London Times - Is self-help a scam?


What are you recommending?

eowyn said:
I agree with CosmoGTD. I would like to see some scientific studies, because at the moment I can only recommended it based on personnel experience, I cannot recommend it on indepedent, scientific, objective advice.
And that's the difference between us. I am recommending to other people the things or methodologies that worked for me. I can say that I've heard that Toyota cars are good but I would recommend them when I used one daily and had no problems. The same is with GTD - if it works for me I can recommend it with certainty. And I don't care if it works for 70% or 20% of people.

By the way - when recommending music - do you always recommend pop music from the top of the hit list or the music that you like? The Top Ten list represents the preferences of the majority of our society, isn't it?

Many consultants are recommending products that they've never tried and only read something about them. It is not fair.


I would go to doctor.

eowyn said:
So if you were sick, which medicine would you try first? You don't know yet which one will work for you as an individual.
I would go to doctor and rely on his advice. That's the common sense that sometimes works.

But not always. I have a problem with a pain in my wrists. I was examined by ~5 doctors. Each one of them had a different idea about my wrists and each tried his best to stop my pain. Up to now nothing worked so despite the fact that some kinds of treatment worked for most people I am not able to recommend anything to other people who suffer the wrists pain like me.


I have a lot of sympathy with TesTeq's skepticism with regard to social science. If you look at Martin Seligman and the Authentic Happiness movement, much of it is driven by big business and the US Military.

It is rather ironic that this discussion about science is occurring in a thread which was initially about life coaches being a sham because they are not licensed therapists. Many followers of Seligman are therapists and they are looking to get the big money, as consultants to big corporations. I believe that Seligman has been providing psychometric testing to big business for years.

Does the fact that big business is driving this kind of social science produce good science? My guess is . . . probably not. But it might be good (translation: highly remunerative) for some big-name hotshot social scientists.

There is good science and bad science. I hope that a good research program is developed to investigate GTD.

By the way, despite the armchair musings of myself and others, this is not easy. Albert Ellis is the most cited psychologist in history and one of his regrets was that he was never able to develop an effective research program scientifically validating his ideas. It fell to Aaron Beck to do that.


I would go to doctor and rely on his advice.

I hadn't through through my example, had I? But I would expect the doctor to start with the medicine that works for most people, all else being equal at the time.

The top ten music is not based on any science.

In terms of wrist pain, for a right-handed person I have become proficiecient in using the mouse with my left hand, as I get soreness from overuse of the mouse. For you, hopefully over time there are more scientific studies on the causes and useful cures for wrist pain.



What an odd thread. Korzybski and the "General Semantics" folks would have fits with it.

"Are self-help books a scam? Please discuss..."

Might as well have asked:

"Are high school teachers jerks? Please discuss..."


"Are bosses all nice looking? Please discuss..."

Some definitions, from
Scam: a fraudulent business. With intent to swindle
Self-help: any case whereby an individual or a group betters themselves economically, intellectually or emotionally.

Have you ever read a book that helped you economically, intellectually or emotionally?

Hell, forget the whole book: did you ever read a sentence that helped you economically, intellectually or emotionally?

Has anyone ever told you something—one phrase that you forever remembered after that, or a concept that altered your perceptions— that helped you economically, intellectually or emotionally?

These are self-help moments, self-help books, self-help phrases, and self-help people. Whether they had a set of letters after their name that distinguished them as a agreed-upon expert in self-help... looking back, did that matter? Really? My dad and I never got along and didn't speak all that much, but he told me one thing—while traveling in a car for 10 minutes in my Junior year in HS—that I never, ever forgot, and it has mailed me a ton of money. He was an engineer, not a therapist, psychoanalyst, doctor, or NLP expert. He was just a guy, who had had some experiences, and he was passing on his best guess.

I believe that most humans are people that have had some experiences, and when they write a book about those experiences and attempt to quantify what those are into some form that might help the reader, I think they're doing what humans have done since cavemen times: they're helping others self-help. It can be anything from how to paint a house, to how to live your life, how to get things done, how to view the cosmos and god, how to stay healthy, how to stay fit, how to find happiness in life, how to how to how to.

If you read a book of someone's suggested how-tos, and it didn't work for you... then what that means is that the book didn't work for you. It doesn't make you right, and others (who get value from it) wrong. It certainly doesn't make you wrong and the others right.

There are so many philosophies and religions and ideas in the world that I find worthless. It doesn't mean those things are "scams."


