Ivan J. Miller’s Rebuttal to Sharon Begley, Newsweek

Readers of Newsweek may be familiar with a column written by Sharon Begley, who has on numerous occasions extended her editorial opinion, research, and writing ability to the realm of the mental health profession. Notably, Begley wrote in her columns of May 4th, 2009, and October 2nd, 2009, on the themes of adherence to expensive and outdated medicine practiced by doctors and psychologists. The columns, entitled “Why Doctors Hate Science,” and “Ignoring the Evidence,” respectively, unleashed an angry assessment of modern treatment choices and trends in the medical fields, including mental health disciplines, suggesting that widespread rejections of modern advances and methodologies were a sign of disdain for progress and development in the health professional community.

Rebutting these ideas, psychologist and blogger Ivan J. Miller recently published an argument that invites readers to consider the necessity of making comparisons between treatment options and materials within a real-world context, rather than relying on two-dimensional data that often lacks relevant information that professionals use when making decisions. Miller’s rebuttal notes that psychologists, along with other doctors, must take a variety of factors into consideration when treating clients, and are also held to consider the potential for harm through the presence of unattractive side-effects and possible contraindications.

Though there are many areas ripe for improvement within the health professions, including the mental health fields, Miller posits that the basic relationship between health care and science has not been lost, as Begley suggests. Rather, hints Miller, it is a complex coupling with branches that are often below the surface of what statistics-driven records can show. While strong opinions prevail on either side of the debate, the verdict of the public at large has yet to be rendered.


Miller, I. J. (2009). Doctors and psychologists don’t hate science–they treat real patients: a reply to Sharon Begley and Newsweek. Retrieved from http://www.ivanjmiller.com/treatrealpatients_article.html

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jon


    October 14th, 2009 at 9:53 AM

    For a while now there has developed the misconception that doctors from all fields are just in it to make money, in it for themselves, and not looking out for the overall well being of the patient. That is not true. I think that good doctors are constantly on the lookout for the latest science and things that are going to help their patients, and not just the greatest perks that some drug company is willing to offer. To say that they are not up on the latest science or are not interested in learning it tells a sad story about what too many think about practitioners in this noble profession which was once looked upon so highly. There are those who are just in it for themselves but I definitely think that is the minority. Most doctors are kind and caring and will do whatever it takes to help their patients to recieve the best care and to suggest anything otherwise is just wrong.

  • Doyle


    October 14th, 2009 at 10:49 AM

    Although doctors may have a favourable approach towards certain medicines, the whole treatment thing comes down to trust. the trust that the patient has in the doctor… and every medical practitioner must keep this in mind.

  • Jenny


    October 14th, 2009 at 10:59 AM

    I personally think this has to do with certain prejudices that we have in our mind. like we always think politicians are not actually working for us,but are out to fill their own pockets. doctors are an elite group of professionals who are trusted with protecting our lives. and hence,we have our suspicions regarding them. whatever they do, we look upon it with suspicion. i think they are doing a great job in reducing death rates and increasing life expectancy and reducing infant mortality rates globally. i think we should stop pointing fingers at them

  • Donald


    October 14th, 2009 at 3:05 PM

    Although there might be black sheep,I don’t think a lot of doctors are doing such a thing for monetary gain over patient care and also putting their licence on the line for small money…

  • Cate


    October 14th, 2009 at 3:10 PM

    I’m a doctor myself and it saddens me to know of such conspiracy theories that have become the order of the day. Doctors know the value of a human life and would never recommend or do anything without assessing the individual requirements as well as the general ones associated with that disorder.

  • Mark


    October 15th, 2009 at 2:07 AM

    Hmm… maybe not all doctors do such a thing, but a person’s experience with even one,or worse two such doctors will surely lead to him into believing that every doctor does the same and wil virtually kill his trust in the medical fraternity all together.

  • Finlay


    October 15th, 2009 at 10:13 AM

    Real-world context is much more complex and quite often very different from theory findings and theories in general. Although a particular action might be taken in theory, it becomes different in the real world as many more factors come into play and it becomes a lot more complex.

  • Gabriel


    October 15th, 2009 at 10:58 AM

    I think newspaper hacks have too much to say for themselves about the intricacies of medicine. She’s not a doctor. Her bio at Newsweek: newsweek.com/id/32249 says only that she has a BA from Yale. That could be in anything. Interesting that it omits to mention what her degree is in.

  • Donna


    October 16th, 2009 at 9:19 AM

    The media feeds us what they think that we want. maybe the writer needs to take a look here to see that this story is leaving many of us here with a bad taste in our mouths.

  • soldy


    October 16th, 2009 at 1:18 PM

    Does it strike anyone else as weird the way she plugs a doctor’s blog in the last paragraph of the Why Doctors Hate Science article? That information is superfluous. The inclusion of what he said alone would have been sufficient.

    I never trust the words of a person that can’t give a genuine smile to a camera either.

  • Pearl


    October 16th, 2009 at 1:55 PM

    That is strange, soldy. Columns on medicine should be written by medical professionals like Dr Miller who actually do the job and face the challenges of working in modern medicine every day. Being a science columnist doesn’t make you an informed medical expert. Far from it. Dr Miller’s thoughtful rebuttal will win people over more than an angry rant. I know which of them I’d rather sit down for a chat with!

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