontological code of psychology" , where it is said that professionals in psychology "will not use means or procedures that are not sufficiently contrasted". "We believe that this type of statement damages the profession," says SEPCyS.

Two scientific societies have reacted with "concern" because such affirmations "harm the profession"

In response to these reactions, the president of the Council, Francisco Santolaya, assures EL PAÍS that the draft of the government plan "is satisfactory" and that it "fully shares the objective of defining and developing actions to comprehensively protect the citizens of the therapies that are not based on knowledge and scientific evidence, and that may pose a risk to the health of people. " "In no way the Council of Psychology defends that psychologists can use pseudotherapies," says Santolaya in an email. "This General Council of Official Colleges of Psychologists rejects outright the use of pseudotherapies and shares the objective of the Health Protection Plan against pseudotherapies," ditch.

From the point of view of the Council, the problem would be the need to update the list of 139 pseudotherapies that the Ministry of Health published in 2011. "The risk we found is that a list that circulated could be taken as a reference for the preparation of the Plan. in 2011 and that, we understand, requires updating to ensure that treatments and techniques that have been able to demonstrate their effectiveness in this period are not misclassified, "says Santolaya. As he explains, "the reaction provoked may have to do with the fact that a complete reading of the communications has not been made" and he hopes that this clarification "reassures people who may have been alarmed".

With regard to the phrase that generated the controversy, the president of the Council explains that they did not suggest that a pseudotherapy is useful simply because it is used by a professional: "In order for any treatment or validated technique to be truly effective, it must be applied by professionals who they have the knowledge and skills to do it, this is what the COP wanted to express with this statement and we regret if the wording could have lent itself to some misinterpretation ".

"The Council must close doors that have been open for a long time," says Pardo

But what are these possible "pseudotherapies" that would be considered as such in the 2011 list and that could now be claimed? Santolaya only gives an example: "The referred list includes generically the relaxation techniques, being that the effectiveness of techniques such as progressive muscular relaxation within different intervention programs is demonstrated".

These explanations are "insufficient" for the promoters of the letter, says Rebeca Pardo, a psychologist at the Autonomous University of Madrid. "That phrase is dangerous and should be rectified much more sharply," says Pardo, given that this text is the one that has been sent to the Ministry for consideration. This is a controversy that comes from far in this discipline, as explained by this health psychologist: "It is a very old discussion, especially since some professional associations encourage some of these pseudoscientific practices". From the group that has promoted the collection of signatures at least demand clarity against those therapies whose pseudoscientific or esoteric character is now beyond doubt.

"It's a very complex issue, because we are a discipline with a diversity of approaches that have different levels of validity," says Pardo. It is not something that can be resolved in a day, says the psychologist, who acknowledges that in some cases there are still studies that address the validity of certain treatments. However, he considers that the role of the Council will be difficult when it comes to addressing the plan against pseudotherapies, because it is his duty to "close doors that have been open for a long time".


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