Critical Theory is a divisive ideology that splits the world into groups (usually based on immutable characteristics such as sex, race, sexuality etc) of ‘oppressors’ and ‘oppressed’. With little in the way of evidence or coherent principles to support it, Critical Theory is only one way of viewing the world, but it demands adherence and commitment to its principles at the expense of any other perspective.
The adoption of Critical Theory ideology isn’t always obvious, and can be hard to spot – but the key is to look out for any statements that divide groups based on immutable characteristics, and the assignation of words such as ‘powerful’/’powerless’, ‘oppressed’/’oppressors’ etc. to them. This process can be subtle, and doesn’t always explicitly refer to Critical Theory, so be aware of the language that is used when talking about different groups of people.
Given the ideological and inconsistent nature of the theory, it most certainly shouldn’t be adopted by psychologists, but increasingly seems to have been (for examples of organisations to beware of, see here). This is due to a variety of factors including pressure to be seen as ‘woke’, political bias, or attempts to capitalise on the growing ‘victimhood’ sector.
The adoption of Critical Theory is therefore problematic for all aspects of psychology – biasing research, undermining the scientific credentials of the discipline, preventing teaching and learning, and putting patients at risk. Arguably the safety of our patients is the most important point here – and adoption of Critical Theory risks this, not only through promoting non-evidence based, politically biased ideology, but also through what it teaches clients. Critical Theory teaches clients to view themselves as either victims or oppressors, with the former being taught to look for evidence of slight and insult in any interaction, and the latter being told that they must ‘repent’ purely because of the groups they were born into. Not only is it unethical for therapists to encourage such damaging patterns of thinking in patients, it is actively teaching them how to be mentally ill, rather than teaching them how to be well.
To learn more about Critical Theory and the points made above, see the following resources:
- A definition of Critical Theory
- Cynical Theories
- Critical Theory and Therapy
- We need a Liberal, not Critical, Social Justice
- On why Critical Social Justice Activism Could Increase Suicide Risk
- On how Critical Social Justice Activism Impedes Teaching
- We need to keep Critical Social Justice out of the Therapist’s office
- The Harm of Critical Race Theory
- Social justice and therapy
- A review of Kendi’s ‘How to Be an Anti-racist’
- The existential threat caused by Critical Social Justice