Letters

With regard to your section on the relationship between selfishness and altruism (December Monitor, pages 38–45), it is noteworthy that Anna Freud had postulated such a connection many decades ago.

In her words in "The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense," page 134, "It remains an open question whether there is such as thing as a genuinely altruistic relationship to one's fellow men, in which the gratification of one's own instincts plays no part at all, even in some disguised and sublimated form" (International Universities Press, 1966).

Saul Scheidlinger

Albert Einstein College of Medicine

New York City


Dr. Phil and ADHD

I am writing to express my dismay regarding Dr. Russell Barkley's comments and seemingly covetous remarks (December Monitor, page 4) about Dr. Phil McGraw's ADHD research and APA presidential citation. Among his many comments, Dr. Barkley notes that, "Research shows that within the family, influences such as parenting make no significant contribution to ADHD symptoms." Yet psychologists at the University of Buffalo have shown that an alteration in parenting styles can markedly reduce ADHD symptoms. He (Barkley) also states that "...medications are among the most effective treatments for the disorder, especially if combined with psychosocial (behavioral) and educational accommodations." Several years ago, however, Dr. Barkley participated on a National Institute of Health panel of experts that developed a Consensus Statement on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder. This statement noted that "there are no data to indicate that ADHD is due to a brain malfunction." The statement indicates "a paucity of data providing information on long term treatment beyond 14 months." The panel relates, "There is no information on the long-term outcomes of medication-treated ADHD individuals in terms of educational and occupational achievements, involvements with the police or other areas of social functioning." These statements seem to indicate that the supposed causes of the disorder, along with the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment regimens being promulgated by Dr. Barkley and the psychopharmaceutical establishment are not tenable; to continue to recommend medication as the initial and preferred method of treatment is, I think, unconscionable.

John J. DeFrancesco, PhD

American International College

Springfield, Mass.

I found Dr. Barkley's statements [related to the Dr. Phil show on ADHD] to be misleading regarding the efficacy of EEG neurofeedback treatment on ADHD. The literature from the last 10 years is very compelling as it shows treatment effects that are just as effective, if not more effective, than the use of stimulant medication for the treatment of ADHD. For a comprehensive bibliography of neurotherapy research please visit www.isnr.org. I encourage the curious to review Dr. Monastra's most recent (2005) research published in the Journal of Neurotherapy.

In my clinical practice I frequently observe allopathic physicians prescribing stimulant medication after a brief interview with the patient. Rarely is testing conducted other than blood tests. The physician typically interviews the parent, talks to the child for a brief period of time and then writes the script for the drug. The use of an EEG helps to clarify if the child meets the profile commonly seen in children with the disorder. Conducting the EEG can help guide the physician in making an informed decision about the use of stimulant medications. In my clinical practice I have treated over 200 ADHD children using traditional neurofeedback and LENS (low energy neurofeedback system) techniques with very good treatment outcomes. All too often do I observe the overuse of medications when a safer and just as effective alternative is available. I am concerned that Dr. Barkley's letter will misinform other professionals, as his statements regarding neurotherapy are in error in my professional opinion.

Nicholas Dogris, PhD

Bishop, Calif.

Here's a big "attaboy" to Russell Barkley for his letter condemning the association's apparent endorsement of television's Dr. Phil McGraw. Having reached my emeritus professor and APA life fellow years, and having spent my scientific career doing research on ADHD, I feel obliged to state the following: Dr. Phil does a grave disservice to parents with ADHD children and to children with ADHD.

His "cutting-edge" expert consultant on ADHD does not remotely deserve such a title, having performed no research that I was able to find and being unknown to genuine experts. This expert apparently specializes in complex, time-consuming, and essentially useless evaluations. Months ago I wrote Dr. Phil asking that he turn to genuine ADHD experts, Russell Barkley among them. No reply, not even a form letter.

ADHD is a behavioral condition and, to date, it can only be diagnosed with behavioral methods. That means:

  • Careful interviews with caretakers.

  • Teacher rating scales.

  • Observation in natural or standardized analogue settings.

Nothing more; nothing less. No EEGs, no brain imaging, no neuropsychological evaluations, no biofeedback, no optical exams. Anything else-including what is purveyed by Dr. Phil-is not sound. It is mumbo jumbo science, usually with a big price tag.

Jan Loney, PhD

State University of New York

Stony Brook


Missing the elephant' on suicide

It was confusing to read L. Meyer's article "World Mental Health Day "emphasizes the link between suicide and mental illness" (December Monitor, page 14). The article summarized the essence of what took place on Oct. 10 as professionals addressed and recommended steps to reduce suicide risk worldwide. However, what caught my eye is that neither the World Federation for Mental Health, which sponsored the initiative, nor any of the member organizations of the federation seem to have paid attention to one crucial variable when it comes to the epidemiology of suicide: gender. Although women report attempting suicide during their lifetime about three times as often as men, overall men are four times more likely to die from suicide than females. Of the total number of suicides among ages 15 to 24 in 2001, 86 percent were male and 14 percent were female. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have consistently shown that not only do men commit suicide at higher rates, but they will also die younger or get injured more severely than women.

So I have two questions: Why are we deliberately overlooking the gender factor when addressing suicide and the human cost associated with this social tragedy? Why are we so openly missing something this visible and obvious? These are questions worth investigating.

J. Carlos Silva, PhD

Rockville, Md.


