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Brain and Behavior

Google and Facebook, Therapists and Clients

With more and more therapists embracing social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, the question arises -- where do you draw the line in terms of boundaries with your patients? Where does a patient's and therapist's privacy end or begin on such sites? How do patients and therapists navigate this brave new world of connectedness and "friending"?

Dana Scarton over at The Washington Post has the insightful article addressing this issue by talking to a number of therapists across the country. These therapists have had to deal with their own challenges with social networking sites and "researching" people online once it was brought into psychotherapy by a client or a client's actions.

Professional associations haven't addressed this kind of technology in their ethical guidelines, but common sense rules the day. As I just gave a presentation to therapists on this very topic, here's the upshot of what I had to say about this from a professional's point of view ...
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The Mental POWER Prague Film Festival

Our friends organizing the mental POWER Prague film festival wanted me to let you know that they've extended the submission deadline for films. What is this film festival? (Keep in mind that mental disorders are thought of differently in different cultures, and are referred to with different terminology, so please don't take offense at the specific language used below.)
[It] is an international film festival of (non-)actors with a mental or combined handicap organized by HENDAVER, o.s. The festival shows feature films in which exclusively people with a mental and combined handicap act.

The main idea of the festival is to create the conditions for artistic self-fulfillment of handicapped people and thus to take part in their mental development. In addition to that, this activity opens a brand new possibility of social integration of the handicapped. The festival came into existence in order to help these people get out of their everyday routines and enable them to experience moments of fame and artistic activity.
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On Being a Student Therapist: Facebook and Process Commentary


The Blackberry on my client’s lap was signaling a message. Usually, this client silences her phone and puts it away before our session, without any prompting from me. This time, she glanced down at it, pushed a few buttons, and resumed our conversation. I let it go.

Two minutes later: buzz…buzz…buzz…

My client looked down again and started pushing buttons. I called her out.

“What’s up with the phone today? Usually you put it away. Is something going on?”

“It’s just Facebook updates.”

She pushed a few buttons again and put the phone in her pocket. I didn’t hear it vibrate again during the rest of the session.
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Brain and Behavior

The Trust Gap: Why People Are So Cynical

How do people come to believe that others are so much less trustworthy than themselves?

Much as we might prefer otherwise, there's solid evidence that, on average, people are quite cynical. When thinking about strangers, studies have shown that people think others are more selfishly motivated than they really are and that others are less helpful than they really are.

Similarly, in financial games psychologists have run in the lab, people are remarkably cynical about the trustworthiness of others. In one experiment people honored the trust placed in them between 80 and 90 percent of the time, but only estimated that others would honor their trust about 50 percent of the time.

Our cynicism towards strangers may develop as early as 7 years old (Mills & Keil, 2005). Surprisingly people are even overly cynical about their loved ones, assuming they will behave more selfishly than they really do (Kruger & Gilovich, 1999).

What could create such a huge gap between how people behave themselves and how they think others behave?
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Brain and Behavior

Teenage Bullying Leads to 9 Indictments

You know things have gotten bad when prosecutors start prosecuting teens -- some on felony charges that could result in significant jail time -- because of bullying. Yes, bullying.

Most of us have experienced bullying at one point in our lives, or know someone who has been bullied. Of course for most, the bullying didn't result in lifelong scars. Part of that is because the extremes of bullying were not really known 20 or 30 years ago. You couldn't bully someone 24/7 through Facebook, Twitter, email and forums devoted entirely to making other people's lives miserable (yes, such online communities exist).

So nowadays sometimes bullying is taken to an extreme. Not by one or two teens or kids, but by a whole gang of them.

In central Massachusetts, it led Phoebe Prince -- a 15-year-old Irish immigrant -- to hang herself. And now 9 teens have been indicted on charges related to her humiliation and threats. Threats that ultimately led to her death.

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Narcissists Who Cry: The Other Side of the Ego

Have you ever noticed that when you have gotten very sick or hospitalized, the person you thought was your friend never asked or called? When the same situation had previously happened to them, you were there for them.

Many of you have been in a relationship or been a friend with someone who was an extreme narcissist. These types of relationships are filled with drama unless you totally please the narcissist, which is impossible. The typical extreme narcissists are full of themselves and are overtly pompous. I would like to focus on a kind of extreme narcissist that most people fail to recognize. First, let me explain what extreme narcissism is all about.
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Brain and Behavior

New Health Bill Helps Postpartum Depression (PPD)

The historic passage of the federal health care legislation last week included a provision for a new national postpartum depression (PPD) program. It leaves out the federal screening program so feared by the bill's opponents, but it includes more money for greater education outreach and more research into this condition. The Melanie Blocker Stokes Mother's Act passed in watered down form.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a condition suffered by a minority of women who just gave birth. It is characterized by severe depression and sadness, and often either a lack of interest or even thoughts of harming one's newborn baby. There is also often the feeling that one will not be a good mother. Postpartum depression may be called the "baby blues," and sometimes an obstetrician or doctor will minimize the symptoms of this concern by suggesting it is "normal" or something most mothers experience that the woman just needs to "snap out of" or it'll resolve on its own given time. It may very well indeed, but it may also worsen and like any mental health condition, should be taken seriously.

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Brain and Behavior

Am I Normal?

This is a common theme I hear echoed from a lot of people I meet.

"Am I normal?"

"I can't wait to feel more normal again."

"Must be nice being so normal ..."

The problem is, I don't know what normal is.

I suppose for some of the people, they mean "without the symptoms of my disorder." That makes sense, especially as some symptoms of some disorders can be pretty severe and debilitating toward living their everyday life.

But then I realize that even people without a diagnosed condition still don't often feel "normal." We live our lives, we have our stresses, we hate our bosses or the 9-to-5 routine, we get into arguments with our significant others. Is this "normal?"

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Brain and Behavior

5 Gifts of Being Highly Sensitive

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Douglas Eby,
M.A./Psychology, who is a writer and researcher on the psychology of creative
expression, high ability and personal growth. He is creator of the Talent
Development Resources series of sites (including
at I know many of you are "highly sensitive" and enjoy articles on that topic, so I am excited to pique his highly-sensitive brain today!

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Healthy Minds Across America from NARSAD

I'm happy to bring you the following news release from the organization formerly known as the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, but now it just goes by its acronym, NARSAD. They are hosting a number of educational discussions across the U.S. throughout April that may be of interest to you.

Beginning Saturday, April 10th, thousands of families throughout the United States will have a rare opportunity to learn about new breakthroughs and emerging treatments in mental health by the nation’s best and brightest mental health researchers. “Healthy Minds Across America,” a series of free forums open to the public, will take place every weekend from April 10 – May 8, culminating with the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

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Welcoming Dr. Daniel Tomasulo to Ask the Therapist

I'm pleased to introduce our first male therapist -- Dr. Daniel J. Tomasulo -- to join our Ask the Therapist team, a feature we've been running for the past 5 years here on Psych Central.

Daniel J. Tomasulo, Ph.D., TEP, MFA is a psychologist, psychodrama trainer and writer on faculty at New Jersey City University and formerly a visiting faculty member on fellowship at Princeton University. He has been in private practice for more than 25 years and works with individuals, couples, and groups, specializing in the use of psychodrama. He developed, a research and training site devoted to the use of action methods in group psychotherapy.

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