Monday, December 5, 2011


GUEST BLOGGER: Dyanne C. Bresler, LCPC, RN

It’s that time of the year.

Starting with Labor Day, holidays tumble round us, closer always than our busy schedules allow us to think they are. We’re all still surprised to see Christmas promoted at the same time that we’re barely thinking of retrieving scarves, gloves, boots and hats from their summertime repository. You know, the closet, way in the back.

Among the moments of joyful anticipation, there may be bittersweet longing. Depression or anxiety may cause you to grit your teeth to face the holidays with little more than grim resolve. Holidays are unlikely to measure up to the media images of friends and family gathered around a Martha Stewart-decorated table.
For many, these are tough times. Our nation is troubled. Many are struggling financially.

Youth may be worried by an uncertain future. Relationships may be disrupted
by illness, death, or financial or emotional insecurity, and it is no
secret that the holidays can serve as a magnifying glass, making
pre-existing problems seem even bigger.

But you are not helpless in the face of the forced gayety in which you find yourself. Here are some tips:

First, take heart. You can safely remind yourself that this, too, will pass. But it isn’t time that is healing; it is what you do with it. So, take charge.

Write down some things that you can do for yourself that feel good, and do some or all of those things.

Get yourself out of your self-imposed exile and go somewhere, visit someone.

Give of yourself. There will be enough left, I promise.

Make a spectacular dinner and invite someone about whom you care. You can let it be tuna casserole. It doesn’t matter.

Make an appointment to grieve mightily if you need to. That’s right, give yourself permission to feel what you feel and do it with all your might. Your ability to feel is one of God’s gifts to us and is, after all, what makes you human. Honor your grief by spending some time with it, privately and for a limited amount of time. Then, leave it. You can return to it another time if you need to.

Make your own golden moments by seeking out connection with those you love.

Share your feelings with someone whom you trust.

Take charge of sifting through long-standing traditions. Keep those that you want to maintain and start a new one. Get creative. Have fun with it.

Go to a place of worship. Allow yourself to feel peace. Peace.

Think about what gifts are supposed to represent. Give one. Give many.

Let your gifts be about something far more meaningful than any money you may spend.

Don’t compare yourself and your own situation with what you perceive others may have. Don’t believe the magazines or the everyone-loves-everyone-all-the-time stories on TV.

Spend some time with children.

Get enough sleep. Eat. Drink plenty of water.

Go for a walk at night when it’s snowing. Bundle up.

Make a short-term goal and a long-term goal. Savor the anticipation of
of attaining them.

Find a way to help someone who needs something you can provide.


Let the message to people you love be that they matter. The message to you from your loving Self is that you matter.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The New Weekly Allowance

By Jessica Fox, LCPC

I love this article Modern Allowance Tribune Story on giving your kids an allowance. One of my clients referenced this article in a session so I decided to check it out, and boy was I glad I did. It’s not a mind-blowing, completely unique concept or anything., but rather, a sort of “duh” moment; why didn’t we think of this before?

I am no economic expert by any means. I am not well versed in the stock market and could probably only last 10 minutes in a conversation about the government’s plan to stimulate the economy. I’m a therapist, I could talk about anxiety and depression for hours…..However, as a therapist that works with parents, I found this article incredibly useful. It connects the concepts of finance with social responsibility. Two ideas that unfortunately have been strangers for some time now.

The article discusses a few different ways to distribute allowance to children. Many families are now adopting a plan that imitates the 401k system where they match what their children save. Other families are trying to teach kids about social responsibility, pushing them to place one third of their allowance into an envelope for charity. It is so important that we model and educate children about being giving. Many researchers have described today’s youth as “entitled.” I hear it all of the time in my practice, parents complaining that their children just seem ungrateful and entitled. It’s not all their faults. We need to do a better job at making charity a part of our lives and sharing this knowledge with our kids. Make it an expectation. You will teach your children two essential lessons about budgeting and valuing every dollar and the responsibility we all have to help those less fortunate.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Now What? (Guest Blogger Jaclyn Pistorio)

These days it seems most talk about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is in regards to men and women in the military. While this diagnosis is quite common in this population, it is also common among the general population. Though not as frequently discussed, men, women, and children without any military experience may also be diagnosed with PTSD. Many have heard of this disorder but, what exactly is it?

Essentially, individuals with this diagnosis have experienced one or several events that they interpreted as traumatic. As a result of this experience(s), these individuals may have trouble sleeping, develop nightmares, experience flashbacks (quick memories, smells, sounds, etc. that remind them of the traumatic event), and have difficulty concentrating. Additionally, these individuals may avoid the place the event occurred at and they also may avoid speaking to others about the traumatic event(s). Of course, there are many more symptoms a person may experience as a result of experiencing a traumatic event but, these are some of the more common symptoms. What is deemed a traumatic event? While natural disasters, witnessing a crime, rape, verbal/physical/sexual abuse, and various accidents are common causes of PTSD, any event(s) that an individual is unable to cope with by himself or herself may be seen as traumatic.

