April 1st, 2010

Recall woes hit psychologists

The big news over the past few months has been the recall of thousands of cars by the world’s largest auto manufacturer. First it was an accelerator problem, and then it was the brakes. Aren’t we psychologists fortunate that this couldn’t happen in our field? Or could it?

Dateline: The Future: In an April 1st bulletin that rocked the world of professional psychology, the American Institute of Behavioral Torque (AIBT) announced the recall of some 30,000 individuals who received Behavioral Torque Therapy in the last five years. Behavioral Torque Therapy, or BTT as it is commonly known in the field, is based on the theory that behavioral and psychological problems result when people are either too loose or too tight.

The concept of torque, borrowed from the world of physics and mechanical engineering, refers to the amount of force needed to dislodge an individual from his fixed position and turn him in the direction that will promote more adaptive functioning. Some individuals need to become looser, freer and more spontaneous, while others benefit from an increase in self-discipline, planning and personal responsibility. In laymen’s terms, tight people need loosening and loose people need tightening.

This month’s shocking recall focuses on a problem with the wording of instructions given to certain consumers of BTT encouraging them to engage in behaviors that are too loose for their own good. The glitch has affected people along the entire spectrum but has been especially troublesome for those who were too loose from the start. While there are occasional reports of accountants abandoning actual numbers for colorful phrases like “a good bit” of income when preparing tax returns, the hardest hit by far have been troubadours, minstrels and poets.

In a recent press conference, Dharma Bumstead, a spokesperson for the American Society of Wandering Performers bemoaned increasing reports of performing artists lapsing into incoherent babble on the stage and put the blame squarely on Behavioral Torque Therapy. Dr. John Goodwrench, AIBT president, accepted responsibility for the faulty distribution of loosening instructions by certain BTT therapists and offered reassurance that a simple fix will soon be available.

Meanwhile, some specialists in the field have expressed concern that the loosening of wandering performers may be an even bigger problem than first thought. “We only know about the meltdowns of individuals who actually got to the theater,” said psychologist Zippy Topsworth, “what about those who never made it that far? For all we know, they might have simply spun off the face of the earth.”

Goodwrench explained that the problem can be corrected easily and psychologists at AIBT headquarters have already written a number of “tightening affirmations” that will be available free of charge to affected consumers in their therapists’ offices. According to Goodwrench, the entire procedure will take no more than 15 minutes. “It’s simply a matter of making an appointment to see your BTT therapist who will give you an index card containing a short sentence or phrase encouraging tighter behavior. Your therapist will tell you how often to read the affirmation to yourself and most people can expect to see positive results in just a few days.”

Already questions are coming in from consumers who have never heard of index cards and critics of beleaguered AIBT are accusing the institute of trying to save money by using obsolete but less expensive twentieth century materials instead of simply tweeting the corrective affirmations. “Sometimes simpler is better,” explained Dr. Goodwrench, who went on to say that the institute did not want to risk further problems as a result of potential software errors.

The big question on everyone’s mind is whether or not it is safe to go about your normal business before you respond to a recall notice. “For most people,” said Goodwrench, “a little extra loosening is certainly not dangerous and can even be quite pleasant when they learn to enjoy the moment.” However, the institute does not deny that for some individuals under certain circumstances, too much loosening can have disastrous consequences.

Perhaps the best known example of unintended loosening is Karl “Buzz” Klipper, a barber from Hungry Horse, Montana who was driven out of town by a mob of angry customers enraged to discover he had been secretly carving graffiti in the hair on the backs of their heads. For these kinds of situations, the institute issued the following emergency instructions. “If you find yourself about to do or say something really stupid, hurtful, or embarrassing, strike yourself smartly in the face while saying, ‘Get a grip!’ Repeat until the impulse passes or you lose consciousness.”

In the final analysis, the decision about whether or not to leave the house until you have had your recall adjustment is a matter of individual conscience. Dr. Goodwrench suggests that, among other factors, you should consider the kind of work you do. “I would not advise neglecting the recall if you are a brain surgeon, a rocket scientist or a diamond cutter. Other professionals, like psychologists and writers, have a bit more leeway but even they shouldn’t push their luck.”

Alan Bodnar, Ph.D. is the Co-Director of Psychology Training at Westborough State Hospital, Mass. and a consultant in the field of leadership development.

 

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

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