World of Psychology Dr. John Grohol's daily update on all things in psychology and mental health. Since 1999. 2016-10-23T23:52:24Z Suzanne Kane <![CDATA[5 Ways to Cultivate Truth]]> 2016-10-23T23:52:24Z 2016-10-23T21:35:34Z Truth“The truth may be stretched thin, but it never breaks, and it always surfaces above lies, as oil floats on water.” – Cervantes, Don Quixote

It isn’t all that uncommon to find yourself bending the truth. People do it all the time. Sometimes it’s to spare someone else from feeling uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s to give ourselves an escape from consequences we know we’ll encounter if we tell the truth. But guess what? The truth will eventually come out, no matter how hard we try to avoid it.

There’s something universally appealing in this, although few would actually admit it. We don’t want to be regarded as liars — even though we sometimes fall into that category. The idea that our little obfuscations or outright tall tales come back to haunt us isn’t particularly attractive. The fact that we work so hard to skirt the truth — knowing full well that it’s wrong — means we’ve got some self-improvement that we need to tend to.

Think of the biggest lies in history and how they eventually were unmasked. The world is flat was debunked. Men are superior was called into question. “I’ll call you” is universally discredited. Big lie or little, as Shakespeare’s quote in “The Merchant of Venice” so aptly reveals — “the truth will out.”

If you accept that truth has more value than lies, and acknowledge that it’s going to come out anyway, how do you begin to cultivate the habit of telling the truth from the start? Is this something you can teach yourself to do — after years of doing just the opposite?

Actually, you can and here’s how.

  • Pause and think 
    Before you respond to a question, embark on telling a story, fill out an employment application, or apply for a loan, pause and think what you’re about to reveal. The first thought that pops into your head may be a lie — or it could be the truth, which you quickly push aside. You’ll know whether it’s true or false. Being able to identify what the thought is qualifies you to make the choice of what to do next. You need the time to figure out what you’re going to say or do.
  • Prepare truthful answers
    Think of answers that are truths you’re willing to say ahead of time so you’re not stumped when you need to say something. For example, if you’re going to a job interview and you want to appear your best. You know you’ll be asked about your strengths and your accomplishments. Instead of saying you saved your previous employer $100,000 by uncovering duplicate projects — when you really only observed someone else doing that — if it’s true you were part of a team that streamlined corporate projects to maximize efficiency, say that instead. If you’re not particularly innovative, talk up how you’re a hard worker that supports team efforts. If you take the time to realize your strengths, you’ll be able to come up with talking points that are true, not false.
  • If you’re uncomfortable, ask for a break
    Maybe the truth you tell now would cause harm, make someone unhappy, or result in you getting fired. Instead of instantly incriminating yourself, ask for a break — literally. You need some time to frame the truth so that it’s less harmful, or to summon your resources if the blowback will be serious. It’s better to say nothing than to blow it completely by telling a lie that will come back to bite you.
  • Work on your values
    Learning to tell the truth instead of spouting lies every time you open your mouth takes patience, time, and practice. Begin by addressing your core values, identifying them, and striving to live in accordance with them. If you value friendship, act like a true friend. If you prize family above all else, put your family ahead of everything else you do. Be the person you most admire. Adopt the traits of people you respect.
  • Ask for help
    No doubt there are people in your life who are familiar with your tendency to embroider the truth. Ask for their help in supporting your truth-telling quest. Have your network of close friends and loved ones call you out when they recognize you’re telling a fib. This might smart a bit, but you need this type of supportive assistance to change your behavior.
Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. <![CDATA[Consider These 10 Questions for Building a Fulfilling Life]]> 2016-10-13T23:01:24Z 2016-10-23T15:45:58Z Ticket to Happiness words on a roll of raffle tickets to illustrOur society has all sorts of ideas about what a fulfilling life looks like. Lose 10 pounds right now, and be happier! Simplify your life! Be more productive than you ever thought possible! Own a brand new car for next to nothing! Do it all! Don’t do it all!

Our parents, grandparents, colleagues, friends, neighbors and others have their own ideas, too. Some believe that getting married, having kids and owning a home leads to a fulfilling life. Some believe that traveling around the world — minus a mortgage — does. Some believe that being an entrepreneur is fulfilling. Some believe it’s a 9 to 5 with plenty of free time during nights and weekends.

Some believe that attending church or synagogue is fulfilling. Others turn to meditation and yoga retreats. Some believe that working long hours and making seven figures is fulfilling. Some believe that spending their days writing, reading and teaching writing is fulfilling — whatever the compensation.

Everyone has different ideas about what makes a satisfying life. And, of course, none of them are wrong (except that fulfillment rarely comes in the form of a car, a slimmer body or a life lived running around like a robot).

The key is to figure out what fulfillment looks like for you.

“A fulfilling life reveals itself at the hands of its creator, as his or her morals, values and beliefs are exercised in a personally meaningful way,” said Darcy Lawton, LCSW, a New York City psychotherapist and former professional ballet dancer who specializes in anxiety, relationships, career guidance, motivation, self-esteem and the performing arts.

She defines a fulfilling life as “an ongoing journey of self-discovery in which an individual connects with his or her authenticity as the chapters of their life unfold.” So your definition will probably change over time. Because, after all, our perspectives, preferences, goals, desires and tastes change over time.

Lawton suggested considering these 10 questions to figure out what a fulfilling life looks like for you. These are the questions she likes to ask her clients to help them form their own definitions. Be sure to reflect on these questions periodically, since your responses may change, month to month or year to year.

  1. What people, places and things do you surround yourself with on a regular basis?
  2. What are your values and priorities, and how are you integrating them into your life?
  3. Think of a time when you encountered and overcame a major obstacle. How did you grow by mastering this challenge?
  4. Picture your future 1 year, 5 years and 10 years from now. What would you like to see unfolding in your life?
  5. When you visualize the life you want to live, what sensations do you experience?  That is, what do you see, feel, smell, taste and hear?
  6. What inner talent, calling or desire have you been meaning to pursue, but find that you keep putting off?
  7. What outlets for self-expression allow you to feel at your best?
  8. When did you find yourself surprised by how much you enjoyed an experience, despite your initial resistance or discomfort?  How did you allow yourself to open up to that experience?
  9. If you woke up tomorrow, and things were as ideal as you’d like them to be, what would that look like?
  10. If you watched a movie about the rest of your life, what would you want to see?

We also can find fulfillment in difficult times, Lawton added. “We learn about ourselves within the contexts of our own lives; our stories form an ongoing narrative by which we learn who we are as people.” And we can learn from tough situations and circumstances. What we want or don’t want may become clearer. Our values may evolve. A demanding, fast-paced career may no longer feel fulfilling, while a quiet, connected family life does.

Plus, we can’t appreciate the depths of joy if we don’t experience disappointment or strife, she said. “Having varied experiences, as well as a breadth of emotions, can allow us to appreciate the positive when it comes our way.”

A fulfilling life is a life lived on your own terms. It is not a life based on others’ perceptions or society’s shoulds. It is not a life based on external measures. It is a life that incorporates your deepest, truest values, desires and intentions.