So what do you do with this information? Unfortunately, not many mental health professionals have had sufficient (or any) training in working with individuals who have experienced the above symptoms and may even meet the criteria for PTSD. You may be reading this thinking, “Hey, that sounds like me” or “This sounds like someone I know.” I’m here to give you some helpful suggestions that will help you and your loved ones on the road to recovery and a more fulfilling life!

• Do your research! Believe it or not, but not all therapists are qualified to work with individuals who have experienced trauma. Also, visit the National Center for PTSD’s website: for more information about PTSD symptoms, up-to-date research, and resources.

• Essential to any individual’s recovery from a debilitating disorder is support. If you feel you may have PTSD, seek out additional support. If you know someone who may have PTSD, show some support! Become involved in their recovery, make yourself available to talk as often as you can, and consider family therapy if it is appropriate.

• Almost all individuals with a diagnosis of PTSD also have co-occurring diagnoses (or eventually develop them). Some common co-occurring problems include: Alcohol Abuse, Depression, Anxiety, Anger, and Substance Abuse to name a few. It is important to seek assistance as soon as possible to minimize the impact of the trauma and begin the healing process.

As a psychotherapist specializing in traumatic stress, I understand that all this information may be overwhelming and you may still be confused if you or a loved one may suffer from PTSD. You may get lost sifting through the millions of publications on PTSD; you are not alone. Contacting a physician or psychotherapist is the first step down the path to recovery and, if necessary, I hope you will take it!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Social Media--Savior or Self-Indulgent? (Guest Blogger Jessica Fox)

Last week's Today Show told a story about a mother who used Facebook to post photos of her son's rash. After going to the doctor and getting a strep test, the rash persisted, leaving her understandably worried. This woman's friends and family instantly posted support and suggestions that she go to the hospital; a few who were doctors even thought it may be a rare disease called Kawasaki's. It turned out they were correct; the search engine that has gotten so much negative coverage helped saved her son's life:

This story got me thinking about the light and dark sides of Facebook and other social media sites. So often in my private practice, I encounter situations where Facebook has caused tweens and teens to feel isolated, ostracized, and completely stressed out from the pressure to keep up with photos, status updates and friends. I have seen parents ban Facebook altogether, worrying that their child is obsessed! There are also parents who have banned Facebook because their children are using it inappropriately with provocative photos or vulgar messages. So, my overall feeling has been that many adolescents are not truly ready for a responsibility like Facebook.

However, let's be honest: Facebook and other social media sites are here to stay, so when and how do we teach our children to use it wisely? How can they learn if they are banned completely? It will probably only increase the lure of the forbidden fruit. Are we doing them a disservice by robbing them of the opportunity to connect with others? These are difficult questions and ones that most parents in this country should be asking themselves.

As a psychotherapist, I find much of my work--and perhaps my biggest challenge--is being a liaison between parents and teenagers. It is a critical part of my practice because of the huge disconnect that often exists between generations. My advice to parents regarding Facebook is this: allow your child to open a Facebook account as a privilege, not as a human right. I won't suggest an age, because this level of maturity should be determined by you, the parent. Your child should be able to earn this privilege by showing good decision-making skills, a sense of self-worth, responsibility, and the ability to resist peer pressure. When that child of yours does have an account, it is up to you to monitor it and make sure that your child is upholding his or her end of the bargain. No inappropriate photographs or language, no identifiable information, a limited amount of usage on the website, and a healthy usage of it. You should have your child's password and set limits.

If your child misuses Facebook, then of course there should be a consequence; the most natural and logical consequence is a break from Facebook altogether. For how long? Well it is up to you to decide how your child needs to built trust in order to regain the privilege. I encourage you to write out a road map with concrete examples. Sometimes saying "you have to earn back my trust" is too abstract for adolescents. It would be beneficial to give them examples of what "earning my trust back" would look like.

Sometime I get scared when I think about what adolescents will be using for social media in 15 years, and I'm sure I'm not alone. All the more reason to equip our children with the tools necessary to navigate the murky cyberwaters, as a model for navigating all of life's difficult terrain.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Another Study From Captain Obvious: Sexual Abuse Damages the Soul

An interesting new English study of sexual abuse victims has concluded that there is a very strong causal relationship between sexual abuse and future psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Interestingly, the researchers found that the more profound the abuse suffered, the more profound was the emotional problem and level of psychosis. The researchers also correlated sexual abuse with future struggles with depression and anxiety.

Most people with at least half a brain would say, “Well, duh.”

But wait, didn’t we learn somewhere that psychiatry had determined, definitively, that schizophrenia and other mental disorders were “brain-based” (the term “brain-based” being code for “caused by a genetically inherited birth defect in the brain”). At least this is what the vast majority of psychiatrists preach; this is also what their public advocacy group, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, teaches.

