I know how hard it is to do MOL
Therapy with a passive, nonengaged adult person. With a child person who
doesn’t talk, I think it is pretty impossible. Bill, do you recall the
case of Brian?
[From Bill Powers (2009.02.17.0831 MST)]
David Goldstein (2009.02.16.23:55
Sure. I was on the phone with him for about 10 minutes, wasn’t I? Pretty
hard to do anything but verbal communication over the phone.
The literature is pointing to
anxiety as the condition which ‘not talking’ may be
Anxiety is not a “condition” all by itself. It’s quite likely a
consequence of conflict, but who knows? Wouldn’t you want to get the
person to explore what is behind the anxiety? Anxiety is a word for how
you feel when you have problems. It’s not something that happens
independently of everything else. When the problems are solved you won’t
be anxious about them any more, but if you just stop feeling anxious (say
by taking a pill), the problems won’t go away.
In my first session, I
received the distinct impression that fear was playing a role. I was
thinking of doing some relaxation exerices with the little girl and her
mother. I will start with some simple breathing exercises and then
skeletal muscle relaxation exercises. I will show and tell the mother and
let her coach the little girl.
I really don’t like this approach to psychological problems one little
bit. If someone is anxious or afraid, can you solve that problem by
trying to make the person appear not anxious or afraid? Are anxiety and
fear things you just catch like measles, and when they go away the
problem is solved? What happens to whatever the person is anxious
about? Does that go away just because you get the person to relax?
What if the mother has been telling this little girl about the horrible
consequences of speaking to strangers who try to get her to talk? Is
getting the girl to relax going to fix that?
I was also thinking of having the
mother and the little girl play some kind of simple card game while I
watched and commented. This might tell me about the girl’s understsanding
of numbers and cooperative play. The note from the school said that the
little girl would look at other children to find out what to do after the
teacher gave an instruction.
How about having some private individual sessions with the mother and
teaching her how to do MOL with her daughter? There wouldn’t be any
“mutism” then, would there? One thing people who learn MOL say
is that it teaches them a lot about themselves and how to get along with
other people. And that it also shows them how to help other people.
I was also thinking of having the
mother read a children’s book to the little girl. Maybe the little girl
will be willing to particpate in some kind of
I thought of that, too. I’d say to the little girl, “Would you like
me to read to you out of that storybook? Just nod or shake your head
(showing her) – you don’t need to talk.” And then I’d read to her,
and see what happens. If she nods or shakes her head, communication is
established, isn’t it? Then you could ask things like, “Are you
afraid of something?” or even “Do you want me to stop talking
As to what conventional psychologists have to say in the literature, I
have little respect for it, because it’s based on an entirely wrong
understanding of how people are organized and how they work. That is a
tremendous handicap, and I’d help them get over it if I could, but I
don’t really think that they would want me to. They know nothing about
PCT and all that it implies, so they don’t even realize how far from
reality their theories are. They’re doing their best and they think it’s
the best that can be done. We can’t blame them for that; it’s what we all
do. But it’s a pity, both for the psychologists and for the people they
try their best to help. It 's a good thing that so many people can
reorganize successfully even when little is done to make it easier or
You understand PCT; how can you know so much about control theory, and
have known it for so long, and still think there is anything salvageable
in conventional psychology? Remember Priestley, discoverer of oxygen,
proclaiming on his deathbed that phlogiston was the true explanation of
combustion. What a waste of a talented life, how sad that he should die
without ever knowing that phlogiston was a figment of the imagination,
like anxiety or intelligence!
I wish there were some way I could persuade psychologists to learn the
PCT way of understanding behavior. When I first started thinking about
control systems as a model of human organization, following Wiener, I
naively thought that all I had to do was tell psychologists about it, and
they would immediately see how superior this new idea was to all the old
stuff about stimuli, responses, habits, instincts, traits, and what we
now call “disorders.” The new ideas made all those things they
were teaching in undergraduate psychology sound like something out of a
schoolbook from the Dark Ages – quaint, like the engineering concepts of
that time, but hardly worth paying much attention to any more. Boy, was I
What I forgot about, or maybe never knew, was how fiercely people will
defend their way of doing and understanding things, not really caring
whether they are right or wrong but just not wanting to think they had
been misled or fooled – and that they had cooperated so sincerely in
letting that happen.
I try, most of the time, just to accept that people are as they are, and
accept that this is where we have to start every day. But sometimes it
does get frustrating to see how slowly changes really happen.
I am not really sure how much this
little girl understands. It might be worthwhile to see if she would take
the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. In this test, a person is shown four
pictures on the same page. The tester says something like: Where is X?
Show me X. If this little girl is willing to, can, cooperate with
this task, I would get some idea of her vocabulary and understanding of
pictures. Just watching the video the mother provides might provide the
same or better information .
The point about not pressuring the
little girl to talk is a good one. I was thinking about talking to the
mother about things while the little girls was present. My experience is
that children who are noncommunicative will sometimes pipe in.
Martin, thanks for clarifying why
you don’t think that LPT has much to offer in this case.
And thanks again to the CSG
listmates for your comments.
I have only seen this little girl
for one session and don’t have much more to say at this point.
From: Richard Marken
Sent: Monday, February 16, 2009 11:45 AM
Subject: Re: Kid who doesn’t talk
[From Rick Marken (2009.02.16.0845)]
Bill Powers (2009.02.16.0938 MST)–
I have looked up some articles about it on the American
Psychological Association website. The consensus seems to be that it is
an anxiety disorder condition and that behavioral therapy methods work
Do you agree with that diagnosis and proposal for treatment? Did the
articles say that behavioral therapy (if you want to eat, start talking)
works better than MOL?
I’d like to know, too, David.
The PCT approach would be to
find the controlled variable(s) that this little girl is controlling by
means of her not talking.
I don’t think so. That would be useful to an experimenter trying to
validate PCT, but how would the therapist’s knowing that what the little
girl is controlling help her to reorganize?
Again, I completely agree. What’s up, David?
I would recommend MOL therapy
Me too. Actually, your first comment on this seemed to me to be right
----- Original Message -----
on target. You said:
How about just acting things out nonverbally with her for a while,
for fun, and stopping all the fuss about her not talking?
I would say “Yes, for that dear girl’s sake just lighten
Richard S. Marken PhD
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