Psychological Self-Help

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24
analysis of the advice industry suggests another major barrier to
change. If a psychological or interpersonal helper had a chance to be
interviewed or to go on TV or radio, this would be appealing to many
because it could yield several benefits, such as improve his/her
reputation, result in more sales, 15 minutes of fame, status, and
others. In addition, the professional would have little to lose as long as
he/she doesn’t make some embarrassing mistake. Such a guest would
not be assuming any grave professional or legal responsibilities, even
if they interviewed someone on the air for a few minutes and gave
some simple advice. Contrast this situation to the psychologist who
agrees to teach a small, daily, year-long, personally useful, skills-
oriented psychology self-help class to a small, intimate group of High
School juniors. This would deal with each student’s immediate
concerns and with preparing for the future. Wow! That could be scary
for the teacher. It would be an awesome responsibility requiring a high
level of skills, hard work, devotion to every student, and perhaps
involving some legal risks because it would be so intimate an
involvement in the students’ lives. That might be why psychology
classes are not proposed. Yet, if you, as the teacher, had a truly
significant impact on each student’s life, you would surely feel proud
and deeply gratified. And the world might benefit. [End of lecture. (:-)] 
It seems fairly safe to conclude that the meteoric rise of
psychological topics and advice in the media is not due to great
writers, creative producers of the shows, self-help literature of proven
effectiveness, astonishing methods displayed by media advisors, or
due to support from professionals in psychology. The popularity and
the profitability of the advice industry are surely attributable to the
commercial drive of corporate America—the nearsighted drive to be as
profitable as possible. As yet, we have opinions but no data to indicate
if the advice industry has, on balance, advanced or harmed the helping
professions…or, more importantly, if all this advice has helped the
general public to grow and cope better or not. This lack of adequate
research is what I would underscore.
Understanding 3: I prefer to be honest with you about the effectiveness of
self-help methods. I'm not going to "talk up" a method or try to "sell" you a
product; I'm trying to get you to learn and to think for yourself. Also, I don't
want to deceive you by implying that understanding or changing human
behavior is simple or always possible. 
Most popular psychology books emphasize how fantastic their
methods are and how much they can help you. In this way, popular
writers use the "power of suggestion" to increase the effectiveness of
their methods or ideas and/or to increase their sales. This works.
Instead, I choose to tell you, as best as I can, the results of my
experience and the limited research evaluating each self-help method
(if any). Hopefully, you will take a realistic attitude and say, "I want to
know the research findings--or lack thereof--as well as see how well
this method works for me." Your faith in self-help should eventually be
based on your own experience, not on research alone and certainly not
on this book or, even worse, on some unfounded claim by an
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