Tag Archives: placebo

New Issue: History of the Human Sciences

The February 2011 issue of History of the Human Sciences has been released online. Included in this issue are six all new articles, a review symposium, and a book review of Roderick Buchanan’s new book, Playing with Fire: The Controversial Career of Hans J. Eysenck. Among the topics addressed in these articles are the placebo effect in psychotherapy, the use of ‘deprivation’ in American psychiatric discourse, and the role of case studies in psychoanalysis. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“From medicine to psychotherapy: The placebo effect,” by Stewart Justman. The abstract reads,

If placebos have been squeezed out of medicine to the point where their official place is in clinical trials designed to identify their own confounding effect, the placebo effect nevertheless thrives in psychotherapy. Not only does psychotherapy dispose of placebo effects that are less available to medicine as it becomes increasingly technological and preoccupied with body parts, but factors of the sort inhibiting the use of placebos in medicine have no equivalent in psychology. Medicine today is disturbed by the placebo effect in a way psychotherapy is not. Psychotherapy does not have to grapple with such a disconcerting paradox as successful sham surgery, and unlike those physicians who once pretended to treat the patient’s body while actually attempting to treat the mind, the psychotherapist can treat the mind in all frankness. Perhaps it is because psychotherapy is less burdened by doubts about the placebo effect that it was able to come to its aid when it was orphaned by medicine. It is vain to expect something with so long a history as the placebo effect to disappear from the practices of healing. Continue reading New Issue: History of the Human Sciences

Interview with Antidepressant-Critic Irving Kirsch

Irving Kirsch, Ph.D.The website behaviortherapist.com has posted an interview with Irving Kirsch (pictured right), the well-known critic of the efficacy of antidepressant pharmaceuticals. Kirsch made a name for himself with a series of studies that showed that most of the effect commonly attributed to antidepressants is actually a placebo effect. Although the difference between the effect of antidepressants and placebo alone attains statistical significance, the size of the difference is, Kirsch says, “vanishingly small.” He also argues that this near-non-effect holds for different levels of depression, and for different classes of antidepressants,such as SSRIs (e.g., Prozac) and  SSRE(nhancer)s. Continue reading Interview with Antidepressant-Critic Irving Kirsch

Anne Harrington on Mind-Body Medicine

Anne HarringtonThe legendary e-zine Salon has published an interview with Harvard historian of science Anne Harrington about her latest book, The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine. “Mind-body medicine,” she says, “is a patchwork of ideas about the way in which we think that our minds make us sick, and might make us well.”

The interview starts with a discussion of the power of suggestion: “the interesting thing about the power of suggestion in hypnosis is that it’s an emergent product of a much, much older interpersonal drama that actually goes back to medieval times, the drama of the exorcist who exorcises demons from the bodies of possessed people and exerts control over the demon.” Continue reading Anne Harrington on Mind-Body Medicine