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Notes to Psychology Students or Those Thinking of Studying Psychology in a University

The data is there. It is written in red. It is written with the blood of those who cut. S. Hein

People with a high need for feeedom don't become university professors. S. Hein

If you are thinking about studying psychology, or are currently studying it, and you really want to help people, especially teens, please read the following notes.


Making Money with Psychology Degrees - A university professor encourages students to think about making money.

Psychologists vs. hugs

Bruce Levine

Conversation with psychology student in Australia

A comparison between a 14 year old and a "professional psychologist"

Pictures from the college entrance exam for psychology students in Lima, Peru

Journal notes from March 17, 2005 xx mar17_05.htm

Some journal notes from New Zealand, 2003

Email from a psychology student in Australia

Example of course objectives from a Theories of Personality psych. class


The Goal of Psychology, according to one professor

Psychologists Lack Empathy? See article on this page



Here is some of my original writing about psychology programs.

In my experience, there are two main reasons young people are interested in studying psychology. 1) Because they want to help people. 2) They want to learn about their own families.

What is very, very sad to me is that by the time someone finishes a psychology program in a typical university, they have learned very little about either one of these. Nor have they learned much about themselves or their own unmet emotional needs. Instead they learn lots of theories, and even more sadly, a lot about statistics. (See note below about statistics).

To this I will add that the majority of teenagers who write to us at EQI.org usually do not like to talk to psychologists. They often lie to them. The psychologist or school counselor will say "How was everything at home this week? And the teen will say "fine". Then they will ask "How were things at school?". Again the teen will say "fine". The psychologist might say, "Did you self-harm during the week?", and the teen will probably say no, even if they have. That is because the teens are smart. They are emotionally intelligent. They are fast learners. They have learned that it is dangerous for them to tell the truth. They have learned it will cause more problems for them at home.

Because of this and other reasons, many well-intentioned psychologists may not have a good understanding of what is actually happening in the homes and classrooms which make up the environment for the self-harming, depressed and suicidal teens. Psychology students are trained to analyze data, and information about a self-harming teenager's feelings is data, but if the teens don't report it, disclose it or share it, then the psychologist will not obtain the correct data, and therefore he or she may come to the wrong conclusions.

But the data is there. It is written in red. It is written with the blood of those who cut. Yet this blood is also hidden from many professional mental health workers and academic researchers. This is one reason we have called our book, "Letters from the Unloved - The hidden world of teen depression."

Another problem with psychologists (and psychiatrists) is that they will typically recommend drugs to a teenager without also doing enough to change the conditions in which the teen is trying to live. They don't focus sufficiently on the lack of emotional support from which the teen typically suffers. Specifically, they don't talk about such things as invalidation, emotional abuse, or emotionally abusive mothers which all contribute to the teen's emotional pain and feeling alone and hopeless.

Obviously, for many jobs in life, a degree in psychology is now a requirement. If you choose to study psychology, we ask that you keep in mind the data that we are collecting here at EQI.org. We are happy to share our findings with anyone interested in helping teenagers or others who are depressed, self-harming or suicidal. We are also willing to provide you with practical, hands-on training through working directly with the teenagers who are in our online support group. If you are interested in learning more about this training, please contact us.

S. Hein

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Psychology Programs and Statistics - One example

Statistics have a place in the world, but I believe there is too much emphasis on statistics in psychology programs. If you are not good with numbers, it might be hard for you to pass all of your courses. But being good with numbers is not essential to being a good listener or to caring about someone.

Here is an example of how psychology students are trained to think and talk. It is from Jack Mayer and David Caruso's paper on emotional intelligence tests

Reliability of the MSCEIT V2.0

The MSCEIT has two sets of reliabilities depending upon whether a general or expert scoring criterion is employed. That is because reliability analyses are based on participants’ scored responses at the item-level, and scores at the item-level vary depending upon whether responses are compared against the general or expert criterion. The MSCEIT full-test split-half reliability is r(1985) = .93 for general and .91 for expert consensus scoring. The two Experiencing and Strategic Area score reliabilities are r(1998) = .90 and .90, and r(2003) = .88 and .86 for general and expert scoring, respectively. The four branch scores of Perceiving, Facilitating, Understanding, and Managing range between r(2004-2028) = .76 to .91 for both types of reliabilities (see Table 1). The individual task reliabilities ranged from a low of " (2004-2111) = .55 to a high of .88.


Correlational and Factorial Structure of the MSCEIT V2.0

As seen in Table 2, all tasks were positively intercorrelated using both general (reported below the diagonal) and expert consensus scoring (above the diagonal). The intercorrelations among tasks ranged from r(1995-2111) = .17 to .59, p’s < .01, but with many correlations in the mid .30’s.