Martha Bodyfelt <![CDATA[How to Let Go of Anger After Divorce]]> 2016-10-13T22:59:29Z 2016-10-23T10:30:30Z Divorce,fight,problems - Young couple angry at each other sittinYou know that feeling — the one where your heartbeat quickens and your head starts to pound. Your throat starts to close and it takes all the strength you have to keep from screaming at something that your ex said or did.

Anger. Being ticked off. Feeling rage.

While anger is a natural emotion, learning how to manage it as you navigate divorce is crucial to moving on and taking your life back. Although it takes time, the following advice will get you started on the road to recovery.

Anger is a thief. Don’t let it rob you of your chance to move on and be the person you have always wanted to be.

You work hard to maintain the things you love. You keep your house nice and cozy, and you probably have homeowner’s insurance. Your beloved heirlooms and mementos are probably tucked away with the greatest of love and care.

You wouldn’t leave your door unlocked and invite a thief in to destroy those things in your home that you love, would you?

Heck no!

So, why on earth are you leaving the door to your life and the door to your happiness, inviting anger in on a daily basis? Just as a thief will break into your home, wreck it, and take away everything that is dear to you, so will anger.

It’s time to lock the door. It is time to protect one of the most precious things that anger will rob you of: your happiness and chance to heal.

Anger = your reaction to other people’s silliness trying to control you. Why let it?

When you are angry at something, the body lets you know. Your blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate increase because your adrenal glands are being set into “fight or flight” mode.

This physiological reaction may have served cavemen and cavewomen when it was time to fight off whatever prehistoric beast threatened their survival, but the same anger that disrupts your calm and will only keep you from moving on.

The fact that your ex didn’t treat you right, the fact that the marriage is ending or has ended, and the fact that the ex and their lawyers may still be doing stupid shit is just that. They are only facts, but they are not indicators of how you must react.

How you choose to react to the problem — in this case how you choose to react to the facts (the events that are making you angry), is what makes the difference between navigating this process with less drama and stress for yourself, or letting all the madness drag you down and leave you exhausted.

You’re better than getting pissed off at something that you cannot control in the first place. It’s time to focus on the things you actually can control.

If it does not serve you, then let it go.

Some years ago, I was sweating my tail off in a hot yoga class, frustrated that I could not get into a back bend, I heard the yoga teacher say, “If it does not serve you, then let it go.”

Although the yoga teacher probably meant it for the students to be kind and patient with themselves, those words stuck.

It wasn’t about being upset about not being flexible enough during that moment in time.

It was about not letting the fact we were inflexible cloud our ability to just be and move on.

It was about understanding that if a negative emotion was not going to improve our lives, then we needed to show it the door. There is no place for anger holding us hostage.

Beating the Anger Exercise
The next time you start to get angry about the divorce drama, do the following.

  1. Close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths.
  2. Remember that whatever BS is coming your way does not have the power to make you made.
  3. Remember that if the anger is not contributing to your well-being, then breathe that negativity out.
  4. Inhale in the fresh air and focus on the beautiful life and calm that will be your guide.
  5. Carry on, because you have way too many awesome things going on to waste your precious emotional energy on anything toxic.

Learning to let go of anger after divorce can be a long process. But with patience and being kind to yourself and mindful, you will navigate it and take your life back in no time.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[IQ Can Be Linked to Physical and Psychiatric Disorders]]> 2016-10-13T22:59:48Z 2016-10-22T20:35:44Z Too_Smart_BSP

The idea that how smart you are might be connected with how healthy you are is not new. Those who studied social sciences have probably seen the published works on the subject dating back to 1980s.

The problem is not so easy to study academically, though. It is hard to separate the influence of various social factors on both intelligence level and health from a pure connection between health and brightness. As a result, many of the existing studies have been inconclusive. Factors such as age, sex, social and economic level, and education of the study cohort may seriously affect the conclusions. However, when these factors are taken into account, or the study groups are designed in a way minimizing their influence, rather interesting findings emerge.

To measure the cleverness, most studies use IQ. With all its disadvantages, IQ testing still remains the most reliable measure of intelligence. This article will briefly outline the results of studies investigating possible effects that different IQ levels might have on the health.

First, it is important to ask how IQ and health could be connected. Social components are relatively obvious: lower IQ might mean lower level of knowledge about healthy living, for instance. Also, the gradual progression of some chronic diseases may affect cognitive functions leading to lower IQ in unhealthy people. A published analysis showed that long-term sick leave and disability pension are often related to low cognitive abilities. Obviously, this effect is secondary and does not confirm the link between the initial IQ before the disease and the risk of developing this particular disease.

Apart from these obvious connections, there are genetic and physiological components. Recent research data suggest (twin studies in particular) that 60% of factors influencing our intelligence level are dictated by our genes.

There are many genes that directly or indirectly can influence our IQ: these are the genes involved in functioning of the brain, efficiency of neurotransmission, production of neuromediators and so on. The proteins produced by these genes work on multiple levels, and not only in neurons. They may, for instance, regulate the blood supply to the brain or other organs, or availability of various nutrients to neurons or other cells. These proteins may work in different cells of our body performing similar functions. If a gene works not particularly well in the brain cells, it is also likely to underperform elsewhere. At least, this is a general scientific assumption. However, the same gene may have different effects in different cell types, and therefore the link is not so obvious and not so easy to investigate.

It is interesting to mention what the published studies do not confirm. The data show no gender differences in correlations between mortality/morbidity and the IQ level. One study published in the British Medical Journal also demonstrated quite clearly that there is no correlations between high IQ in childhood and morbidity/mortality rates later in life. In both cases the social factors such as social class and culture were taken into account.

Links Between IQ and Specific Diseases

One study demonstrated that high IQ in men was correlated with the incidence of coronary heart disease, although when socio-economic variables were taken into account the relation was not very strong.

Another study showed that atherosclerosis and hypertension could be linked to lower IQ. This relationship might, to a certain degree, reflect social phenomena, as those with higher IQ levels tend to be better informed and live healthier life styles.

Studies have also shown that a lower IQ in children can lead to obesity in adulthood.

Many of the diseases mentioned above can be causes of, or lead to, stroke. Therefore, it is not surprising that a low IQ is linked to a higher risk of stroke. The latter conclusion in regards to the stroke risk stands even when socioeconomic variables are rigorously taken into consideration.

Psychiatric disorders have also long been considered to have a very close link with high IQ. Many geniuses were known to have rather strange or unpredictable characters, suffered from mood disorders and depression. Indeed, statistics shows that creative people with higher IQ are more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder and mood swings. Most studies done on this subject were small but all show similar results nonetheless.

One study among the students in Swedish schools found that those with higher grades were more likely to show signs of bipolar disorder. However, the study also demonstrated that students with the lowest grades were twice more likely to show signs of bipolar disorder compared to the average students. Interestingly, a New Zealand study showed similar associations between low IQ and psychiatric disorders.

Another study published in The Archive of General Psychiatry showed that people with higher IQ were less likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. This study has considered socioeconomic variables, as discussed earlier.

