Autism Spectrum — Tony Humphreys, Clinical Psychologist, Blames the Parents

As far as I know, psychology training doesn’t include any of the hard sciences, like chemistry, physics, biochemistry, or even their extensions such as physiology and anatomy.

Am I right in believing that?  I think I am, but I’m open to correction.  Certainly, when I was a lad, psychology was one of those courses they slipped in under Arts, which meant that you didn’t have to work quite as hard as the guys doing medicine or engineering, and you could go out to get pissed and laid more often, but you had to put in a bit more effort than someone who was doing English.  That guy turned up for three lectures a week and spent the rest of his time stoned, while you had to attend maybe two hours every single day, but at least you got your psychology degree.

Now, I’m not for a second suggesting that Doctor Tony Humphreys ever got drunk or laid.  Far from it.  As a former cleric, I’m sure he stuck closely to his vows, and there’s no doubt that he was a hard worker, as evidenced by all the self-help books he’s written, although I’ve had difficulty tracking down any peer-reviewed scientific papers authored by him.  If they’re on his website, I haven’t been able to find them.

Unfortunately, Tony seems to have fallen victim to his own self-belief, which is hardly surprising when you happen to be the default guru called on by RTE whenever they need an expert on the human mind, and he has started to pronounce on things he has no qualifications in, which is remarkable for a man who feels competent to comment on all manner of human foibles.   Maybe it would be no harm if Tony took his own hubris and used it as a case study.  He could write a book about it:  The Pundit Delusion.

I’m not a psychologist, so I’m sure Tony would forgive me for using the term God Complex loosely.  I have no precise idea what it means, but Tony strikes me as the sort of fella you might meet in a pub, who once learned a bit about something and never lets you forget it.

Here he is again, in the Irish Examiner, talking about autism.  Now bear in mind that this is a man with no obvious training in medicine, physiology, chemistry, biochemistry or any other fundamental science.  Needless to mention, if Tony contacts me and lets me know his qualifications in these areas, I’ll be delighted to correct the error, but he doesn’t claim such knowledge.  However, even if he does possess such qualifications, his article in the  Examiner is evidence that he wasn’t paying much attention in class.

Tony has a PhD in something or other, which is quite a hard thing to achieve.  It involves a lot of drudgery, but once obtained, it can have a very damaging effect on the psyche, creating delusions of omniscience.  And while I’m no psychologist, I fear  this is what has happened to Tony Humphreys as he pontificates about the causes of autism.  The sorry bit is that someone who was given a PhD by an Irish institution seems so detached from the basic principles of clear thinking, and even sorrier is the fact that this man has written many self-help books relied on by vulnerable people to try and fix their lives.

I don’t know if there’s any connection, but it’s interesting that Tony claims theology as one of his areas of expertise.  Theology is fundamentally concerned with belief as opposed to evidence, and I must say that I’d be alarmed if I found myself confronted by a consulting clinical psychologist and discovered that his practice was informed by an adherence to unproven beliefs, which is what theology is.

Speaking solely for myself, if I discovered such a thing, I’d run a mile.  I’d run ten miles, until  I found a therapist motivated purely by scientific detachment.  Why do I mention this?  Because the denunciation of parents in the article of Tony Humphreys has a smell of clericalism about it.  This article sounds a lot like the sort of judgemental nonsense we heard from priests and bishops over many years.  Maybe they haven’t gone away.

I’m going to quote the article in its entirety and  interject comments as we go along, to highlight what I find silly or objectionable.

A team of researchers at Cambridge University is currently exploring the connection between high-achieving parents, such as engineers, scientists and computer programmers and the development of their children. Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, who is the director of the Autism Research Centre at the university, says there are indications that adults who have careers in areas of science and math are more likely to have autistic children.

In studies in 1997 and 2001 it was found that the children and grandchildren of engineers were more likely to be autistic and that mathematicians had higher rates of autism than other professions. What is shocking is that Dr Baron-Cohen and the team of researchers are one: assuming that autism is a scientific fact and, two: missing the glaringly obvious fact that if the adults they researched live predominanently in their heads and possess few or no heart qualities, their children will need to find some way of defending themselves against the absence of expressed love and affection and emotional receptivity.

After all, the deepest need of every child is to be unconditionally loved and the absence of it results in children shutting down emotionally themselves because to continue to spontaneously reach out for love would be far too painful.

Comment.  Humphreys creates two logical fallacies here.  First, autism is an established scientific fact, investigated by people with real scientific skills as opposed to the anecdotal experience of a self-help author.  Second,  it is not glaringly obvious that people who have careers in maths or science live predominantly in their heads.  It is not glaringly obvious that they possess few or no heart qualities.  

Where does this man get such crazy ideas?  Was his mother frightened by a mathematician while he was in the womb?  This is a construct of his personal prejudices and a gross slur.

Another possibility doesn’t seem to have occurred to him.  Mathematically-based disciplines appeal to people on the autistic spectrum.  A significant minority of mathematicians and engineers have Asperger’s, and it’s no surprise that these parents might have children with autism.  It doesn’t take a genius to work this out, but Tony Humphreys struggles with it, or perhaps he understands it perfectly well and, because it hints at a genetic component, he finds it too inconvenient to mention.  Nobody will buy a self-help book about genetic disorders.

Children’s wellbeing mostly depends on emotional security – a daily diet of nurture, love, affection, patience, warmth, tenderness, kindness and calm responses to their expressed welfare and emergency feelings. To say that these children have a genetic and/or neurobiological disorder called autism or ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) only adds further to their misery and condemns them to a relationship history where their every thought and action is interpreted as arising from their autism.

Comment : Humphreys presumes that autistic children have not received a daily diet of nurture, love, affection, patience, warmth, tenderness and kindness.  An insult to their parents.  Since he is not an expert in genetics, neurology or biology, he has no business making definitive statements about these things.  It reflects poorly on him.  No professional should make make such dogmatic statements about a field he is not qualified in, but perhaps that’s where the clue lies.  Could he be influenced by dogmatic thinking?

It is frequently the case that it is when these children go to school that their emotional and social withdrawal of eccentricities are noticed, mainly by teachers, who themselves can struggle with how best to respond to these children. An unconscious collusion can emerge between parents and teachers to have these children psychiatrically assessed so that the spotlight is put on the children and not their adult carers’ own emotional and social struggles. Regretfully, the relationship contexts of the childrens’ lives are not examined and their mature development is often sacrificed on the fires of the unresolved emotiuonal defences of those adults who are responsible for their care.

Comment: This is no more than speculation and Humphreys supplies no evidence to support it.  It’s pop psychology at its most crass.

It is important to hold to the fact that these carers do not consciously block their children’s wellbeing, but the unconscious hope of children is that other adults (teachers, relatives, educational psychologists, care workers) that when they are emotionally and socially troubled, it is their adult carers who often need more help than they do.

Comment: This is an extension of the same unsupported prejudices, and Humphreys supplies no evidence to support his conjecture.

Indeed, my experience in my own psychological practice is that when parents and teachers resolve their own fears and insecurities, children begin to express what they dare not express before their guardians resolved their own emotional turmoil.

Comment: This is  anecdotal, and irrelevant to autism.  Humphreys produces no figures or research to support his assertion.  He relies on his status as a TV guru.  Somebody needs to explain to him that when writing an article that he knows will cause great pain (unless he lacks sufficient awareness to realise it), he needs to support his assertions with facts, not opinions.  Unless, of course, he has come to believe his own infallibility.

A clear distinction needs to be made between the autism described by psychiatrist Leo Kanner in 1943 and the much more recently described ASD (autistic spectrum disorder, often referred to as Asperger’s syndrome). The former ‘condition’ was an attempt to understand severely emotionally withdrawn children, the latter concept, which is being used in an alarmingly and rapidly increasing way, is an attempt to explain children’s more moderate emotional and social difficulties. Curiously – and not at all explained by those health and educational professionals who believe that autism and ASD are genetic and/or neurobiological disorders – is the gender bias of being more diagnosed in boys (a ratio of four to one). This bias is also found with ADHD. Surely that gender phenomenon indicates the probability that boys are reared differently to girls and that due to social and cultural factors boys respond to the troubling behaviours of their adult carers in ways that are radically different to girls.

Comment : Humphreys is plain wrong on this.  Autism is autism.  He’s not qualified to pronounce on such things.  He has no training in medicine and yet he feels entitled to dismiss the work of people far more qualified than he is.  This is arrogance on a monumental scale.

What is equally distressing is that, as for ADHD, a whole industry involving research, assessment, screening, education and treatment has been developed, despite the absence of any scientific basis or test for either the originally ‘detected’ autism or for the broader construct of ASD.

Sami Timimi, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and two colleagues rigorously examined over 5000 research articles on autism and ASD and found no scientific basis for what they now refer to as mythical disorders. They outline their findings in their book ‘The Myth of Autism’ (2011). The conclusion of their in-depth studies is that “there is no such thing as autism and the label should be abolished”.

The authors are not saying that the children are not emotionally and socially troubled. What they are saying is – and I concur with them – that focus needs to be on the relationship contexts of these children’s livews, and to take each child for the individual he or she is and to examine closely the family and community narratives and discover creative possibilities for change and for more dynamic and hopeful stories to emerge for both the children and their carers.

Comment: When people use words like concur, your antennae need to be twitching.  It turns out that the authors of the book did not say autism was caused by poor parenting.  Clearly, Humphreys missed the vital paragraphs where in fact they said the exact opposite.  This is not encouraging.  If he can make such a vital error in his rush to print, what else is he missing?  Does he make a habit of overlooking facts that don’t fit his prejudices?  For that matter, did he read the book at all?

Isn’t Tony about to launch another self-help book?  I think so, and what better launching pad than a bit of controversy about autism?  Given RTE’s tendency to call in the nearest cosy talking head, you could only assume that he might get yet another slot on Pat Kenny or Tubs, with all the attendant benefits to his book, of course.

You see, this is the problem.  We live in a world where some guy gets himself a degree in something or other, and then he sets up a website where he promotes himself as a best-selling author.  A National and International Speaker, even, whatever that might be.  His website claims that Tony is Ireland’s most influential psychologist, which of course doesn’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny because it’s not measurable.  What does influential mean?  Who is he comparing himself to?  This is the sort of nonsense that sets my alarm bells ringing.

According to Tony’s website, he is regularly sought for his expertise and views on radio and television shows and writes a weekly column for one of Ireland’s primary newspapers, the Irish Examiner.  Interesting.  Which part of that statement validates his scientific credentials?  RTE want him on the telly?  He writes for the Examiner?

When did these organs acquire the status of scientific journals?

Nonsense.  Here’s the test we must all satisfy:

If you’re a scientist, present your research.  Publish your research papers.  List the peer-reviewed publications you’ve produced.

If you’re not a scientist, don’t presume to talk about things you don’t understand.

It’s that simple.

