Jordan Peterson Has Done More than Anyone to Promote Psychology to Men and Boys, but Now He’s Losing His License
On 17th January the famous psychologist Jordan Peterson lost his court battle to prevent the Ontario College of Psychologists in Canada from submitting him to mandatory social media training, or what many have dubbed “re-education”.
This followed complaints that Peterson had brought the profession into disrepute by describing a plus-sized Sports Illustrated model, Yumi Nu as “not beautiful”.
Peterson defended his tweet by saying;
Peterson also got into trouble that same year for criticizing transgender actor Elliot Page, claiming that she was trying to convert young girls into gender reassignment surgery, and for describing the physician who removed her breasts as “a criminal physician”. When asked Peterson said he would “rather die” than remove the tweet.
Peterson has arguably done more to promote the psychology profession to a young audience (and particularly isolated young men) than almost anyone else. But it seems the profession itself is largely at loggerheads with him. Many have argued this is because the field of psychology is becoming increasingly politicized.
James Turk, the director of the Centre for Free Expression at Toronto Metropolitan University, said that while he opposed many of Peterson’s views it was “really worrisome” that in a democratic society a professional body could “censor the political speech of its members”.
Canadian Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and X boss Elon Musk have also championed Peterson’s right to free speech.
Having worked in the mental health profession for twenty years, I would say that Peterson’s spat with the psychology establishment largely comes down to his promotion of a more traditional approach to health than is now the norm.
In particular, Peterson promotes the idea that young people (and especially young men) should assume more responsibility, and discipline their speech and behavior. This may seem uncontroversial, but recent trends in society have clearly promoted the exact opposite.
Universities in particular have fragilized their students by creating safe spaces, and by de-platforming controversial or challenging speakers. Many would argue that this has been disastrous for the mental health of Generation Z kids.
Life on Life’s Terms
Like Peterson, the field of addiction treatment is also at loggerheads with the wider field of psychology. Because while modern therapists veer more and more towards blaming parents (or at least society) addiction treatment maintains that “WE ARE THE PROBLEM!”
At its core, recovery-focused addiction treatment promotes abstinence from all mind-altering drugs. To do this we must become emotionally sober first, and emotional sobriety cannot come without assuming total personal accountability for all the things that happen in our lives. In recovery circles we call this “life on life’s terms”. This is in stark contrast to modern psychology and psychotherapy which says, “society has damaged you, and it is society that must change – not you”. Traditional recovery networks and addiction treatment providers tend to challenge this narrative, as do people like Jordan Peterson.
The psychology profession these days seems to tell people only what they want to hear. For example, the psychology profession (and healthcare in general) has manifestly failed to deal with the obesity epidemic, telling overweight people that they are “beautiful just the way they are”. The fact that the Ontario College of Psychologists have chosen to punish Jordan Peterson for commenting negatively on an obese sports model is proof of this fact.
It’s the same with public policy towards addicted people. Many drug users are also told that they don’t have to become abstinent. Progressive governments and psychologists in places like Canada offer a “safe supply” of dangerous opioids such as Fentanyl. Critics would argue that these initiatives have been promoted far more than access to recovery based residential treatment.
This controversy also includes gender roles, and the way that young men are increasingly told that they should behave in more traditionally feminine ways (and vice versa).
For example, the American Psychological Association caused a furore in 2018 when it published a “guide to working with men and boys”, which suggested that when men conform to ‘masculine’ values such as achievement, adventure and risk, it could be damaging for them.
A More Traditional Approach to Addiction Treatment
At One Step Rehab here in Northern Thailand we have been working against this trend for a long time now. Like Jordan Peterson we have promoted a more traditional approach to addiction treatment. We promote abstinence, self-discipline, and healthy managed risk and adventure for all people (not just young people).
It is our opinion that the psychology profession as a whole is largely failing in its responsibilities towards addicted people by telling them what they want to hear. It is also failing men and boys by pathologizing them.
By promoting participation in Muay Thai kickboxing, weight training, and peer run therapy groups that challenge irresponsible and self-centerd behavior, we believe that we are having a small but significant effect in helping people – and especially young people – to turn their lives around and become responsible members of society once again.