Interestingly, a recent study published this year found a higher risk of developing glioma, a type of brain tumor, among university-educated people. The risk is 19% higher in educated men and 23% higher in women with a university degree. The reasons for such correlation remain speculative.

The findings discussed above highlight that both low and high IQ levels can be associated with certain risks. Lower IQ might be linked with poorer general health, while high IQ level is associated with higher chances of psychiatric disorders. It is important to emphasize, however, that these correlations are not very strong – having a specific IQ level, whether it is low or high, does not automatically load your body with associated health problems of any kind. Further research are needed to see how the health and intelligence are connected on genetic and physiological levels: I’m sure there are lots of surprising discoveries there!


Batty, G. (2006). Does IQ explain socioeconomic inequalities in health? Evidence from a population based cohort study in the west of Scotland BMJ, 332 (7541), 580-584 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.38723.660637.AE

Dennis, M., Francis, D., Cirino, P., Schachar, R., Barnes, M., & Fletcher, J. (2009). Why IQ is not a covariate in cognitive studies of neurodevelopmental disorders Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 15 (03) DOI: 10.1017/S1355617709090481

Hauser, R., & Palloni, A. (2011). Adolescent IQ and Survival in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 66B (Supplement 1) DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbr037

Khanolkar, A., Ljung, R., Talbäck, M., Brooke, H., Carlsson, S., Mathiesen, T., & Feychting, M. (2016). Socioeconomic position and the risk of brain tumour: a Swedish national population-based cohort study Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health DOI: 10.1136/jech-2015-207002

Lager, A., Bremberg, S., & Vagero, D. (2009). The association of early IQ and education with mortality: 65 year longitudinal study in Malmo, Sweden BMJ, 339 (dec11 1) DOI: 10.1136/bmj.b5282

Wraw, C., Deary, I., Gale, C., & Der, G. (2015). Intelligence in youth and health at age 50 Intelligence, 53, 23-32 DOI: 10.1016/j.intell.2015.08.001

This guest article originally appeared on the award-winning health and science blog and brain-themed community, BrainBlogger: Is Being Clever Dangerous For Your Health?

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. <![CDATA[3 Suggestions for Revising Unsupportive Stories]]> 2016-10-09T20:13:35Z 2016-10-22T15:45:30Z revising unsupportive storiesThe stories we hold about ourselves can expand or narrow our lives. One example of limiting narratives revolves around what we believe we’re good at and what we believe we’re bad at. Helen McLaughlin’s clients often create these kinds of stories, letting them dictate their decisions and days. For instance, one client might hold the story that she can’t ask her boss for a raise because she’s bad at anything resembling a confrontation. And she’s really bad at advocating for herself.

The problem? This narrative “locks her into a future in which she has little control over what she can and can’t achieve at work and in life,” said McLaughlin, a transformation coach who helps smart, motivated life-explorers to leverage their curiosity, discover what exists for them beyond their default future, and achieve their Big Thing. Plus, the client might’ve created this story based on inaccurate or outdated information—a moment from many, many years ago.

McLaughlin helps her clients create narratives that are supportive and expansive. Because that’s the thing about stories: They aren’t set in stone. We can revise and shape them.

McLaughlin starts by helping her clients identify a working definition of “revision” and how a good revision should feel for them. They explore alternate narratives, making sure to carefully select their words. “Revisions are reframed as eternal works-in-progress; a client hones her narrative continuously into the thing that best serves her and her highest vision for her life.”

This is something each of us can do, too. Because, again, our self-narratives are influential, all-encompassing. They influence everything from the jobs we apply for to the romantic partners we pick. They influence everything from the dreams we pursue to how we treat ourselves (which also, of course, affects the trajectory of our lives).

Below, McLaughlin shared three tips for revising unhelpful self-narratives into encouraging, inspiring stories.

Reframe your past.

“You can’t change the past, but you can change the story you tell yourself about it, the way you talk about it to others, and how it serves you,” McLaughlin said. We can change our perception, our understanding and our translation of what happened, she said.

To start, she suggested writing about what you know now that you didn’t before. “How did everything—the good and the not-so-good—occur exactly as it needed to, in the grand scheme of things?”

Explore a least flattering, complicated time of your life. Consider how you did your best with the data and skillset you had then. “What information did 18-year-old you have at her disposal? How can you praise her for using that information, as limited as it might seem now, to make the best possible decision at the time?”

Start at the end.

Begin rewriting your narrative by envisioning the best possible outcome for your life, McLaughlin said. Then work backwards.

She shared this example: You create the novel you’ve always dreamed about. You give it your all (and it doesn’t matter how others receive it). Next you consider all the steps that led you here (including your childhood).

Maybe for years you viewed yourself as a super sensitive cry baby. Even your parents thought something was wrong because you felt what others felt. Today, however, you realize you were “a vessel for the collective human experience”; “you were always that writer, even before you understood why your heart felt like a sponge.”

Share your shame with someone you trust.

What have you kept secret because you’re too afraid or ashamed to discuss it? Share this story with someone you deeply trust (a therapist or coach counts, too). Doing so might help to change your perspective on what happened and why, McLaughlin said. It might help you change your views on how it contributed to who you are today, she said.

“Slowly, you might find that you’re able to take ownership of this piece of history… Revision of a self-narrative need not happen in a vacuum; safe conversation is transformative.”

For McLaughlin revising her own narrative has been transformative. For a long time, she believed that she’d squandered a prestigious education and professional relationships. She felt shame that she was struggling with finding her purpose and wasn’t writing after receiving her MFA in creative writing.

After digging deeper, she realized that this narrative wasn’t even true anymore.

“It was a relic…. It didn’t honor the fact that I was still seeking—that I was searching for work that felt more meaningful to me than fiction and that had immediate impact.” Consequently, she penned a more accurate, supportive narrative: “My background in creative writing is a huge asset in quickly identifying the limiting stories that clients hold about themselves, and helping them to revise all the parts that stand between them and living well.”

What inaccurate, unsupportive narratives are you carrying around? How can you revise them? Because, again, remember that you can.


Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[Psychology Around the Net: October 22, 2016]]> 2016-10-21T19:07:51Z 2016-10-22T10:30:10Z Cling_to_Friends_BSP

Once again, my friends, I come to you from behind a computer screen with a box of tissues on one side and a trash can on the other. Tears are running down my cheeks, I can’t stop sneezing, and even though I can’t breathe my nostrils aren’t too stopped up to — well, I won’t get gross.

Wasn’t it just a few months ago I was suffering from allergies? Can you even get allergies in the fall? According to WebMD, you sure can, and thanks to a myriad of potential culprits (mold spores and pollen hiding out in fallen leaves and dust mites triggered from turning the heat on for the first time), I am once again down for the count.

Still, that hasn’t stopped me from bringing you this week’s latest in mental health news! Keep reading for healthy tips for how to break off a friendship, Instagram’s new mental health “flagging” feature, ways you can beat election stress, and more.

How to Break Up With a Friend: Specialists weigh in on the different kinds of friends we have and why we have them, how to determine whether we really want to “break up” with one (or try to work it out), and, if we do, how to go about breaking off the friendship in the most mature, respectful way.

