The scandal of useless and even harmful continued education credit
Psychologists can get continued education credit for completing an online test concerning Ellen Langer’s book, Counterclockwise. The book explains how to reverse aging and fight cancer by getting people immersed in an earlier time by listening to older music and watching old television programs.
Psychologists need a record of continued education credit in order to get reimbursement for treating patients with psychotherapy. The credits must come from programs approved by the American Psychological Association.
The brief online test concerning Ellen Langer’s book costs $175 and her book costs another $25, but you don’t have to read the book to take the test. Psychologists seeking credit can simply take the test multiple times until a passing score is obtained. Screenshots of the answers to questions they have answered incorrectly can be used to adjust the response on the next taking.
A passing score on the test yields the same seven hours that attending a daylong workshop with Aaron or Judith Beck, which would cost a lot more money and take a lot more time.
Getting credit for taking an online test requires learning objectives, which are for this test –
EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES The reader will be able to:
• Describe Ellen Langer’s theory of mindful health
• Review the author?s “counterclockwise” evidence that pretending to live in the past for a week caused elderly men to have improved memory, hearing, weight, strength, flexibility, intelligence, height, and posture
• Describe ways people could be better patients
• Describe how stability is an illusion
• Describe health as a social construction
• Describe how mindfulness can improve aging
Langer claims she can shrink a women’s tumor by shifting their mental perspective to a time before they were diagnosed. She supposedly has an ongoing research study with an oncologist from MD Anderson in Houston. I was unable to obtain any human subject documentation from either MD Anderson or Langer’s Harvard University. Apparently the project was still under review when I asked.
But Langer isn’t waiting for results for study. As she told the readers of the New York Times Magazine, she has already set up spas in Mexico and India with cancer patients can be treated in luxury, with their family members basking in nearby luxury hotels.
Ellen Langer does a lot of expensive corporate trainings for executives in which she teaches that practicing mindfulness takes too much time and so they can simply be mindful without any meditation.
So, you don’t have to practice mindfulness to be mindful nor to read her book in order to get credit needed to get paid for treating psychotherapy patients.
The website offering the 7 hours of CE credit for $175 offers glowing endorsements from other celebrities of quackery:
“Ellen Langer’s work has been an inspiration to me for years. Counterclockwise, her latest book, will change the way you think about your health for the better. It’s simply fabulous.” – Christiane Northrup, MD, author The Secret Pleasures of Menopause and The Wisdom of Menopause
“Awareness-mindfulness-is the first step in healing. In Counterclockwise, Dr. Ellen Langer eloquently describes how becoming more aware of our beliefs and expectations allows us to powerfully transform our lives for the better. A pioneering, beautifully-written book.” – Dean Ornish, M.D.
“Counterclockwise is a gem of a book that is equally practical and philosophical without seeming to be either, and one that makes you feel better, more conscious and more prepared about growing old, even if you weren’t feeling bad about it in the first place. There is no one thinking more creatively about sickness and health than Ellen Langer, and she shares what she knows here with uncommon felicity. – Sue Halpern, author of Can’t Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research
“Counterclockwise presents a new way to think about lifelong health and aging. Read this most important book to improve your quality of life at any age.” – Deepak Chopra
The New York Times Magazine article notes that that Deepak Chopra credits Langer with a profound influence on his thinking as a young doctor, and later as an author and lecturer on spirituality and mind-body medicine.
“Take a smart, creative social scientist, without any respect for conventional wisdom and you get Ellen Langer. She is a fantastic storyteller, and Counterclockwise is a fascinating story about the unexpected ways in which our minds and bodies are connected. More importantly, Counterclockwise shows how a better understanding of this relationship can lead to a better life.” – Dan Ariely, Ph.D., author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions
Wait a minute! the Dan Ariely, distinguished James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University is praising Ellen Langer’s disrespect for conventional wisdom and her storytelling? He endorses this nonsense-ridden book as giving readers a better understanding of the mind-body relationship and improving in their lives? Maybe there’s a subtle irony here, but maybe not. If we are not already skeptical, we should be about what comes out of the mutual admiration society of authors of pop books providing uncritical praise of each other’s books.
Science- and evidence-minded psychologists have long been irked by the American Psychological Association granting continued education credit for material that may be useless or even harmful to patients if it were applied in practice.
Members of the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology (SSCP) periodically get upset enough to threaten to leave APA because of its exploitative promoting of junk science with approved continued education credit. However, each time that upset has come to a head, Old warhorse, staunch supporters of the troubled APA like Gerald Davison and Marv Goldfried counsel younger members about doing anything rash. They tell concerned members to join the committee on continuing education in order to reform it. But each time, reforms go nowhere, except for perhaps a ritualistic outing of an organization with truly outrageous offerings. The organization might lose its ability to accredit training, but no one tracks if it is simply reorganized under another name.
APA persists in claiming that it is impossible to examine every training and so it will continue to accredit organizations, not specific trainings.
The offering of continuing education credit is lucrative. There is no way of tracking the conflicts of interest of those involved in the APA continuing education committee defending the sale of junk science. But by having such trainings available, even when they aredangerous pseudoscience, props up the illusion that the government and patients are being protected by APA’s assurance that psychotherapists are keeping up on the latest science with approved continuing education credit.
That is the larger conflict of interest and scandal of continuing education credit.