Health Care

Concerns over columnist’s ‘advice’ on medical, mental health care

By Richard H. Strauss and R. Hallie Strauss

People with medical and mental health care issues deserve treatment options and advice that are up-to-date, safe, evidence-based and compassionate. John Rosemond’s two recent articles provide none of that; instead, they contain false and harmful information and advice.

In the column, “Research on ultrasounds is murky,” published July 10, 2022, Rosemond suggested a link between the increased use of ultrasound in pregnancy and a parallel increase in autism. He wondered, “… do the risks justify bombarding a fetus with high intensity sound waves that several researchers have said might interfere with the proper migration of cells within the developing brain?” That sounded frightening enough (though untrue), yet not being an expert in obstetrics, he went on to say, without attribution to any expert or publication, “In short, advances in medical technology over the past 50 years have largely rendered ultrasounds unnecessary. ”

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On the other hand, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the premier professional membership organization for obstetricians and gynecologists in the United States (with over 60,000 members), stated in 2016, and reaffirmed in 2021: “Ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging are not associated with risk and are the imaging techniques of choice for the pregnant patient, but they should be used prudently and only when use is expected to answer a relevant clinical question or otherwise provide medical benefit to the patient. When used in this manner and with machines that are configured correctly, ultrasound does not pose a risk to the fetus or the pregnancy. … There have been no reports of documented adverse fetal effects for diagnostic ultrasound procedures …” Additionally, there are no peer-reviewed publications definitively linking prenatal ultrasound to autism.

In the more recent column, “Son needs person you both trust for advice,” published Dec. 25, 2022, Rosemond addressed a parent who wrote regarding her 15-year-old son with “… pronounced mental health issues … with multiple anxieties and depression … and painfully shy.” The parent noted Rosemond’s belief that psychological therapy “… is of questionable value,” and so the parent asked what to do in its place. Rosemond proceeded to say, “No psychological therapy has demonstrated reliable efficacy.” Yet many types of psychological therapy, including cognitive behavioral, dialectical behavioral, exposure and response prevention, and psychodynamic talk therapy, have completed research to support their effectiveness.

Research cited in Clinical Psychology Review found large and clinically significant positive effects for cognitive behavior therapy in treating depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, posttraumatic stress disorder, and depression and anxiety in children. Furthermore, the same study found therapy to be more effective than antidepressants in treating depression in adults. Rosemond wrote that patients (whom he called “consumers”) “… rated the effectiveness of those with a Ph.D. no higher than that of people with high school diplomacy.”

The suggestion that therapy with a trained professional is similar to an individual with a high school diploma is blatantly incorrect, and it might deter people who could benefit from therapy from actually doing so. He cited “Independent field research for more than 40 years by yours truly …,” but he added, “My findings are not based on scientific inquiry, which is why I refer to them as ‘field research.’” There are many levels of evidence-based science, the lowest level being, “In my experience/opinion research.” It isn’t research at all; instead, it’s a way of trying to convince others that it’s valid. It isn’t valid, but unfortunately, it is self-serving and misleading.

What was Rosemond’s final message to this parent seeking help for an anxious, depressed and painfully shy 15-year-old? “Your son would probably benefit from having an objective and compassionate third party to whom he can talk openly and from whom he can obtain regular doses of common sense … in the form of a pastor, teacher, shopkeeper, uncle, grandfather, scoutmaster , coach or even next-door-neighbor. Don’t go looking for a professional title.”

Rosemond’s claims are outrageous, dangerous and wrong. A professional therapist is vastly different in his/her training, the obligation to keep information confidential, and the ability to help than those he named, who, though they might be compassionate and kind, have no knowledge of caring for a teenager with potential life -Threatening mental health issues. By the way, if mental health therapy isn’t beneficial for children and teenagers (and people of all ages), would Congress recently have introduced a bipartisan $50 million bill to provide mental health services to children and adolescents?

Many of Rosemond’s columns have the title, “Living with Children,” and he himself has written that his field is child and family psychology, yet he “… stopped talking to children over 30 years ago.” How is it possible that a so-called child psychologist hasn’t seen a child in his practice in over 30 years but continues to provide home-spun advice to families and children in crisis? He uses the pejorative term “babble,” as in “psycho-babble,” “parent-babble” and “adoption-babble,” to dismiss and demean experts (pediatricians, obstetricians and gynecologists, psychologists, and other mental healthcare professionals) and parents while touting his “field research” approach. Equating “… snapping a rubber band against one’s wrist whenever unwanted thoughts occur …” with behavioral modification therapy is simply ignorance.

These two recent columns follow his longstanding pattern of demeaning scientific, medical and mental health experts, the only purpose being to discourage the public’s faith in the practice of medicine and mental health care and to encourage them to listen to non-scientific babble.

There are numerous medical and mental health care experts in this area and across the country practicing up-to-date, safe, evidence-based and compassionate care who could provide useful information about their areas of expertise in The Tribune and other newspapers. Thankfully, Rosemond doesn’t see children in his practice. Parents might think twice as well.

Richard H. Strauss, MD lives in La Crosse and R. Hallie Strauss, Psy. D., in Washington, DC

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