I have no real objection to self-help guys like Tony Humphreys.  You write a book full of woolly, unverifiable advice, people pay for it and you make money.  Nice.  I might try it myself some time.  But when he starts inflicting a sort of quasi-clerical guilt on the parents of autistic children, then he needs to be confronted.  I don’t know if Tony has children.  I don’t know how long he spent in a seminary.  But along the line, he seems to have lost touch with the simple skills of making contact.

What kind of self-help guru blames the people who are doing their best to look after the children?

Not a very impressive one, in my opinion.  If there’s any coldness evident here, I think it’s to be found in Tony Humphreys’s dismissal of the caring parents who devote their lives to their autistic children.




In a letter to the Examiner, Kevin Mitchell, Associate professor of genetics and neuroscience in
Trinity College Dublin says,

The article by Tony Humphreys claiming that autism is caused by “cold” or emotionally distant parents, displays such willful ignorance, lack of understanding and density of inaccurate and offensive statements that it is shocking that the Irish Examiner would publish it.

This kind of psycho-babble has been discredited for decades.




14th February.  Health Minister, Dr James Reilly, says It was utterly outrageous. The hurt that he caused people is absolutely astonishing.  Reilly’s 27-year-old autistic son recently graduated with an honours degree in genetics.



Legal background


Medical Practitioners Act 2007

Health & Social Care Professionals Act 2005




The Family Voyage

Living With Autism

Communicate Science

How To Argue Illogically: Tony’s Top Ten Tips




168 thoughts on “Autism Spectrum — Tony Humphreys, Clinical Psychologist, Blames the Parents

  1. He’s clearly trying to be controversial in an attempt to flog his book. He has maybe shot himself in the foot with his arrogance and has displayed the fact that he obviously has no understanding of autism and the complexities that surround this terrible affliction and the families involved. RTE and The Examiner as we know are not to be taken seriously, and this is an absolute insult to anybody who has been affected by autism.
    If he is such a self proclaimed expert, I might give his theories a second glance if he had papers published in The Irish Times or The Sunday Times or medical journals, but RTE and The Examiner?

  2. Fair play Bock. You have hit the nail on the head there. Parents of ASD kids are up in arms about this character. Check out the Irish Autism Action Facebook page for more…

  3. This is an extremely emotive subject, the article above must be very disturbing for parents and carers of children with Autism.

    Tony Humphries, who, i believe does not have children of his own has become something of the ” Go To Expert ” on all things ” Family ” , I am not suggesting that people who do not have children can be excluded from being experts in this area but in this instance I am confused as to why he appears to challenge the reality of the existence of Autism, while ignoring the recent research in advancement of Scientific methods of a more accurate diagnosis, using MRI technology.

    The 2nd link shows the ” Traditional Methods ” of diagnosis being IQ test / Psych interview / Physical exam / Blood test, and the research in development of MRI exam.

    Researchers at McLean Hospital in Belmont Mass. have been using MRI Technology to zero in on microscopic nuances in brain circuitry, they focus on the brain area which engages social/emotional function and language. The results have shown significent difference in the neural wiring in those already diagonsed with the condition of Autism from those who do not have the condition.
    In a test of 30 people with Autism and 30 people who do not have Autism, this test was 94% accurate.

    The very least that can be expected of a self proclaimed ” Expert ” is balance and accurate research.

  4. Acacia » Tony Humphreys is not an expert in brain physiology. He’s not a doctor. He’s a psychologist.

    Psychologists are not trained in medicine, and therefore his opinions about autism are no more valid than those of the average taxi driver. However, having carved out a niche as the single transferable know-all, he now seems to have developed a sense of his own infallibility.

  5. I think Dr. Tony should just stick to talking about what he knows best – that’d be waffle.
    Just looking at the titles of some of his books, he’s depressing me..

    ‘The Power of ‘Negative’Thinking; Self-Esteem, the Key to Your Child’s Future; Work and Worth, take back your life; Myself, My Partner; Leaving The Nest; Whose Life Are You Living; All About Children; The Mature Manager. The Compassionate Intentions of Illness’ and the latest one ‘Leadership with Consciousness’.. as opposed to the leadership from when yar in a coma.

    I prefer Dr. Phil myself anyways. For just when ya need a bit of no nonsense kick start to yar day.
    And his wife in the audience.. I want that bitches life.
    Isn’t that right Robin.. yes phil, no phil. ffs.

  6. Bock, don’t be rude about taxi drivers! Their empirical experience of a wide section of the population probably has more scientific weight than Dr Humphreys’ opinions.

    (I did a part-time BA in psychology 20 years ago – it was good craic but not very scientific. Some of the subject’s founding figures, particularly Freud, demanded more faith in unsubstantiated assertions than many theologians would – perhaps that’s why Humphreys has changed disciplines – he wanted more trust in dogmas)

  7. Ian » Interesting. Maybe you’d explain exactly what a degree in psychology involves. How much hard science goes into it? Did you do much medicine, physiology, anatomy?

    Based on your studies, would you feel sufficiently confident to make medical assertions as Dr Humphreys has done?

  8. As the parent of a 5 year old with an ASD, I want to thank you for that – made me feel better to see that rubbish he wrote being ripped to pieces so nicely.

  9. This is par for the course with these cunts, most mental health professionals are monkeys and thats a euphimism. Disturbed, deludedly arrogant, incompetent, fradulent indifferent sadastic and corrupt is a fairer reflection of most of them. I wasn’t diagnosed with ADD until I was 22, my mother copped it after listening to someone Pat squatter Kenny’s show, IT WAS OBVIOUS. Beware the Talking Cure by Terrence W Cambell and Manufacturing Victims by Tana Dineen are two of the better books tearing apart Psychology and Psychologists.

  10. Bock, having known a number of people with autistic children, I think Dr Humphreys hasn’t a clue.

    I don’t know about his PhD, but when I did my BA, there was no medicine. or physiology or anatomy. It was observation and speculation on the basis of psychological theory; much of it seemed to rest on circular arguments. Scientific method involves the empirical testing of hypotheses allowing for the verification or disproving of what has been argued. The work of Freud, particularly, is not amenable to such methodology and therefore, for me, is not scientific. It was a Bachelor of Arts degree; I note that institution concerned now awards a BSc in psychlogy.

  11. Ian » I think it’s a given that Humphreys is talking nonsense in regard to autistic people. He has no basis for his assertions and has reduced his academic credibility by sinking to this sort of populist tabloid journalism. The more I reflect on it, the more it becomes obvious that he has never been confronted publicly before, and perhaps that’s his problem. All his previous publications have been anodyne, unchallenging pieces of waffle that you might buy on a whim if you were feeling in the mood. He never took a risk until now, and perhaps as a result he has drawn the attention of people who won’t be silenced with bullshit.

  12. Was out, just in, so bare with me. Genetics, biology and biochemestry play a much greater role defining who a person really is than social conditioning. What this Ballbag is actually saying is that social conditioning is the defining element in how a person develops and is. It is not. The scam here is if that were true it would confer powers on psychology and psychologists which have been proven do not exist.

  13. It’s possible Humphreys is thinking (to the extent that thought enters the equation) of the “refrigerator mother” theory of autism, which holds that the – naturally defective – emotional state of mothers is responsible for their childrens’ autism. It has been dropped by the medical profession at large but still has its adherents, as psychiatry can never totally rid itself of the notion that women are to blame for everything…

  14. Tony Humphreys is well established in the Centre for Adult Continuing Education at University College Cork. He does appear to be widely respected and well established as a media expert on relationships, family, parenting and (ahem!) sexuality.

    Well done for your excellent deconstruction of the appalling, ill-informed and harmful twaddle that the Examiner put into print. I am surprised that the health supplement editor didn’t do the same.

  15. I feel I have to stand up for psychology here. Humphrey’s pseudoscience is no way representative of the science of psychology or the views of any sane psychologist.

    Anyone who has studied psychology will have to have done several modules on biology (particularly neurobiology), statistics and research methodology, and you will not find a single clinical psychologist working in Ireland with people with ASD or a single research/academic psychologist who makes the nonsensical and unscientific claim that ASD doesn’t exist.

    I’m not sure if Humphreys is even a member (he seems like the sort who doesn’t keep up to date with any sort of research that may contradict his absolute pseudoscientific nonsense) but a complaint to the Psychology Society of Ireland would seem to be in order.

  16. Rather than point scoring and defending or criticising Tony Humphries would it not be more beneficial for the parents/carers of children and people diagnosed with autism, asd, asbergers etc to have available to them all information that may help. There is another book-The Myth of Autism by Dr. Michael Goldberg which provides medical, scientific and personal experience of his work in this area. He concludes that autism IS a treatable brain disease rather than an incurable genetic disorder.. Peace.

  17. Bock, well written and very insightful. I agree with the bulk of your argument, however, as a Clinical Psychologist I have to contest a few things…….”Psychologists are not trained in medicine, and therefore his opinions about autism are no more valid than those of the average taxi driver”…..Clinical Psychologists are trained in the diagnosis of ASD and are a crucial part of any multidisciplinary team involved in diagnosis. Please refer to NICE guidelines for confirmation. Research into ASD is ongoing and extensive. There are many many schools of thought about its origins. For that reason, it is short sighted to think of it as being simply a medical, physiological condition. If it were that simple, it is unlikely that behavioural approaches to treatment would be as effective as they are. Clinical Psychology advocates a Biopsychosocial approach to treatment, and intervention. I do not know of any psychologists who claim to be medically trained, but that does not exclude us from working in a Psychological manner (based on sound empirical research evidence!!), with a variety of presentations (medical and otherwise). I am not for a moment contesting the general argument you are presenting, however I just wanted to take a moment to defend Clinical Psychology. Psychologists are sanctioned to assess and offer treatment based solely on research evidence. Ian……”I don’t know about his PhD, but when I did my BA, there was no medicine. or physiology or anatomy. It was observation and speculation on the basis of psychological theory; much of it seemed to rest on circular arguments. Scientific method involves the empirical testing of hypotheses allowing for the verification or disproving of what has been argued. The work of Freud, particularly, is not amenable to such methodology and therefore, for me, is not scientific.”……I don’t know where you did your BA, but I’m guessing you missed a bit….it’s all based on RCT’s and empirical testing of hypotheses……and for the record, Freud was a Neurologist! Like I said I agree with the bulk of your article, but please don’t tar all Psychologists with the same brush.

  18. Anon — This criticism is based on the fact that Tony Humphreys, in his hubris, has strayed into an area where he has no formal competence: medicine. If he had said that environment might influence ASD, I wouldn’t argue with him, but he has gone far beyond that. He denies that ASD has any physical basis whatever, and he is not qualified to make such a claim.

    The taxi driver comment is in the context of psychologists who make such definitive statements about things they don’t understand. Tony Humphreys is not qualified to deny categorically that ASD has no basis in genetics, neurology or biology.