The 7 Best Ways to Beat Election Stress: According to a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), 52% of American adults say the 2016 election is a “somewhat significant — or very significant — source of stress in their lives,” regardless of their political parties. We have less than a month to go, folks, and these seven tips to chill out might help us get there a little easier.

Children and Self-Esteem: The True Test: Many parents worry about how they’re parenting affects their child’s self-esteem, but how many parents are honest with themselves about how their children effect their self-esteem? According to one of the gents over at The Boss Dad Movement, “children have a way of wearing us down physically and emotionally,” something that can be “particularly trying on our self-esteem.” Using Nathaniel Branden’s The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: The Definitive Work on Self-Esteem by the Leading Pioneer in the Field, the writer, Millar, outlines two issues to think about: where your child is in his or her development and the importance of understanding that building self-esteem is an active process.”

How Gaps In Mental Health Care Play Out In Emergency Rooms: New research provides insight into how often patients with mental health problems end up in the emergency room, many times because earlier opportunities to intervene were missed. Among the researchers, pediatricians and child psychiatrists say “children are among the hardest hit.”

Schizophrenia Not a Mental Illness, Pakistan’s Top Court Says: Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ruled that schizophrenia “does not fall within its legal definition of mental disorders” and thus has cleared the way for Imdad Ali — a man who has been diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia by multiple government doctors — to be executed for murder. According to Ali’s lawyers, executing Ali would violate Pakistan’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a United Nations treaty.

Instagram’s New Feature Is a Mental Health Game-Changer: Working with organizations such as the National Eating Disorders Association and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Instagram has created a new feature that allows users to flag a photo if they feel it suggests the other user needs help. Once the photo is flagged, the photo’s owner will receive the message: “Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we’d like to help.”

Matthew Loeb <![CDATA[A Degree in Life: Your Real College Major]]> 2016-10-13T22:59:20Z 2016-10-21T20:35:42Z Stack of colorful books, open book and cup on wooden table. BackWelcome back, college students.

Before you have even memorized old glory’s fight song, you are greeted with a question more dreadful than any Business Calculus exam.

“What do you want to do with your life?” family, friends, and career counselors prod. The implication: Your major determines your career prospects. And if you select the incorrect field, you are doomed to an unsatisfying career and life.

Society mandates that you decide your career path in college. You are a business major earmarked for a corporate executive position. You are a political science major fast-tracking to DC power broker status. Or you are a liberal arts major consigned to a nannying career.

Reread the previous paragraph and let the absurdity sink in. At 18, are you really sophisticated/worldly enough to pick a professional career? Speaking from personal experience, my most important decision at 18 was whether to attend a yawn-inducing 9:00 AM Friday class.

And that is how it how it should be.

While family and friends besiege you with career advice (“Computer science is a hot major” or “You should pursue pre-law”), here is Professor Loeb’s revised collegiate syllabus: explore everything.

Your college degree is a credential; it is not determinative of your career path for the next 40 years. In college, I gravitated toward political science and public policy. But, in truth, my interests ranged from history to psychology to English. Since undergrad and law school, I have dabbled in non-profit leadership, journalism, and law. The connecting thread: critical thinking skills.

College is meant for exploration, not rigid adherence to a predetermined path. And critical thinking skills, more than a specific major, correlate with professional and personal success. According to a Forbes survey, 93% of employers believe critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills are more important than a job candidate’s undergraduate field of study. Silicon Valley, for one, is seeking well-rounded applicants with diffuse skillsets.

More importantly, life comes with white out — or at least an eraser. You can be a lawyer at 25, a counselor at 35, a political commentator at 45, and a judge at 55. Look at society’s greatest contributors; they all strayed from well-worn career paths. Bill Gates entered Harvard as a pre-law major; he would become a tech revolutionary and global philanthropist. Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were trained in law; both would reinvent themselves as global icons for the marginalized.

So as you — Joe College — glumly sit in your introductory psychology class mulling over career possibilities, mull over this piece of advice first: Just like Gates and Gandhi, you can switch career paths too.

“So, Matt, what do you want to do with your life?” a well-intentioned family member prods.

The question pinballs in my head. Just like it did at 20. And 25. And 30. The most reasonable answer: I am figuring it out. As are you.


Stahl, Ashley (2017). Six Reasons Why Your College Major Doesn’t Matter. Forbes. Retrieved from

Therese J. Borchard <![CDATA[There Is a Place for Antidepressants]]> 2016-10-07T00:48:32Z 2016-10-21T15:45:00Z there is a place for antidepressantsWhen I was six months pregnant, I attended a birthing preparation class with my husband and about 12 other expectant parents. During the fifth session, the instructor asked the mothers whether or not they were going to use medication to get through the pain of childbirth labor.

“Everyone who wants to try for a natural birth, stand over here,” she said. “And everyone who plans on having an epidural or taking other pain medication, stand over here.”

I looked at the two groups, which held about the same number of people. My head went from one to the other, much like a puppet with a tic. Like most decisions in my life (including which dressing I want on my salad), I had analyzed the hell out of this one — done all the research on both sides — and still couldn’t commit.

“What a feeling of triumph to be able to do it without drugs,” I thought to myself. “I could wear a T-shirt for the rest of my life that says, Woman Warrior: I Gave Birth Naturally.” But I also knew that acute pain — just like severe depression — has devastating effects on the body, and that white-knuckling it isn’t always the heroic thing to do.

Plus, I’m not a huge fan of pain. I try not to bring it on when I don’t have to. I could see myself wearing another T-shirt, too: Pain Is Not My Friend: I Caved to the Epidural.

I walked up to the two groups and stood in the middle of them.


“I’m undecided,” I explained to both camps, who glared at each other with disdain.

I’ve tried my best to stay in that spot — in the middle, gazing at the opposing sides from my peripheral vision — for most of my time as a mental-health blogger. I believe that the center is by far the most interesting place to be, because you get to read the memos from each group and decide whether or not you agree.

But it also gets lonely. And that’s because the world of medication is so divisive, especially when it comes to using antidepressants or any kind of psychotropic medication to treat depression and anxiety. There is the camp that believes anyone who uses them is avoiding the hard work that has to be done to move beyond sadness — that the meds are agents of evil, poisoning our systems with harmful toxins. And then there is the camp that believes that medication is the one-and-only way of treating depression, that mood disorders are strictly biological and can’t benefit from any introspective work, and that the disorders are in no way influenced by one’s diet or lifestyle habits.

For the first 10 years of my blogging life, I was publicly pummeled for “copping out” and popping pills. People called me irresponsible for disseminating harmful information to the public, accused me of sleeping with Big Pharma (even though I never saw any cash), and also of being weak, small-minded, and caving to a popular culture that says good health is only one prescription away. I’ve never believed that medication alone will heal you from depression — that a script is all you need to get to sanity. But that’s what some people heard.

Now I’m getting lambasted from the other side. I’m getting the “Shame on you” a lot for pursuing natural therapies to treat depression, and thereby supposedly influencing people to go off of their meds, which could “kill 20 people.” The tragedies that are so often attached to mental illness in the news are the fault of people like me who encourage folks to mistrust psychiatry.