The average Joe doesn’t realize that there has been a minority of mental health clinicians who have known for decades that the broken brain theory of mental illness is hogwash. It is heartening to know that at least some professionals are catching on.

It’s about time they caught up. Maybe now they can stop blaming brains and start placing responsibility where it belongs—psychospiritual overwhelm (or emotional trauma). Whatever you want to call it, the vast majority of “mental illness” isn’t really an illness at all; it is a normal, predictable response to an emotional, cognitive, and spiritual trauma that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. It’s nurture, not nature.

Just wait: psychiatry will “discover” some way to explain away the common sense nurture explanation. With their whacked-out logic, they’ll start telling the public that children born with the predisposition toward schizophrenia somehow invite sexual abuse more often than others. Yeah, that’ll be really helpful. Or psychiatry’s favorite nonsensical refrain, “The abuse uncovered the underlying mental illness.” How these people get advanced degrees is one of the great mysteries of the world…

The truth is that the fountainhead of psychiatry stems from the cockamamie theory that presumes emotional problems are caused by faulty wires or biochemical imbalances. Gratefully, more and more people are turning to common sense, rather than pseudoscience. Hopefully, more scientists will produce science that both reflects and utilizes common sense from this study. Then we can really start helping the hurting.

Until then, they will be drugged into brain-damaged submission, without hope of a cure, wondering how the professionals who were supposed to help them turned out to be almost as cruel as their original abusers.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Open Letter to Stephen Hawking

I wanted to say a few words to you regarding your recent publicized comments on God and the afterlife. I understand that these comments do not reflect a recent revelation, but reveal a view that you have consistently held throughout your career.

In The Guardian, you said, "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

Let me say at the onset that you have every right to your belief—your faith in no god is a fundamental right that I would never dream of stealing. Let me also say that I appreciate the lack of hostility in your assertion, which is a welcome contrast to the more vehement opponents of theism, such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.

I am no theoretical physicist. I do not claim to comprehend quantum physics on an academic level. However, I do believe that I have a basic hold on the essentials of logic and reason; I also have a layman’s understanding of Newtonian physics and quantum theory and therefore can make some reasonable statements about your assertions.

No matter what you or Dawkins or Hitchens assert, no scientific theory can sustain irrationality or illogic. Mystery, oxymoron, and apparent contradictions can be explained and corrected. True contradictions, however, breach the boundary between possible and impossible. You have made that leap.

It is simply illogical to assert that something can spring from nothing. Spontaneous creation ex nihilo is nothing less than impossible—both practically and theoretically. Even quantum physics does not allow for matter that has never existed to spring out of nothingness.

Nothingness. Think about that for a moment. Nothing does not simply mean nothing in that particular segment of the natural universe. Nothing prior to something means that there was no matter, no forces (including gravity), no movement, no time, no action, no inaction…nothing existed in the natural world. Nothing could have spontaneously created itself, because that would require it to exist before it existed. This breaks the Law of Noncontradiction, the indisputable law which guides and rules all scientific inquiry. Asserting such a thing is not good science, even in the mysterious realm of quantum physics. It is not even pseudo-scientific. It is pure, unadulterated nonsense.

Sometimes the simplest assertion from the most unlikely source expresses the profoundest truth: “Nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could.”

I’m not so sure your comparison of Heaven to that of a fairy tale is helpful to your overall claim. At least in fairy tales, the laws of logic rule. Sure, a frog can turn into a prince, but at least the frog does not spontaneously create itself. The former is logical, albeit impossible; the latter is illogical.

You said in a 2010 interview that "there is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win, because it works." It is surprising to me that a man who is so clearly intelligent and knowledgeable in one arena can say something so profoundly ignorant (or disingenuous). If religious belief were merely based on authority outside of observation and reason, then it would indeed be foolish. But what makes more sense: something coming from nothing or something coming from something outside of itself? The latter, of course.

Reason not only suggests, but dictates that the universe was not self-created. This does not necessarily mean the God of the Bible; there are other, sufficient reasons for that hypothesis. But the God of the Bible begins with reason, continues with reason, adds significant observations, and then, when these two become sufficient, the Bible’s explanation for the universe becomes authoritative. You’ve got it backwards. Perhaps you have been taught incorrectly.

Christians believe that Heaven exists not because it is a fairy tale narrative of the “opiate of the masses”, but in spite of this opiate. Atheists like Freud were quick to presume that theists are simply too afraid of their own mortality and, to soothe their existential crisis, believe in “pie in the sky, by and by…” He was too weak to realize that atheism is functionally the “cocaine of the masses”, aiding a stubborn ego to ignore their responsibility to someone higher than they.
That science trumps religion because it is presumed to explain things is the fairy tale. To believe that all matter sprang into existence out of nothing requires a far greater leap of faith than theism. It’s simply too far-fetched.