    More troubling is his lack of logic. Has it occurred to him that engineers and mathematicians might have autistic children because these disciplines attract a higher proportion of autistic adults? I suspect that possibility might have been too inconvenient to mention, because it would indicate a genetic component.

  19. I agree, that article was probably written to provoke controversy, and for no other reason, it’s nonsense. However, please don’t lose sight of logic when discussing the role of a Clinical Psychologist, I would fear that some people commenting on this blog are……straying into an area in which they have no formal competence!!!

  20. Maybe they are, but a prominent media pundit is less likely to be hurt by ill-informed judgements than the parent of an autistic child.

  21. The article (and books) by Tony Humphreys gain at least some authority from the title “Dr”, but I have been unable to find any evidence that Tony Humphreys is either a medical practitioner or has been awarded a PhD by research. I can not find any peer-reviewed papers by him either.

    Before I attribute this to poor skills on my part, it seems that his co-author Helen Ruddle has also assumed the title “Dr”, qualified by a BA in psychology and the social conventions of running a counselling practice.

    Are either actually properly titled “Dr”?

  22. Lou » I feel certain he wouldn’t have invented his PhD. However, I would be interested to know what area of study it relates to.

  23. I would be interested first to see evidence that he has a PhD – he uses the title “Dr” on book covers and in his biography, he mentions all kinds of qualifications and affiliations in his web pages, but there is no mention that I have yet found of a doctorate. Are you simply jumping from the word “Dr” to the assumption that he must have a PhD?

  24. “The article (and books) by Tony Humphreys gain at least some authority from the title ‘Dr’ but I have been unable to find any evidence that Tony Humphreys is either a medical practitioner or has been awarded a PhD by research., ”

    You’d think that might give some authority, but I’m not so sure.
    I once worked with someone who could barely spell their own name – no exaggeration, and he wasn’t too bright either.. and he was going abouts getting a PhD.
    And his masters was a pile of horseshit too.
    Once you have enough money to pay for these things, there are a lot of crap degrees, PhD’s etc you can get from U.K. universities, where you might have to attend in person maybe once a year or so.

    Is Dr. Tony a doctor of philosophy or something?

  25. ” as psychiatry can never totally rid itself of the notion that women are to blame for everything…”
    This is also something I have noticed in the church – where the mothers of severely autistic children that I met soon after arriving in Ireland 10 years ago had been told to “offer it up” as penance for their past sins – by the parish priest.

    So it amuses me to find that Tony Humphreys was both.
    I have been tackled today by a member of the normals who felt:

    “v uncomfortable with vilification of Tony Humphreys, a decent man. Better to think about views that we disagree with > He has done fantastic things for many, many children & parents. Unfair to treat him as a pariah on basis of 1 article > He will presumably address this. But people hurling abuse at him will not help. And amid all the offence he has 1 valid point…>Some healthcare professionals are too quick to put labels on children instead of working to properly address their needs”

    I did a quick straw poll on Facebook following this tweeted comment. All my FB friends are non-neurotypical so it was very easy to assess how many of us had got our “labels” quickly – as if all we had to do is reach down into the cornflake packet and find the golden ticket to autism ticket.

    The quickest was 12 months and that was after they went over the head of a public health nurse who refused to assess a (non-verbal) child that would not “answer their questions”

    Your support and clarity both amuses and reassures me. Thank you xx

  26. I think the question of his doctorate is slightly tangential. He would still be a practising clinical psychologist even if his doctorate happened to be in something as irrelevant as theology, which it might well turn out to be. For a professional psychologist to come out with such illogical statements is hardly confidence-inspiring. Speaking personally, if I feel the need to share my deepest fears, I’ll do it with my friends, and keep my money for better things.

  27. Being an Engineer who is the Daddy to an only child who is diagnosed with autism, I found your rebuke of the so called “expert” Tony Humphrey a breathe of fresh air. 
    In my 17years working in Industry I have only come across two other parents of autistic children, both of whom have neurotypical children…..which based on “Dr” Humphreys opinion must make my Wife(who I should mention is not from an engineering background, she would be hardpressed to wire a plug!) and I some kind of ogres!!!

    We make no excuses for labeling our son as being Autistic, we got a diagnosis privately as we weren’t prepared to wait on the HSE to dither about labeling our child and deprive him of the early intervention which is making a significant impact to his development – that is the kind of “cold” parents we are. 
    The funny thing about labels are that they can be peeled off – I’ll be more than happy to do this if our child could be cured. Unfortunately though there is no cure and we continue to do all that we can to ensure our child becomes all that he can be and prepare him as best we can for a  World which to some extent will always be alien to him. This will be made all the harder thanks to the ignorance being preached by the so called self help guru.

    Sincere Thanks for your critique – I would not have been able to detach my emotional strings to create such a well written deconstruction of the “Dr” and his “Theology”.

  28. Ah Bock, what’s with the digs at psychology? It kind of misses the point. You’ll find about as many Doctors who agree with the ejit Humprheys as you’d find psychologists and in both cases, you’d find sweet fuck all.

    You don’t seem to understand what a clinical psychologist is, or what qualifications you need to become one. You don’t become a PSI recognised clinical psychologist by getting qualifications in anything other than a recognised clinical psychology doctorate. If Humphrey’s qualification is not in clinical psychology, then he simply isn’t a clinical psychologist. For the record, psychology tends to be BAs or BScs depending on where you study. It’s the same with Masters level qualification – MA MSc or MPhil. Most psychologists who qualified over the past 20 years would have studied a pretty decent amount of biology – particularly neuroscience. If they’ve studied Freud and the other psychoanalysis BS that inspires Humphreys, for most it’s as part of the history of psychology. Nobody practices as a psychologist in Ireland without at least a Masters level qualification. Most will have at least 6 years study at third level completed before they begin practicing, and others will have many more.

    For the record, a pretty large portion of the world’s actual experts on autism are psychologists. None of them agree with Humphreys. Many of them have expertise on the biological aspects of autism, particularly as it relates to neuroscience. The publish in highly rated, peer reviewed scientific journals (unlike Humphreys) and present at many of the same conferences as doctors (unlike Humphreys). The recent International Autism conference in Galway featured many psychologists who are regarded as leading experts in Autism, as well as Doctors and other scientists.

    It is appropriate for psychologists to comment on the causes and treatment of autism when they have an expertise in the area but as part of their code of ethics, Irish psychologists must not work in areas in which they have no competence. Humphreys clearly had no competence in this area so if he is really a clinical psychologist recognised by the Psychology Society of Ireland he could be subject to disciplinary action for his actions if people complain.

  29. It isn’t always about you, you know. This post is about nonsense written by a man who claims to be a clinical psychologist, not about psychology in general. Maybe we’ll have that another day.

    But come on, studying a module on anything in a course doesn’t entitle anyone to make the sort of definitive statements Humphreys came out with. To take an example, many of the engineers he dismisses as cold and having no heart qualities will have studied public health as part of their course. That doesn’t make them doctors. Likewise, a module in biology in a psychology course is no more than an introduction to the subject. It certainly doesn’t confer any expert status. It’s no big deal.

    Get back to the point. This man used his public profile to make definitive statements about an area he is not an expert in.

  30. Bock said “He would still be a practising clinical psychologist even if his doctorate happened to be in something as irrelevant as theology, which it might well turn out to be.”

    Where is he a practising Consultant Clinical Psychologist? What are his qualifications? Does he have any of the qualifications it implies? He has so many claims in his biography, but a complete absence of detail. This surely is the foundation of his public profile and the platform from which The Examiner accepts his pronouncements.

  31. And he upset and angered hundreds of parents of autistic children in the process. As if we haven’t enough to put up with! Thank you so much Bock for dissecting Humphrey’s dreadful article so thoroughly. I will be able to sleep tonight.

  32. Bock, you’re the one who made it about psychologists and psychology.

    Psychologists provide valuable treatment to children with autism. Humphreys has damaged the reputation of the 99% of decent psychologists in this country and while psychologists only really have themselves to blame for that because they aren’t pro-active enough in enforcing their ethical guidelines, the disturbing side-effect of this is that it parents will now think twice before approaching a psychologist for fear that they encounter the kind of bullshit Humphreys spouts. By claiming that psychologists know no more about autism than taxi drivers, or that you can become qualified as a psychologist by turning up stoned to a couple of lectures a week for three years, you’re compounding the damage and potentially making it more likely that a child of one of your readers would be less likely to be treated appropriately.

    Everybody agrees that Humphreys is talking shite and everybody agrees that parents should ignore him and talk to people who have relevant qualifications and experience. It’s important that people reading this blog realise that some of those people are medical professionals and some are psychologists, but that not all medical professionals and not all psychologists are experts on the subject of autism.

  33. Ivor, Please don’t try to make it about me.

    This is about Tony Humphreys.

    I didn’t create this. If your colleague had not written that article, this conversation would not be taking place. He used his position as the self-proclaimed most influential psychologist in the country to create the controversy, and since I happen to know people who have ASD children, I responded in the only way I know.

    Just for clarity, are psychologists experts in genetics or neurology?

    By the way, if you read the post again, you’ll see that I said nothing about psychology students getting stoned or attending three lectures. That was about a bunch of wasters and nobody would dream of casting such aspersions on a hardworking and committed sub-section of the student body.

  34. Interesting. While I was about to say “well deserved take down but you’re too hard on psychologists” I had a look at his site and he explicitly calls himself a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, which means he has accredited qualifications. Mind you, I can’t find any info on what exactly they are or where they’re from.

  35. He isn’t my colleage Bock. I’m not a clinical psychologist.

    Most psychology students would be trained to understand research based on brain imaging and genetics based research techniques but that wouldn’t make somebody an expert in my opinion. In regards neurology, all psychologists would have basic training in the biology of the brain, but only those who have specialised in neuropsychology would be regarded as experts in neurology. Some psychologists,would have expertise in genetics. Those who specialise in something like human behavioural genetics or some aspects of developmental psychopathology could be considered experts.

  36. My understanding is that Clinical Psychologists are part of a process and / or team involved in the diagnosis and follow on treatment Autism / ASD / PDD, being part of a process, in my mind, means that the responsibility when expounding on the subject contains a strong recognition of the other factors and processes which the person with the condition and their carers will be adhering to for the rest of their lives.

    Autism is classified as a Neurobiological disorder, Whereby Genetic, Metabolic, Neurological and Biological and Psychiatric factors are investigated. Given all the areas which require investigation, it is manifestly clear that a Clinical Psychologist has limitations in the role he/she plays in this condition.

    Anon stated @ 18 ” It is short sighted to think of it as being a Medical, Psychological condition, if it were that simple, it is unlikely that behavioural approaches to treatment would be as effective as they are ” There is nothing ” Simple ” about this condition, and whereas “Behavioural Approaches ” can and do manifest in an outwardly improved means of dealing with the ” Triggers ” they never ever alter the Neurobiological status of the condition.