Let me say this about medication:

  • I would not be alive today without it.
  • I credit my psychiatrist for saving my life in March of 2006.
  • I believe that antidepressants and mood stabilizers are agents of healing.
  • There is absolutely a place for medication, and I would never say otherwise.

When I was holed up in my bedroom closet, sobbing in fetal position with a bag of prescriptions that I intended to use to flatten my pulse, I was incapable of pursuing the steps I am now — Bikram yoga, helping others, working with an integrative doctor — to deliver me from that hell. Rarely did I have the stamina to make it to the grocery store, let alone to blend green smoothies and learn how to cook nutritious meals. It was through the intervention of a skillful doctor, and the right combination of meds, that I stabilized.

Being on meds was absolutely the right thing to do.

But over the last seven years, I have not responded to the medications as I did earlier in my life. They have failed to bring relief from my death thoughts. Plus, their side effects compromised my health in ways that were keeping me depressed.

For example, I believe (after reviewing some research) that my experimentation with antipsychotics, or possibly my long-term use of Zoloft (sertraline), is what caused my pituitary tumor, which completely throws off the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis that is critical to mood. If the tumor gets big enough, it can affect your vision and even render you blind (the pituitary gland pushes up next to the optical nerve). To manage the growing tumor, I went on a medication called Cabergoline, which, according to research, is linked to aortic valve regurgitation, which I now have — and the connection between cardiovascular disease and depression has long been established. At the same time, I developed hypothyroidism and some expanding nodules in my thyroid gland that can happen with Lithium use.

As I’ve written in the past, the thyroid is a delicate and powerful gland that governs so many essential activities in our body related to hormones and mood. Finally, many of my medications have gastrointestinal side effects, which I suspect have something to do with my current inflammatory bowel disease. Our gut is our second brain, so problems there leak into anxiety and depression.

Therefore, I was forced to look into other kinds of therapies to treat my symptoms.

If I’ve been inching closer to the tree-hugger camp in my writing as of late, it’s only to make these two points:

  1. Diet and lifestyle are more effective than I previously thought to manage symptoms of depression, if you know what you’re doing: some adjustments COULD help reduce the amount of medication you need to take.
  2. Medications aren’t risk-free. Their side effects can inadvertently contribute to your depression and negatively impact your health for years to come, so do your homework.

Ultimately, though, it’s about doing a cost-benefit analysis.

I would live with blindness and a goiter the size of a football if that’s what I had to do to stay alive. Chronic illness isn’t fun, but it’s better than being dead. And if I felt some relief from the medications, I would tolerate a host of side effects. I believe a person should take the course he or she needs in order to relieve the most suffering. So in my case, when the negatives began to outweigh the positives, I knew it was time to take my health in a different direction.

That’s not to say I don’t support the use of medication for people who struggle with depression.

My son’s birth ended up being a traumatic one. I held off on the epidural until the very last moment, but was glad I had taken it, because when his heart rate began to plummet, the doctors performed an emergency C-section. Had I opted to do it naturally, they would have completely knocked me out for the surgery, and I would have missed the entire birth.

Modern science saved little David’s life, much like my own.

Fifteen years later, if I were in that birthing class, I’d stand in the same place.

Join, the new depression community.

Originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.

Brandi-Ann Uyemura, M.A. <![CDATA[Best of Our Blogs: October 21, 2016]]> 2016-10-20T23:35:57Z 2016-10-21T10:30:38Z Alarm ClockEvery had a morning that ruined your whole day?

Maybe it’s the one Sunday you could sleep in and your neighbor decided to mow the lawn. Or you woke up to screaming kids. Or you didn’t hear the alarm and missed an important meeting.

As you reflect back, are you amazed that such simple things can thwart your plans? In fact, a single thought could bombard your mind pummeling through your day like a tornado.

Most of us are unconscious of how we give away way too much power to things and people that don’t matter.

If you want to live a powerful, happy and successful life, you’ve got to wake up to how things are affecting you so you can respond not just react.

Start by creating a morning ritual. Maybe it’s taking a deep breath in and stretching before you rush off toward your day. Maybe it’s writing your thoughts in a journal. Maybe it’s reflecting on three things you are grateful for.

We all have the power to change our moments and inevitably change our lives. We just have to take back the power that may have been taken from us through narcissistic people, overthinking and people who couldn’t love us the way we needed them to.

Lack of Empathy: It’s Not Always Obvious
(Narcissism Meets Normalcy) – You know a lack of empathy signals potential narcissism, but what does that actually look like? According to this, someone could appear to be loving and caring, but still be a narcissist.

20 Ways People Deny their Own Wrongdoing
(NLP Discoveries) – There are many ways people can avoid responsibility. See if you’re guilty of any of these self-sabotaging tactics to deny mistakes and wrongdoing.

7 Effective Ways to Stop Overthinking
(Happily Imperfect) – If you’re tired of the negative tape playing in your mind over and over again, this will help.

Unloved Daughters and the Burden of Family Secrets
(Knotted) – You’ve felt alone growing up because who would understand how your perfect mother could be so cruel and unloving? This post is for you.

Part 2: 7 Challenges of Borderline Personality Disorder
(Caregivers, Family & Friends) – Someone you love is struggling with borderline personality disorder. How do you cope? Here are common challenges and suggestions to help support them and yourself.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[The Importance of Good Nutrition During Recovery]]> 2016-10-07T00:43:59Z 2016-10-20T21:35:23Z fruits-veggies

Dietary habits in early recovery can be the difference between staying clean and relapsing.

As the opioid epidemic combined with a rise in illegal drug abuse spreads across the country, effective substance abuse treatment services and inpatient recovery options are needed more than ever before. Since the Affordable Care Act has made these services mandatory coverage, a much sharper lens has been focused on what is being offered and its success rate. As the founder of Nutrition In Recovery, David Wiss, MS, RDN, does not understand why the critical role of good nutrition in early recovery is being largely ignored by rehabs and sober living facilities. In long-term recovery himself, David intimately knows how challenging the struggle to restore personal health can be after the damage done by addiction.

Whether a client resides in a low-cost, no frills sober living home or a fancy, ultra-expensive Malibu rehab, it is highly doubtful that their nutritional needs are being addressed. Given the fragile nature of early sobriety as the body slowly begins to recover from a toxic state of chemical abuse, good nutrition can play an essential role in keeping someone in early recovery on the right track. Why wouldn’t recovery professionals want to give their clients this added support in their battle to achieve sustainable sobriety? Yet, time and time again, David sees this pivotal element of biological recovery being ignored. At one clinic, David had to change the name of his group from “Nutrition In Recovery” to “Self-Care in Recovery” because the insurance company rejected nutrition as an acceptable modality of treatment.

As David explains, “We live in tricky nutritional times. I do not have all of the answers. What I do know is that we can use nutrition for empowerment, rather than disempowerment. We can teach people in early recovery how to eat for nourishment rather than simply for ‘reward’ (stimulating dopamine activity). This practice can slowly rewire the brain, change the palate, and prepare the individual for a lifetime of wellness. Treatment outcomes should be much higher than they are, thus we need to address the biological aspects of addiction. This includes brain chemistry, hormones, and gut bacteria—all of which are profoundly impacted by what we eat. Sitting around all day in talk therapy groups with zero focus on nutrition is a major injustice to clients. The neurobiology of addiction demands more attention and action.”

