Clinical Psychology is Definitely Not a Science – Splice Today

Psychology‘s pretensions to science have always been problematic. Freud claimed that the Id was a scientific discovery, and the Oedipus Complex. Jung thought the same about “archetypes” and “the collective unconscious.” Those theories were interesting and fun. It may even be that they were useful therapeutically and helped people feel better, though I doubt that. But they were far from anything that could plausibly be regarded as a science. Rather, they’re literary tropes or flourishes: big myths or little metaphors. You aren’t going to find that Id in an MRI, and we haven’t yet developed instruments capable of detecting the collective unconscious, floating around us like an ethereal weather system.

We’ve had a century of psychology since Freud and Jung, but it hasn’t gotten any more scientific. Nothing could be more obvious, which makes the persistence of the pretension puzzling. If psychology is supposed to be a science, it’s a ridiculous flop.

Psychology, that is, needs therapy. Begin with the basic ontology: when psychologists talk about “disorders” (the preferred term now, as opposed to illnesses or diseases), what are they talking about? Here’s a problem: they’ve really got no idea, and in many cases what they’re talking about can’t possibly be the kinds of things psychologists think they are. Psychologists have certain talents, and if they’ve dedicated themselves to reducing human suffering, that’s admirable (if they were, or are, actually reducing human suffering, that would be, or is, even more admirable). But they are,