Dear Parents thinking of Contacting an Exorcist...

Most of the time when I watch "real haunting" shows, I do so because either 1. someone else turned it on and I'm too lazy to leave the room or procrastinating or 2. I go looking for logical fallacies and things to laugh at.


But... do you know what I don't find funny about those shows? Exorcisms! Why do these people call exorcists? Usually it seems to be because their family member is acting strangely in a destructive way and their religious beliefs tell them that the most likely cause of such behavior is demonic possession.



So... exorcisms are fine in movies and fiction... but in the real world, in the 21st century.... people should know better! People can have their religious beliefs... but they should STILL know better.

Shouldn't it tell them something that the catholic church is "iffy" about exorcisms now-a-days and most catholic priests won't perform them?


Exorcisms belong in the 1600s, when people had no knowledge of psychology and mental illness.

Sure... yeah... it's in the Bible... but! Again, the people of the Iron Age didn't understand mental illness any better than the people in 1692 Salem, during the infamous witchcraft trials!


So... I'll admit, the science of psychology is still rather new, but the advances made in the century that it has been around are incredible enough to make anyone seeking exorcisms or prayer ALONE to "cure" a person acting abnormally, EXTREMELY irresponsible!

In fact, these people aren't helping their "patients" at all... they're hurting them. Same goes for the people, like scientologists and many fundamentalists who denounce psychiatry. 


Science isn't perfect, but it is the best we will ever have... and unlike faith healing and exorcisms... which haven't really changed since the stone age (besides which gods/ spirits are invoked of course) psychology and psychiatry are always updating themselves. They come up with solutions to psychiatric issues the way real science does... experiment through the scientific method, careful meticulous research, brutal peer review, demanding replication of results by a different party, and years of case study by countless clinical and research psychologists. THAT is how the truth is found.


So... if you are considering calling an exorcist to "drive the devil out of your child" you should consider that psychiatry and psychology are the best solutions to these type of problems that we have... the least harmful... the most reliable... and the most likely to make your child a functioning member of society again.


The  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) - currently used is the DSM IV - but scientists are looking forward to the DSM V which is set to come out in the next couple of years or so - is the "Bible" of scientific psychology and psychiatry that is compiled by the American Psychological Association and updated on a regular basis... note again that the DSM V the newest update is due out soon and will once again revolutionize our understanding of Mental Illnesses and other Psychiatric Disorders. This is what all credible psychiatrists (the ones with a medical degree who diagnose mental disorders and prescribe medications) use in their practice. Everything is done on the best available scientific knowledge and on an individual basis - taking note of the patient's age, sex, medical history, current medications, etc. This is why psychiatry is reliable... it is as reliable as any other form of medicine, and psychiatrists aren't quacks or agents of the devil... they are certified medical doctors (as much as your family doctor) who genuinely care about their patient's welfare and take their Hippocratic Oath very seriously.


So... if you find that you child is screaming profanities, talking to themselves - not an imaginary friend but truly "psychotic talking to self", speaking nonsense syllables, writing profanities or nonsense or symbols on the walls, undergoes a sudden personality change, engages in self-injurous behavior like obsessive cutting, scratching, pulling out hair (btw, psychologists call this problem "trichotillomania"), or trying to commit suicide, refusing to eat, unusual mood swings, refusing to get out of bed, etc. 

Well... when you pick up that phone DO NOT call an exorcist or "faith healer"! Find the number of a psychiatrist and get an appointment so that your child can get the help he or she deserves from a loving parent.


This is a heart-felt plea from a student of psychology.

Views: 175

Comment by Skycomet the Fallen Angel on September 24, 2011 at 2:16pm

Oh yeah! I forgot to mention this in the post. For cases of children, there are Pediatric Psychiatrists who specialize in psychiatric disorders found in childhood and in medication and therapy that is most effective on and appropriate for children and adolescents. If it is a child that is displaying abnormal behavior I would strongly suggest that you set up an appointment with a pediatric psychiatrist rather than just a general one, because pediatric psychiatrists are medical specialists in children's mental health.

Comment by Dale Headley on September 24, 2011 at 3:04pm

   Witch burning and the Inquisition lasted 600 years and wreaked unfathomable torture and death.  Officially, it ended not much more than a century ago, but there remain diehards, especially in the Calvinist enclaves of America, and in Catholic mysticism who still cling to these archaic, brutal, medieval practices.  The history of both Catholicism and Protestantism is suffused with demons and demonic possession.  The delusion that they can be "exorcised" by the primitive and cruel foolishness of the Dark Ages is manifestly ignorant.  

Comment by Dylan Sloboda on September 25, 2011 at 1:26am

I share your conviction here. I gather you are studying psychology-counseling? As such you are more exposed to the commonly accepted standard treatment practices and the fundamental ideas behind them. In research psychology, things are a little different. Psychology is composed of multiple distinct branches, only the minority of which rigidly follow the scientific method. The major branches oppose the rigid use of science because "science is too cold a tool to understand something as complex as the mind." Psychotherapy for example is built around the concept of the soul. There never were any studies suggesting that one exists... but none-the-less it is the foundation of that branch. There are similar problems in other branches that all draw on resistance to the concept of materialism and the theory of determinism. In a lot of studies this results in tip toeing around fragile ideas often at the expense of real research.