My belief in Heaven is based on evidence, beginning with logic and reason. Your belief in creation ex nihilo is based on a very vibrant, but illogical faith. I pray that you will examine reason and evidence, instead of the dogma of the closed, natural world.


Dr. Dathan A. Paterno

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wake Up, Dr. Keith!

Dear Dr. Keith,

Let me start by saying that I like you. I'm not talking about a man-crush or anything, but I have watched you over the years and I have often appreciated your common-sense commentary on matters of mental health and politics. In many areas, you seem to get it.

But you done me wrong today, Keith.

You wrote an article published on FoxNews today entitled, Body & Mind: Could Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Start as Attention Deficit Disorder? It starts out pretty well, with a contrast between the two disorders and how they are generally treated with different medications.

But then you suggested that for several of your patients, you believe that ADHD symptoms have been so severe that the person compensates for them by developing obsessive and compulsive traits. WRONG.

One thing that shocks me is that you either ignore or neglect to mention that the very treatments for ADHD (i.e., stimulants) CAUSE and/or worsen OCD-like symptoms. One of the things any good psychiatrist or pediatrician should look for when using Ritalin, Concerta, Vyvanse, Adderall and other psychostimulants is the presence of repetitive, meaningless thoughts and behaviors.

This "rare side effect" is neither rare nor a side effect. It is one of the ways stimulants work to make children otherwise bored able to do repetitive work in school and at home. OCD-like symptoms are extremely common (up to 50%) in persons who take stimulants. So if a psychiatrist finds that their patient diagnosed with ADHD is experiencing these symptoms, they have not discovered an underlying disorder; they have CREATED a new mental disorder in their patient! The cure for the vasty majority of patients, then, isn't MORE stimulant; it is LESS stimulant.

I am dismayed that you did not mention this in your article, Dr. Keith. I expect better from a trained psychiatrist and I hope better from a media figure whom I usually like and respect. Please, don't ignore iatrogenic (problems caused by treatment) effects...


Dr. Dathan Paterno
Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Interspecies Filial Disorder

Let's play "What Would a Psychiatrist Do?" But first, a true story.

Three-year-old Roscoe, an orangutan, lost his parents. To no one's surprise, he became so depressed that he wouldn't respond to any medical treatments. He evidenced all the classic symptoms of depression: low energy, no longer caring about things that had onced sparked his passion, poor concentration, moving slowly, dysphoria, and poor appetite. The veterinarians didn't think it was a stretch to presume that he was quite sad and that he would soon die from it.

The zoo keepers came up with an ingenious plan. They found an old sick dog on the grounds in the park at the zoo where the orangutan lived and took the dog to the animal treatment center. The dog arrived at the same time the orangutan was there being treated. What they found astonished them.

Almost instantly, the two animals were drawn to one another. They began playing together, showing affection for each other, and even grooming each other. Before long, Roscoe's energy came back, she began eating, playing, and behaving, well, like a healthy orangutan.

The two lost souls have been inseparable ever since. Each always tries his best to be a good companion to his new found friend. They are together 24 hours a day in all their activities. It's like Ernie and Bert.

What can explain this? It's quite simple, really. The orangutan found a new reason to live. Yes, both animals' existential crises had been solved.

Now, what would have happened had this been a human being and instead of zookeepers, the child had been in the care of a psychiatrist? You know exactly what would happen. The psychiatrist would have looked at the list of symptoms, then the resistance to other "treatments" (as if grief were a disease that needed treatment), and then prescribed drugs to the child.

Sound ridiculous? Welcome to psychiatry. If depression is a mental disorder--due to a broken brain --then psychiatry makes some sense. But depression is not a mental disorder; it is part of the human condition. Apparently, it is also part of the primate condition; we feel sad when we lose deep connection. Blessedly, we can feel better by reclaiming or building new, intimate connections.

Depression is normal and even healthy for most people. It tells us something is wrong with our lives--not our brains. If we pay attention to the gaping holes in our lives, we can not only avoid staying mired in depression, but we can prevent most of the more severe depressive episodes in our society.

Peace and joy.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bullies Come From Bullies

Have you seen the footage of this moronic Australian kid taunting and assaulting a kid twice his size? Eventually, the larger boy had enough, grabbed the twerp, body-slammed him, and walked away.

Just a regular day at the playground, as far as I'm concerned. Crime was committed; justice was done. Let's move on.

But not for the mother of the little twerp. She's asking for an apology from the other boy!

She now says that while she was "shocked" at her son's behavior, she didn't think he deserved to be slammed to the ground. Neither boy suffered serious injuries in the fight and both boys were suspended from school (who decided not to pass judgment on who was more in the wrong; talk about moral equivalency!).

