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About Quack Child Psychology Assessments and Treatments

Updated on December 16, 2017
Carola Finch profile image

Carola is a mental health advocate and a freelance writer who focuses on mental illness and cognitive conditions..


An Internet search can bring up all kinds of psychological assessment and treatment options for children and adolescents. Parents and caregivers may be bewildered by exaggerated claims of success and wonder what actually works.

Some people want quick solutions to their problems and may feel drawn to unreliable treatments that promise immediate relief.

Parents and caregivers also may not have gotten the satisfactory answers that they needed from medical practitioners about their children or adolescents and are hungry for solutions. Some may be suspicious of the medical profession. Others may be terrified that they will need to label their children with a diagnosis of mental illness and put their kids on powerful drugs. They may be also willing to try other things if they feel that the system has failed them. Unfortunately, mental health disorders are complex and not always easy to diagnose and treat.

Signs that a psychological therapy or assessment is “quack”

  • If it sounds too good to be true and it probably is
  • It provides an overly simple solution to a hard-to-treat mental health disorder
  • The treatment or assessment is extensively marketed and depends heavily on anecdotal evidence, testimonials, and gimmicks instead of proven medical evidence
  • Uses obscure language and invented terms to appear legitimate
  • Treatments or therapies are either untested or ar not substantiated as effective by recognized scientific methods
  • Treatment is usually in sync with current trends in the marketplace
  • It is often promoted by a charismatic “expert”

Current research

So what does work? Researchers at DePaul University set out to find out and conducted a poll in 2014.

Experts such as child psychologists, premier researchers, and editors of books on youth pathology were asked to evaluate 35 assessments and 67 psychological treatments and rated their effectiveness.

The researchers found that past efforts by medical professionals to identify ineffective therapies did not rely on expert consensus. Instead, researchers formed their own opinions or assumed that a consensus existed among mental health professionals. The experts in the DePaul University study were asked to identify and rate pseudoscientific and potentially harmful psychological practices and identified the ineffective practices below.

Strongly discredited mental health assessment methods

A type of numerology that depends on charts and calculations to determine a patient’s emotional and physical well being
Brain Balance
Claims to treat symptoms of learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, and processing disorders through sensory motor training and stimulation, cognitive and academic plans, and dietary guidelines
An ennagram is a drawing with nine lines that is supposedly a mystical gateway to identifying personality types. The enneagram represents nine personality types which vary according to the practitioner. The categories include the boss, giver, mediator, observer, performer, perfectionist, romantic, and trooper. There are various levels with different categories. Some define the types by human weaknesses or sin such as avarice, anger, deceit, envy, epicure, fear, gluttony, lust, sloth. The knowledge of their type is supposed to help patients to increase their understanding of themselves and their empathy for others
Handwriting analysis
Handwriting analysis, also known as graphology or graphoanalysis, is used to analyze personality traits. Graphologists examine characteristics such as letter spacing and orientation, heights, pressure, dotted "i's" and crossed "t's, and slants, believing that these details will reveal a patient’s unconscious mental characteristics. Personality tests place patients in categories based on their fears and desires
The Fairy Tale Test
This test asks patients what fairy take character they think they are and then attributes personality traits to them to them based on the character, i.e. Peter Pan never wants to grow up, indicating immaturity
The Szondi Test
This test was developed in the 1930s by Leopold Szondi as a non-verbal projective personality test. The test classifies human personality in terms of eight drive needs such as love, coarse emotions, hysteric, katatonic, depressive, paranoid, and manic. This theory is complex with many subdivisions and labels.

Other tests such as the Rorschach inkblot personality test were not so harshly rated. The test involves showing a patient ten standard abstract designs and using the patient’s interpretations of the pictures to measure the patient's intellectual function and integration. Experts disagreed about the usefulness of this assessment but it is still being used.

Strongly discredited treatments:

Crystal healing
Practitioners place crystals known as "chakras" on various parts of the body in order to create an "energy grid" that is supposed to create healing energy for the body
Past life regression therapy
The patient is hypnotized and allegedly journeys into the patient's past lives – experts say that there is a high probability that they will experience false memories
Withholding food or water

Many of these assessment and treatment methods are still in use, and experts are concerned that they pose risks to both medical practitioners and patients.

Gerald Koocher, dean of the College of Science and Health at DePaul University says that parents need to ask the right questions such as: “‘What studies have been done to show the effectiveness of this?’ And if someone says to you, ‘Medical science is keeping a lid on this because it’s too powerful and will put them all out of business,’ that’s a strong sign that a treatment is too good to be true.”

© 2014 Carola Finch


Submit a Comment
  • sharetheWord profile image

    Benjamin Maxwell 

    5 years ago from Kingdom of God

    Hi Carola;

    It is my personal belief that society no longer has the desire or the patience to deal with life issues and as a result has sought "quick fix" antidotes that do not heal but rather conveniently mask the behavioral problems through sedative control.

    The advantage of such form of psychological therapy is three fold. First it appears to positively "bandaid" any threat of loss of control. Secondly, the treatment professionals all receive an associate's fee for every drug prescription wrote. And lastly, "Big Pharma" the drug manufacturing corporate giants actually promote the sale of millions of dollars of drugs that stabilize the individual and maintain reasonable functionality of lifestyle - but bigger yet are the major tax dollars that drug manufacturers supply the Government with. Pharmaceutical drugs pump billions into the economy that the Government just cannot refuse.

  • Carola Finch profile imageAUTHOR

    Carola Finch 

    5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for your comment. I got most of my info from a recent study at DePaul University. There is a link to the info at the bottom of the article.

  • Sami Hanson profile image


    5 years ago from Kansas

    Very insightful! I am ALMOST complete with my bachelor's degree in Psychology, and I have taken a lot of classes on abnormal child psychopathology. With any psychology class we are given repeated content on research methods, assessments, treatments, diagnoses, etc.

    That being said, I actually learned things I never even knew existed by reading your hub. Thank you for taking the time to research and write it.


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