Is Psychology Really Effective?

Some people criticize psychology as if it were a monolithic set of dogmas.

Psychology has always been at the center of a hurricane of debate and discussion. The different theories and hypotheses that have emerged from it directly challenge us as human beings, and that is why, in many of the topics it deals with, it is difficult not to convert certain beliefs and personal feelings into an intellectual position.

For example, when Sigmund Freud proposed his first theories on psychoanalysis, such was the controversy that was formed because of his pessimistic and brutalized vision of the human being that he even said: “Progress exists, since in the Middle Ages I would have been burned and now it is enough for them to burn my books. “

This constant friction and clash of points of view about how we behave, act and feel, added to the fact that there is and never has been a unified theory of psychology, makes some wonder … is it really useful the psychology? Do we psychologists add value, or do we just discuss among ourselves about theories that do not have their feet on the ground?

Why Psychology Is Helpful

Psychology is not only useful, but in fact it is so useful that its domains are expanding more and more. If at the beginning it began as basically a discipline of mental health and the study of perception, today the implications of research in this scientific field affect disciplines as diverse as economics, marketing, education, design, sociology or neurosciences.

Psychologists have the virtue of being at a crossroads between biology and social sciences applied to all facets of our lives, and that is why they address all kinds of aspects of behavior and mental processes (emotional and cognitive) of being human. And they do it both by putting these sciences and disciplines in contact with each other and by contributing their own psychological theories.

Changing the perception of the human being

An example of how effective psychology is is research in cognitive science, thanks to which we know more about how we make decisions and make plans. This field of research, closely related to behavioral economics, tells us about the extent to which we allow ourselves to be carried away by mental shortcuts when choosing options and how we make up our perception of this fact by justifying our actions with false rational arguments about why we have acted like this.

In the same way, psychological phenomena as curious as the Dunning-Kruger Effect reveal that we survive despite having a very unrealistic view about what we know: the most ignorant people on a subject overestimate their skills, while the wiser people certainly field of knowledge undervalues ​​their capabilities.

Another valuable piece of knowledge that we have thanks to psychology is, for example, the way in which we modify our perceptions so that they fit in the best possible way with our beliefs. This process, described by the theory of cognitive dissonance, reveals that we are not the objective observers and experiencers of reality that we take for granted that we are … and knowing this helps us not to lower our guard at moments when someone it can offer a comforting lie that overshadows an uncomfortable but empowering truth.

Small pieces of knowledge of this type, which have to do specifically with psychology and not so much with neurosciences, not only break the common sense of what we are supposed to be, but also help us understand how we can play our games. letters to live life as we would like to.

And clinical psychology?

Another “front” from which psychology receives some criticism is the field of mental health.

On the one hand, the psychotherapeutic approaches that emerge from this branch of psychology are sometimes accused of ineffectiveness, and this is due, many times, to the ignorance of assuming that non-scientific proposals such as family constellations or Freudian psychoanalysis have a guarantee of efficacy “bought and advertised” by psychologists.

This is not so: the forms of psychotherapy and treatment tools that have empirical support are not all those offered under the umbrella of the word “psychology” and, in fact, they are rejected by the colleges of psychologists.

The truth is that psychology does have tools that have proven their effectiveness, such as  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ,  biofeedback or  Mindfulness, each of them for certain types of mental problems and disorders.

Neither is the accusation that psychology reduces people to stigmatizing labels: the denunciation of this kind of use of diagnostic categories is perfectly compatible with psychology. A diagnosis is not a word that tries to absorb all the identity of a human being, it is simply a tool with which one works. Mental disorders are not adjectives nor are they intended to be adjectives from clinical psychology.

Psychology is not a religion

Thus, valuable criticisms of psychology in general, which are perfectly legitimate, will be useful as long as they do not stem from a fallacy of the straw man and knowledge.

As in any science, all the beliefs and theories from which this discipline starts are questionable … but this does not imply accusing psychology as a whole as ineffective, because it is neither monolithic nor does it contain fundamental dogmas. It is not a religion that depends on a single presupposition that must be believed at face value. It’s just a colossal, coordinated effort to build useful tools and theories.

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