Trial attorney Lee Armstrong got it right:

"We understand that in the past [this boy got] bullied every day… If this was like a Wii video game and we could control his limbs, that's exactly what one of us would have done. The fact that this smaller kid can't appreciate the difference in size between himself and a larger kid is his problem. This kid should not have been suspended."


What the twerp's mother should do is have dad give the boy another beating, tell him he deserved every last bit that he got, and hope that he has learned his lesson. Then she should make the twerp call the bigger kid and apologize to him for bullying and taunting him, and admit he was a fool for picking on someone much bigger. That's what a gentleman would do.

Apparently, they aren't raising a gentleman.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The True Story of the Leprechauns

Leprechauns. You don’t hear too much about them except now, in the middle of March, when the Chicago River turns green, parades fill the TVs, Shamrock Shakes make their yearly appearance, and moms boil up a dose of corned beef and cabbage. It seems everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

But what do we really know about Leprechauns? Are they real or just a figment of some Irish storyteller’s drunken imagination? Where did they come from? What do they do? What are they like? Where (if anywhere) is their famed pot of gold? Do they all have beards? Are there any girl Leprechauns?

Here is the untold story.

Leprechauns are not simply little humans. They are not even human, although they have several human characteristics. As everyone knows, they live in Ireland. But they weren't originally from there. Many generations ago, they lived close to the lands where elves, dwarfs, and hobbits all resided peacefully. All three peoples intermingled. A few generations' worth of intermarriage sprouted the race that we now call leprechauns. They lived on their own, mostly, not craving the company of others. But they did have a clearly defined moral sense. They were committed to helping the poor; sort of a pre-dated Robin Hood clan. They were also highly skilled at deception and craftworks.

Because of their skill and friendliness, a large group of young lippies (as they were known to other folk) were invited by none other than Santa Claus to work at his massive workshop. And so a good portion of the leprechaun tribe emigrated to the North Pole. For generations, the leppies and elves coexisted peacefully in Santa's working crew, with the more technically savvy leppies forging and building what the creative and inspired elves dreamed of. Every year, they piggy-backed on each other’s Christmas spirit with buoyant joy and playfulness.

But alas, there were a few leppies whose actions were a bit too playful. Whether it was their natural tendency toward troublemaking or the harsh cold of the arctic winters, some could not help themselves. No one knows their true names--these were lost in their sacred chronicles that have since been lost--but we do know what they did.

One Christmas season, about three days before Christmas Eve, when the weather was wretchedly frigid, a small detachment of leppies played a practical joke on the Chief elf, Bon-tilith. After all the elves were soundly asleep, the leppies despoiled their co-workers of all of the years' toys that had been stored away. They hid them in their own cave-storage, then laughed late into the night. When they awoke, they crept in to the shop, where the elves were dumbstruck. They couldn't contain their laughter. But when the dumbstruck looks were accompanied by tears, they admitted to Bon-tilith what had happened. He was none too happy.

Just then, a report over the loudspeaker blasted "Here this: a terrible storm has resulted in an avalanche at Doringray Residence Cave. The cave has collapsed." The leppies were without words—a phenomenon quite unusual for them. They had transported the entire load of toys to Doringray! When the wreckage was discovered, every single toy had been destroyed. Santa was devastated; he and his workers simply could not get enough toys made and delivered by Christmas. It was a sad, albeit rare Christmas for the children of Earth that year.

Thankfully, the leppies fessed up. They hid nothing from Santa. However, he was less than his merciful self. In one of the rarest displays of wrath witnessed by his most ancient workers, Santa banished the leprechauns from the North Pole forever. The leppies traveled from North Pole to Greenland, then from Greenland to Iceland. No one wanted to harbor these strange folk; not only had word travelled quickly, but they were a strange-looking breed. Eventually, they made their way to the shores of Ireland.

They took up residence in the Northern parts and wooded sections in the south of the island. For many years, they did very little but show their remorse with tears and drowning in the local stout. But after a while they banded together again and dedicated their lives and their children's lives to righting the wrong they had committed. From that time forward, they decided, they would steal things only for a purpose--to give them to the poor.

And so they devised a scheme. They made up a very clever (albeit ridiculous) story about a rainbow that had a pot of gold at the end of it. They told this story to whoever would listen. Well, to anyone who was rich and would listen. And they promised to escort them to the rainbow, where they could partake of the pot of gold.

But, like any ruse, they needed some gold up front as payment for their services. So they took gold, toys, and other goodies from all unsuspecting fools.

Because of the inherent greed and wild-eyed dreams of the people, they were soon richer than all the world’s kings and princes put together.

Of course, they never quite led anyone to the rainbow or the pot of gold.

So if today you meet a leppie, do not be deceived by his friendly nature or promises. He (or she; yes, there are she-leppies) is only trying to get your goodies. Even though they would go to someone who needs them more than you!

