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Patients Can Be Helpful Peer Counselors

A "peer" in the world of mental health and substance abuse lingo means a fellow person who has also been diagnosed with a mental health or substance abuse disorder. Peers come together on their own in self-help support groups (both in the local communities and online) to help one another with emotional support and the knowledge that can only come from having been there themselves.

Benedict Carey writing in today's New York Times details the impact of peers who go one step farther and act as peer counselors, helping people with mental disorders or substance abuse disorders with training that exceeds that of another layperson patient.

Peer counselors are an important component of America's fragmented mental health care system, filling in the many gaps (especially in the public mental health system). These gaps are especially prevalent in the U.S. because there are usually two different public systems: one that treat mental disorders and one that treats substance abuse disorders. Few public community mental health systems have integrated these two components in systematic, comprehensive "dual diagnosis" programs.

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Ask the Therapist Live Facebook Chat, Dec. 21

From time to time, we host live chats on Facebook and elsewhere (such as our weekly Q&A chat with myself held every Tuesday night from 9 - 10 pm ET in our community chat room). I'm pleased to let you know of a very special holiday-edition of our Ask the Therapist chat on Facebook tomorrow night at 7:30 pm ET (4:30 pm PT).

Our Live! Facebook event will be taking place our closed Facebook group on Wednesday, December 21st at 7:30 pm ET. It...
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Best of Our Blogs: December 20, 2011

There are some questions I may never have answers to. Like what my upstairs neighbors are doing that makes me feel like I'm living under an elephant stampede or why all my relatives seem to pass away right before the holidays. Or why we push ourselves ever year, spending more money and energy than we can afford searching for the perfect gift and sacrificing our emotional health just to create an unachievable greeting card holiday. Then out of resentment, we end up honking our horns, pushing people out of our way and being snippy to the very people we're trying so hard to please.

It boggles my mind. But maybe it's just me? I've been known to wake up in the middle of the night with a perplexing question since I was nine years old.

If you've got questions that need answers too, join us tomorrow (Wednesday, December 21st) from 5:30 - 6:30 pm MST for our Live Ask the Therapist Facebook event. It will be our last one of 2011 so save the date to get those burning questions answered on coping with family during the holidays, seasonal affective disorder or anything else related to mental health. To get more information and our official invite, go here. How do you participate? Join our closed group now where the event will be held and tomorrow just post your question in the update. See you then!

As for our top posts this week? Well they're also helping to answer a few questions like how to give a gift that lasts a lifetime, but doesn't cost a thing as well as how to deal with grief. It's another wrap up of posts that will help you get through the rest of your week.
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8 Ways to Ignite Creativity You Might Not Consider

Like any skill, creativity needs to be nursed. As writer and stylist Erin Loechner said, “You get what you give.” The more time you spend actively engaging your creativity, the greater your chances of producing exciting and inventive ideas and projects. (And the more fun you have, too!) Here are eight practical ways to help your imagination blossom.

1. Raise your endorphins.

“I find that when my blood is pumping, my creative juices really thrive,” said Loechner, also author of Design for Mankind, an art and design blog. For instance, she likes to take long walks and listen to music.

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Seeking to be Understood: The Need for Approval

I have noticed that for most of my life I have felt this strong desire, almost a need at times, for those around me to understand what I am going through. This happens particularly with those I am closest to and particularly given certain situations.

For example, if I am going through a challenge, I want a loved one to understand to some degree what it feels like. I tend to believe that if I explain something very well, I can enable them to grasp what is going on.

The problem is that I am not always able to make someone else understand. And if I get them to, I notice the topic comes up again in a couple weeks and I find myself having to start over, this time much more frustrated that they are just not listening.

We all have different reasons for wanting to be understood. But many of them are similar. And so I share my own situation because I know that many others feel the way I have. For me, I realize that the one big reason I have wanted others to understand me is I wanted approval and validation. I wanted a sense that they don't blame me for what I am experiencing, they know that it is typical (as I know it is), they fully accept it and they still think well of me.

Simply, I have had a need for approval.

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Think of Yourself In The Third Person

I remember reading somewhere that writer Anne Lamott thinks about herself in the third person, to take better care of herself: “I’m sorry, Anne Lamott can’t accept that invitation to speak; she’s finishing a book so needs to keep her schedule clear.”

I find that often, the same trick helps me to be realistic about myself. "Gretchen gets frantic when she's really hungry, so she can't wait too long for dinner." "Gretchen needs some quiet time each day." "Gretchen really feels the cold, so she can't be outside for too long."

Yes, I admit, this approach makes me sound a bit affected and self-important, but the thing is, it really works.

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4 Ways We Violate Other People’s Boundaries

This guest article from YourTango was written by Kate Evans.