Instead of promoting a lifetime of wellness that begins in early recovery, most rehabs and sober livings simply give their clients practically whatever they want to eat within their food budget. Although the reasons behind such indulgence are profoundly different when you compare a low-end sober house to a high-end rehab, the results are essentially the same. Clients end up wanting the sugar high that mirrors the feelings of their past addictions—the dopamine rush—as opposed to embracing the good nutrition that can help save their lives. This frequently looks like consuming several energy drinks and sweetened coffee beverages per day.

For more information on why it’s important to focus on good nutrition during a person’s recovery, check out the rest of the original feature article Why Do Rehabs Neglect Good Nutrition? over at The Fix.

Laura Yeager <![CDATA[Using Social Media to Deal with Personal Tragedy]]> 2016-10-18T20:06:07Z 2016-10-20T15:45:48Z Social media on SmartphoneFrom May-September 2016, I battled cancer. The cancer had formed from prior radiation therapy for a previous bout of breast cancer in 2012. The 2016 cancer was called angiosarcoma. Treatment for this angiosarcoma was drastic surgery to cut the cancer out of my right breast. Luckily, I would not need chemo or more radiation.

One of the ways I endured the stress and the strain of the cancer was to use Facebook to communicate my fears, my progress and my triumphs with my Facebook friends. Using Facebook to deal psychologically with my cancer was mostly a positive experience.

For instance, whenever I had a scan or a treatment coming up, I shared that information with my Facebook friends. They provided great support and helped me get through the tortuous waiting periods that come with anticipating test results.

It is important to note that two of my Facebook friends were cancer survivors. They helped me to keep the faith that survival was possible.

In a nutshell, getting 93 “likes” for having a negative brain scan was a real upper. The day I found out that the cancer hadn’t travelled to my brain was a big technological party on the Internet.

On the other hand, I did have a hugely negative happening on Facebook during this time with cancer, and it was my own fault.

I had just learned that I needed a biopsy to investigate the bright strawberry-colored spot on my breast. A couple of days later, I received a punch biopsy and was told that I’d know the results in three days.

Three days came and went, and no news.

So not having heard from anyone, I called the hospital and asked for the results.

“Benign,” a voice I didn’t recognize told me.

I hung up silently thanking God that I had made it out of this one.

Of course, I jumped on Facebook and published the great news!

“The spot on my breast is benign!” I wrote.

Good wishes and hallelujahs began pouring in. I loved the instantaneous well wishes that
social media could provide. Facebook was the best thing since French toast.

OK. All was copacetic until two days later when I received a phone call from my cancer surgeon who gave me the news that the spot was NOT benign; it was malignant.

“What?” I said.

“The cancer is malignant. We’ve got to operate.”

“Someone told me two days ago that it was benign.”


“I don’t know.”

“Well, they were wrong. I’m sorry, Laura. It’s malignant.”

What else was there to do but to get on Facebook and give everyone the bad news?

Friends couldn’t believe how an employee could be so wrong. One friend said, “You’ve been on an unjust roller coaster ride. We’re so sorry this is happening to you.”

Another friend said, “That secretary should be fired!”

Yes, the whole thing was outrageous. But even though the new news was a bitter pill, it was still true, and I had to swallow it.

Long story short, I was successfully operated on and convalesced nicely. The surgeon got clean margins; they got it all. All my subsequent body scans were negative. I was going to live!

I had survived cancer twice, and the second time, I wasn’t alone. I was with 243 friends on Facebook who prayed for me, sent me good vibes, cried with me and, in the end, rejoiced with me.

In conclusion, using Facebook to get through a cancer experience was an excellent tool for the most part. The only time Facebook wasn’t a positive tool was when I used this social media to announce false information.

What can be learned from my experience? Be sure the information you’re releasing is true before you send it out into the world.

Otherwise, you might have to take it all back and then spread bad news in its place.

Or worst case scenario, your friends might lose patience with your tale, find it ultimately too dramatic, and unfriend you.

Luckily no one did that to me.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. <![CDATA[Revising the Negative Narratives We Tell About Ourselves]]> 2016-10-07T00:50:01Z 2016-10-20T10:30:14Z revising our negative storiesAll of us hold stories about ourselves. Maybe you’re unwittingly telling yourself that in order to be lovable, you must always say yes to others and avoid upsetting them. At all cost. Maybe you’re telling yourself that you’re terrible at romantic relationships.

Maybe you’re telling yourself that you can’t switch careers, or succeed with having ADHD. Maybe you’re telling yourself that you don’t deserve kindness. Maybe you’re telling yourself that you can’t tolerate painful emotions. Maybe you’re telling yourself that you’re not creative or smart or qualified. Maybe you’re telling yourself that in order to be respected you must never show weakness or make mistakes.

These are all examples of self-narratives. According to coach and writer Helen McLaughlin, “a self-narrative is the story we tell about ourselves, whether we’re telling that story to ourselves or in an interpersonal context.”

We base these stories on myriad bits and pieces, she said, such as: our memories; anecdotes from our parents; traumatic events and our reactions; our biggest fears about ourselves; evidence of our lovability; our successes; sources of shame; praise from others; and perceptions made by others and whether we subscribe to these perceptions.

Self-narratives are powerful because we, along with other people, use them “to spell out who we are, what we deserve, whether or not we’re capable, and a whole host of other things,” said McLaughlin, a transformation coach who helps smart, motivated life-explorers to leverage their curiosity, discover what exists for them beyond their default future, and achieve their Big Thing.

Narratives permeate all parts of our lives and translate to action (or inaction). If your self-narrative is negative, it might lead you to surround yourself with people who don’t have your best interest at heart. It might affect whether you ask for a raise or stay in a job you hate. It might affect how you care for yourself (and lead to burnout or anxiety).

Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re repeating negative stories. They’ve been on autopilot for years. We unwittingly narrow—rather than nurture—ourselves and our lives.

The great news about self-narratives is that they’re malleable. Like any story, they can be revised, reshaped and readjusted. “Sometimes, we’re just one small reframing away from an entirely different, entirely expansive story,” McLaughlin said. Because our self-narratives are so powerful, it’s important that they serve us. It’s important these narratives support us in building healthy relationships and living fulfilling, nourishing lives—whatever this looks like for you.

The first step in creating supportive self-narratives is to explore the stories you’re currently telling yourself and others. For instance, McLaughlin suggested paying attention to how you introduce yourself to new acquaintances. “What are the words, phrases and anecdotes you reach for without a second thought? Is your impulse to be self-deprecating?”

It’s also important to explore why a specific story has stuck around for so long, McLaughlin said. How or why has it worked for you? Maybe you’ve used this story to protect yourself from potential criticism or rejection.

