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Book Review - Crazy Therapies

This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1996, Volume 13, Number 1, pages 107. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.

Book Review - “Crazy” Therapies: What Are They? Do They Work? Margaret Thaler Singer and Janja Lalich. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA, 1996, 286 pages.

Anyone who has experienced a period of intense emotional distress, or struggled with psychological problems that seem too complex or over-whelming to resolve without outside help, knows the feeling of vulnerability that such a state of mind can engender. Just as a medical patient diagnosed with a serious illness may be drawn to the empty promise of a questionable “miracle cure,” those who are struggling with profound psychological problems may be similarly attracted to a wide range of dubious therapeutic methods. While many of these faddish and unorthodox therapies may seem to offer dramatic and positive results, they are often of little value and may even be harmful to those seeking help. Unfortunately, there has been little practical information available to the public with which to assess the vast number of different kinds of therapies offered. The need for a kind of “consumer reports,” practical guide in this arena has now been rationally and skillfully answered with the publication of Dr. Margaret Singer and Janja Lalich’s most recent book, “Crazy” Therapies.

Written in a clear, highly entertaining, and popular style, “Crazy” Therapies is just the book for anyone trying to wend their way through the daunting therapeutic maze to find a therapist who will truly be best suited to their personal needs. Had Singer and Lalich written this guide in more dispassionate, academic language, the information presented would have been no less useful but could easily have failed to reach those who need it most. With its popular approach, including a series of original cartoons -- with such entertaining captions as AI Channel Barbie” and “You’ve Got to Get Worse Before You Get Better” -- and the kinds of snappy subtitles – “Cry, Laugh, Attack, Scream -- Cathart Your Brains Out” -- that might at first glance be associated with a less serious book, “Crazy” Therapies actually hits the mark straight on. Such writing not only helps lighten the burden for those trying to fathom this often too self-consciously heavy arena, but also the book’s humor and cynicism are ultimately empowering for those who might otherwise put their prospective therapists on a precarious pedestal and fail to ask the hard and probing questions they must ask of such practitioners before signing up.

“Crazy” Therapies not only exposes the rickety underpinnings of such New Age therapies as alleged past life/future life therapy, channeling, rebirthing, and numerous others, but also it presents a vital survival guide to such dangerous pitfalls as Asexual hanky-panky” between patient and therapist. Perhaps most important, this essential guide offers readers the kind of practical and sage advice needed to evaluate any new therapeutic approaches that are bound to come along in the future, and pro-vides a crucial checklist of questions to ask a prospective therapist, along with guidelines for distinguishing between good and bad therapy both up-front and in the ongoing course of the therapeutic experience.

Full of practical wisdom and invaluable insights, “Crazy” Therapies is the kind of indispensable book one hopes will be distributed to as wide an audience as possible. Any prospective client who reads it before entering into the therapeutic process will likely be inoculated against much of the harm that can otherwise come from becoming vulnerable to a therapist who either genuinely does not have the client’s best interests at heart, or who practices ill-conceived methods that may not be helpful--and may actually turn out to be harmful--in spite of the therapist’s best intentions.

Keith Harary, Ph.D.

Research Director

Institute for Advanced Psychology

Tiburon, California

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 13, No. 1, 1996