As is often the case when a lot of money and desperation are involved, the DSM has largely been a tool of financially powerful interest groups. Many of the standard pharmaceutical treatments for disorders as the DSM outlines them are in direct conflict with pharmacology texts from the 1950s. In the first study used to justify the use of antidepressants on children there were zero suicides in the control group, 16 successful suicides in the test group. The DSM may only be used for identifying what is a disorder, however it is headed mostly by people that have deep ties to the pharmaceuticals industry and many of the "diseases" are described with vague information that allows many to be classified under them and they closely correspond to behaviors that are altered with drugs. Before the pharmaceuticals companies, there were other interest groups; homosexuality used to be a disease by DSM classification. Funniest DSM code ever: "V15.81 Noncompliance With Treatment"


I'm really the last person to herald the benefits of capitalism, but I'll give credit here. A few health insurance companies have started to take notice of the fact that not all branches of psychology are created equal. They have started directing more of their clients to cognitive behavioral therapists due to their success rates. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a clinical variation on the only two branches of psychology that were founded on science from the ground up. The treatments used are considered experimental by mainstream psychology.

Comment by Skycomet the Fallen Angel on September 25, 2011 at 11:55pm

@Dylan - I'm a sophomore undergraduate studying at a community college in "psychology" and planning to transfer to Wright State University next year to study the BS Psychology degree, most likely with a double major in Biology. I'm not planning to be a clinician, I plan to become a researcher in the field of neuropsychology or evolutionary psychology... I haven't decided which yet. I was spurred to write this post because of something I read in my textbook about the "demonic model" of mental illness. I'm currently taking Abnormal Psychology and I wanted to weigh in with my, admittedly amateur, opinion on "alternative" ideas of treatment for mental illness. As would be expected of an atheist, I am brutal on the supernatural and "new age", particularly harmful pseudosciences like homeopathy, etc.  

Comment by Skycomet the Fallen Angel on September 26, 2011 at 12:02am

@Dylan, are you a professional in the field? If so, what "type" of psychologist are you.

My mother is a school psychologist, but I plan to take a more rigorously scientific direction in the field of research psychology (probably neuropsychology - not sure what the difference is between neuropsychology and neuroscience... :?). I have high functioning autism and as such my people skills are not the best... therefore... I'm not really suitable for clinical practice. However, it has been my dream since I was a child to be a scientist... so the SCIENCE branch of psychology really appeals to me.


Oh yeah! About the DSM, I only go by what I know so far from learning in college... which is not very much. Also, for people who are not as familiar with psychology as you and I, they should know that not all therapists are psychologists. You can become a therapist with a much less demanding degree... like social work or something.

Comment by Dylan Sloboda on September 26, 2011 at 4:04am

It's good to be brutal to the pseudosciences. Evolutionary psychology has been more neutral to the debate. Neuropsychology has been a definite offender though. Scientific procedures are used in the studies, but the broad scope of their application of the scientific method can be questionable at times. Normally in the scientific method you start by observing data to find patterns. Then you hypothesize an explanation for the pattern and test your hypothesis. Neuropsychology sometimes bypasses the first step by taking existing "theories" from the dominant; more philosophically oriented branches and attempting to prove them. Meaning that before a pattern has even been established, they are testing for it. There have been some decent studies to come out of their approach, but there have been many more violations of the scientific method.


I am not a professional in the field. I was originally looking into going into research psychology. This led me to learning about the different branches. When I found out about how religious notions are largely polluting the field, I started looking for a branch in which I could to my duty as an atheist and attempt to facilitate a push more towards a scientific understanding of the mind. If you want a branch that will treat the scientific method as creed, then the selection is actually kinda limited. The major players are behavioral psychology and cognition science. Behavioral psychology started from the ground up with a clean slate working strictly with the scientific method. It focuses on observable behavior because internal processes are difficult to study. Since the rise of research techniques from neurology, using only outwardly observable behavior is a somewhat limited approach to understanding the mind.


Cognition science is relatively new. It also uses the scientific method but attempts to determine what processes are at work in the mind. Cognition science draws on any research methods available, including studying neurons, computer modelling and game theory. I was going to go into this, but the more I read studies in cognition science, the more it seemed like despite all the breakthroughs in research, this field is being held back from making any significant headway into understanding the mind. The reason is that cognition science makes one fundamental assumption, that the mind can be broken down into three main processes: cognition, perception and memory. A lot of research in this field seems to be running aground against the problem that the mind's processes don't break down quite so cleanly.


My major now: computer science. It seems completely out of nowhere, but I intend on supplementing it with a little work in psychology and then I'm going into artificial intelligence research. As much as AI research may draw on psychology, occasionally breakthroughs in AI research backtrack into psychology. What I like about it is that it is a more creative field that will give me free reign to draw on whatever studies I choose as inspiration.


Neuroscience is a very broad term that is used interchangeable to describe neuropsychology, cognitive neuroscience and neurobiology. Cognitive neuroscience is a fascinating sub-field of cognition science that attempts to explain how the mind works by examining the activity of neural pathways... usually using an FMRI. It is still bound to the same fundamental assumption mentioned earlier. Neurobiology is like neurology minus the MD and with complete freedom to examine the nervous systems of other organisms. At the bachelor's level it is sometimes offered as a concentration as part of a degree in biology.


A number of people in my family have asperger's, so I have an idea what that's like. Probably the only reason why I have any social skills at all is because I applied my problem solving skills to develop them. That is a great point regarding therapists. In my state you only need

Comment by Dylan Sloboda on September 26, 2011 at 4:09am

All in all, I'd say conditions are ripe for the next revolutionary (and scientific) branch of psychology to emerge. I would recommend aiming for something broad, such as a general degree in psychology (research) or experimental psychology; or look into one of the off shoots of cognition science or behavioral psychology.

Comment by Dylan Sloboda on September 26, 2011 at 4:17am

So it looks like it cut off the end of my second long post:

In my state you only need 3-6 months of training in social work. Thankfully Pennsylvania is unique in its extraordinarily low standards.


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