Can you share it with us, please.

tuqqer said:
My dad and I never got along and didn't speak all that much, but he told me one thing—while traveling in a car for 10 minutes in my Junior year in HS—that I never, ever forgot, and it has mailed me a ton of money. He was an engineer, not a therapist, psychoanalyst, doctor, or NLP expert. He was just a guy, who had had some experiences, and he was passing on his best guess.
Can you share it with us or is it too personal?

I agree with you that everybody should judge whether the information he/she has read or heard is applicable and works for him/her.


CosmoGTD said:
In order to figure out if any therapy or self-help system works, "arguments from authority" don't cut it, and neither do personal anecdotes. What happens is people get "indoctrinated" into their specific school of therapy, and then through the "confirmation bias" over time their viewpoint becomes totally biased.

With all due respect, your many passionate posts about CBT show you to be "indoctrinated" into this specific school of therapy and apparently somewhat biased.

CosmoGTD said:
Many of these different schools of therapy even directly conflict with each other, so they all can't be correct.

As a scientific researcher, I completely disagree. The human brain and mind is exceeding complex. It is completely reasonable that different and even conflicting approaches can have correct elements, as in the story of the blind man and the elephant.

CosmoGTD said:
What is needed to overcome this are careful scientific studies done in many different areas by objective people. These studies have been going on for many decades now, and the facts are very clear, to anyone who takes the time to look at them.

There are hundreds of careful scientific studies showing the high efficacy of cognitive therapy. This web-page has a list summary of its efficacy in over 300 studies, for various disorders.

Science is (or at least should be) the search for the truth about causation. You say that the facts are very clear to someone who takes the time to look at them, but I wonder if you have indeed taken the time to look at any of those 325 studies.

Dr. Beck's references point only to studies of his approach.

There are hundreds of other studies showing the effectiveness of other approaches as well. For example, a meta-analysis of hundred of studies showed that therapy patients are are significantly better after treatment than about 75% of control patients. Behavioral and psychodynamic verbal therapies appeared to be superior to other therapies.

In short, if you want to convince people that psychodynamic therapy is overpriced and harmful garbage, you had better start reading the scientific studies about it. If your knowledge comes only from personal experience and the Beck Institute references, it is biased and prejudiced.


Dr. Albert Ellis needs our help!!

Dr Albert Ellis, the founder of REBT, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy was mentioned a number of times in this thread, so I feel its appropriate to post this information, as Dr Ellis has asked for help from the public.

I wanted to bring to your attention a very serious injustice which has been brought upon Dr. Albert Ellis, the founder of REBT, and renowned humanist, psychologist and promoter of reason in psychotherapy. In 1971 the American Humanist Association named Albert Ellis as the Humanist of the Year, and Ellis is now regarded as one of the most influential psychotherapists of the last century.

Dr. Ellis has recently been removed from the Institute he has run for more than 50 years in a hostile takeover and "palace coup". My view is that this has been done for the personal financial advantage of those who have illegally stolen the Institute out from under him.

Dr Ellis is 92 years old, and needs a lot of medical care, but he is still very lucid and mentally sharp. Ellis could have been a multi-millionaire, but instead Dr. Ellis has always directed that all royalties from his many publications, talks, and professional services benefit the Albert Ellis Institute directly, a non-profit educational body he established decades ago, while Dr. Ellis has only drawn a small honorarium as a salary. Now Dr. Ellis has no medical benefits, is basically destitute, has lost the rights to his 92 books, and has been forbidden from carrying on his famous Friday Night Workshops which he has been giving for decades.

An article in the NYT gives a backgrounder on this.

(the full text of the NYT article can be found down a bit on this page)

Dr. Ellis, after more than 50 years of service to the public, is calling on us to help him. I will include his open letter below. He has mentioned 5 things we can do, here are 2 of them.

1) Raise awareness in the psychological community -- and in the broader community -- about what has happened to Dr. Ellis and the Institute;

2) Raise money to assist Dr. Ellis with his legal bills and other costs associated with his struggles.

There is a petition to reinstate Dr. Albert Ellis here.

Detailed daily updates can be found at this website.

More background for this information can be found here.

The person people can write to to complain, is Dr Michael Broder, as he is the Executive Director who has executed this ruthless "palace coup".
Full contacts can be found here.

