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House of Cards - Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth Hardcover – March 14, 1994

18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Dawes (social and decision sciences, Carnegie Mellon Univ.) presents a strong argument, based on empirical research, that psychotherapy is largely a shill game. He argues that while studies have shown that empathetic therapy is often helpful to people in emotional distress, there is no evidence that licensed psychologists or psychiatrists are any better at performing therapy than minimally trained laypeople. Nor are psychologists or psychiatrists any better at predicting future behavior than the average person--a disturbing conclusion when one contemplates the influence such "experts" have on the U.S. judicial system. While other books have criticized the psychologizing of our society, none has been so sweeping or so convincingly argued. This book raises such important societal issues that all academic and public libraries have a duty to make a permanent place for it on their shelves.
- Mary Ann Hughes, Neill P.L., Pullman, Wash.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st edition (March 14, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029072050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029072059
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,510,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

85 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Michael Kaan on November 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
I am a therapist myself, so I naturally began reading this book with trepidation. But instead of the blanket attack I expected, I found instead a very carefully written book that exposes that deeply flawed foundations to much of current psychotherapy, pop psychology, and professional reputation. I read this book at a time in my own career when a respect for science and the need for verifiable information were re-emerging, and House of Cards has provided me with a number of insights and tools that have helped me to provide therapy that is more effective and that avoids pie-in-the-sky promises or beliefs. Dawes is right: although therapy is not a science itself, it should be founded on scientific knowledge.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Richard Brzostek on August 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
House of Cards: Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth by Robyn M. Dawes, critically examines Clinical Psychology and exposes facts that many psychologists would rather have hidden. The author is an Experimental Psychologist and the 1990 winner of the APA William James Award. He is very bold in trying to uphold the truth and convincingly demonstrates what the title suggests.
Perhaps the most striking issue covered in this book is the discussion on studies that evaluate the efficacy of psychotherapy. In 1977, Mary Smith and Gene Glass published an article in American Psychologist which found that on a statistical level, psychotherapy works. Not that everyone improved, or no one got worse from treatment, but on a statistical level people were better off on the measure examined than someone chosen at random. Smith and Glass also found that the therapists' credentials (Ph.D., M.D., or no advanced degree), the therapists' experience, the type of therapy given (with the possible exception of behavioral techniques for well circumscribed behavioral problems), and the length of therapy were unrelated to the effectiveness/success of the therapy.
As Dawes states:
"In the years after the Smith and Glass article was published, many attempts were made to disprove their finding that the training, credentials, and experience of therapists are irrelevant. These attempts failed. (p.55)"
Very few books written by psychologists try to realistically look at psychology's flaws. Although psychology pays lip service to the concept of critically examining its tenants, it is seldom done. Mainstream psychology often dismisses books such as this one in passing as "harsh criticism" and ignores the message they offer.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jason Sikorski on February 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
Robyn Dawes, in the House of Cards, takes great pains to carefully document the most common and dangerous myths that underlie the fields of mental health treatment. The author's writings are firmly grounded in research, and the conceptual integrations are presented in a manner that is easy to understand for both the students of mental health related disciplines, consumers of mental health, and the seasoned mental health professional. In this book, Dawes models one of the central goals of college education; the value of critical analysis. Further, she sets the stage for mental health professionals to behave in a manner that is consistent with the research, and thus finally hold themselves accountable for the work they do with clients. A magnificent book with wide ranging implications for mental health professionals and their consumers. Pay attention, this book is the real truth about the approaches used to alleviate the suffering of clients of mental health professionals. Be accountable!!!
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49 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Chris Hansen on April 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
I think this book ignores the wide spectrum and history of research on the effectiveness of behavioral treatments. Comparing behavioral treatments to parole board hearings and medical school interviews is not even a good metaphor. I think the author may have some good points, but ignored decades of research in order to build his argument.
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25 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
In this very important book, Dawes affirms the power and effectiveness of psychotherapy, and the fact that your wise aunt is probably better at it than any certificate encrusted psychotherapist. But since your wise aunt doesn't charge you any fees, and has a vested interest in seeing that you get your psychological act together, it makes the psychotherapy industry a veritable house of cards. Dawes assembles an impressive amount of empirical evidence demonstrating that minimally trained paraprofessionals can generally make better psychotherapists than their over credentialed peers. His findings are important in more ways than one, since if psychotherapists are no more effective than an empathetic paraprofessional, then the counseling techniques they use don't actually give a great vote of confidence to the humanistic 'New Age' blather that mandates happiness at whatever cost to our ability to realisticallly perceive the world. But again, in this whiny, self indulgent world, why shouldn't psychologists have a lot in common with another group of much beloved professionals who specialize in making common sense hard: namely lawyers!
Overall, Dawes doesn't offer much as an antidote to the rampant silliness that is modern psychology except for an appeal to common sense. A shame then that it took a book like this to reaffirm that common sense and a healthy skepticism are pretty good things to have, in spite of all those talking heads on TV who tell us otherwise!
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