Next, McLaughlin suggested asking these powerful questions to help you “locate the specific places where your self-narrative is getting snagged”:

  • How do I tell the story of myself? Who I am? Where I’ve been?
  • How do I remember past events? Do I remember them in a way that allows me to grow? Or, do I remember them/frame them in a way that limits me? In a way that keeps me tied to an outdated definition of who I am?
  • Does my self-narrative accurately reflect who I am at my best?
  • Does my narrative leave room for me to become the person I want to be and am capable of becoming?
  • What do I need to omit from my story in order to honor my humanity? What do I need to include? (For instance, you use getting fired as a measuring stick. Which only sinks your self-worth. You realize it’s more helpful to remember that time as “a period of learning to radically accept responsibility for bad behavior, as opposed to a period of bad behavior.”
  • When I talk about myself, am I careful with my words—being aware that words become reality?
  • How do I need to reframe my story to ensure I will live the life I most want?
  • Are there alternate interpretations of my past? Narratives that would better serve me? Reframing that would allow me to be kinder to myself? Language that builds me up, instead of tears me down?

The self-narratives we create can empower or derail us. Maybe you realize that your story isn’t very helpful. But you believe you must berate and punish yourself. You believe you must maintain a negative view of your past actions. You must atone for your sins.

But if your stories aren’t serving you, it’s OK to let them go. So if you need it, here’s your permission to pen a new self-narrative. One that encourages you. One that helps you lead the life you really want to lead.


Stay tuned for part two, where McLaughlin shares three more tips on creating stories that actually support and inspire you.


Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW <![CDATA[Marriage Meetings: Not for Everyone?]]> 2016-10-18T19:01:09Z 2016-10-19T22:35:23Z Conversation between man and woman. Black silhouette“I’ve been married 38 years. Are you saying my husband and I need to hold a formal meeting when we’re doing fine?” a radio talk show host challenged me.

Up until this point her tone had been contentious while I focused on practicing active listening (1) and on staying composed. I couldn’t blame her for being contentious. Her job is to inform and entertain listeners. Who doesn’t enjoy hearing a little skirmish now and then along with some good sound bites?

“Are you saying there’s no room for growth in your relationship?” I asked, in a puzzled tone.

Whoa! Suddenly, the tone of the interview changed. We were laughing together about how to stay happily married, given all the differences spouses experience and how it helps to have a sense of humor, and so on. The game of “get the guest” changed into something like a couple of girlfriends gabbing and appreciating each other.

Marriage is Ultimate Growth Experience

My point, of course, is that any relationship, regardless of its duration, has room to grow. The radio host sensed this instinctively; my question was simply a reminder. It’s easy to forget the truth that all relationships can become more and more fulfilling if partners are willing to invest energy into them. Marriage is the ultimate growth experience for people open to doing this. Growth happens when each partner is willing to focus on her or his own self-improvement instead of on wanting to “fix” the other.

On the radio show, I gave this example of how holding weekly marriage meetings is likely to foster both personal and relationship growth: After attending one of my marriage meeting workshops, Stan and Ellie (not their real names) held weekly meetings. “At first it felt contrived,” Ellie told me in a follow up study, “because the structure is so different from how we usually talk. But as we got used to it, it began feeling more natural. I learned that it is better to communicate with intention than to communicate without intention.”

The couple had been holding the meetings for ten months. They reported a 100% increase in marital happiness.

Yet, many people, like the radio host did at first, resist the idea of holding a weekly meeting. “We’re fine,” they say, implying, “If it ‘ain’t’ broke, why fix it?” Or they say, “We’re too busy.”

Marriage Meetings are Gentle Conversations

The real reason many people balk at holding a marriage meeting is a fear that their partner will view it as a chance to criticize them or make demands. Yet in a good meeting, the opposite is likely to happen. Effective marriage meetings are actually gentle, supportive conversations. They foster a respectful, collaborative discussion.

Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted is a concise book which provides guidelines, a simple four-part agenda, and positive communication techniques for marriage meetings. It also includes stories of how real life couples gain more intimacy, teamwork, romance, and smoother resolution of issues.

What We Talk About

The meeting’s agenda starts with Appreciation, a time when partners tell one another what they are grateful for, citing positive things each noticed about the other’s actions during the past week. Doing this sets a nice tone for the rest of the meeting.

During the next part, Chores, the business aspect of the meeting, spouses decide together what needs to be done and who will do it. Typically, one or two chores get mentioned. The list should be short enough the partners can comfortably make time to do what they offered to do within a week or so.

The third agenda item is Plan for Good Times. Spouses now plan a date for just the two of them, a time for just the two of them to go out together and do something both enjoy.

The last part of the meeting, Problems and Challenges, is the time to express and resolve concerns. Solutions can occur quickly and others may evolve over time.

Effective marriage meetings help partners to reconnect every week and to gain a sense of closure about pending matters. They prevent grudge holding, which sucks the life out of a relationship. They save time and energy that can otherwise be frittered away by ruminating about unresolved issues and misunderstandings.

Why Marriage Meetings Aren’t for Everyone

So why aren’t marriage meetings right for everyone?

Marriage meetings are wonderful for couples whose relationship is basically healthy. They help keep their relationship on track and grow in the important ways.

Yet they are not for everyone. Couples who, sadly, have allowed their relationship to deteriorate to the point that they do not show each other enough respect to follow the agenda and communicate positively, will sabotage the meetings. They will need couple or individual therapy first if they want to improve their relationship enough to hold effective marriage meetings on their own. Many of these couples can hold marriage meetings in the presence of a therapist or counselor who teaches them to use effective communication skills and reminds them, as needed, to stick to the meeting’s guidelines and agenda.

Another category of folks who aren’t ready to hold marriage meetings: those who don’t think their good enough, or not-so-good marriage, can improve. Many who grew up without seeing a healthy adult relationship repeat patterns in their own marriage that they witnessed as children. They may complain about their spouse but they’ve become used to their dysfunctional relationship and tell themselves it’s normal or as good as it can get.
But as the radio host realized, every relationship has room to grow.

Life offers one challenge after another, to help us gain wisdom, self-understanding, and a more fulfilling relationship with our intimate partner. Marriage meetings bring out the best in people who put their minds and hearts into holding them.

1. Step by step details for practicing Active Listening are in Chapter 9 of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted .

John M. Grohol, Psy.D. <![CDATA[ER Beds for Kids Lacking, But School Programs Can Help]]> 2016-10-18T19:00:00Z 2016-10-19T18:25:09Z Everyone who is a front line clinician in an emergency room (ER) knows the hard reality of the lack of psychiatric services available. Discharging someone from an ER into inpatient mental health treatment is virtually nonexistent for adults. For kids, the situation is usually far […]]]>

Everyone who is a front line clinician in an emergency room (ER) knows the hard reality of the lack of psychiatric services available. Discharging someone from an ER into inpatient mental health treatment is virtually nonexistent for adults. For kids, the situation is usually far worse.

The good news is that if we focus more on preventative care in school — helping kids and preschoolers long before they have a full-blown diagnosis — we may be able to stop them from ever having to use an emergency room. All we need do is start making mental health a funding priority for both the states and the federal government.