In my specific experience with psychologists and psychology professors from countries such as the USA, England, Germany, Australia, Ecuador, the Czech Republic I have seen that they are often full of their own problems and unaware of their own emotions. Many have been unable to tell me how they feel and could only tell me what they think. Or in some cases they only have a very limited emotional vocabulary, even if their native language is English, or they are too insecure to say how they really feel.

Many are not are not good with children or teenagers. Many would not feel comfortable offering a hug to a crying child or teenager in their office. I suspect the majority would say it is unprofessional or unethical or too dangerous.

Journal Writing from 2005

Last night I went to the main plaza here in Jaen, Peru, around ten at night. A 10 year old girl named Maria came up to me and wanted me to go over the numbers from 1 to 10 again in English. So we practiced counting. Then about 8 kids, all who come from very, very poor homes ran up to join us. They were all wanting to practice with me, probably more just for the attention that they don't get at home. But in any case there were so many of them that they actually formed a line, just to have a chance to repeat the numbers from one to ten.

So if you want to help people, you can do it easily by going to South America, or Africa, or Indonesia, Thailand or Cambodia. There are lots of places you can go and lots of things you can do instead of going directly to a university where you will spend more time studying for tests than working directly with children or teenagers. Over and over I have met university students who liked my ideas and wanted to help me but they tell me "I have to study. I have a test" or "I have to write a paper."


Last night, besides teaching the kids English, I was also picking them up and throwing them up in the air and catching them. They were standing in line for this, too. They kept wanting me to pick them up and toss them in the air over and over. I didn't learn to do this in any of my classes at school.

Here is a picture of some of the kids I saw again later at night.

If you want to help kids, you can do it right away. You don't need a degree to make a difference to a child.

I suggest you also read about David Caruso. For example, read this link about his ideas on the roots of terrorism and his reaction to my writing about what he said. Read about how he used to be an anti-war protestor and then became a marketing manager in a big company. Then he started designing tests and started working more with numbers than with children or teenagers.

S. Hein
January 24, 2005
Jaen, Peru

An Example from Australia

Once I was in Australia and about six counseling students wanted to help me with online counseling for suicidal teenagers. So I had a meeting the next night to tell them how I did it. Only two of them came. They said the others had to study. The two who came said they couldn't stay long either. Then I asked them a question. I asked them what their professor, (their counseling professor - someone who is supposedly interested in teaching them to be good future counselors and teaching them to help people) would say if they told her that they didn't finish their paper or study for the test because they had been up late listening to a suicidal teenager.

What do you think they said?

If you think they said something like "She would probably say 'That is a really good thing you did. How did it go? Tell me more about it', then you are probably not a counseling student or a psychology student in a university. You are probably a high school student who has an idealistic, and false, impression of what it is like to study psychology or counseling.

If you said, "The professor would probably tell us that is no excuse and would probably not even believe us, or say we aren't qualified", then you are probably a university student or university graduate and you know what it is really like.

The students I asked this question of gave me the second answer.

Sadly I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that a teenager's life is not as important to many psychology professors as the student's grade is. And this prioritization in values gets passed directly down to the students, many of whom would put a teen's life ahead of their own grades if grades were not so highly valued by the university and society.

This is the reality, as I have seen it, in universities around the world.

Journal Notes - New Zealand, 2003

8:30 - Talked to a psychology student today. She said her 12 year old brother was ADHD and is on Ritalin. I asked her what she meant by "ADHD". She said he is "naughty." I asked what she meant by naughty. She smiled a little defensively and said, "He won't listen." She also said, "You tell him to stop it and he won't." I made a mental note how she was confusing listening and obeying as I discuss on my listening page, but I didn't say this because I didn't want her to feel even more defensive. I also asked if she thought there was really something wrong with him chemically and she said yes. Then I asked why she thought he should listen to her. She said, "Because I am his big sister."

As I left, I couldn't help but wonder how much her psychology courses were helping her.

Steve Hein
Wellington, New Zealand
April 30, 2003


Notes - Her reply that he should listen to her (ie obey her, because she is his big sister reminds me of intelligent and not so intelligent answers)

She also told me he is the youngest of four kids. Her parents are divorced. She also told me he is very popular at school and likes to talk all the time.

And she said she knew of lot of people that had committed suicide.

Convo with psych student in Australia (From 2003)

This was with someone who was taking master's level courses so she could get an extra title and make more money. She was already working as a counselor in a psych clinic. She was about 22 years old.

We started talking about eating disorders which she said they worked with at the clinic.