(here is the open letter from Dr. Albert Ellis)
Dear Supporters:

Thank you to all who have written to offer support in my serious disagreements with the Albert Ellis Institute. I appreciate all of your kind words and thoughts. Many of you have expressed an interest in forming or joining a committee to help me in my current struggles, and I am, again, very appreciative of these thoughts. I have heard that there is, in fact, such a committee being formed. As I understand it, the main goals of the committee are to:

1. Raise awareness in the psychological community -- and in the broader community -- about what has happened to me and the Institute;

2. Return me to the Board of Trustees of the Institute so that I can continue to play a role in shaping the future of the Institute;

3. Return the main focus of the Institute to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, as opposed to the watered-down general forms of therapy that are favored by the current management of the Institute (I have always been and continue to be open to new developments within the study of REBT, but I am not in favor of forms of therapy that run counter to the very essence of REBT);

4. Return me to "Active Duty" so that I can restart the Friday Night Workshops at the Institute. They were cancelled without reason by the Institute.

5. Raise money to assist me with my legal bills and other costs associated with my struggles.
You should all be hearing from the founders of this committee over the next several weeks, and your support will be critical in our efforts. If you would be interested in assisting the committee please let me know and I will pass that information along to the committee’s founders.

Respectfully yours,

Dr. Albert Ellis


New forum to help Dr. Albert Ellis

Just to follow up on this story, the web forum that Albert Ellis used to run began to fill up with criticism of the people who did the "coup" to get rid of Dr. Ellis, so that web forum was shut down, and all critical posts and information was deleted. Censored, that is.

In response, a new forum has just been set up, for those of you who are interested in more information on this, or would like to assist Dr. Ellis in his struggles.

I have just been notified of this new forum to support Dr. Ellis,who is 92 years old, and in fragile health.

The M Group

Self Help is a scam

From my experience, Self Help, that is lifestyle coaching, is a scam that at best takes your money in exchange for common knowledge that you can get from your Mom, basketball coach, school teacher... Self Help at its worst preys on the down and out. It takes advantage of those that think they have no place to turn to get their lives on a path to happiness, self confidence and esteem.
I have a colleague that was a successful sculptor in the United States. In 2002 he got involved with a lifestyle coach whose credentials were that he used to be a drug addicted, dishwasher at a pancake house, but now he is a successful multi-level marketer and guru of all trades. (Master of none.)
My colleague paid over $100,000 USD for books and tapes and brainstorming sessions, which I have reviewed. The materials can only be described as Marketing 101 level. One of the gurus bits of wisdom regarding direct marketing materials is, "black type looks best on white paper." Some of the other wisdom is just pure poppycock.
The upselling started from square one. My colleague paid his way into the "Mastermind" group. Which I think has more to do with MasterCard than anything else. This was just a teleconference networking group. They would only meet face to face when the guru wanted to see some exotic part of the world and get paid to do it. The culmination of a few years of this scam was my colleague embarking on a marketing plan that was a rehash of the, "magalog" idea that companies had been doing since the 1980's. The direct marketing plan was based on wishful thinking, but my colleague never questioned it because the guru was personally incharge. The magalog production schedule ran a year overdue, tens of thousands of dollars overbudget and the quality was outrageously sub par. The plan was never completely implemented and the result was zero sales of product. The money ran out and suddenly my colleague was not worthy of being part of the, Mastermind Council. Suprise, suprise.

Danny Hardesty

I can only say "Let the Buyer Beware" and heavily research various employment/investment opportunities.

The least expensive "coaching" can be found in David Allen's fine book Getting Things Done. It costs about 15 bucks and is money well-spent.

Danny Hardesty


My experience

This is about the longest thread I have ever come across and after about page four I began skimming the rest of the posts. I'm no expert but wanted to share my experience briefly here. I was in and out of traditional therapy for most of my life before happening upon a CBT group about two years ago and it worked for my panic attacks and depression like no med or therapist ever did and helped restore my self-esteem and confidence because I got better by using the thought countering exercises and truly did help myself. I have read plenty of bad self help books over the years but all the ones I have read on CBT have been very good. The two that helped me the most were the ones we used in my group called Feeling Good by David Burns and Been There, Done That? DO THIS! by Sam Obitz. I would highly recommend CBT to anyone suffering any kind of anxiety or depressive illness. Thanks for listening and I hope this helps someone out there.


Danny Hardesty said:
I can only say "Let the Buyer Beware" and heavily research various employment/investment opportunities.

The least expensive "coaching" can be found in David Allen's fine book Getting Things Done. It costs about 15 bucks and is money well-spent.

Danny Hardesty

I googled David Allin and did not find his book. Where did you find your copy?