    Behavioural approaches and techniques can assist a person in dealing with a Terminal illness but it will not change the outcome either.

    I cannot see in this post that Clinical Psychology is being threatened in any manner, nor do i see any tarring or suggestion that it should not be availed of, all i see here is that one individual Psychologist is being challenged on an article he wrote which is not accurate, not supported and has caused untold distress.

  37. BrendanH » I hope the Psychological Society’s academic standards are higher than their standards of grammar. That web site entry is embarrassing. Was it written by a 12-year-old?

  38. Ivor. If i were to take your directive on Basic Training / Specialising and Considered Experts as something to consider, then Tony Humphries does not appear to have considered any of the above prior to writing the offending Article.

    The list of Courses in Adult Ed which he gives in UCC are the following ;

    Adult Ed Cert Interpersonal Communication.
    Diploma in Parent Mentoring
    Higher Dip in Relationship Studies.

    No Genetics, No Biology No Neurology, No Physiology, No Psychology, and No Theology, Interesting ?

  39. As a mother to a child with Autism I was deeply hurt by the article in the examiner. Parents who have children on the Spectrum who were were approved for Domiciliary Carer’s Allowance (DCA) from August 2009 onwards are now being put the whole review process again and it is tearing parents apart. Our children were diagnosed by the HSE and now we get letters back saying “Yes we acknowledge your child has Autism but we don’t see how your child needs more care than a child of the same age group.” Not an actual quote which I can get for you. So it is normal then for an almost 7 yr old to still be in nappies, cannot dress himself, will only eat certain foods, can’t have a regular simple conversation but can tell you in extreme detail about every single Thomas Engine that was ever made (whether you want to hear or not). I could go on about the differences which drain parents both physically and mentally everyday caring for their child.
    We also have a 10 yr old who is neuro-typical (nt) and he happens to be the one that excels in maths.
    Thank you for writing an excellent piece in rebuttal, a bit hard on psychologists (any I’ve dealt with regarding our younger son, I’d recommend to anyone) but I can understand where you were coming from.
    To quote Ivor above “It is appropriate for psychologists to comment on the causes and treatment of autism when they have an expertise in the area but as part of their code of ethics, Irish psychologists must not work in areas in which they have no competence. Humphreys clearly had no competence in this area so if he is really a clinical psychologist recognised by the Psychology Society of Ireland he could be subject to disciplinary action for his actions if people complain.”
    Well the last sentence certainly put a glint in my eye and the longing I didn’t have a full day in order to research TH more!

  40. Ruth, that’s a very interesting point. Dr Humphrey’s comments are very politically expedient. By his reasoning, if autistic children suffer from a psychological deficit, inflicted by their carers, financial and material supports from the state are not required or appropriate, and cutbacks are thus justified.

    I do think the criticism of psychologists is somewhat beside the point. What is the issue, in my view, is the misuse of psychological and psychiatric conditions as political tools. As is always the case when this is done, it is the vulnerable that are made scapegoats.

  41. This was discussed on Joe Duffy’s show/circus of the dammed today, no sign of Anto, naturally. I thought it would have been too obvious to point out until Bock did, but just to hammer home the point, this human can see no correlation between a parent with high functioning Aspergers or Autism and their offspring.

  42. I’d say this post took considerably less time to write than the realms of waffle in Dr.Tony’s books. Just my personal opinion on that one.

    In relation to Ivor’s comments above:
    “It is appropriate for psychologists to comment on the causes and treatment of autism when they have an expertise in the area but as part of their code of ethics, Irish psychologists must not work in areas in which they have no competence”

    Dr. Tony seems to be an expert in an awful lot of areas.

  43. Well he probably has read an awful lot of Lacan and is probably capable of dealing with the many attacks he receives because he knows that it is all caused by anxiety resulting from a a fear of castration.

    That, and our parents probably didn’t provide enough unconditional love.

  44. Oh right. Is that it. I thought it was all to do with the Oedipus complex or something along those lines. :)

    I suppose you can’t tarnish them all with the same brush..

    In terms of talking to your friends in your hour of need Bock.
    I was wondering, what if you (as in ‘one’) were a semi functional, pot smokin’ alki and your friends were the same. Shur they’d hardly be impartial.
    They’d probably tell you to stop whinging and have another dutch gold.

  45. FF1 — I doubt if the Examiner article took more than five minutes to assemble from a Lego box of readymade clichés, platitudes, prejudices and half-digested pseudoscience.

  46. Humphreys does have a higher qualification in psychology, from UCC, if this is the same person:
    Cognitive, non-cognitive, biographic and demographic correlates of students’ performance in first university examinations by Anthony Humphreys – 1977
    Dissertation Thesis (M.A.) NUI, at Dept. of Applied Psychology, UCC.

    It would be helpful to fill out his biography, and the basis of the doctor and clinical psychologist titles.

  47. Of course, we live in a world where dentists call themselves Doctor. Maybe the title should be abolished altogether.

    What is the regulatory structure for clinical psychologists in Ireland? Is one required to register with a professional body before being allowed to practise?

  48. Not really sure Bock.

    The Health and Social Care Professionals Act protects the term psychologist so that probably applies. I know that the government are supposed to appoint a Psychologists Registration Board recognised under that act, but they haven’t done so yet. In the meantime, PSI seems to do the accreditation and the HSE requires people to have PSI recognised qualifications before it hires them.

  49. Let’s be clear about the distinction. The HSE can set whatever standards it wishes before it hires people.

    However, this is not the same thing as defining basic qualifications to set up as a private consultant. Do you know if clinical psychologists are regulated as a profession?

    Would it be legally possible for me to set up a business as a clinical psychologist even though I have no qualifications at all in that area?

  50. Honestly, I’m not sure Bock because while it seems to be illegal to call yourself a psychologist under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 if you aren’t qualified and psychology is to be regulated by CORU, 7 years on the Department of Health still hasn’t sorted out registration for most of the areas the act is supposed to cover and the CORU website links to the PSI.

    I suspect that if somebody without any qualifications was practicing, they could be stopped from calling themselves a clinical psychologist, but that to the extent that regulation exists, for now, it’s only on paper.

  51. Ivor » Section 26 of the Act refers to the Psychologists Registration Board as the appropriate body to register psychologists. According to Section 79, it’s an offence to describe yourself as a psychologist unless registered with the appropriate body. However, it doesn’t seem that the body has been set up. Am I wrong about this?

  52. You’re right as far as I know. The board, like most of the boards that were supposed to be set up under the Act, does not exist.

    The question is whether the term “psychologist” is still protected in the absence of such board. Since 2005, I’ve seen presentiations and read articles that speak as though it is, so it may be, but it’s hard to tell. That would suggest that protections outlined in other sections of the Act are relevant or that the bodies involved in self-regulation are considered appropriate in the absence of the board.

  53. From my reading of the Act, it’s illegal to call yourself a psychologist unless you register with the board and meet their requirements. However, since the board doesn’t seem to have been set up, the conditions to make this legal provision valid have not yet been created.

    Therefore, it seems to me, pending establishment of the legally-designated regulatory body, even Bock the Robber could safely call himself a psychologist without fear of sanction.

  54. I stopped reading after the first few paragraphs as there was too much guff to make it worthwhile wading through.

  55. Bock, back in the day (fadó fadó) when I did a full third level course in developmental psychology as part of my studies there was the option to study psychology in either the faculty of Arts or Science. The course in Science was, I think, the standard four-year BSc length whereas the course in Arts was the standard three-year BA length.

    Irrespective of what he learned or how he learned it Humphreys is a fool. He has a nice living from the ‘relationship’ and ‘parenting’ industry (where real and imaginary guilt is powerful wallet opener) and the possibility there there are neurological circumstances and situations that are not amenable to being ‘fixed’ by his schtick must be very challenging for him.

  56. Heard some of that.

    The letter from the TCD professor is really good as well. I think a libel action by parents against The Examiner and Tony Humphreys would have a good chance of success. Any sign of a retraction/apology?

  57. I am far from a legal expert, but I really doubt that a libel action makes any sense in Irish law, or stands the slightest chance of success.

    I do think that it would be entirely reasonable for readers to expect the editor of the Examiner to review the titles used in its health supplement – if someone is accorded the title of doctor or clinical psychologist on an apparently factual article, then it should mean what any reasonable person would expect. (Perhaps UCC should do likewise in its course descriptions).

    Various people report that the PSI has confirmed that Tony Humphreys is not a registered psychologist. In the context of the article, he is (probably) not a doctor either. The Examiner should not decorate any further articles of his with these titles.

  58. Psychology is a very broad area, much of it incorporates sound empirical research and areas such as biological psychology and others have sound scientific underpinnings. Unfortunately Dr. Humphreys seems to be using his identity as a psychologist to put across some personal views. We all need to be aware of what we say about any one group of people, be they parents or psychologists, and we all have a responsibility not to disseminate misinformation.

    On another point, I have worked as a home tutor to autistic children and the amount of energy, care and attention they receive from their parents is inspiring.

  59. Lou — Context is everything and it depends how a reasonable person might interpret the title Doctor.

    The world is full of people with doctorates — everything from musicians to theologians — but when the title Doctor is used in conjunction with the word “clinical”, I think a reasonable person might wrongly gain the impression that the person is in some sense medically qualified.

    Would you agree?

    Here’s the legal conundrum as I see it.

    The Medical Practitioners Act makes it an offence to practise medicine unless exempted under various headings, including being registered as a psychologist. The Health and Social Care Professionals Act defines a registration body for psychologists, but that body was never set up. Therefore, psychologists can’t register.

    Therefore, while it is possible to work as a psychologist despite being unregistered, it would be an offence to create the impression of being a medical practitioner, since it’s impossible to meet the registration criterion.

  60. Hi Bock,

    Thanks for drawing attention to the complete lack of understanding of Tony Humphries has of autism spectrum disorder and the disregard he has for children with autism and their parents.

    I am a doctor of psychology and did my doctorate on autism.I have been seething with anger since reading the article as are many of my colleagues in the autism community. However it should be said that psychology has contributed greatly in the intervention and support of individuals diagnosed with autism. Lovaas (1967) was one of the first psychologists to demonstrate that it was possible for children with autism to learn and be productive members of society. Prior to this the outlook for someone diagnosed with autism was very bleak. Since then great strides have been made and much has been learned about how to work effectively with such children.

    I was a bit disappointed that you attacked psychology in a broad sense as a good psychologist grounds practice in evidence and the actions of one should not reflect on the many but I suppose a backlash from the type of blatant disregard that Tony Humphries shows for the ethical underpinnings of psychological practice is inevitable.

    I’m including a link to an article by a fellow psychologist which highlights the numerous inaccuracies with the article that I think you’ll find interesting.

