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Yeah, Bullshit Me Right From Word One
A girl e-mailed me wanting advice, and started with this:

Hello Amy. I took a look at your website and I am really impressed by your credentials.

My credentials? You mean, how I, with two friends, set up three folding chairs, a magazine rack for a table, and a cardboard sign on the corner of West Broadway and Broome, and dispensed free advice?


I guess you could say I earned a few credits toward a degree in psychotherapy at Harvard On The Highway. But, after that, I got to work.

I used to be somewhat defensive about not having traditional credentials. But, frankly, I read, study, and think my ass off; probably a whole lot more than a lot of people with psychiatry and psychology degrees do. And I think I'm better off not having been indoctrinated into a particular line of thinking, which allows me the freedom to take a sort of Sizzler buffet approach to problems: a lot of psych and ev psych data, a little sociology on the side from time to time, washed down with reason and worship of the absurd.

There are plenty of people who are plenty smart who didn't go to college: Wendy McElroy, for example. The people I feel sorry for are those who are quick to feel all squishy and secure that they're getting good psychotherapeutic and/or medical advice just because some doctor or shrink managed to avoid flunking out of college.

Caveat emptor: Don't be too quick to assume they're reading JAMA instead of John Grisham's latest.

Posted by aalkon at May 23, 2006 9:47 AM

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Your credentials might also refer to endorsements from prominent experts, such as Dr. Albert Ellis. Actually, Amy, you have very impressive credentials. The definition is not limited to the number of sheepskins you might have on your wall. It might also include the number of newspapers that run your column (and if I had a newspaper, I'd run your column every week).

You may be interested in knowing that when the Weekly Planet assigns your column in its table of contents under a section called "The Good Stuff." I agree, but then again, it also assigns "Free Will Astrology" to the same section. If I owned the Weekly Planet, I'd continue to put your column under "The Good Stuff." I suppose under the threat of lost readership, I'd have to still run "Free Will Astrology." Perhaps a new section would be in order: "Idiots' Corner." What do you think?

Even I've got a few diplomas, licenses and certifications, but I would say my "credentials" aren't as impressive as yours. Of course, it depends on what one is looking for, too. I'd take my credentials over yours if I wanted a massage.

Posted by: Patrick at May 24, 2006 7:54 AM

You have credentials, shug. According to Webster's, the first definition of "credential" is "anything that forms the basis for trust." It doesn't necessarily mean formal training or degrees.

Still, Suzuki reminds us not to get too hung up about our level of expertise:

"In the mind of the beginner there are many possibilities, but in the mind of the expert there are few."

And don't forget the Latin root of the word "amateur"!

Posted by: Lena at May 24, 2006 8:16 PM

Thank you, dahlink.

You know how I like that little feeling of terror when I write...from picking challenging topics!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 25, 2006 1:40 AM

Addendum: Curiously, the "Weekly Planet" came out with a new title this week: "Creative Loafing." I like it. It describes the nature of the content better.

Posted by: Patrick at May 25, 2006 4:51 PM

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