Trusting the ‘Experts’ is Risky Business

Not long ago, I took my car into the shop. The check oil light was on. I knew that wasn’t good. Predictably, the mechanic suggested an expensive repair.

It was a bad time to shell out a bunch of cash on a car, but I ended up opting for the repair because I don’t know enough about today’s cars to evaluate alternatives. Saying yes seemingly saved me more time than the money was worth, and I trusted my mechanic.

At least, I think I trust my mechanic. He is an expert on cars and carries an authority that’s difficult to resist, especially when I don’t know enough to know better. I was vulnerable to his appeal of authority.

From finding the right paint for an outdoor deck to buying the right shoes and insoles to reduce pain, life today is so complicated that I need the help of experts to get things done. Fortunately, the stakes are low for most of these choices.

That’s why it’s so unnerving, for example, to see telemental health companies like VocoVision working to insert themselves as experts into family relationships and the lives of children.

In a recent graphic for Mental Health Awareness month, VocoVision put together a color-coded map of the U.S. that purports to show the states where kids are happiest.

The company says the intention behind creating and publishing this graphic is “to better understand the disparities in mental and physical health support for children in communities and schools nationwide.”

Like any market player, VocoVision is positioning itself as the company that simplifies life for others, enabling them to profit.

“This research will not only serve as a resource for educators, healthcare providers, and parents to take immediate action in the pursuit of creating a healthier and happier future for our children,” the company states.

That sounds like an appeal to authority–a grammatically poor one.

VocoVison is offering us this information as a purveyor of solutions to the problem the graphic illustrates. For the consumer, that should raise some red flags for several reasons. The first is where they are trying to focus our attention.

You don’t often hear parents wishing their kids were sad, but how often do we explore what priority we should place on kids’ happiness? Is it more important than resilience? Or how about courage, gratitude, integrity, or curiosity? If VocoVision’s primary interest were in science, that would be where its studies would start.

For parents, these are essential questions to answer before considering therapy. VocoVision places happiness front and center—though psychological research shows it’s healthier for kids to experience the full range of human emotions.

VocoVision sells therapy to students, and an effective sales tactic is to play into parental fears, particularly from a position of authority.

When you examine the study in detail, a lack of rigor quickly becomes clear. One could go on at length about the subtle manipulations of information.

Serious problems range from ten happiness factors that correlate more directly to relative wealth than psychological well-being to numerical scores with no description of how this number is derived. VocoVision even stipulates working with child health professionals to create the said graphic, but instead of providing the names of these collaborators, the link goes to job openings.

There is more smoke and mirrors here than solid information. That’s because this promotional fauxsearch is about sales, not science.

Real science would involve VocoVison providing its telehealth services to randomly selected kids in the lowest-ranked Mississippi and then tracking their outcomes in a full double-blind experiment with a control group. This would be followed by presenting the results to a peer-reviewed publication and asking another group to repeat their process to confirm the results.

That is the difference between real scientific authority and perceived authority.

In the case of VocoVision and other telemental health companies like BetterHelp, when we defer to their authority, the stakes are our relationships, our kids developing identities, and the health data generated—a tempting side hustle for these companies.

While this one graphic may not result in hordes of parents immediately dialing their kids into therapy to make them just that one bit happier, it suggests that therapy should be part of the “what makes a happy life” equation.

While no one wants to stigmatize mental illness, there are dangers to normalizing therapy for kids, especially those without a mental health diagnosis, as VocoVision previously suggested. Lionizing happiness, as this graphic does, implies pathology to normal childhood emotions like sadness, anxiety, and even depression.

Children taught to defer to the authority of a therapist as a matter of course when they experience these kinds of negative emotions are dependent and helpless, not resilient. It also puts people on a cradle-to-grave reliance on deferring to others.

Putting a child into therapy is a significant decision. Like any treatment, it can have either positive or negative results. Therapy doesn’t promise guaranteed success.

This is when therapists use strongly evidence-based treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy.

The chart doesn’t mention, and parents may not know, that counseling psychology and the therapy fields have been ideologically captured. Major bodies like the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) are pushing racist concepts like white privilege and advocating stridently in favor of the medical transition of gender-confused kids, even as solid evidence of harm has other countries pumping the brakes.

Given its lack of transparency, there is no reason to doubt that VocoVision might be engaging in ideologically driven therapy—such as affirming gender transitions for children. When asked if they practice gender-affirming care, the company, which initially expressed enthusiasm about sharing information to gain publicity for its programs and educational services, ultimately chose not to comment.

Right now, therapy is increasingly a waypoint on the path to teen castrations, hysterectomies, lifelong pharmaceuticals, or worsening mental health for children rather than improved well-being. Some parents have even lost custody of their children after therapists got involved. All in the name of kids’ happiness.

When gender isn’t the primary issue, as long as accreditors demand graduate training programs be infused with unprovable Critical Theories and DEI, there is reason for concern about ideological indoctrination on the couch.

This is a very difficult situation for the parents of troubled teens who may desperately need insights into evidence-based psychology.

It does not end there. Problems associated with deferring to mental health experts go way beyond VocoVision’s graphic—adults are also increasingly in therapy themselves.

While there is no question that mental health therapy can be lifesaving when the right client meets the right practitioner, today’s colleges are turning out cohort after cohort of indoctrinated therapists. The odds are getting longer that clients can find a match who isn’t trained to focus on systemic racism and their part in maintaining the white patriarchy.

It would be negligent not to ask where does this all lead.

A quick look into the past is terrifying and revealing. What we see is weaponized therapy in things like eugenics, sluggish schizophrenia diagnoses, enhanced interrogation, and worse.

While I’d like to believe the checks and balances that the founding fathers built into our governmental system will hold the tide against the worst possible abuses of weaponized therapy, in the case of one Indiana family who lost custody of their child over a dispute about gender identity the Supreme Court rejected their appeal.

Unlike other cases where the Supreme Court has found that parents withholding life-saving medical treatment was akin to abuse, in this case, it’s unclear how the parents went wrong.

The Indiana law, similar to those in nearly all U.S. states, reads that the government can intervene in “a variety of situations in which even well-intentioned parents find themselves unable to prevent serious harm.”

Who decides this, and who decides what amounts to harm?

In this case, all abuse charges were dropped, and the judge ordered the teen to participate in individual and family therapy.

While the ideological standpoint of the therapist is currently unknown, it has been reported that “The parents were told not to discuss transgenderism with their child outside of the therapy sessions,” as it may worsen other conditions.

So, we also give therapists the power to determine what we say in the privacy of our own homes—how does that relate to our First Amendment rights?

Perhaps the biggest downside to deferring to mental health experts is that we may lose the option to say no.

Photo by Valerii Honcharuk — Adobe Stock — Asset ID#: 368317086 & Edited by Jared Gould


  • Suzannah Alexander

    Suzannah Alexander was a student in the University of Tennessee's Counseling Master's Program from August 2022 to Jan 2023. She encountered difficulties in commencing her practicum after refusing to renounce her Buddhist beliefs and expressing disagreement with the notion that she should feel ashamed for being white. Suzannah is actively engaged in the fight for the return of her tuition and is dedicated to sharing her perspectives on the counseling field to address and prevent instances of bias and discrimination. Find her on X (@DiogenesInExile) and on her substack at

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