  61. Jen — I’m surprised you respond to my piss-take as an attack. Maybe we should explore that in more detail another time, since other psychologists upset by my lack of respect have displayed similar behaviours.

    If anyone has attacked psychology, it’s Tony Humphreys, and this post is a response to the gross stupidity of his article in the Examiner. My Jack Russell would have written a more logically coherent piece than he managed.

    I already saw Brian’s article, which references this post, and I think it’s a nice piece of logic, dismantling the spurious nonsense written by Humphreys line by line. If I had the time, I’d do it word by word. There’s no limit to the degree of ignorance and arrogance it reveals.

    The man he quoted, Sami Timimi, was on Liveline today, vigorously distancing himself from the stupidity of Tony Humphreys. In an uncharacteristically coy moment, Humphreys himself declined to appear on the show, even though he normally goes rigid with excitement at the possibility of a media slot.

  62. Hi Bock,

    fair point – ‘attack’ was too strong a word and you can be as irreverent about psychology as you like :) It was more the comments and the lack of clarity about who is qualified to do what and what it takes to be qualified etc.. I know you would like to get your facts right..

    The main thrust of your article was spot on and Im listening to the podcast of liveline at the moment. It is adding to my outrage on this issue!

    Thanks again for putting the spotlight on this.

  63. While you’re here, are you in a position to say definitively what the legal position is regarding registration?

    It appears to me that, although the Health and Social Care Professionals Act requires clinical psychologists to register, no registration body was established and therefore anyone can set up shop with no training or qualifications.

    Am I correct in thinking this?

  64. The Psychological Society of Ireland is the accrediting body set up to over see the training of psychologists. They have also set up a register for psychologists but at the moment this is voluntary. However they have copyrighted the name so only accredited psychologists can use the term. See text from a PSI document

    ‘The Psychological Society of Ireland agreed to set up a Register of Psychologists in November 1988. The form of registration adopted by the Society is “indicative registration” which essentially copyrighted the title “Registered Psychologist of the Psychological Society of Ireland”. Only registered members of the Society with the necessary qualifications and experience can use this title. Members who do not fulfil these requirements and who use the title are liable to sanction by the Board of Professional Conduct of the Society. Any person outside the Society who uses the title will be challenged by the Society.

    But you are right – at the moment statutory registration has not been brought in although it is on the way. See below from PSI

    ‘Statutory Registration ‘

    ‘The Health and Social Care Professionals Act was passed into law in 2005. Under this Act, Psychologists, along with eleven other professions, will be regulated. The Society welcomes this development.

    The purpose of statutory registration is to protect the public. In order to do so a Registration Board will be established to register psychologists working in Ireland. It is anticipated that in future the evaluation of training for psychologists will come under the remit of the Psychologist’s Registration Board. The Society will urge the Board to adhere to current standards for accreditation of psychology courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. To ensure that standards are maintained for future education and training courses, the Society will continue to offer accreditation of psychology courses in third level institutions.’.

    So in answer to your original q, no it isnt yet illegal to call yourself a psychologist without the necessary qualifications (which definitely isnt good enough). People should always do a proper check on someones background and the PSI is a good place to access a registered psychologist.

  65. Ok. Thanks. So let’s follow the logic. It isn’t possible to register a a psychologist.

    Now look at the Medical Practitioners Act 2007. Section 37 states as follows:-

    , an unregistered medical practitioner shall not—
    (a) practise medicine, or
    (b) subject to section 50, advertise the practitioner’s services as a medical practitioner.

    Section 38 provides the following exception:-

    A medical practitioner does not contravene section 37(a) if—

    (d) the practitioner is a person registered under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 to practise a profession designated under that Act who only practises medicine in the course of, and for the purposes of, the lawful practise of that profession,

    However, since, as we have seen, no registration is currently available, this defence does not exist.

    Therefore, it’s an offence in the absolute for an unregistered person to advertise services as a medical practitioner.

    Am I right in thinking this?

  66. Psychology, psychotherapy, call it what you will, either you accept it or not, the choice is yours. Can we please put it in context? Psychology is as valid as aromatherapy. And I say this from a person directly involved with autism.

  67. Bock wrote “Context is everything and it depends how a reasonable person might interpret the title Doctor.” I agree absolutely – I do not know Tony Humphreys and had not heard of him until Friday. I was sent his article because of a personal interest in autism, and assumed that an article in the health supplement of a national newspaper that was written by a doctor and clinical psychologist meant that the author would be a doctor practising clinical psychology. In the particular instance, I also assumed that he was familiar with the treatment of autistic children in his capacity as a practising clinical psychologist. It appears that he is not.

    These titles are not protected in law, but most readers (and potential patients or course participants) have a reasonably consistent perception of their meaning.

    The least we can expect is that the Examiner (and other national newspapers) will ensure that titles lending authority to factual articles will only be accorded to people qualified to use them, and that opinion is not passed off as fact. The same applies to any university staff claiming authority and clinical experience.

  68. Your logic is correct Bock.

    However I think the confusion is coming from the use of the term ‘clinical’ that Tony uses in his title. Is that right?

    The use of the term ‘clinical’ is a little convoluted so don’t know if you want it explained here. Maybe I’m going off point.

    In general the confusion reiterates the need for statutory regulation to protect people.

  69. All words have a nuanced meaning when used as part of a professional jargon. However, when discussing what they mean in the broader sphere, I think it’s sufficient to consider what a reasonably well-educated lay-person might infer from seeing the words Doctor and Clinical in close proximity.

  70. Jen41. While fully accepting that ” Psychology is not regulated by statute in Ireland ” I still fi d it most disconcerting that although Tony Humphries biography published on the PSI website is totally devoid of specific credentials, the PSI state the following.
    ” The PSI is delighted to announce Dr.Tony Humphreys as the presenter of the Society’s 2011 lecture ” this certainly gives me the impression that such a privilege indicates his standing in the PSI .

    I have now read several of the articles written by Tony Humphries, they all, without exception have a common thread, across the entire spectrum of illness, including his own, from Anti Social behaviour through the high incidence of deaths of young males in driving accidents, from mental illness to physical illness, the cause in the opinion of Tony Humphreys is always lodged in an emotional source where ” Psycho- Spiritual ” deprivation is the root cause.

    The above offending article may have been the one which has highlighted the utter balderdash which has reached many people, to my mind this displays a phenomenal lack of responsibility by Tony Humphreys and if anyone has demonstrated a disservice to Psychology as a means of stepping toward a positive attitude toward Mental health it is him, The quote by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sums it up for me.
    ” It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts “

  71. Derailed – I completely agree. (was there some reason it was targeted at me).

    @Bock I agree with you too. Just highlighting that legally he can use the term ‘clinical’ without breaking the law as it has a certain meaning in a psychological sense.

  72. I don’t know about that. The law does not require a reasonably well-informed member of the public to have a knowledge of a specific discipline’s jargon. The test is what a reasonably-informed person might infer from a public statement.

  73. Jen41 Only reason I addressed you specifically was to acknowledge your clarification re : ‘ Statute ‘ Thank you for taking the time to explain such issues.

  74. Quote from Tony’s site on one of the courses he runs:

    Parenting is a complex profession and parents require professional expertise and guidance to help and support them …

    No they don’t.

    Parents have been successfully bringing up children since the dawn of time without the help of “professionals”. Especially professionals with no kids of their own.

  75. Finally a debate about ASD. can I recommend the book The Autism Matrix by Gil Eyal. It’s a sociological history of ASD and its a fresh perspective on the diagnosis.

    As an OT I have lot of questions about how the public chooses to understand Autism. But I do have a worry that in some parts of the country diagnosis of ASD can take months of assessment of a child in different environments by an MDT, in others it can be done by a single practitioner. Also what about the cottage industry that’s been set up charging parents significant money for a bit of paper to get resources…these are more important discussions than having a re-run of the media hype over Tom Cruise and PND or the English football manger and past lives.

    Buy the book, its an eye opener and packed with research

    Best Wishes


  76. if only Tony gave his articles the care and attention to detail he gives his beautiful clipped beard

  77. The Examiner clarifies the qualifications. The MA appears to be the one from UCC in 1977 that I posted above, the PhD appears to be:

    Humphreys, A. An experimental investigation of hypnosis as an adjunct to the behavioural treatment of phobias. University of Birmingham, 1982. Thesis (Ph.D.) – University of Birmingham, Dept of Clinical Psychology, 1983.

    He also worked “for eight years with Mid-Western Health Board psychiatric services and for two years in Staffordshire Health Authority in Britain”, and continues to call himself a Consulting Clinical Psychologist some decades on – a bit like mouldy ex-professors not being able to drop the title.

  78. Hi all

    I have been following this item too, and was appalled by the article too. Mostly scared for what it could mean/do/be interpreted as in regards of making it easier for the powers that be to remove scant and much needed resources for kids and families that may need them.. a license to make more cuts to special needs services.. “they don’t exist, therefor we need not fund services for them…” how awful ..

    I am a loving parent, and although the entities in my family would be/have been on the the upper end of the spectrum, Highly intelligent, but blessed with debilitating other Aspie/PDD-Nos traits, it is only through a path of the heartbreaking hard work and hoops that had to be jumped through and long long waiting lists one waited on, to gain the help required, not being able to afford a different route. Looking back, I am grateful to the individuals, who believed and provided all the help they could both in schools attended and the Mental Health services. Without these the outcomes would have painted a vastly different story. Bottom, middle or high end it (ASD) is really a spectrum of ‘needs’ that if not meet can cause failure of a person reaching potential and learning essential skills to survive and integrate into a complex society which is not always as inviting/tolerant of difference as one would like to think.

    He does us all a disservice by blaming parents, dismissing educators and what I felt was an inference that policy decisions should be influenced by the remarkable allegation that ASD (which includes Autism,Aspergers and Pdd-Nos) does not exist. That perhaps all that was needed was a good parenting course, added to a series of counselling sessions to bond with our inner relationships to fix the problem… I may be mistaken, but that is how I interpreted the article.

    Shame. I grant, there are folk who tetter in and out of the label, for various reasons, perhaps having feet in several different developmental camps (labels).. but that is really just being human, we are complex, biologically flexible creatures, and does not mean they may not need specialist or other intervention under the same label under certain circumstances at another time in their lives, and yes environment/support can play a part in whether a person moves in or out of these, however, the NEED to address their needs still remains.. and labels, if they serve this purpose, the RIGHT to have needs met, by appropriate specialized services and advice, should remain imo.

    Anyhow, I’m getting long winded here.. ;-D

    I really just wanted to offer this link, having been following your blog, among many others.. this article this morning in the Examiner seems to shed some light on TH credentials.. looks like he’s a product of UCC itself..


  79. Todays Examiner.

    Also, one of TH’s previous artilcles where he makes the one exception being ” Severe Autism ” but states ” Parents ( and Teachers ) can only bring children to the same level of development they have reached themselves ”

    Over 30 years of working in the area of Family / Parenting / “Specialising ” its shocking to me that the questions have taken so long to be asked.