The End

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

As if we needed more evidence that the fundamental hierarchy between adults and children is completely out of whack:

A California school teacher was placed on paid administrative leave after he rattled a table to get the attention of his math students, startling an eighth-grade girl who used her cell phone to call police.

Sgt. Tim Lynch tells the Palo Alto Daily News that officers went to Selby Lane School Tuesday afternoon because of reports a teacher was causing a disturbance.

Officers found a calm teacher with class in session.

The sergeant says the teacher's table-rattling startled a student and she used her cell phone to call 911. He says other students in the class weren't bothered by the teacher's actions.

Redwood City School District deputy superintendent John Baker says the teacher was placed on leave because there was a police response.

This is ridiculous in so many ways, it's difficult to know where to start.

First, cell phones should be banned in classrooms. Period. There is no good reason why children need a cell phone in school. Children were educated quite well for centuries without cell phones in the classroom; they can do just fine without them now. All schools should have a no tolerance policy regarding cell phones. Kids should keep them in their locker or not bring them at all. School allowing them are just asking for trouble. This story is Exhibit A.

Second, are children today so thin-skinned that they can't handle a little table-rattling? Are they all THAT profoundly wimpy? Frankly, I think MORE teachers should be rattling things, and they should be rattling more than tables.

Third, what the heck is a police officer doing answering a call like that?? That kid should be arrested for wasting the police's time and for making a phony 911 call. Tell her to deal with it.

Fourth, why is the teacher put on administrative leave? That teacher--provided that the information we have is correct and that he/she did nothing abusive--should be commended, in front of the entire class, then in front of the entire school. Any children or parents who don't like it can pull their kid out of school.

Sometimes, a teacher needs to rattle a desk. Sometimes a parent needs to crack a skull. Sometimes a police officer needs to pull rank and tell a student to get the hell back to work and stop challenging the authority of the adult who is in charge.

Man up, school districts. Don't pussyfoot around with the kids; they need grown-ups in charge.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Fundamental Differences Between Psychology and Psychiatry: An Overview

How many times have I been asked, “So are you a psychiatrist or psychologist? They’re basically the same, right?” I often say, “That’s like referring to an astronomer as an astrologer.”

For the uninitiated, the two have different educations and hold different degrees. Psychologists are doctors of philosophy (Ph.D.) or psychology (Psy.D.); psychiatrists are medical doctors/physicians (M.D.).

The difference is critical. Physicians are trained throughout medical school and residency to view the body as a series of organs that comprise an organism. Their purview, then, is a machine that is either functioning properly or is, to one degree or another, broken.

When a suffering person comes to them, the lens with which they view that person is similar to a mechanic who attempts to find a physical aberration that directly or indirectly causes the undesirable symptom. The study of psychiatry (meaning, treatment of the soul) essentially seeks to better understand the electrical, structural, or chemical mechanisms that are broken—or imbalanced—and how to apply medical solutions to fix these broken parts or systems. Neurons, tissue, the brain, and the central nervous system: these are all that exist and matter to the psychiatrist.

Psychology, on the other hand, literally means study of the soul. Originally, it was a broader field of study that, when allied and merged with medicine, created the offshoot that is now known as psychiatry.

Today, psychology is a social science. The academic branch of psychology, residing in universities, attempts to study human behavior, emotion, thought, and relationships. The clinical branch of psychology attempts, like psychiatry, to intervene with people who suffer in their behaviors, emotions, thoughts, and relationships.

Next, I will discuss one of the key differences between psychology and psychiatry: the belief—or lack of belief—in the soul.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Yoga yoga yoga!

OK, this might not be a popular perception, but has anyone else noticed that yoga enthusiasts are a bit like street preachers?

Just think about some of the more obnoxious born-again types and how they talk about their faith and replace “Jesus” with “yoga”:

“Excuse me, can I talk to you about yoga…?”

“One of these days, you are going to realize your need for yoga.”

“Have you had a personal encounter with yoga?”

“Hey, would you like to join me this Sunday for yoga? There is a new wonderful teacher who can answer all of your questions about yoga…”

“Don’t be afraid; yoga can change your life. You don’t have to give up everything, just add the beauty of yoga…”

“Yoga is calling you; are you hearing its call?”

“Let me tell you the exciting things yoga has done in my life!”

"Yoga covers a multitude of sins."

“There is a yoga workshop Tuesday evening. It’s free—they are so excited about introducing people to yoga. They want to spread the word about yoga.”

“It’s OK, I thought yoga was silly at first too. But then I really studied it and figured it out and it just hit me. Yoga is the way.”

"Let me tell you how yoga spoke to me this morning!"

“There are many choices in this world. Why not try yoga?”

“Have you thought about giving your life to yoga?”

I’m going to be in trouble for this one. But I couldn’t help myself.

