Research, whether about mental health topics or something else, always has to be examined with a skeptical eye. In a course I teach for psychology majors I hammer the concept of critical thinking. Critical thinking is not just a psychology issue though – anyone can use critical thinking skills to make better decisions and really think about things before they act.
So what is critical thinking? Basically it is just thinking about the evidence before you and measuring the likelihood of it being true or false, or partly true or partly false. There is even a Foundation and Center for Critical Thinking , a Critical Thinking Company , and a massive amount of websites with “official” definitions.
Critical thinking is discussed in academics at all educational levels, although because of varying definitions some don’t support the concept. In general, however, being able to critically think about new information is a good skill, especially as we get more and more inundated with information in our world.
When I am teaching my students about critical thinking I always focus on it as it relates to the mental health of their future clients. There is so much information out there that gets presented to mental health professionals as truth that if we aren’t good at critical thinking we could be putting our patients at risk. I have seen it before, where a therapist tries a “new” approach to treatment that is later discovered to be problematic.
I share this because as I finish up my first month of blogging for this site I realized that as much as I enjoy sharing new research, it is important to note that research is ever changing in the mental health world, and all new ideas and information needs to be approached with caution.
If you needed to see a therapist I would advocate you ask about treatment modalities, especially if specific techniques are being used. For example, sometimes I just let my client talk because that is what they need – I don’t consider that a modality itself. But if I felt that client would benefit from specific forms of cognitive-behavioral therapy I would share specific information about it, so they could look into it further if they wanted. Not all therapists think like I do though. So protect yourself – be a critical thinker when seeking therapy to ensure techniques used are based on actual evidence. It is the only way I would seek therapy.