Relating to other people can feel like constantly walking across a minefield. Sometimes, we’ll notice that other people just don’t seem to want to be around us, or we’ll notice that we can’t get rid of the negative people in our lives.

You may also notice that you feel uncomfortable around someone and you can’t quite put your finger on why. This article will help you figure out some of the things that you or others might be doing that cross boundaries and get in the way of closeness in relationships.

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Review of Jung vs. Freud in A Dangerous Method

A Dangerous Method, the new David Cronenberg movie -- based upon the 2002 Christopher Hampton stage play entitled, The Talking Cure, (which in turn was based on the 1993 non-fiction book by John Kerr, A Most Dangerous Method) -- is not only about the relationships you see on the screen between Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein, but a breathtaking metaphor for Freud's depiction of the mind.

A successful effort on a multitude of layers, the movie offers us a rollercoaster ride in a car filled with a motley group of historical characters in psychology and psychoanalysis. The movie depicts the life of Jung and Freud's relationship from the time they first met in 1907 until their professional relationship collapses in 1913 -- a short 6 years. I saw a screening of the movie earlier this month.

But it would be wrong to characterize this as a story only about Jung and Freud's relationship. Instead, it's a larger-than-life tale about the first days of psychoanalysis and Jung's career, set against the backdrop of pre-war Europe, artfully relayed on many different levels.

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7 Ways to Let Go

Buddhism asserts that attachment is the primary source of suffering. So then detachment or “non-attachment” would be our ticket out of that pain. Except that it’s not so easy … letting go of a person, place, or thing that has our heart temporarily held hostage.

You may be grieving the death of a loved one, or the end of a friendship you had hoped would be more, or merely the realization that your father will never be able to give you what you need from that relationship. It seems as though every moment of this life is about letting go, of something or someone that is renting far too much space in our heads. And while there is no way I’d call myself a “let go” expert, I have done a considerable amount of research in this area. So the following are some techniques that … well… will at least get us started.

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Best of the Web

Psych Central Captures an Aesculapius Award of Excellence and 5 of the Top 10 Depression Influencers Online

Sharecare, a website that launched just two months ago, released its "Top 10 Online Influencers in Depression" last week. Of the 10 people named, half of them are Psych Central contributors or bloggers. No other organization online came anywhere close. We're very honored and proud to have so many amazing people working for us here, and we're flattered their tireless work in the name of mental health and depression is recognized.

Here are the 5 amazing Psych Central contributors honored on the list:

#1 - Julie Hanks, MSW, LCSW, BCD - Ask the Therapist and Private Practice Toolbox
#3 - Therese J. Borchard - World of Psychology contributor
#4 - Chato B. Stweart - Mental Health Humor
#6 - Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA - Ask the Therapist and Proof Positive
#8 - Rick Nauert, Ph.D. - Senior Editor, Psych Central News

We're also pleased to announce that we were a winner this year of an Award of Excellence for health-related websites in the Aesculapius Awards of Excellence. We're in good company with the likes of Autism Speaks and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health as fellow award recipients.

What an amazing year 2011 has been for Psych Central. As a site we've built from the ground-up to service the needs of people from around the world who have questions about mental health, psychotherapy, treatment and psychology, we continue to reach more than 2 million people each month (making us, by far, the largest mental health network in the world today). We hope to get that up to 3 million/month in 2012, and with your help in spreading the word, I see no reason why we can't attain that goal!

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Brain and Behavior

Why Texting While Driving Bans Are the Wrong Solution Doomed to Fail

Lawmakers and policy makers love to feel like they're doing something, even when that "something" is passing yet another bad law or writing more paternalistic policies. Well-intentioned though they may be, the government -- and in fact, nobody -- can stop you from making bad decisions about your life. You can't legislate good judgment.

This past week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) urged a complete ban on talking or texting on smartphones while driving -- including hands-free devices. While the ruling isn't law, it's a strong recommendation from a federal agency that everyone take up the kinds of strict bans that many states already have on the books in one form or another.

The focus on the method of distraction is the same kind of "blame the technology" emphasis I've seen elsewhere in our society (most notably when it comes to "Internet addiction"). It's as if our mobile phones offer a magical, supernatural ability to distract while we're driving, while the other thousand things that can also distract us aren't so bad.

While no one -- myself included -- is arguing that distracted driving is a good thing, some common sense should enter into the picture when talking about new policies and laws. There is little evidence to suggest focusing on banning a single type of distraction while driving is going to result in much change in driver behavior.

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Anxiety and Panic

Introducing Angst in Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the world’s primary mental health problems, according to the World Health Organization. It is too often overlooked or not recognized as the problem it is, since anxiety disorders encompass such a wide variety of concerns.

The Angst in Anxiety blog is, naturally, about anxiety — “the big black umbrella” that encompasses a wide range of disorders and diagnoses, such as: obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, acute stress disorder, post traumatic stress disorder,...
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