Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Shame of French Psychoanalysis

When it comes to demagoguery French psychoanalysts are masters of the game.

Milking what must be an insecure national pride, they have sold France and French psychiatry on the improbable idea that psychoanalysis is an effective treatment because it is more in harmony with indigenous culture than are those that are Made in America.

I do not need to tell you that “pride goeth before a fall.” French psychoanalysts put their sublime arrogance on display when they offered to explain autism. To their addled brains psychoanalysis would be a useful, thoroughly French way, to treat autistic children.

Claiming that a neurological condition has a psychogenetic origin caused by bad mothers was not enough. French psychoanalysts declared that their “talking cure” could work wonders for children who could not talk.

Of course, everyone has a right to crackpot opinions. Everyone even has a right to cling tenaciously to opinions that have been outmoded since the 1950s.

Unfortunately, French psychoanalysts have so thoroughly succeeded in stigmatizing the American-made behavioral treatments for autism that the nation is sorely deficient in psychologists who know how best to treat autistic children.

French parents of autistic children have been fighting the good fight for years. They have provoked the Council of Europe to condemn the nation’s treatment of autistic children.

Early this year another front in the war was opened by a filmmaker from Lille, one Sophie Robert.

Robert produced a film called “The Wall” is which she allowed French psychoanalysts to rattle on about autism. Between their verbal streams she interposed the stories of two children: one had been treated by the French techniques; another had suffered an American-made behavioral approach.

The child who had been treated by French methods was manifestly doing much worse than the one who had undergone a behavioral intervention.

The latter was bright and talkative, attended school, and earned good grades. The former was withdrawn and non-verbal.

Naturally, the psychoanalysts were outraged at the filmmaker, How dare she allow them to make fools of themselves? They sued for defamation.

Good demagogues that they are French psychoanalysts insist on having complete control of the way they are portrayed in public.

It’s as if you had allowed yourself to be filmed by a documentary filmmaker, signed a release allowing the interview to be shown,  permitted the filmmaker to edit your comments, and then woke up to find that you did not like the way you looked. So you decide to go to court to have the film suppressed.

In America you would be laughed out of court. In France, you win your case. Apparently, the French have a way to go when it comes to free expression.

A court in Lille forced the film to be taken down, even from Youtube. Currently, the decision is being appealed.

I have blogged about the case in previous posts.

Unfortunately, theirs was a Pyrrhic victory. Now, the shame of the French psychoanalytic establishment is gaining international exposure.

This past week USA Today ran a long and detailed article about the controversy, without, however, mentioning Sophie Robert’s film.

If you read the article you will see that French psychoanalysts have brought shame and ignominy on themselves and their nation for promoting a cultural climate that is a clear throwback to what America knew in the 1950s.

For those who did not know it before, their impulse is wildly reactionary.

USA Today is puzzled by it all:

In most developed countries, children with autism are usually sent to school where they get special education classes. But in France, they are more often sent to a psychiatrist where they get talk therapy meant for people with psychological or emotional problems.

Under the aegis of its psychoanalysts France is seeking, in the matter of autism, the status of an undeveloped country.

A Yale expert expresses the general disbelief:

"The situation in France is sort of like the U.S. in the 1950s," said Dr. Fred Volkmar, a U.S. expert who directs the Child Study Center at Yale University. "The French have a very idiosyncratic view of autism and, for some reason, they are not convinced by the evidence."

Well stated, indeed. Why is France, following the lead of its psychoanalysts, not convinced by the evidence?

Because they are true-believing cult followers. They believe in Freud and they believe in Lacan. They do not believe in evidence. That would be too American for their refined tastes.

Reality is simply not their thing.

And they do not much care about what happens to autistic children.

USA Today reports:

Volkmar said some forms of psychotherapy might be helpful for high-functioning autistic children to handle specific problems like anxiety, but should not be considered a first-line treatment. He said the vast majority of autistic children in the U.S. — more than 95 percent — attend school.

But French children with autism are lagging far behind. According to government data, fewer than 20 percent of autistic children attend school. Mostly they're either kept at home or go to a day hospital for psychiatric sessions.


Josiane said...

"The beliefs have the hard skin" as we can say in french. Thank you so much to help us by writing. We are still fighting to make our country change. Here in France, the country of the freedom, the evidence is denied ! The situation is worse than the shame for autistic peolple and their families, it's a tragedy.