I asked her, "Where do you think the disorders come from?"

She crossed her arms, started getting red in the face... She laughed, smiled nervously. Then said, "A lot of places. Sometimes it just comes out of nowhere. Sometimes they develop starvation syndrome."

I asked, "What is that exactly?"

She laughed nervously again - "I don't know specifically...I really couldn't say."

I asked, "Do you see any patterns in the families they come from?"

She answered, "We don't really ask them about their families."

Then she added, "For those with anorexia, we have them eat with us and show them they won't gain ten kilos like they think the will." Then she laughed mockingly, showing how irrational they are, and insensitive and invalidating she is. Then she said judgmentally "They run their parents instead of the other way around. Their parents can't make them eat."

I think, "So you want parents to force their kids to eat? Do you think this will help fill their emotional needs?" They probably have the "eating disorder" because their parents are too controlling already. Food is one thing they have some control over.

Then I asked her, "Why are you getting your advanced degree?"

She answered, "To make more money."

Next I asked, "What courses are you taking?"

She replied, "I don't know. I am just here for two weeks. The rest is correspondence."


This took place in the cafeteria at Charles Stuart University in Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia

Psychologists vs. Hugs

Katy is a single mother in her twenties who has tried to kill herself. When I first met her she told me that she feels suicidal because she feels so alone. She has seen several psychologists.

The other day I asked her if her psychologists had ever given her a hug. She said no. I also asked if she felt more alone, less alone or the same after she talked to them and she said she felt less alone. Then I asked, "Would you feel less alone by talking to a psychologist or by getting a hug from someone?"

She said, "Getting a hug."

I also asked if she thought they would cry if she killed herself.

She said, "No."

S. Hein
Chiclayo, Peru
March 31, 2005

Email from Psych Student in Australia

Hi Steve,

I've been through a lot of your website and in particular, I just read through
your advice on university studies. It really brought home to me the importance
of keeping a focus on what really matters. I'm currently doing a statistics
assignment, which definitely does not help me learn better how to relate to
people or help them.

Example of course objectives from a Theories of Personality psych. class


1)   To interest students in the various theories of personality.
2)   To introduce students to the basic assumptions and concepts of each major theory.
3)   To help students learn to apply these theoretical concepts to their personal life.


1)   To help students develop critical skills in analyzing theories
2)   To introduce students to the methods used in studying personality.
3)   To continue to practice the library and internet research skills learned previously.
4)   To continue learning and practising the use of American Psychology Association (APA) writing and referencing style.

This is from Janet Waters' class at Capilano College in British Columbia, Canada. It is course number Psychology 220. The only prerequisite is Psych 100. So this means that it is possible that this would be the only the second course a new psych student would take in the psych department.

Notice how the first objective is to "Interest students in various theories of personality" I believe it would be more helpful to interest the students in people and children, rather than in theories. This is, in a nutshell, one of the major problems with studying psychology. You start out being interested in people, then when you leave somehow you have lost much of this initial interest.

Also, notice all the instructional objectives. "develop critical skills in analyzing theories"; "methods used in studying personality", "continue to practice the library and internet research skills learned previously"; "continue learning and practising the use of American Psychology Association (APA) writing and referencing style".

I don't see how any of these are going to make a person a better listener. And I can't really see how it is necessary to show 19 and 20 year olds how to use the library and Internet to do research. If they did have any problems about this, it seems they could to go the library reference department. There they could ask some questions, get some help and not have to worry about being tested on what the librarian tells them. Instead of worrying about being tested, they could concentrate a little more on their research and even on actually helping someone, like a friend who is having relationship problems. And notice that the teacher says "continue" to practice..." This suggests they were already taught on, and tested on, how to do this in their very first psychology class at the university.

And then look at the last one on the list. Again it says "continue", implying this was already covered. But look at what she is talking about: Writing papers using the APA writing and referencing style. How is this going to make you a better friend, a better listener, a more caring or compassionate person? Here is what I have to say about the APA and its guidelines, by the way.



The Goal of Psychology, According to One Professor

"Psychology tries to understand human behaviors and mental processes through research." (Source below)

To me, this means: If you want to do research, go to a university and study psychology. But if you want to help people more directly, there are other things to do instead. Unfortunately, these "other things" are not well known or well developed in most countries I have visited. But they do exist. Volunteer programs for example. In my own case I volunteered for a suicide prevention hotline and received a lot of very practical training which has helped me help people ever since then.



Source - From the Psychology 101 course description page of professor Cara Zaskow. -- merlin.capcollege.bc.ca


For a while there was a psychology student from Australia helping me with the teens. I will call her Loreta. Then one day she wrote to me and said something like "How dare you put my name on your site? I am furious. I told you I don't want my name on your site in any way, shape or form."