By any means possible?

I am writing to raise grave doubts about the letter by L.F. Lowenstein (December Monitor, pages 4 and 8). I am one of the "mealy mouthed" psychologists referred to. Yes, it is vital to know the information a terrorist carries. But...who is a terrorist? And what is the urgency of getting the critical knowledge? And who makes these determinations? The phrase "attempting to obtain information by any means possible" disturbs me. Interrogation? Of course. Torture? Only in highly exceptional cases (e.g., the "ticking bomb"). And again, who makes these determinations? Have we ever decided if persons tell the truth under torture? The evidence seems to point to the victim saying anything to make the pain stop.

Fred de Wit, PhD Wichita, Kan.

Dr. L.F. Lowenstein is "saddened" that a humane (what he calls "mealy mouthed" and "fence-sitting") attitude is expressed by some psychologists with regard to torture during interrogation of prisoners. He refers to "individuals who are out to destroy...or cause indiscriminate serious injuries" who are likely to know plans for the destruction of life; and holds that it is vital to obtain information by any means possible from them.

What is lacking however, is knowing just which of the people in custody are those individuals who possess the information.

I wonder if he would be so cavalier with his call for limitless interrogation standards if he were one of the accused.

Mortimer Brown, PhD

Lutz, Fla.

In Dr. Lowenstein's view it is vital "for psychologists to support those who are attempting to obtain information by any means possible" in order to prevent future terrorist attacks. This view should be categorically disavowed by the 2006 APA Resolution Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. I am deeply concerned that it is not.

Torture, mistreatment, indefinite incarceration and lack of due process produce false information, radicalization of innocent suspects and their communities, justification for doing the same to U.S. POWs, and demoralization of both those who use the methods and the citizens of the country that allows them.

I have consulted with NYPD detectives on interrogations of homicide suspects and conducted 14 years of research on videotaped interrogations. The legal, reliable methods of interrogation I have seen are nothing like what still goes on in U.S. military prisons with the help of "behavioral science consultation teams." There is little or no evidence that abusive treatment and indefinite incarceration can generate reliable information either in ongoing investigations or in a "ticking bomb" scenario. On the contrary, there is evidence that decent, competent interviews that begin to elicit valuable information are routinely sabotaged by the abuses of CIA operatives ("A Question of Torture" by A. W. McCoy). These CIA-led practices are as stupid as they are immoral.

I fear that, like the Soviet psychiatrists who followed the directives of their "administrations," American psychologists will be ashamed of this chapter in the history of our profession.

Martha Davis, PhD

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

New York City


Defending Hebb, Janis, Milgram, Osgood and others

Gary Walls, in a November Monitor letter (page 8), alleges that Donald Hebb, Charles Osgood, Irving Janis, Stanley Milgram and other distinguished psychologists were honored by APA for developing torture techniques-research whose nefarious purpose they lied about. These "facts" come mostly from a book by A.W. McCoy, a book remarkable for its reliance on innuendo, guesswork, slanted phrasing, guilt by association and biased interpretations of the psychological literature. For example, McCoy seems to think that government-funded research is inherently suspicious, that the Office of Naval Research was an intelligence agency, and that people such as Osgood and Milgram depended on covert government influence to obtain honors and faculty jobs. He also misinterprets the results of Milgram's obedience research and ignores 40 years of post-Hebb research showing positive effects of reduced stimulation (reading which, among other things, might have corrected McCoy's and Walls's misconception that Hebb's technique was "sensory deprivation").

Like many other authors, McCoy also claims that psychological research was the basis of torture techniques that have in fact been used for centuries: threats, forcing prisoners to remain in uncomfortable postures and temperatures, sleep deprivation, hunger and thirst, etc. Walls apparently believes this claim, which any real history of torture shows to be false.

Peter Suedfeld, PhD

The University of British Columbia

Vancouver, B.C.

I am writing to refute the implications of the Gary Walls letter about the alleged role of Charles Osgood in "no touch torture." A review of several sources indicates that the CIA was interested in Osgood's work for purposes of developing overseas propaganda, not torture. Furthermore, Osgood was not aware that the CIA was the source of his funding for cross-cultural development of the semantic differential (for three years starting in 1959) until CIA documents were made public in 1977.

Osgood's reputation in psychology was based on his work, including his books "Method and Theory in Experimental Psychology" (1953) and "The Measurement of Meaning" (1957), not from developing techniques for torture, as Walls suggests. The continuing influence of the semantic differential is shown by a PsycInfo search in early December 2006, which listed 3,635 articles referring to it from 1951 to October 2006. People familiar with Osgood's work know that he was concerned with decreasing tensions during the Cold War to increase the likelihood of world peace and not with developing techniques of torture.

Eleanor P. Gaer, JD, PhD

Rowan University

Glassboro, N.J.



Kudos to Koocher

I have never yet attended an APA conference, or for that matter, consider myself an 'involved' member of APA. Yet, I have been a "part" of the organization since my student membership in 1989. After reading Dr. Koocher's November President's Column, I was reminded of what we all strive for in the helping professions.

Thank you Dr. Koocher for helping that family embrace the death of their son. Being a parent of two children, I can only try to imagine the courage and strength of the parents. To have tried to lessen that pain and promote some degree of coping with the tragedy is a noble endeavor and the essence of what it means to be humane.

Bryan Ryles, PhD

Athens, Ga.

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