Articles, Columnists

December 1st, 2012

Getting your bearings with difficult clients

By Mitch Abblett Ph.D.

Valuing instead of evaluating your work I was in graduate school when I happened upon a flier for a literary panel discussion featuring some lions of the literary world – among them, novelist Kurt Vonnegut (one of my absolute favorites). At the end of the talk, I sat in the auditorium and listened as the moderator invited people with questions to approach microphones set up in the aisles. An awkward-looking English department grad student walked up to the microphone. “I have a question for you, Mr. Vonnegut,” he stammered, clearly nervous. “I’ve admired your writing for years and I also [More]

November 1st, 2012

Moving day for a hospital

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

On the first Tuesday in October 2012, 130 people being treated for mental illness quietly slipped away from Worcester State Hospital. They were preceded by more than three times that number of staff who had started the exodus the previous week. The first group boarded a luxury motor coach at eight in the morning for the quarter mile ride to the new Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital just down the hill from the 1950’s era building that was the last remnant of one of the first state hospitals in the country. The move was the culmination of nearly a decade [More]

October 1st, 2012

Mental health on blue line to Tijuana

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

Search the Internet for articles about the mentally ill riding trains and buses and you will find stories about people with mental illness behaving badly on commuter or long-distance bus routes and railway lines. One blogger describes fellow riders on Seattle’s Number 70 bus route ranting about government conspiracies. Another tells the story of an agitated man on a Greyhound bus who slapped a cross dressing passenger and then kissed another elderly man. It should come as no surprise that media reports are skewed. Bad news catches the public’s attention. Now that I have yours, here’s a story about one [More]

August 24th, 2012

A $10 billion metaphor for psychology

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

The only thing worse than struggling is discovering that you have been struggling with the wrong things. I found myself in this situation in early July when scientists at the $10 billion particle accelerator in Geneva, Switzerland announced that they had discovered the elusive Higgs boson particle. I didn’t even know they were looking. Of course, I’m a psychologist, not a nuclear physicist, so I might be forgiven for not keeping up with the big issues in the subatomic world. Yet how do I excuse my lackluster reaction to the news that the Higgs boson had been found? The morning [More]

July 1st, 2012

Mystery of a hospital’s sacred place

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

Not long ago a man I hardly knew and barely understood agreed to walk with me on the hospital grounds. I wanted to see if he was able to manage more privileges without getting into a fight or taking off. I am not sure exactly what he wanted and the combination of his disordered thinking and impaired speech made it difficult for him to tell me. All I do know is that when he agreed to sit with me at a picnic table, he very clearly said that this was a sacred place. That got me thinking. The idea of [More]

June 1st, 2012

‘Stand Your Ground’ case examined

By Edward Stern J.D.

On Feb. 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida, there was a confrontation between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. The result was the death of Trayvon Martin. With the exception of Trayvon Martin’s death, there is little agreement as to what happened, why it happened or the law which would be applied to this situation. The location of the event was The Retreat at Twin Lakes a gated community at approximately 7:09 p.m.. Martin was a 17-year-old African American male who was reportedly unarmed. He allegedly was staying with his father’s fiancée, who lived in the community and was on his way [More]

June 1st, 2012

Stop the world, I want to get on

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

The small room where the treatment team meets was crowded with hospital staff and representatives from the community where George would be going after his discharge. George dominated the tableau more by his imposing size than by anything that could be mistaken for a confident manner. He insisted that he was ready to leave the hospital, praised the members of his outpatient team and the staff of his new group home and had nothing but good things to say about the residence itself. Yet he said it all in a tone of voice barely louder than a whisper. Someone suggested [More]

May 1st, 2012

Looking for a reason to believe

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

Everyone has to believe in something.” “What you believe and what you know are different things, and it’s important to keep them separated for your orientation.” These two statements about belief are attributed to Dr. Elvin Semrad, the late Boston psychoanalyst who taught generations of psychiatry residents and psychology interns how to listen and enter into the experience of their patients. What he was saying forty years ago is just as relevant today. Today, like so many days at the hospital where I work, we are discharging people for whom belief is the central issue. One man, now stable on [More]

April 1st, 2012

Privileged communications examined

By Edward Stern J.D.

Societies have provided in law a number of privileges. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, a privilege is “a particular and peculiar benefit or advantage enjoyed by a person, company or class, beyond the common advantages of other citizens. An exception or extraordinary power or exemption, a right, power or exemption, a right, power, franchise or immunity held by a person or class, against or beyond the course of the law.” There are many privileges including protection for ambassadors, public officials and defendants in criminal cases. Privileges can arise by treaties, statutes and the Constitution. Privileged communication is a [More]

April 1st, 2012

A relapse prevention plan

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

When I caught myself humming the refrain of a Frank Sinatra song under my breath after morning rounds, I knew I was in for a rough day. That’s the beauty of relapse prevention plans and the reason why we are spending increasingly more of our scarce professional resources teaching this simple method of keeping track of our stress level and learning to avoid or at least to manage situations that threaten to send us over the edge. Over the edge, otherwise known as relapse behavior, means different things to different people. To the person living with mental illness who has [More]

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