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Dr. Joel Block

Hey Doc--I'm back for this final round:

(For those of you who missed the former rounds of this Ali/Smokin’ Joe bout, and if they aren’t accessible here, check with Mark…you don’t want to miss this)--

Our differences, which I believe are not as big as they seem on this forum, are analogous to the debate between those psychologists who favor EBT—Empirically Based Treatment--and those who do not. The empiricists are guided by research and want to standardize treatment for various diagnoses.

Those in opposition wonder whether the contents of our consciousness can be broken down in a meaningful way through research. The critique contends that psychotherapy research is devoid of intuition and emotions. I can see both sides. I don’t think you and I need to replicate this false dichotomy.

Personally, although I do not have the temperament to be a full time researcher, I respect the path your career has taken. Unfortunately, a lot of good work goes unnoticed. Much of the research in our field is not read, and of those few who do read it, fewer are guided by it. I am not “anti-research” in fact, in one of my recent books I have a closing chapter for couples that details “Best Practices”. It was influenced by Dr. John Gottman’s work.

I realize that research in the area of test construction is different. In fact, my doctoral dissertation oh so many years ago was based on using a compatibility method (based on FIRO-B) to compose therapy groups. Without telling you quite how long ago, James, trust me, you were probably crapping your pants back then.

Hint, not only was I defending my compatibility premise in front of a very tough doctoral committee, I was also dealing with one of those draft letters, “Greetings, we’d like you to go to Viet Nam and get your butt shot up…”

Which reminds me—some of the anti-EBT guys argued that research strategies in therapy, especially couple therapy, was analogous to strategies in war—only good until the first shot is fired. Some truth there, but I am not one to volunteer to test the hypothesis.

Now, Doc, you accuse me of evading your questions. Actually, this is posted prominently on the site: ( )
Test Reliability & Validity
4 Key Relationship Factors

In fact, I pasted that in from the site. You will find a full explanation. I’ve addressed the issues that are most important, in detail!—and I also discuss the limitations of compatibility instruments later on the site—after the demo test.

James, I checked the registry of all those who have gone on the site fully and unless you use a pseudonym, you were not on it. Are you sure you went on the site? Yes, I know, a colleague of yours was on the site, Jon Cousins, but he did not agree with the standard NDA and wrote me to that effect. I wrote back immediately and invited him to speak with me—he never called me. Because he would not accept the standard agreement, he was not privy to the demo test—but he could have read the info on test development.


A couple of last points, James. You derided me for “admitting” that nothing is new—or at least that I have not invented something new. Well, I believe the simplicity of my test, ButterfliesAgain, applied to I-dating, is new.

But we were talking more generally. Here’s a really brief take: Dr. Murray Bowen in the ‘50’s was a pioneer in family and couple therapy. Years later we have Dr. David Schnarch tweaking the same approach and making headlines. Dr. Hendrix adds his tweak to an Object Relations approach that was there when he was a child and he makes headlines.

Dr. Albert Ellis, considered to be the most influential living psychologist of the 20th century, dates his cognitive revolution to the influence of Epictetus, 1st century A.D. Dr. Aaron Beck picked up on Al’s work, called it CBT (Al called his REBT) and he also made headlines.

All the big cognitive guys (especially Al, who I had a personal and professional relationship with), agree with my take on “it’s the belief held about differences—whatever they are,” being a major factor in relationships.

My early published research (on delinquency, weight management, smoke cessation) was influenced by 2 year post doc with Dr. Ellis. Along with Dr. Beck, I was one of the keynote speakers at Al’s memorial last summer.

So, no shame in acknowledging that nothing’s really new—whether it is my contributions or some of the headliners. Or yours, for that matter.

James, once again, I have differences with you, but I do respect your views. The thing is, I cannot keep up this dialogue. I live like there is no afterlife. Time is precious—and this is way too consuming. I am not going to reply to your forthcoming excellent reply.

But here’s an offer:

You are on Long Island. So am I! I am in Huntington. Email me ([email protected]) and let’s throw back some pints. There is a bar in Huntington with nearly 50 beers on tap. The crowd contains a couple of schizophrenics (I think), a few professional drunks, and a host of everyday people. My type of crowd.

I’ll buy. If you are coupled, bring your partner. I always bring mine (my 8th wife? No, no the original) and we can continue face-to-face.

Best to you, Joel

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