Psychological Self-Help

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bookstores were discussed earlier in the chapter, but their
effectiveness could be radically improved 
A recent American Psychological Association task force said
"prevention programs" are frequently effective and should be
evaluated and expanded (Price, Cowen, Lorion, & Ramos-McKay,
1989). Prevention usually involves education about alcohol, drugs,
unwanted pregnancy, poor health, etc., but it could be extended to
many problems. It is also estimated that 7 to 15 million Americans
were in almost 1 million self-help groups in 1990 (Riordan & Beggs,
1987; Jacobs & Goodman, 1989) and that such groups have become a
major source of help with mental health problems in the late 1990's.
Psychology is being given away to adults, but not primarily by
psychologists. Helpful psychology is being talked about and used
because the people want it, need it, enjoy it, and, probably, profit from
it. Burnham (1987) has warned the discipline of psychology, however,
to take more seriously the task of "giving useful psychology away to
the ordinary person;" otherwise, the major uses of psychology may fall
into the hands of lesser qualified journalists, talk show hosts, and TV
commentators. I wish my discipline would heed the warning (although
I think many people in the other disciplines are dispensing psychology
fairly well). 
If we, as a society, become serious about prevention and
psychological self-help, we must start early. We could help all children
handle problems. Ideally, every child would take a course in self-help
or interpersonal skills every semester from shortly after birth through
college--perhaps 40-50 courses, each tailored to the common
problems for their age. For instance, a course in "caring" at age 6-7, a
course in career choice at 10-12 and again at 16-18, a course in
sexual development and moral choices at puberty, a course in relating
to the opposite sex at 13-15, a course in selecting a partner at 18-20,
a course in developing a philosophy of life at 12-13 and again at 18-
20, etc. It won't be easy, but psycho-social education has tremendous
potential advantages within the public school system: 
Everyone can be reached at a young age via the educational
system; therefore, problems could ideally be prevented or
handled early. 
The amount of time available via the educational approach far
exceeds any other currently available delivery system. For
example, in just one course at the college level, students spend
approximately 150 to 200 hours working on their problems as
contrasted to an average of 5 or 7 hours in counseling centers
or perhaps the 15 to 30 hours of counseling for clients who
remains in treatment until termination. Suppose there was one
course every semester from nursery school to graduate school;
that's a total of 4,000 hours of study and application! Every
child could become much better trained than the current
psychiatrists and clinical psychologists. Why not? What else
would be more beneficial? 
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