I’ve been tracking some relatively positive intellectual trends recently, including the emergence of a pro-growth outlook and the attempt by “progressives” to rediscover supply-side economics. (It’s kind of endearing, really, and I want to pat them on the head and say, “You’re trying.”)
But one of the best is not about politics at all, which makes it much more likely that it will actually improve a lot of people’s lives.
The Reverse CBT Hypothesis
This story is partly about the growing influence of “cognitive-behavioral therapy,” acronymized as CBT—a school of psychiatry that seems to have quietly taken over the field in the past few decades. This is very good news because CBT is based on a fundamentally sound idea: that our psychology and our emotions are products of our thinking.
(This is, of course, Objectivism 101, and the connection is more than tangential. Ayn Rand and her student Nathaniel Branden were advocates, and in Branden’s case a practitioner, of an early version of CBT. I wish I could provide a good link for this, but the history on this seems to be not very well-studied.)
The impact of this should not be understated. I am old enough to remember the tail end of the era when Freudian psychoanalysis reigned supreme and the model for psychiatry in the public mind was the Woody Allen type who sat down for psychoanalysis twice a week for his entire life and somehow never became any less neurotic.
At any rate, cognitive-behavioral therapy is now starting to get notice among the commentariat, in part because some of them have used it and found that it works.
For example, Matt Yglesias looks at evidence from Jonathan Haidt about the increasing prevalence of depression among teenagers.