Barry SCHWARTZ (Barijo ŜVARC) (chemoelectric) wrote,


I see that tonight the subject of A&E’s program ‘Obsessed’, ostensibly about obsessive-compulsive disorder, is going to be treatment of agoraphobics. (I don’t watch TV, but I do leave educational videos playing at the side of my computer screen, and A&E puts these up on Tuesday.) This program is monotonous – it simply shows exposure therapy sessions, almost always in ordinary life situations, episode after episode after episode. But, if the subject tonight is agoraphobia, that is too much.

The show is supposed to be about treating obsessive-compulsive therapy with cognitive behavior therapy, but it has become my observation that these therapists are doing ordinary exposure therapy without much of the ‘cognitive’ element, which is a fancy way of referring to training in how to talk to oneself. These seem to be behavior therapists doing exposure therapy – as seen on the daytime talk shows – and they are using the term ‘cognitive’ not because it fits, but because ‘cognitive behavior therapy’ is the ‘in’ term.

Because of this observation, and because exposure therapy works well for treating fear of dogs, fear of the number 13, fear of flying, etc., I had already suspected they were choosing subject cases for the show whose problems were rooted in some such fear. For instance, they don’t present someone who turns light switches on and off for no particular reason, but instead someone who turns light switches on and off because they fear that if they don’t then their mother will die. I’m curious what they might do with someone who has a bad habit of leaving locks unlocked, and who therefore really ought to check locks repeatedly, but finds himself overdoing it.

I’m also bothered that these therapists have little sense of road safety, conducting sessions in moving cars, both with and without a cell phone in one hand. I’m sorry, you just don’t do that. You need to find a different way; you ought to imagine that a car is like a gun, because it is like a gun. Next thing you know they’ll have everybody scarfing down Big Macs and cola while steering with their knees.

Be serious, guys. Set a good example for the kiddies.

Addendum: The Dog Whisperer does exposure therapy for dogs, who aren’t even capable of the ‘cognitive’ in cognitive behavior therapy.

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