Project Straight Ink.com, 2017.
Welcome to an updated and more stable Project Straight Ink website. We are going to kick off 2017 with a post that directly relates to the purpose of this site.
Project Straight Ink promotes discussion of critical thinking about psychological, medical, and spiritual information available to the public through popular media.
My interest in helping people identify the difference between scientific-evidence-based health information from non-evidence-based information came from two places. The first was my personal experience in a non-evidence based treatment center and the second was from my education in learning how and why places like this exist.
More specifically, one of my psychology professors introduced me to a book, How to Think Straight About Psychology, by Keith E. Stanovich, Professor Emeritus of Applied Psychology and Human Development, University of Toronto. This book provided the answers I was looking for and made me realize how easy it was for even highly educated people to fall for non-evidence-based solutions to, what they think are, overwhelming problems.
Thinking Straight About Our Well-Being
I have to admit when I first saw the title, I was taken by surprise. The last time someone told me to ‘think straight’ or use ‘straight thinking,’ was when I was involuntarily enrolled in that non-evidence-based (and honestly, cult-like) treatment program called Straight, Incorporated. ‘Straight thinking’ in the program described someone who had sufficiently bought into the program’s way of thinking and had been converted into a true believer in the culture and philosophies that Straight, Inc. had created.
Because the title seemed to be a double entendre to me, I was intrigued, yet approached the book cautiously. However, as soon as I began to read the text, I knew immediately this was the opposite of the “straight-thinking” I was taught in my early teen years.
Right in the preface of the book, Stanovich explains that even though “Bookstores contain large sections full of titles dealing with psychology. Televisions and radio talk shows regularly feature psychological topics. Magazine articles quote people called psychologists talking about a variety of topics…the field of psychology is unknown.
Despite much seeming media attention, the discipline of psychology remains for the most part hidden from the public. The transfer of “psychological” knowledge that is taking place via the media is largely an illusion. Few people are aware that the majority of the books they see in the psychology sections of many bookstores are written by individuals with absolutely no standing in the psychological community. Few are aware that many of the people to whom television applies the label psychologist would not be considered so by the American Psychological Association or the Association for Psychological Science. Few are aware that many of the most visible psychological “experts” have contributed no information to the fund of knowledge in the discipline of psychology.” [Stanovich, K. E. (2013). How to think straight about psychology. Boston, MA: Pearson. Preface, pg. xi]
Before I ever realized that there were psychological services based on scientific evidence versus fake therapeutic services, my personal experience as a newly turned fifteen-year-old in a non-evidence-based treatment center called Straight, Inc., had me instinctively questioning what kind of treatment centers operated like this one did. Nothing about their methods seemed legitimate from the first moment I unwittingly stepped into their building.
A few months before I arrived on their doorstep my parents attended a PTA meeting at my high school. During this particular session, there was a Fairfax County parent and teen who were already a part of Straight, Inc. (located in St. Petersburg, Florida) speaking before the parents of Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, County, Virginia. The ‘Straight Parent’ described what chemical dependency was and presented what seemed like a scientific explanation of the ‘disease’ of adolescent drug use, complete with charts, graphs, and a clean-cut, handsome teenager who had recently completed the program. The ‘Straight Teen’ told the room full of parents about his sordid past and how Straight, Inc. had saved his life. It was an impressive presentation and quite an endorsement from both the parent and the child, as these presentations usually were since they were given by people who had been indoctrinated into the program’s ways.
A flyer was handed out to the parents after the presentation. The short introduction stapled to the top of the flyer had this written on it.
My name is Pxxx Fxxxxxxx, and I have two students at Robinson. In the last year, I have seen a need for a support group for parents. Our children have their support groups and sometimes as parents, we feel overwhelmed by the raising of teenagers. Let’s unite and give each other support.
(handwritten signature here)
The legal-sized mimeographed flyer was handwritten by the same person who signed the introductory letter attached. The following questions were written on the flyer:
Are you worried about the effects of pot and alcohol on teenagers? Do you feel a sense of powerlessness as a parent? Would you like to meet with the parents of your teenager’s friends to share experiences and strength? Are you interested in joining the fight against drug and alcohol abuse among teenagers in our community? Are you concerned about the effects of peer pressure on your teenager? Would you like to learn more effective adolescent parenting skills? If so, meet with PARENTS WHO CARE — Robinson High School. Tuesday: April 13, 1982. Home Ec Living Room Area. 7:30 – 9:00 pm.
We need to join with the school and communities we live in to fight drugs & alcohol!
Clearly, my parents decided to attend the April 13, 1982 meeting as evidenced by another document with the heading Fairfax County PARENTS WHO CARE which was apparently handed out at the meeting.
It describes PARENTS WHO CARE as a county network of parent group members which acts as a clearinghouse of information, coordinates efforts of all groups working on substance abuse, and conducts programs and workshops for the public. It is supported by Fairfax County Schools and the County Council of PTAs.
It explained that there were local support groups including TOUGHLOVE, National Federation of Parents (NFP), Mothers Against Drunk Driver and Students Against Drunk Drivers (MADD & SADD), the Fairfax County and Falls Church Community Services Board and listed related upcoming events. On the back of the paper, there were two columns; one was called Getting Help, and the other Community Services. Under Getting Help was and article explaining how to seek help for an alcohol or drug abusing adolescent and a second article listed seven characteristics to look for in a program. Under Community Services was a list of places such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Second Genisis, and of course Straight, Inc.
Straight Inc. was the Magic Solution for All Teen Problems
Straight, Inc. was a non-profit business that claimed that drugs were the basis for all adolescent problems. They billed themselves as a long-term, private, non-profit rehab program for adolescents ages 12-21 years located in St. Petersburg, Florida. Straight, Inc. even managed to gain endorsements of United States presidents and top addiction physicians. But they also received widespread condemnation from former clients, local government officials and adverse court judgments. More often than not CONTROVERSIAL was the term used to describe this drug program. I think they embraced that term because it is what brought them so much free advertisement through media outlets.
So, why was it so controversial? It was controversial because its methods were at best questionable, and not based on any kind of science at all. You can argue opinions all you want and many people had opinions about Straight, Inc. Some believed the program had saved their families; other thought it destroyed their families, and each side believed as fervently as the other. But opinions were all that existed because there was no scientific research to support their methods. If there had been science, there would have been little to no controversy because the scientific evidence and statistics would have supported using the methods Straight, Inc. used.
Some may argue, that Straight, Inc. did quote statistics, and it is true, they did cite statistics, but upon further investigation, we found that the statistics used were pulled out of thin air. Was there any scientific research conducted? Sure, there was some ‘research’ carried out within the program, but it was far from being scientific, and absolutely did not adhere to ethical standards. Illegitimate services like Straight, Inc. are prominently in existence today and can present some real dangers.
How to determine the difference between legitimate and illegitimate health and well-being services is the issue that this website intends to address.