  80. Interesting article which is understandably causing frustration and annoyance to parents of children with autism. TV and Radio are never the places to make these pronouncements as I believe people need follow on support and explanations around these deeply upsetting and painful family issues. @ Bock As a matter of interest who do you believe [professionally that is] has the most important role to play in in serious mental health issues?

  81. Tony Humphreys was the ‘expert’ who gave such glowing reports on Tim Allen of Ballymaloe/Child porn fame:

    In Jan 2003 he told Judge Michael Pattwell that he did not believe the cookery personality was a danger to young children.

    Dr Humphreys learned of Allen’s child porn practices six weeks before gardaí raided his Shanagarry–based cookery school and seized materials, which proved his involvement in international child porn trading. He had spent about 100 dollars in purchasing child porn on the internet and Evidence was found that he had downloaded or printed out some 92 pictures of very young children in forms of undress and poses of a sexual nature.

    Yet, though he had gone to the doctor in nearby Midleton, Allen had continued to view and download child porn on his computer. Dr Humphreys claimed Allen was determined to fight his “illness” — he had told Dr Humphreys, who he had attended for various stress–related complaints over the years, of his compulsion to view children in various stages of undress.

    The doctor said that he was currently engaged in treating “actual paedophiles” but he felt that Allen’s interest was in children in “a mild stage of undress and of a non–sexual nature.”

    “All I am saying is that this is a different situation to what I have seen over the years. I don’t think he will re–offend,” the doctor told Judge Pattwell. He further claimed that Allen had, in fact, brought a lot of people in need of help to him over the years, describing him to the court as a “rescue figure”.

  82. I believe Humphreys was correct in his assessment. We will discuss that case no further as it’s irrelevant to autism.

  83. Tommy — I think the person suffering is the most important, but that’s not what you asked.

    However, your question, though not intentionally so, is loaded.

    It implies that one role is more important than another. It implies that all professions are to be taken equally seriously. It also needs a definition of serious mental health issues, by which I presume you mean symptoms.

    It’s an interesting question but too vague to answer.

  84. psychology training does involve the study of biochemistry, for example the effects of different neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and epinephrine on our moods and personalities, we also look at physiology and anatomy of the brain in great detail.

  85. @ Eoghan autism and aspergers disorder belong in a category known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This spectrum reflects the broad range of strengths and challenges that people with autism have. Previously Aspergers was considered a separate diagnosis but it will now be subsumed under ASD in the new DSM V (as will the diagnosis of PDD-NOS). The Aspergers diagnosis will be replaced with a diagnosis of ASD, although someone can still use the term to describe themselves if they like. See below article for some discussion on the issue

  86. Niamh O’Byrne – on behalf of
    Thursday 09/02/12 15:06
    The Psychological Society of Ireland’s response to the Tony Humphreys article on in the Examiner

    Psychological Society of Ireland disagrees with assertions made by Tony Humphreys

    The Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) does not support the assertions made by Tony Humphreys in his recent article in the ‘Feelgood’ supplement of the Irish Examiner in relation to Autism Spectrum Disorder. PSI President, Dr Michael Drumm, stated:
    “Tony Humphreys’ assertions made in the article are not supported by the vast body of research in the field of Autistic Spectrum Disorders and are unhelpful and likely to cause upset. It is hoped that the article would be retracted.”

    The Psychological Society of Ireland is the learned and professional body for psychology in the Republic of Ireland. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neuro-developmental condition that is characterized by impairment in social interaction, communication and repetitive behaviours. The condition affects one in every 100 children.


    For further information/ comment, please contact:
    Lisa Stafford,
    PSI PR & Events Manager,
    087 945 2801

  87. Tony Humphreys disappears from PSI website – these pages and others were available yesterday (and quoted for his bio), now unavailable at

    Biography – Dr. Tony Humphreys
    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View
    Biography – Dr. Tony Humphreys. Dr. Tony Humphreys is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, author and national and international speaker. He began his career …
    The Psychological Society of Ireland
    The PSI is delighted to announce Dr. Tony Humphreys as the presenter for the Society’s 2011 Public Lecture. Dr. Humphreys will present Relationship, …
    Psychology Matters Public Lecture
    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View
    … its annual Psychology Matters Public Lecture for 2011. Relationship, Relationship, Relationship – Heart of a Mature Society presented by Dr Tony Humphreys.

  88. If you look at the website of Ireland’s most influential psychologist, you’ll learn on the front page that “he writes and speaks in a language that is easy and accessible.”

    Turning to the Courses page, you’ll see a fine example of accessible language:-

    The aim of the course is to help people who have responsibility for the care and direction of others to become effective communicators. Communication is the life-blood of any relationship. Effective communication entails having an understanding of the dynamics of relationships and the types of communication that operate typically within them. The agent of communication is the self and, indeed, most communication is determined by how the individual communicates with self. The course, therefore, will focus on both the personal and interpersonal aspects of communication within and across the particular relationships of which course participants are members. The particular needs of managers and leaders will also be addressed.

    Now. What could be clearer than that?

  89. @jen 41 yes I know.

    the article states:

    A clear distinction needs to be made between the autism described by psychiatrist Leo Kanner in 1943 and the much more recently described ASD (autistic spectrum disorder, often referred to as Asperger’s syndrome ‘…

    to which bock responds

    Comment : Humphreys is plain wrong on this. Autism is autism. He’s not qualified to pronounce on such things.

    I’m just saying that this is wrong.

  90. Eoghan — ASD stands for “autistic spectrum disorder”. Aspergers is on the autistic spectrum.

    Which part of this do you disagree with?

  91. The autistic spectrum disorder, as per the new DSM V criteria ( encompasses autism, Asperger syndrome and PDD NOS within the single category of ASD, in so far as any individual meets the revised criteria. Asperger syndrome ( and PDD NOS ( will be subsumed within ASD.

    Most diagnoses in Ireland are now being made as ASD, in keeping with the proposed criteria.

    Simon Baron-Cohen and others do believe that Asperger syndrome is a different clinical entity, but I guess that this issue will be decided very soon on the basis of genetic, MRI, morphological (e.g. 2D:4D) and other distinctions (or lack of) between the diagnoses.

  92. @Eoghan
    Kanner’s work and that produced by Asperger appeared within a couple of years of each other in the early 1940s – ie the condition described by Asperger is not much more recently described as ‘Dr Feelgood’ Humphreys puts it.

    Kanner’s theories gained traction before his therapeutic approach became widely discredited. Asperger’s work was overlooked for some years but has since been positively re-evaluated.

  93. A petty point, but the Examiner (Thursday) implies by proximity of wording that he has a BA (hons) in Psychology from UCC. The Dáil records “Dr. Tony Humphreys, B.A., with a Higher Diploma in Physical Education, Cork” ( and some of his earlier books record his qualifications as “BA HDE”. Is his first degree in Education or Physical Education? The point is relevant to his eligibility for the title of Clinical Psychologist.

  94. I wouldn’t give much credence to anything a TD says. Carey probably had no idea what he was saying. You’d need better source material than the record of some fool’s waffling tin Leinster House.

  95. Here is Simon Harris TD: “This debate is timely and comes in a week in which parents of autistic children rightly have been outraged, hurt, upset and insulted by ignorant and ill-informed comments in an article that appeared in the national media, of which I am sure many Members are aware, and which effectively attempted to blame parents for making their children autistic. I have never heard such nonsense. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion but this sort of sensational comment, made in an effort to engage in self-promotion and nothing else, does irrefutable damage to the years of work undertaken by parents, carers and advocacy groups to try to achieve recognition in the first instance and, second, support and resources for their children with conditions on the autistic spectrum. I hope Members on all sides of the House will join with me in echoing these comments to enable the Oireachtas to send out a strong message that Members stand firmly behind the families of autistic children in distancing themselves from those sensational and ill-informed comments.”

  96. In another venue you wrote “certainly in Catholic training establishments such as Tony’s own Mary Immaculate, the primary teacher trainees are subjected to far more religion than science.”

    Is there any chance that you have more biographical detail?

    I see he left school aged 15, went into an unnamed monastery at 18 for 7 years and left at 25 without taking his vows. He then sat a BA (subject unnamed) and HDE physical education at UCC, an MA psychology UCC 1977 and PhD psychology Birmingham 1983. Then he appears at the Ennis Teachers’ Centre until 1994, and at UCC for “past 20 years”. That would put birth about 1946, with a BA from 1971-75.

  97. I’m open to correction but i think it said on one News report that Minister of Health has a child with Autism.


    CLAIMS BY a prominent psychologist that parents were in some way responsible for their children’s autism by exhibiting a lack of love have been described as “outrageous” by Minister for Health and Children Dr James Reilly.

    Dr Reilly, who has a 25-year-old autistic son, said Dr Tony Humphreys’s remarks were a slur on parents with autistic children.

    “It was utterly outrageous. The hurt that he caused people is absolutely astonishing,” he said.

    Dr Humphreys drew an angry response from many parents of autistic children in a column in the Irish Examiner last week. He referred to a study purporting to show higher levels of autism in the children of parents involved in mathematics and science.

    He said the researchers had missed the “glaringly obvious fact that if the adults they researched live predominantly in their heads and possess few or no heart qualities, their children will need to find some way of defending themselves against the absence of expressed love and affection and emotional receptivity”.

    Dr Reilly said Dr Humphreys compounded his original offence by going on the Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ radio and stating that parents need not worry that autism had a genetic component.

    “Another utter insult to parents. I say this to parents, let nobody set a limit on your child’s horizon,” the Minister said in an interview on TV3 News. “If one of your children has a problem with autism and the others don’t, it is not your parenting skills that are the issue.”

    Dr Reilly’s son Jamie is now 25 and recently graduated from TCD with an honours degree in genetics. Both father and son spoke at a recent international conference on autism in Galway.

    Dr Humphreys could not be contacted last night. He told TV3 that he regretted causing any offence, but did not regret speaking what he believed was the truth.

  99. It’s remarkable how selective Tony is about making an appearance. He seems decidedly averse to debating his statements with anyone who might be able to challenge him as a professional, and he also seems to be unavailable quite a lot.

    Annoying the minister for health is never a smart move, I’d imagine, for somebody who does clinical work with patients. Does Tony have any contracts with the HSE?

  100. Surely the Minister for Health and Children could easily make a statement about Tony’s eligibility and fitness to use the professional titles that he so loves – doctor, consultant clinical psychologist, etc. It would force the Examiner into formally retracting the titles from all his future articles, and force UCC and other organisations to stop pandering to Tony’s ego.

    Ideally the Examiner would also retract this particular article, with an explanation in its place (at the moment they are just hiding the link to it).

  101. …did not regret speaking what he believed was the truth.