Here is what I had written:

Loreta is a psychology student in Australia. She was self harming earlier in life but now is living with her boyfriend and wants to help other teens. She has been a big help to me and the teens. She understands how the parents are causing many of the problems which the teens have.

Note that I didn't use her last name. I didn't say which city she was in or which university. All I said was what I have above. Yet she was still so insecure that she wrote me and said she was "furious."

Now I feel even more disillusioned with the psychology programs. They aren't teaching their students how to express feelings any better than this. To me it should be one of the first classes. Yet, I am pretty sure that Loreta will never learn as much about expressing feelings as she could have learned just from reading this site. And I am also pretty sure she will never learn as much about herself and her own insecurities, fears and emotional needs, including the unmet ones. I also feel sad that she is the only psychology student who has ever helped me with the teens.

Now I am afraid to work with her. I am afraid to introduce her to teens. If she could react with this much hostility over what I had written about her, she is simply too dangerous for this kind of work.

When I first started chatting with Loreta I had some worries and fears about her. But I gave her the benefit of the doubt. After she wrote me, I replied and apologized. I told her I removed her first name. She never wrote back to me. Maybe she felt bad about the email she sent. Maybe she felt ashamed or embarrassed about it. Maybe she just felt too insecure and afraid someone in her university would find out what she was doing and disapprove - although I'm not totally sure why they would.

I don't know how she feels, but I wish her good luck in any case. There is something else which I may write more about some day. It was a letter she wrote to me about the MSCEIT test. It sounded like she was already a psychologist. She didn't sound like a teenager. And she sounded like she was afraid one of her "superiors" (as she called her professors) would figure out that she had written the letter one day and punish her.

She didn't even have her name on that letter either. I feel really sad about it all. Yet I also feel somewhat affirmed. It shows me again that psychology programs attract people with emotional problems but they don't help the people with their own personal issues. And they sometimes de-sensitize sensitive people and flatten their emotional range. Speaking from experience, they also do little to help the students with their personal insecurities.

It reminds me of my belief that people who are called "psychologists" are often just people with their own problems, pretty much like the rest of us.

I apologize to Loreta in advance because I know she will probably read this and feel personally attacked.

S. Hein
Sept 18, 2005


Example of Academic page about emotions

from http://emotion.nsma.arizona.edu/Emotion/EmoRes/Psych/CogExp/Behav.html

Behaviorist Theories
Emotions play no adaptive role but rather represent a learned response, acquired through classical and operant conditioning.

The focus of behaviorist theories is learning. Emotions, to the extent that they are of interest at all, are considered to be another form of learned behavior, acquired through classical or operant conditioning, and not requiring cognitive involvement. Observable emotional behavior, such as sweating, rapid heart beat, or blushing, can become associated with a stimulus through operant conditioning; i.e., seeing a dangerous stimulus may cause us to run, which increases the heartbeat, and eventually seeing the stimulus may be adequate to increase the heartbeat without the running behavior. Emotions are considered epiphenomanal, are not thought to be involved in motivation of behavior, and in any case cannot be the object of serious study because they are largely unobservable. More recent behaviorist theories take a broader view and acknowledge that emotional responses are in part instinctive and may have an adaptive value. These theorists view emotions as drives, linked to results of goal-directed behavior (Mowrer, 1960); basic drives are: fear, hope, relief, and disappointment, each linked to specific situations.

Here is a list of academic links about emotions

philosophyofmind.net/ -- link down as of July 2012

I checked to see if the word "abuse" was found anywhere on the page. It wasn't.


not linked in yet

Here is something I wrote in my journal in 2003

By the way, if you are a student and you really want to help teenagers, I would say one of the worst things you could possibly do is get a university "education." You will be taught about every "disorder" under the sun -- except EIPD -- and you will be told that intelligent, sensitive children and teenagers have a "chemical imbalance." You won't be helping them one bit if you believe this. The professors and their textbooks will make it sound very convincing. But start to ask them questions about their beliefs about parenting, and about how their own children are doing, and you will find, I suspect, that they get defensive very, very quickly. Start asking them to use feeling words. Start showing them some of the things on this site. Watch their reactions. Ask them if they would rather have you spend all night trying to help a suicidal teen or spend the same amount of time working on one of the academic assignments they have given you. Ask them when the last time was they actually talked to a suicidal teen. Or better yet, actually listened to one without trying to analyze and label them. Then ask if you can talk to some of the people they have helped, or tried to at least. Find out how much this person really felt helped and understood by them.