João Barreto said...

Talk about arrogance...

Anonymous said...

There's something a bit unsavoury about all of this. At one point, you idealized Lacan as an 'intellectual hero', and now you demonize him like a spurned lover.
Your backflip notwithstanding, you've got this autism business entirely wrong. Autism is a childhood psychosis (by a psychoanalytic definition) - a lack of social bonds (in the most extreme cases), and the use of words as things (see echolalia). None of this ought to be controversial, irrespective of whether one attributes the cause of autism to the mother (which psychoanalysts do not do), to the brain, or to Obama.
You ought to engage in a little critical thinking before trying to indoctrinate others into your version of 'reality' (which is little more than Fox-news style imbecility).
Finally, Le Mur is tendentiously edited, and this ought to be obvious even to the enemies of French psychoanalysis. For shame for supporting such obvious idiocy and hackery.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you for sharing your ignorance with us. You have provided yet another reason why psychoanalysis has fallen from grace-- its adherents are dimwits.

Let's see, I wrote about Lacan as intellectual hero in 1983. In 1996 I wrote a book about Saving Face where I revised my views.

Apparently, you did not know that.

Every serious scientist who works with autism agrees that it is a neurological condition. For you to state with absolute certainty that it is an infantile psychosis because psychoanalysis says that that's what it is betrays the fact that you are a cult follower.

The issue in the film and in the treatment modalities for autism the world over is: what is the most effective way to treat these children.

As the psychoanalysts who gave a press conference at the Hotel Lutetia stated clearly, there is a mountain of evidence that behavioral approaches are very helpful and there is no evidence that psychoanalysis is helpful.

For parents of autistic children, those are facts. French parents today who want to help their autistic children are mostly required to leave the country. That is real and that is a fact.

The reason why this is that case is that people who think like you are in control of the way autism is treated in France.

When a filmmaker points this out, psychoanalysts take offense. Either they are very thin-skinned or they reject the idea of free expression. When the Council of Europe condemns France for the way it treats autistic children, psychoanalysts take offense. When the French government-run medical system declares that psychoanalysis is not an indicated treatment for autism, they try to launch a lobbying campaign.

They are simply not bothered by the fact that what they are offering, a theoretical fabulation, does not help.

Thanks to psychoanalysts, Le Mur has been banned. Thanks to people like you we cannot even examine the evidence of how it was edited. The notion that courts should ban films because subjects, who gave their permission and who spoke freely, did not like the way they were edited. I have known some of the people who spoke in the film and I have seen some outtakes. In my view they were speaking openly and freely.

They looked bad because they are fools. I have known many of the major figures in French psychoanalysis for quite some time. I have seen them in action, in America and in France. They do not need anyone's help to make fools of themselves.

Since when has "tendentious" editing been grounds for suppressing creative expression? Do you think that a Michael Moore could ever work in France?

Anonymous said...

Thankyou, good reply, hopefully he will now creep back under his rug. I am an anglosaxon mother living in France of a little boy with autism. It's hard. At the day hospital where my son has 2 weekly appointments, one person dares to make hints about reinforcing the father image in our family (not that she knows anything about our family, she just blindly assumes the father must occupy too little space as our child is autistic). I feel like telling her to shut the f up. How dare she abuse me in such an underhand, dogmatic and self-rightous way.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I am very sorry to hear about the way the French system is treating you and your boy.

I appreciate your sharing your own experience. Otherwise people think that I and Sophie Robert just made this all up.

Anonymous said...

No, no and no. You are not making it up (what a hilarious idea, by the way, that people might start to wonder if you and Sophie are making it up!)
And I am fortunate enough to taking my son to one of the more up to date establishments. The pedopsychiatrist is excellent (or I wouldn't be going there, would I?), but she's a rare pearl in France. Unfortunately, some of her collegues still cling to ideas from the dark ages. It's very distressing and infuriating to have to deal with such hoodwinked people who are just so sure they know all about your psyche when in fact they're rather stupid really. Very indoctrinated, in any case.

Shaun F said...

That documentary was pretty eye opening, as well as the information posted about how autistic children are treated in France. Psychiatrists trying to maintain their power, authority, and status quo at the expense of those they help? Say it isn't so.

The french cop show "Engrenages" shows how the court systems work in France.