Two stories out this week help us understand the problem. The first, from Kaiser Health News via NPR, shows the real problem hospital ERs are facing:

Meanwhile, the young patients are even less likely to get reliable care after they are discharged from the ER. Whether they need regular follow-up with a psychiatrist, or a transfer to specialized facility, the resources often aren’t in place. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry estimates there are only 8,300 such specialists in the U.S., for more than 15 million young patients.

Dr. Lindsay Irvin, a pediatrician in San Antonio, says the dearth of psychiatrists who specialize in treating young people means many young patients simply don’t get the mental health treatment they need. By the time they wind up in the ER, she says, undiagnosed depression may have progressed to suicidal intent. And after leaving the ER, many are lost to follow-up.

America is facing a dire shortage not only of psychiatrists, but of all mental health professionals — such as child psychologists — who focus on children and teens. This shortage is playing out everyday in small towns and big cities, without regard to one’s insurance or ability to pay (although the poor shoulder the heaviest burden and the least access to services).

Until this shortage is addressed in a comprehensive manner at the national level, if your child or teenager needs immediate psychiatric care, prepare to be disappointed. You’ll likel be waiting weeks to get such care in most places in the U.S.

The federal government has not significantly increased funding for mental health services in America for over a decade. The situation is now getting dire.

Can School-Based Early Intervention Help?

Emily Goldberg, writing over at The Atlantic, suggests there is growing evidence that school-based interventions can help stop kids at risk for a future mental health problem from getting one.

The problem is — surprise! — a lack of mental health professionals:

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration projects that 12,624 child and adolescent psychologists will be needed to meet demand by 2020, but a supply of only 8,312 is expected.

With a lack of mental-health professionals placed in schools, the responsibility to address the needs of children with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges often falls on classroom teachers. This amplifies the call to incorporate learning that focuses on students’ mental health and well-being into daily classroom activities—something that can be beneficial for all children, not just those with diagnosable conditions.

The quickest way to address this problem in the short-term (since the training pipeline is 5+ years, assuming incentives were put in place tomorrow to encourage more students to become psychologists and psychiatrists) is to get help from those already an important factor in the child’s life — their teacher.

Researchers at the Yale Child Study Center found that early-childhood and pre-k teachers who establish relationships and regularly consult with mental-health professionals were able to reduce the kind of distracting and challenging behaviors that often lead to disciplinary action for a child. In the study, published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children received mental-health consultation through a statewide program in Connecticut.

As part of the program, mental-health professionals visit classrooms in which teachers or school administrators report students with particularly challenging behavior. After observing the class and visiting the child at home, assigned mental-health consultants guide teachers and parents through specific strategies to best support their students. […]

Oftentimes, the consultation process begins with identifying a student’s strengths—an essential part of finding a solution to the child’s challenges, said Linda Flach, a mental-health consultant who used a similar tactic in her work with one particular 4-year-old.

This program, successfully rolled out in Connecticut, could easily be implemented in other states as well. Of course, the state would have to fund the program — something most states are loathe to do, even if shown such funding will save them money in the long run. In fact, most states have been cutting their budgets for mental health services rather than expanding them.

We have the tools and roadmap to help fix the serious mental health problems young children and teenagers face. We lack only the will to make the resources available to help prevent mental illness before it takes hold in a young person’s life.


For more information

Kaiser Health News: How Gaps In Mental Health Care Play Out In Emergency Rooms

The Atlantic: The New Focus on Children’s Mental Health

Amy Ashmore, PhD <![CDATA[Tips for Successful Online Learning]]> 2016-10-18T19:00:53Z 2016-10-19T14:25:39Z 3d man e-learning, on white background74% of American schools use technology in the classroom. 1/3rd of American schools issue mobile devices to students as a learning tool. About 5.8 million college students took an online course in fall 2014. Although most of us are technology savvy and able to use our devices for fun things like socializing and surfing the internet we are not skilled at online learning. That is where the anxiety comes in that can hold you back.

Understand Anxiety about Online Learning

The first thing to recognize is that anxiety is normal. Anxiety researcher Robb Dunn at North Carolina State University suggests that we experience anxiety because our primitive ancestors were somebody’s dinner. They were under constant threat to be eaten by giant hyenas, cave bears, lions, eagles, snakes, wolves, saber-toothed cats, and even giant, predatory kangaroos! When you get anxious about something like a new online course or how-to-use online learning technology your primitive brain is signaling danger, threat.

Although anxiety’s function is to motivate you to take action to survive or thrive it can seem like the opposite — like it is holding you back. The causes of anxiety are different now like technology, but the anxiety feels the same.

Anxiety is a primitive emotion that shows you care and drives you to take action, grow, and succeed. However, high anxiety interferes with learning and performance. Take a look at the picture below.

Developed by psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson, 1908 this picture shows the relationship between performance and anxiety.

Looking at the picture, notice that when you are under little pressure you are bored. You are disconnected from the people and events around you. You are understimulated and not in control. Think about sitting in the DMV — you are not engaged and just waiting to be called. The important thing to remember is that the purpose of boredom is to motivate you to engage with someone or something — to get you actively involved with your life. When you are bored during an online course it means that you are not engaged. We will look a few key tips to get engaged later.

But first, let’s revisit anxiety’s role in helping you. Ideally, you want to be in the middle of the curve where you are a little anxious, but not stressed out to the point where you cannot do well. To manage anxiety in an online course start with these tips.

Before You Start

Tip: Check your system requirements.

  • Make sure your internet speed is fast enough to access and interact with the course (the requirements will be published ahead of the course).
  • Make certain you use the recommended browser. Download it for free if you need to.

Tip: Set cookie, pop-up blocker, and security features ahead of the course start date to allow all features of the course to load.

When You Land on a Course Homepage for the first time, do this

Tip: Take note of the instructor and when and how to contact him or her. Read the biography to humanize online learning.

Tip: Read the course syllabus first.

Tip: Take accountability and create certainty by putting due dates in a planner.

Doing these things will help, but there is still that nagging feeling “does this really work?” To create value in online learning, think about the fact that you remember:

  • 90% of what you do
  • 70% of what you say and write
  • 30% of what you see
  • 20% of what you hear
  • 10% of what you read

Writing is the most important aspect of an online course. It is how you engage with the instructor and other students and finish the work to pass the course. It is also how we measure the contact hours to give you credit for the course.

Tip: If you are uncertain about your writing, seek help from student services immediately.

Tip: Stay engaged with assessments and discussion boards.

Remember that when you are bored you are not engaged. Many people say online learning is “boring”. It is because they feel disconnected. To better engage online recognize these key parts of your classroom and what they are used for.

  1. Microcontent – These are three to five-minute podcasts, webinars, short video lectures, Camtasia voice overs, etc. of intentionally focused content. They are there to help you focus and engage for very short periods of time when you can like while commuting or during lunch break.
  2. Gamification – These are incentives and rewards like ribbons and badges based on your course core competencies that show small progress along the way to keep you motivated.

Online learning is not going anywhere. In fact, we expect it to only increase based on trends.

Technology related stress and anxiety is normal and adaptive. It can be used to your advantage to motivate and engage you. By understanding a few key pieces of the online classroom puzzle you can reduce your anxiety about online learning and improve your learning results.