Friday, April 21, 2006

The Self-Help Scam

In the May 2006 issue of The Scientific American, Michael Shermer (publisher of Skeptic magazine) argues that the Self-Help and Actualization Movement (SHAM), an $8.5 billion-a-year business, is a scam. He notes the recent book by Steve Salerno, "SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless (Crown Publishing Group, 2005). There is an eighteen week rule: the most likely customer for a self help book is someone who bought a similar book with the preceeding eighteen months. If the books worked, why would one need further help? A bulletproof shield surrounds SHAM: if your life does not get better, it is your fault, your thoughts were not positive enough. The solution? More of the same self-help. SHAM books market a clever mix of victimization and empowerment. We are all victims of our demonic "inner children" replaying negative tapes. Redemption comes from empowering yourself with the new "life script" offered by the self-help book or by the masters themselves at prices ranging from $500 to $6,000. Unfortunately there is no evidence that any of the SHAM techniques is better than doing something else or even doing nothing (the same problem is faced by virtually all therapies).

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