    There are very many things that I might write about Tony Humphreys, because I believe them to be true. I’d regret if he found them offensive but then I’m sure he wouldn’t mind, if I believed them to be true?

  102. The form of the statement is very similar to that preferred by the Catholic hierarchy when distancing themselves from responsibility.

    If anyone was offended.

  103. I blame Dr.Tony’s parents here.
    You don’t lick the sort of waffle he comes out with from the stones.
    I reckon ma and pa told him he was too wonderful and didn’t give him enough baitin’s.

  104. @FF1 – or the contrary, in keeping with his often-repeated mantra that parental over-ambition and parental abuse are two forms of neglect that create damaged adults. In the Independent in 2000 he described why “It’s good for the soul to feel bad about yourself”:

    “As a child, he was constantly and unfavourably compared with his twin brother, so when his mother became an invalid, and was confined to a wheelchair, he moved into the role of carer to win approval.
    “At the age of 18, he entered a monastery to study for the priesthood and remained there for seven years. But with just one month to go before ordination, he decided to leave: the priestly vocation had also been an exercise to win the approval of his devoutly religious parents. The experience of leaving was both liberating and traumatic.
    “‘In the Ireland of those days, you just didn’t leave the priesthood. It was every parent’s dream. But I wasn’t living my own life. When I got home, nobody would speak to me, so I left after a week and went to Dublin.'”

  105. He does talk an awful lot of waffle Lou doesn’t he.
    What I don’t get is why anyone would pay too much credence all at to anything Dr. Tony has to say.
    Dr. Tony says it’s okay to feel bad about yourself.. Whoopdidoo.
    I mean are these fools laughing all the way to the bank or do really believe what they say?

    Says in that article, 100,000 of his books sold. Jesus.

    I think he should make a full retraction and apologise.
    I was talking to a girl recently who’s son was diagnosed with Aspergers. She was saying to me that they don’t know yet exactly what causes it…
    You’d have enough guilt without this clown and his nonsense though.

    As Bock said above –

    “If you’re not a scientist, don’t presume to talk about things you don’t understand.It’s that simple”

  106. @FF1, “You’d have enough guilt without this clown and his nonsense though.”

    Guilt, shame, anxiety and depression are hallmarks of autistic spectrum disorder, for both parents and people with ASD. These are the emotions that Tony Humphreys has tapped into. I suppose it is only because kids with abdominal pains, tonsilitis and asthma are not carrying a sense of guilt or shame that has saved him from a savaging at the hands of a mob with pitchforks and torches. LizDitz quoted some of his outrageous claims of the effects of motherly neglect and abuse at

    I think only a full retraction from the Examiner in print is going calm this, otherwise they will likely have a repeat visit from the mob every time he gets a word out of line in future. The villagers all (even me) have Twitter and Facebook to synchronise their lynchings these days, as Crosbie has pointed out.

    The Tony Humphrys HDip in Relationships ( made no sense to me – I have no idea if all that Oedipal stuff, Jung and the ‘womb as world experience’ is what would be expected for adult learners without a background in psychology, or what modern psychologists / counsellers to their clients.

  107. I think Humphreys has succeeded in shining a light on a lot of the nonsense attending psychoanalysis. Much of psychiatry looks like pseudoscience.

    Psychiatry is “full of holes and half-truths” according to Dr Terry Lynch, a Limerick-based GP and psychotherapist. Have a look at that link.

  108. On newstalk today Tom Dunne spoke with callers at length about this article. Humphries Postulate is repugnant and disgusting. Has anyone contacted the editor of the examiner to ask them to consider their position?

  109. @Bock: It is not a big step from what Dr Lynch says “trauma [can lead] to the development of defence mechanisms, which can manifest themselves in a range of behaviours” to Dr Humphreys saying there is no genetic or neurobiological basis of a wide range of childhood conditions.

    Other people whose job title starts with “ps” should be looking for the boundary between scientific evidence and cultist popular psychology.

    Dr Lynch, whose experiences are detailed in a new book, Selfhood, said his own sense of loss as a child had helped him develop empathy for those who have experienced emotional and mental distress.
    “These aspects of low selfhood . . . are always experienced by the individual concerned and are always verifiably present,” he said.
    “This adds a level of credibility that has not yet been established for the biological hypothesis, despite decades of investigations involving thousands of research projects aimed at verifying the biological hypothesis as an established fact,” he said.
    “Unlike the chemical imbalance notion – for which there is never any evidence – the evidence for this loss of selfhood and distress is right there in front of me.”
    He said when people experience great trauma, it can overwhelm them leading to the development of defence mechanisms, which can manifest themselves in a range of behaviours.

  110. @BockDr Terry Lynch does not have a problem with psychoanalysis his criticism of psychiatry is based on its overuse of medicine to deal with what often amount to family/historical/psychological/emotional issues and not genetics. [Psychiatry for instance would be greatly threatened by Humphries’ humanistic stance,Humphries, himself based on his statements, would be very much against the medical modal which is an intrinsic aspect of psychiatry] In fact Lynch as a psychotherapist would rely on aspects of psychoanalytic theory in his work [alongside such things as Person Centred Theory/CBT/Reality therapy/family systems theory etc] There are very few mental disorders that have been proven to be genetically linked yet the medical profession [which psychiatry and the vast majority of GP’S is complicit with] has used medication as it’s number one solution leading to massive addiction and huge amounts of profit for biomedical companies. Tony Humphries was very wrong to use national media to air his views on such issues as autism [which has not been definitively proven to be genetically transmitted] and should have paid a lot more attention to how he worded his views so that they wouldn’t be construed as blaming parents which I don’t think was his intention in fairness. However he must take responsibility for this. [and Id imagine he s regretting it himself] The problem now is that he has done more damage than good by not only upsetting countless honest decent caring and loving parents of Autistic children but also to the fight against so called mental health scientists who are on the payroll of massive biochemical corporations destroying people’s lives with spurious connections between genetics and mental illness. They give ‘speed’ to children with ‘ADHD’ for God sake. [does ADHD exist cos it didn’t until someone said it did?] I used to dabble in a bit of speed myself back in the day and whilst it was great for getting down to War Pigs or the Ace of Spades I wouldn’t be giving it to my 12 year old before school. Your quote in one of your posts stating that if you had an issue you d talk to a friend [fine advice for yourself clearly and I’m sure for a lot of people whose friends aren’t just as frightened depressed anxious or angry as themselves] unfortunately reveals a blatant lack of knowledge around mental health issues. The biomedical industry in the name of science have and still do control governments throughout the civilized world. It is as big if not a bigger scandal than the banks and what they’ve done to this country and the majority of the ‘free my arse’ world that we live in. Follow the money Bock, follow the money the truth is usually found hanging around it.

    ‘Bio chemical brain defects may occur [but] at this time we simply do not know whether they do or not’

    Dr Terry Lynch ‘Beyond Prozac’

  111. @Bill: I do not see the clear blue water between yourself and Tony Humphreys. The man has publicly declared beliefs that seem to be widespread in your money-making therapy industry: that autism, and all sorts of “labels”, do not exist and that they are treatable behavioural reactions to abusive parenting. He has also publicly declared the sexism endemic in the equation of parenting with mothering, because she is declared to be the guilty party in this supposed emotional neglect. The very fact the Tony Humphreys has spent the past three decades mingling in the crowd spouting his hateful beliefs, with no sign that he has been challenged within the profession of psychology, demonstrates to me that the profession is corrupted by pervasive anti-scientism.

    He was professionally challenged over the past fortnight by a number of psychiatrists, but not by his own profession. I assume the psychologists were too busy either hiding or covering their own arses with swift rewrites of their own websites (as posted earlier in this thread). And how about the issue of registration that Bock got his teeth into – why aren’t you all registered and subject to a professional code of ethics? The legislation was passed seven years ago.

    Tony Humphreys is welcomed at psychological conferences all over Ireland every year, provides lectures to the HSE and various support groups. He directs three university courses in psychology. Yet he has consistently written that bad mothering causes physiological illness in national newspapers – including, bizarrely, tonsillitis “embodying a child’s fear of speaking out”. I can only assume that rooms full of psychologists have sat through his woman-hating, evidence-denying lectures without once disputing his opinions.

    I take home from this episode that Dr Tony Humphreys is fully accepted by and representative of Irish psychology.

  112. Lou, many of the professionals who wrote to condemn Humphreys were psychologists. The Psychology Society of Ireland and its Autism group have both strongly condemned the article and criticised the Examiner. It’s hard to understand your argument in that context.

  113. @Ivor: I count 24 items printed in the Irish Examiner and one in the Irish Times. I also listened to broadcasts on RTE1 Liveline, RTE1 Marian Finucane and Newstalk Tom Dunne. There was one single, brief item from Dr Penny Rogers ( and an article containing a statement from the PSI (, a statement triggered by the huge volume of complaints to the PSI rather than by the article. These two pieces did not condemn Humphreys and said only that a) Dr Humphreys did not understand autism; and b) his autistic theories were outdated. One therapist actually gave a robust defence of Humphreys ( Psychologists have not at any point said that Dr Humphreys is in conflict with or unrepresentative of the psychological profession.

    I did not see any comment from the PSI Autism Group and would benefit from a link or quotation. Likewise, I would benefit from links to comments by the “many professionals” in the psychological profession that you refer to.

    The huge number of other professionals who did condemn Humphreys were a psychiatrist (, a professor of genetics and neuroscience ( and many people who work directly with families affected by autism.

    The psychologists are all under a table, wearing tin hats and have the lights switched off.

  114. It appears to me that some people are on some kind of mission or witch hunt. Clearly its not safe to give an opinion. In fact Dr. Humphries has helped numerous parents and children down through the years, but of course on sites like this we hear nothing about that. Many people have read his books and have found them to be very helpful. Personally I think the man is a genius and should be entitled to express his beliefs. As well he never stated that his beliefs were facts, but was only going on his experience from working with parents and children down through the years. Also he has never blamed parents for their children’s autism or behaviour. I think what Dr. Humprhries is saying is that we all do things unconsciously, without realising it That includes all of us whether we are parents or not and until we become conscious of what is hidden no real change can occur.

  115. Josephy just doesn’t get it.

    Humphreys’s ‘opinions’ reflect both a profound bias and an inability to understand the scientific research which has been conducted into autism spectrum disorders over the last fifteen years.

  116. Josephy — Is it a witch-hunt in your world to challenge statements which damage and hurt people?

    Let me point out a few things to you: nobody on this site has suggested that Tony Humphreys has not helped patients in the past. Neither has anyone denied that some people found his books helpful. In addition, nobody has said he should not be entitled to exspress his beliefs.

    By all means criticise what you see written on this site, but don’t invent things that were never said.

    Clearly you haven’t yet had a chance to actually read what Humphreys wrote in the Examiner, or you would know that he stated many things as fact, and he certainly did say categorically that the actions of parents cause autism. In my world that’s blaming them. In your world it might be called something else but it amounts to the same thing, so let’s not play silly counsellor word-games. Parents feel blamed and that’s what matters.

