Dear person who wrote about how being bullied is like being in ABA therapy,

First of all, I totally get it. I’ve made basically the same comparison. I’m assuming you had the same experience I did where you read people talking about harmful therapy and went “Wow, that feels familiar” even though you were never in therapy. I get it.

But isn’t it… a little soon, to be saying “Bullying is bad because it’s like ABA therapy”? Shouldn’t that sentence be the other way around?

I mean, the group of people in which it’s unquestioningly accepted that ABA therapy is harmful is not that big.

I feel uncomfortable about the idea of using the harmfulness of ABA therapy as a foundation to stand on to talk about how much I was harmed by other things. It seems kind of rude to put that weight on them when they’re already more than busy with all the people who can’t believe a Scientific Therapy™ could possibly be harmful.

What I feel comfortable saying about ABA therapy and abuse goes in the other direction:

When people tell me that they were harmed by ABA therapy, I believe them even though I have no personal experience with it. I believe them because I do have personal experience with bullying and emotional abuse, and I can recognize that their experiences are similar to mine; their experiences are abuse coupled with medical authority. The basic premises and underlying worldview of ABA therapy are the same premises that underlie bullying and abuse.

That’s what I have to say about ABA and bullying. They’re harmful in the same way, for a certain sense of “way.” And I think that talking about that similarity is good for both helping people understand bullying, and helping people understand how therapy can be harmful.

But inasmuch as any kind of abuse can be said to be worse overall than another, I think it’s pretty reasonable to say that receiving that abuse mindset one-on-one, in a systematized way, from a person who you’ve been taught to respect as a medical professional, is a “worse,” more intensive exposure to it than receiving it haphazardly from your peers.


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