No Maste.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Happy Body, Happy Mind

For every treatment psychiatry offers, there exists a natural alternative that is safer and more effective.

This is my motto. This is the fundamental vision of my clinical practice.

As my practice grows in size and scope, experience clarifies my belief that a fundamental intervention strategy for emotional and behavioral problems must include the Body Triad: Diet, Sleep, and Exercise.

I have preached about proper sleep for years. It is so fundamental to cognitive and emotional functioning that I often refuse to engage in psychotherapy with someone who is not sleeping properly. It is about as useful as doing therapy with an inebriated person. Just as a drunk brain cannot process, nor can a sleep-deprived brain.

For years, I was somewhat skeptical about the impact of a poor diet on a person’s emotions and cognitive abilities. Sure, I always knew that a healthy diet would help my heart, give my muscles what they need to perform, and improve my complexion. But I wasn’t so sure about claims that childhood behavior disorders could be magically cured by dietary means.

I was wrong. Personal and professional experience, combined with a stream of quality, published studies, has convinced me that a poor diet can profoundly impact a child’s emotional and behavioral regulation. It only follows that adults’ functioning can be similarly affected—positively or negatively. Personally, I have learned that food dyes—which are in a majority of the food supply—can make my children…well, nuts. One of my girls absolutely goes bonkers when she consumes certain dyes; she begins to exhibit most of the symptoms of of the mythical disorder, ADHD. I can only imagine how many children with that label actually suffer from food dye sensitivities and other dietary sensitivities.

A recent study published in Lancet goes a long way to show how powerfully diet affects children. One of the key notions of the study is that what might be perfectly healthy for one child might be toxic for another child. Food allergies and sensitivities can wreak havoc while flying under the radar for years. There is no doubt now that each child has a unique diet profile; just like some cars require higher octane fuel, some children require a diet with or without certain foods. It is worth investigating.

The third rail of the Body Triad is exercise. Some excellent studies has shown beyond a doubt that the very best treatment for depression—even moderate to severe depression—is regular exercise. We’re not talking about extreme exercise; you don’t have to run a marathon to feed your brain what it needs. 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise 4-5 times per week is good enough for most people.

Imagine what our culture would be like if it were properly fed, rested, and exercised. Imagine what families would be like. Imagine what YOU would be like if you were feeding your brain the diet, sleep, and exercise that it needs for optimal functioning.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wrestling Girls

A friend of mine asked the question, “Why are boys wrestling girls in Iowa?”

Perhaps you have read about the high school wrestler in Iowa who essentially forfeited a tournament match because his opponent was female. He is catching all kinds of flak from feminist groups. I wouldn’t be surprised if they stormed the state capital, raising caricatures of the young man that look like Hitler. That’s all the rage now, you know.
But seriously, let’s take a look at this situation.

First, the young man behaved like a consummate gentleman. He said nothing about the girl’s chosen sport. In fact, he acknowledged her accomplishments and praised her ability. He lamented his decision in a way that shows remarkable awareness of the powerful counterarguments to his decision. Would that our politicians were able to think this critically and behave this gallantly.

Second, the boy clearly thought this situation through. There was no tobacco-spitting, terse response, like “Girls…they shouldn’t be rolling around with boys—until they’re married.”

Rather, this young man was taught by his parents and church that boys and girls shouldn’t have physical contact where private areas will likely be touched. They reason that it can spur all kinds of thoughts and temptations that are frankly not worth it. They believe that it is also improper.

I recognize that propriety is a word that many in our hypermodern culture do not comprehend, but for most of world history, there have been rules describing proper public behavior. There are remnants of this antiquated notion. For example, it is still generally considered bad taste to pick one’s nose while ordering dinner at a restaurant (or so they tell me).

Of course there are extremes (e.g., wearing burqas) of propriety that should be rejected and some (e.g., girls only wearing skirts and dresses) that are unnecessary. But what about men opening doors for women? For most of history, this was considered the proper behavior of a gentleman. In some parts of the country today, it is considered affront to women’s liberation. I can’t count the number of times a woman has looked at me exasperated as I held a door for her; I have even gotten, “I am completely capable of opening my own door.” One of the consequences of the extreme feminist movement.

But a remnant of heroes remains. They refuse to wrestle women—although they will certainly play them in chess or Scrabble. They hold open doors for women, children, and the elderly, even if their motives are questioned and their natures abused. Their attitudes are charitable toward women, even during disagreements with them. Would that our public officials learned and practiced such charity, self-sacrifice, and critical thinking!

We can learn something from them Iowa high school boys.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chinese Mothers Are Indeed Superior (but So Are American Mothers)

It’s time I jump into the fray on Professor Chua’s contention, asserted in her book, that Chinese mothers are superior.