    Humphreys has caused great damage in publishing this article, and while he’s entitled to his opinion, he can expect to be vigorously challenged. That’s how the grown-up world works.

  117. There is a short bit in The Clare Champion today quoting Humphreys “I need to reiterate that in my 30 years of practice, I never found any parent or teacher or other who coldly or intentionally hurt a child.”

    What he said, and stands by, is “if the adults they researched live predominantly in their heads and possess few or no heart qualities, their children will need to find some way of defending themselves against the absence of expressed love and affection and emotional receptivity.”

    So the adults cause autism, but not coldly or intentionally. Nobody, so far as I know, has accused Humphreys of witchcraft. We are merely hunting for a fuller comprehension of his, and the profession’s, position.

  118. Bock, I have a comment #143 from 11:35am “awaiting moderation” – for my own reference, is there a particular boundary I have over-stepped? Thanks, Lou Ann.

  119. Oh dear, Bock. Your Amazon adlink at the side of the page [] is offering three Humphreys books for sale!

    @Lou, 147
    if the adults they researched live predominantly in their heads and possess few or no heart qualities, their children will need to find some way of defending themselves against the absence of expressed love and affection and emotional receptivity
    He is referring to work by Simon Baron Cohen and others at the Cambridge Research Centre. He accused them of missing the glaringly obvious because he believes that mathematicians, programmers, engineers and the like can’t express love and affection for their children.

  120. According to messages on Twitter in the last hour, “@Irishautism The discussion about Tony Humphreys’ article on autism tomorrow will be at 8.15 for those asking #irelandam #tv3 #autism”

    I assume that means a segment will be on Ireland AM television show tomorrow morning, TV3 at 8:15 am.

  121. The Twitterverse suggests that Tony Humphreys will be given space on Ireland AM on this coming Friday 24 February to explain his views.

    Perhaps our silent psychological colleagues will take some time out of their busy schedules to clarify whether practising psychology in the 21st century encompasses a belief that autism (and in fact all ‘labels’) have their root in emotional neglect. I am aware that Tony Humphreys is not an outsider and that many psychologists share and put into practice these beliefs.

  122. Indeed. And the operative word is “beliefs” — a concept that sets them apart from people with a scientific basis to their discipline.

  123. A report during the week covering a scientific conference in the US was very clear on genetic/environmental causation – they’re trying to isolate the particular substances that may be responsible for the gene mutation which gives rise to the neurological changes. They absolutely rule out the so-called parenting ‘refridgerator effect’.

  124. I am an adult who has had hydrocephalus since infancy. I display some autistic traits. The way people treated me as a child has had a greater effect on my life then my condition. I believe parents are do quick to look to for recoignation of their children problems rather than simply showing the child more empathy and compassion.Once a diagnosis of autism is made it will effect the child for rest of his/her life. They want the system to take partial responsible for their child.You shouldn’t refer to a child as an autistic child they are a child first who simply has autism, Tony Humpries is partly right.

  125. I watched the interview with TH on Ireland AM this morning, apart from coming across in a very inarticulate manner, it struck me that he was so highly defensive of his own theory that he displayed no ” listening skill ” which i would have thought after 30 years in practice might be an obvious and almost involuntary reaction to questions, however thats only my observation.

    He stated that ” Autism is a Theory ” there is something unbelievably cosseted in his research and belief system to make such an explosive and outrageous statement.

    His continued arguement based on his theory of ” Emotional baggage ” and ” Conscious / Unconscious ” behaviour and interaction of ” Parents ” seems to me to severly undermine the ability, willingness and skill of a Parent to recognise such within themselves and to address same in their own way without the assistance of a “Psychologist “.

  126. @Norma “the assistance of a psychologist”:

    This is the biggest issue – CBT and psychotherapy are recommended treatments for verbal young people with autism. Most adults with Asperger syndrome (approximately 70%) have episodes of depression and will be referred for counselling. Many parents of children with autism will seek counselling and psychotherapy for their own stresses and difficulties.

    We all have baggage and emotional issues, of course, but they did not *cause* autism. Tony Humphreys slithered out by firstly saying that he never said “cause” and secondly that he does not believe in “autism”, but he is not alone in a large and growing profession. There is a high chance that psychologists, counsellors and therapists are going to search out the baggage and emotional issues of any client, and a high chance that they will hold beliefs similar to Tony Humphreys.

    Psychologists have been very thin on the ground since the article on 3rd Feb. PSI president Michael Drumm said: “Tony Humphreys’ assertions are not supported by the vast body of published research in the field of ASDs and are unhelpful and likely to cause upset.” That is hardly reassurance that people directly affected by ASD can seek psychological supports free from professionals with damaging beliefs, like Tony Humphreys.

  127. Hi, catching up with all this only now, so apologies for being so late and if someone else has already clarified this.
    I completely agree with everything you said about Humphrey and his article.
    I only wish to highlight that as a clinical psychologist (which I doubt he really is, or he just lost his mind in an omnipotence delirium) you do study neuropsychology, therefore you would (or at least should…) be well versed in genetics, brain functioning and neuroimaging, which are the main components to support the genetic basis of autism.
    Moreover, clinical psychologists (and not GPs!) are the ones who formulate diagnoses of autism, so you don’t need to have studied medicine (never mind chemistry, anatomy &co) to do that. I’m not even sure if psychiatrists can formulate such diagnosis without an assessment carried out by a psychologist.
    At last, I would like to underline that psychology IS a science, and quite strict too! You can’t really equate studying psychology in your undergrad with psychology at a postgrad level! No trained psychologist would share Humphrey’s views on the causes of autism, especially for his denial of scientific facts as reality and his presentation of common places as scientific facts. Psychology requires evidence!
    I think that your view of Humphrey as a cleric is more accurate and representative of him than the title of psychologist (or psychoanalyst, as he called in support of his view psychoanalytic theories that he is not able to apply).
    I am very sorry that he misrepresented the psychological community so badly, but please, do not generalise on this as Humphrey did on his experience of dealing with distressed children whose parents were going through a difficult moment. He is identifying autistic children with distressed children, you are identifying clinical psychologists with Humphrey. Let’s not fall into Humphrey’s fallacy. Thanks.

  128. Silvia » There’s no disagreement about the existence of autism, and therefore its diagnosis is not especially relevant. The issue here is about somebody stating categorically that it has no neurological basis. While a psychologist might study neurology to a reasonable level postgrad, it would surprise me if such training made them an authority in the field. Humphreys appears to lack any awareness of his own limitations, and has shown very little empathy with parents or autistic people. This would not inspire great confidence in his clinical skills.

  129. Bock >> I think you missed my point. Your paper (and some of the comments) questioned the authority of psychologists in knowing what autism is, therefore I made clear that a psychologist is actually the competent professional to determine what is autism and what can be ascribed to something else. Psychologists are not authorities in neurology, but they are in neuropsychology, which is as important as neurology and studies neural substrates of different behaviours and conditions, including autism of course. Psychology believes autism is a neurodevelopmental condition (i.e. concerns the development of your brain). What Humphrey said is absurd and was condemned by the representatives of the Psychological Society of Ireland, who completely distanced themselves from him since that article.
    Again, I agree completely with what you said about him (he has no idea what he is talking about and possibly has never seen an autistic child in all his life) and I personally think he never re-read the article before publishing it, otherwise he would have (I hope…) realised how hurtful and yet empty it was. I think that now he is just trying to justify himself but does not understand there is a need for him to reformulate completely whatever he wanted to say.
    I would like to point out that he does not teach on any psychology course, especially clinical ones, where scientific rigour and awareness of one’s own limitation shape all parts of the training. Humphrey only spoke for himself, could not understand the research he quoted and has definitely never interacted with an autistic child/adult in real life. He does not represent the view, knowledge and clinical skills of the vast majority of psychologists.

  130. Silvia — Could you point out where I questioned the authority of psychologists to know what autism is?

    This post is about the inverse — stating what it is not.

  131. Bock, not sure I understand what you are saying…

    “As far as I know, psychology training doesn’t include any of the hard sciences, like chemistry, physics, biochemistry, or even their extensions such as physiology and anatomy.”

    “this is a man [a clinical psychologist] with no obvious training in medicine, physiology, chemistry, biochemistry or any other fundamental science.”

    “Since he [a clinical psychologist] is not an expert in genetics, neurology or biology, he has no business making definitive statements about these things. It reflects poorly on him. No professional should make make such dogmatic statements about a field he is not qualified in”

    “Autism is autism. He [a clinical psychologist]’s not qualified to pronounce on such things [give opinions on autism]. He has no training in medicine”

    “Psychologists are not trained in medicine, and therefore his opinions about autism are no more valid than those of the average taxi driver.”

    “Based on your studies, would you feel sufficiently confident to make medical assertions as Dr Humphreys has done?” [yes, I am a clinical psychologist and a psychoanalyst and I can confidently say that what Humphreys said is wrong and betrays his ignorance in the subject]

    Now, if you want to play (like Humphreys) the “But I did not say that!” while something is strongly implied from what you said, this is your choice.
    In certain parts of your piece (and comments) you say that psychologists have no saying in this and are not trained in this. It doesn’t seem to me you know much about the training of a clinical psychologist, so you have no idea to what level they study biology, genetics and so on, and especially you don’t know what level of expertise in those areas is needed by a psychologist. There is a reason why a neurologist/chemist/biologist are not psychologists and vice versa.
    If you simply phrased the above in a way that does not reflect your thinking, this cannot be inferred: the evidence points in another direction (i.e. dismissal of the clinical authority of psychologists based on one single case) and I cannot guess that as I am not a mind reader, I am psychologist.

  132. Silvia » Context is very important when reading anything, and the comments you quoted are written in the context of a psychologist stating categoricaly that autism has no genetic or neurological basis. To infer anything further from it would be deliberate misinterpretation.

    I have no doubt that many psychologists are qualified to identify the characteristics associated with autism and to diagnose the presence of the disorder, but that is a long way from, as you put it, “knowing” what it is. More to the point in the context of this discussion, it’s even further from “knowing” what it is not.

    I think it would take a very special psychologist indeed to be able to state with authority that this disorder has no genetic or neurological basis.

    Anyway, as you know, this post is primarily about statements made by Tony Humphreys.

  133. Just an update on the current state of psychology in Ireland.

    We are in-fact intensively trained in neuroanatomy, neuroscientific processes, neuropsychology and psychopharmacology. Many of us work with EEG, mri and other technologies. We are governed by the PSI code which obliges us to keep up to date with the most relevant research, which Mr. Humphreys was not doing. He has unfortunately given us a bad name.

  134. How do you know autism is a spectrum? Are there any biomarkers that prove this beyond all reasonable doubt?

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