Articles, Leading Stories

December 1st, 2010

Guidelines for depression treatment revised

By Ami Albernaz

The American Psychiatric Association recently revised its guidelines for treating Major Depressive Disorder, covering everything from clinician-patient rapport to the full range of antidepressants to alternative therapies. Key recommendations included more frequent use of rating scales during assessment; use of electroconvulsive therapy as well as new, technologically advanced therapies in patients with treatment-resistant depression; and regular aerobic exercise as an adjunct to treatment. A group of Association members with extensive experience in assessing and treating Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) reviewed more than 13,000 articles published between 1999, shortly before the last guidelines were released and 2006. Through the five-year review [More]

December 1st, 2010

Medicare cuts: detrimental to both psychologists and clients

By Phyllis Hanlon

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final payment rule on November 2 that affirmed a 21 percent Medicare reimbursement cut effective December 1 and another four percent decrease on January 1, 2011. This decision comes in spite of stringent lobbying efforts from the psychology community. CMS uses the Medical Economic Index (MEI), which measures a medical professional’s time and practice expenses and the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), a formula that considers practice costs, Medicare enrollment and real gross domestic product per person to determine Medicare rates. According to CMS, from 2001 through 2015, physician costs are [More]

December 1st, 2010

Telemedicine protocol helpful to depressed elderly people

By Ami Albernaz

A telemedicine-based protocol for treating depression among homebound elders has shown promise in a preliminary study, pointing the way for more rigorous research. The study, conducted by Rhode Island Hospital in collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Telemedicine Program, applied telemedicine – now used by the homecare industry to help manage chronic illnesses, such as heart disease – to a condition known to afflict many of the elderly, though relatively few receive treatment. The 48 participants were already receiving home care for other medical conditions and either had depressive symptoms or were taking antidepressants. Pre-programmed monitoring devices alerted participants at [More]

December 1st, 2010

Unit uses softness to connect with kids

By Jennifer E Chase

A Massachusetts-based child inpatient psychiatric unit is breaking from the traditional use of restrictions and seclusion for managing troubled patients with a much softer approach: colorful rooms, soft places to sit, listening ears and lots of hugs. To be exact, the “Hugs not Holds” initiative is just one of several programs used to calm, quell and treat kids admitted to the Child Assessment Unit (CAU), an award-winning unit under the auspices of Cambridge Health Alliance that thinks outside the box when it comes to treating difficult patients. The CAU opened in 1989 but underwent a major change in 2001 when [More]

December 1st, 2010

Q&A: Strengthening emotional well-being is primary goal

By Catherine Robertson Souter

Mental health is not just the absence of mental illness. Mental health is about being resilient, having strong relationships with others and yourself and carrying a sense of well-being throughout all of life’s struggles. When we are emotionally and physically sound, everything else falls into place. We can better cope with stress, tragedy and the demands of normal life. Helping clients to strengthen their emotional well-being should be a primary goal of the therapist, according to Dana Gionta, Ph.D., of Branford, Conn. Gionta, an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, is a contributing author to Health Forum Online and wrote the [More]

December 1st, 2010

Study examines potential of psychedelic drugs to relieve distress

By Ami Albernaz

Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and psilocybin, which largely fell out of favor among researchers in the early 1970s, have re-emerged in studies of severe depression and anxiety. Scientists at UCLA, New York University, Johns Hopkins and other institutions have been quietly studying the drugs’ potential to help relieve mental distress in terminally ill patients, with so far promising results. The research has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, though funding has come from private entities. In a current double-blind study, Stephen Ross, M.D., an addiction expert at New York University, is testing psilocybin (the active ingredient in [More]

November 1st, 2010

Giving thanks enhances quality of life, strengthens connections

By Phyllis Hanlon

Bing Crosby was on to something when he sang “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” to Rosemary Clooney in the movie “White Christmas.” Clinical studies, as well as anecdotal evidence, indicate that feelings of gratitude can result in more than a good night’s sleep. Douglas C. Kimmel, Ph.D., who has a private practice in Hancock, Maine, says, “From a general aspect, awareness of the good things in life can help you focus on gratitude,” he says. “We’ve been taught all our lives to focus on what went wrong, to work harder, get better grades. It’s common to go through life [More]

November 1st, 2010

Escalating prescription drug abuse of concern

By Ami Albernaz

For the past decade or so, substance abuse counselors, law enforcement and families have been faced with a particularly pernicious problem: the skyrocketing abuse of prescription drugs. Instead of the elaborate schemes involved in getting, illegal drugs such as heroin or cocaine, painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin are often easily procured from a medicine cabinet. In spite of educational campaigns, bottle collection programs and improved prescription-drug monitoring in some states, the problem continues, seemingly unabated – requiring a coordinated effort from physicians, pharmacists and families. In all of the New England states except Vermont, drugs, both prescription and illicit, now [More]

November 1st, 2010

Practices started to better control abuses

By Ami Albernaz

Between 2002 and 2007, more Americans died of opiate-related overdoses than were killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In Massachusetts alone during those years, 78 soldiers died in the wars, while 3,265 residents overdosed on opiates and died. These stark findings prompted a group of Massachusetts legislators and substance abuse and corrections officials to investigate the impacts of OxyContin and heroin abuse and issue recommendations on how the problem should be tackled. The commission’s recommendations, released last November, drew from public hearings that included medical experts, police, addicts and their families and touched on a number of fronts including [More]

November 1st, 2010

Fewer dollars challenge Maine’s mental health services

By Phyllis Hanlon

The news is not good, but not as bad as it could be, according to Brenda M. Harvey, commissioner of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Over the last three fiscal years, the legislature has cut approximately $3.2 million in grant funds from the DHHS budget. “That’s about 13 percent,” Harvey says. According to Harvey, Maine uses two funding sources for its mental health services: grant/general fund and Medicaid. She notes that when she served as deputy commissioner in 2002 the legislature began to reduce the general fund. “We were able to use the dollars in Medicaid to [More]

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