Gywneth Paltrow promotes “Psychologist Astrologer” because magic is the new medicine



In her ongoing bid to strip science from health care Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP is featuring a “Psychologist Astrologer,” Dr. Jennifer Reed.

What on earth does a psychologist astrologer do, you ask? Apparently someone who offers “comprehensive birth chart readings that go well beyond character-defining traits to address the way you interact with the world—and how you might be able to ease some of your relationships for a clearer and lighter path forward.”

I work with a psychologist and have great respect for the profession. I am amazed at the amount of training they require and always welcome their insights, so I was a bit astounded that somehow the month or date or hour of birth could be “character-defining” or offer any insight beyond knowing when to wish your patient happy birthday. I was even more surprised that a medical professional would make those claims.

As an OB/GYN I know the stars and planets don’t govern birth so I’m a bit unclear as how the “Sun signs” are anything but a tired intro at the bar. After all the date we are born is determined by when the egg and sperm implant, maternal and fetal health, and a bunch of placental timing stuff that is super complicated and doesn’t involve when Jupiter is retrograde. No article on parturition written after Medieval times has ever mentioned the Sun signs.

I decided to ask a board certified psychologist, Dr. Jason Mihalko, but before he got the the Sun signs he pointed out the following:

It’s worth noting that Freed is a licensed marriage and family therapist in California (first issued 7/6/84; expires 1/30/17). Her California license limits her scope of practice and limits the ways in which she can present herself to the public. Perhaps Goop made an editorial decision to call her a psychologist–.

Dr. Mihalko is correct. I looked up Dr. Freed and she is not a licensed psychologist in California.

And then he added

…it is unethical and in most states illegal to call oneself a psychologist unless one is a licensed psychologist. 

Freed doesn’t actually call herself a psychologist on her own web site, but rather “a licensed psychotherapist and depth oriented astrologer.” She reports she has been “teaching psychological astrology for over 18 years” and the she “provides a magical atmosphere.” So it appears that the editors at GOOP just don’t know there is a difference between a psychologist and a therapist. All psychologists are therapists, but not all therapists are psychologists. But these differences matter and her editors should know better.
What about the Sun signs? I’m just an OB/GYN and obviously a tool of the patriarchy, so what do I know? Are we somehow imprinted with lessons from the universe at our birth? Perhaps it is simplistic to to think that we are just a complex sum of our life experiences, health, environment, and genetics. Could the stars cast mysterious spells on our inner selves and influence how we think and act? Can understanding Sun signs (and of course the sighs of others) really “help you to rise above their patterned noise and connect” to our “higher potential?

This is what Dr. Mihalko had to say:

Sure, it’s fun and interesting to have heuristics and metaphors to understand and describe the human experience. I’m not aware of there being any research, training, or supervision on performing “psychological astrology” in a clinical context. When I made decisions about interventions I use in my practice I generally follow a few guidelines. Is there research that supports this intervention? Have I received training in implementing this intervention? Have I had supervision in implementing this intervention? If my answer is now to any of these three questions, I’m not going to use it as part of my professional practice.

In her promotional materials Freed indicates she has sought out training from professional astrologers. Fine–be an astrologer, and offer it to the public who wishes to pay for astrology, but don’t combine it with a psychotherapy practice under the auspices of a license. I’d be curious how Freed sees “psychological astrology” as part of her scope of practice with her license. I’d also be curious what sort of training and supervision she has had. When I see licensed psychotherapists conflating their personal interests like astrology or herbs with their professional work, I become very worried that patients are not able to make an informed choice about the clinical value of the treatment that they are being offered.

And then there is the fact that science says astrology doesn’t work. In a double-blinded study that was designed with the help of reputable astrologers (and published in Nature) “astrology failed to perform at a level better than chance.”

If you like astrology, great. Entertain yourself, but to insinuate that astrology has any role in medical care is wrong.

It’s sad to see sites with a large readership promote the fallacy that astrology is health care. Dr. Oz got in on this act years ago promoting psychics as the news therapists.

If going to an astrologer makes your feel better (and doesn’t prevent you from addressing your depression or anxiety or other health issue) also great. Feeling better is the goal. But to conflate medical care and astrology is wrong.

Just imagine for a moment if I said I was a “gynecologist astrologer” and used Sun signs to help guide contraception choice? Ridiculous and unethical in my opinion, although I suppose it just might get me featured in GOOP.

Magic and medicine don’t go hand in hand, but then again that never stopped Paltrow and GOOP from promoting a therapy before.

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