To begin, the very notion suggests that there is a competition between Chinese mothers and American mothers. I find this highly suspect. There is already enough competition between China and the United States to inspire a whole library section of books. I don’t think that American mothers should concern themselves with whether Beijing mothers are better. As interesting as it would be to have parenting as a new Olympic sport, I think we should avoid making this into a contest.

However, let’s examine the argument, presuming that there can be such a thing as a superior mother.

Chua contends that American parents—represented by the primary caretaker, the mother—are essentially too wimpy. American mothers spend too much time tiptoeing around their children, fearing that they might damage their child’s self-esteem and creating conflict with their child. On that count, Chua is preaching to the choir. As I assert in my book, American parents are guilty of this ridiculous pattern.

Chua praises the directness and stark hierarchal structure of the Chinese family. Parent says; child does. Period. There is no sass, defiance, or negotiation. So far, so good.

There are some questionable extremes in Chinese (and many Eastern) family structures. She recounts a daughter being forced to practice a piano piece for three hours. It is justified when the child finally masters the piece and exudes pride for having accomplished her goal. In some ways, this could be an enormously powerful experience. The child’s abilities are respected and an important lesson is learned: hard work must often be lengthy and arduous and even significantly uncomfortable. This lesson will certainly help the child in future endeavors. This kind of parenting could cure our ADHD epidemic. Hurray for Eastern medicine!

These examples delineate some of the superior aspects of non-Western parenting. If more American parents moved to a parent-first philosophy with stricter discipline, respecting children’s fortitude and the necessity of challenges to build character and endurance, then I would be pleased.

But there is another side of the ledger in this equation.

Let’s look at WHY Chinese parents tend to parent this way. It is consistent with the Eastern view of children and family. The communal view of children is that children exist to serve the family; their accomplishments and behavior directly reflect the esteem of the family. In Eastern families, there is no such thing as individual self-esteem. There is family esteem. Each person is expected to subjugate their will to that of the family. When they do this, they are good.

It is consistent, then, for Eastern parents to have extremely strict expectations of their children. Play dates, sleepovers, and other experiences are not simply luxuries; they are a colossal waste of time.

Contrast this with the parenting philosophy of American parents. Children are, by and large, considered individuals with equal value, will, and self-determination. Even in strict families, children are trained toward an individualistic lifestyle. Children are taught to discover themselves—for their own good.

In Christian families, this is amended by the idea of finding one’s individual gifts and talents and to perceive them as traits that can be used to further the Kingdom of God. But still the emphasis is on the individual.

There is an additional contrast between Chinese and American families that must be noted. China is a Communist regime that has a one-child policy. That one child, it could be hypothesized, holds enormous pressure to continue the family’s aspirations. Any thoughts of this are dispersed among multiple children in most American families. If Johnny doesn’t get a Harvard law degree, maybe Suzy will. We’ll make sure Johnny can at least dunk or make a video that ends up on YouTube.

The religious difference between the two nations is not minor. What is the value of a child whose nation believes that the child belongs first to the state, then the family, contrasted to the value of a child who belongs first to God? It’s something to think about.

In the end, Chinese mothers do a magnificent job at raising their children—in many ways. But to measure successful parenting based on a child's accomplishments reveals more about the values of Chinese mothers far more than their skill at parenting. Similarly, the way American parents raise their children reveals a great deal about their own values. Each set of parents is simply living out their beliefs and values—and quite successfully.

That is both scary and encouraging.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Psychiatry Kills

Many have seen or read the advertisements for Abilify and other antipsychotics* as a treatment for depression. The advertisements suggest that if one’s antidepressant is not doing an adequate job, one should consider adding another psychoactive drug to the cocktail. (Note that the ads don’t suggest stopping the drug that isn’t working but adding MORE drugs. The new psychiatry mantra: "If it's broke, whatever you do, DON'T FIX IT").

One thing people need to know is that neuroleptics/antipsychotics cause diabetes. That’s right; they CAUSE diabetes.

An interesting study in the January Archives of General Psychiatry found that women who have diabetes and depression have a significantly higher risk for mortality and cardiovascular disease. In case you didn’t catch that, this means that depression + diabetes = more death.

So psychiatrists are recommending that people who are depressed—who already have a higher risk for diabetes than the general public—take a drug that is known to cause diabetes, which then, in combination with their depression, is likely to result in a higher mortality rate.

One can only speculate as to how a psychiatrist could prescribe any of this in good conscience. Either they know about the risk and ignore it or they are plain ignorant. In either case, it is no wonder why psychiatrists are among the most loathed of medical professionals.

There are plenty of reasons to avoid neuroleptics like the plague. Actually, this stuff is worse than the plague; at least the plague killed you quickly.

*Actually, the term “antipsychotic” is not a scientific term. It is a marketing term for the class of psychoactive drugs called neuroleptics. Drug manufacturers and psychiatrists HOPE and believe that neuroleptics can remove or reduce psychotic symptoms. This does not mean that they do.