Articles, Columnists

October 1st, 2015

Smartphone summer

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

This was the summer of my first smartphone. I wasn’t the last holdout among my friends and family, but I was close. My wife is going for the record of having the oldest flip phone on the face of the planet but she convinced me that it was time for one of us to join the rest of the world in having instant access to everything we want to know and communicate to others. Information technology has developed so quickly over the past 50 years that it is difficult to believe that we didn’t even have flip phones until 1996. [More]

August 21st, 2015

Re-thinking what useful means

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

Sometimes, the obvious distortions in the thinking of a person with mental illness can lead us to examine our own assumptions about the way we live our lives. One of the most hopeless people I know believes that he does not deserve to live because he is useless. He is confined to the hospital because he says, and we believe, that he will kill himself if he was not closely supervised. He suffered a catastrophic loss for which he blames himself and he cannot imagine a life other than the one that is no longer available to him. He looks [More]

July 1st, 2015

Taking the next step

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

I find it hard to believe that it has been a full year since I wrote about “The Retirement Readiness Test,” a three-day weekend rehearsal of a retired psychologist’s schedule that led me to conclude that I wasn’t ready. I find this hard to believe because when this column appears on July 1, I will have been retired for a little more than two weeks. Well, sort of.  I will be retired from my full time position of 39 years but I will still be doing some part-time work in psychology. In the past year, my thinking about retirement has [More]

June 1st, 2015

Airline suicide raises issues for psychologists

By Edward Stern J.D.

On March 24, Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed in the French Alps. One hundred forty four passengers and six crew members died. It’s now believed that the co-pilot deliberately crashed the plane – killing himself and the people aboard it. Germanwings is a subsidiary of Lufthansa airlines. The co-pilot had a history of depression going back to at least 2009. According to CNN, there are five previous incidents with planes that may have been deliberately crashed by pilots: Nov. 29, 2013, Mozambique Airlines Flight 470, with 27 passengers and six crew members died in Bwabwata game park in Namibia; Oct. 31, [More]

June 1st, 2015

Why place matters

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

The man had just explained how his violent behavior was the norm in the poor urban neighborhood where he was raised and I responded with a simple acknowledgement of how difficult it must have been to grow up there. Then he surprised me with a question. Did I know anything about Mallorca? Only that it is a beautiful island in the Mediterranean off the coast of Spain, I replied. The world traveler agreed and added that in his eyes, the rough neighborhood of his youth is every bit as beautiful. Of course it is, I reflected silently and wondered what [More]

May 1st, 2015

Extra people

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

Flannery O’Connor has a powerful short story entitled, “The Displaced Person,” where she describes the impact of the arrival of a refugee family on a small Southern farm. The story is set in the period following World War II when masses of people left Central and Eastern Europe in the wake of Soviet occupation of their homelands. In O’Connor’s story, a local priest arranges the placement of one of these families on a farm owned by a widow and worked by black and white farmhands. The established laborers do not take kindly to the arrival of the foreigners with strange [More]

April 1st, 2015

When laughter shows the way

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

In all the years I had known him, through hundreds of therapy hours that sometimes left me feeling as hopeless as he did; he had never stopped talking about killing himself. He had almost succeeded on a number of occasions and we believed him when he said that the only thing keeping him alive was the lack of means and opportunity in the hospital. Like many people who have abandoned hope, he had lost much. He would say everything and that would be only a slight exaggeration. Alone with his thoughts, he cried almost daily. And yet, he wondered out [More]

March 1st, 2015

Learning to trust the process

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

The interviews are over, the rankings have been submitted, and the cloud has delivered the names of our interns for the next training year. All of that is done but I am still thinking about an answer one of our applicants gave to my standard question about how he imagined his unique strengths and challenges would influence his performance in our program. After explaining what made him the ideal candidate for the position, he said simply that he was still learning to trust the process. He was talking about the process of psychotherapy but I am thinking about that and [More]

February 1st, 2015

All you need is love

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

In the dead of winter, Valentine’s Day reminds us of the healing power of love in all of its many forms. Cut through the commercial dross of the manufactured holiday and you might be able to see acts of kindness in places you never thought to look. Avoid print and television news where stories of violence and crime predominate and see what’s happening where you spend your time every day. Take along a guidebook to orient yourself to the landscape of love and stroll the boulevards and back streets of familiar places looking for evidence that we have not forgotten [More]

January 1st, 2015

The lady in the chair

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

It was time for her annual review and she had been transferred only recently to my unit. A year in the hospital and this was the first time we would be talking together. The nurse pointed me in the direction of a woman sitting in the TV room in her bathrobe and slippers. We were strangers to each other and I can only imagine how odd it must have seemed to her when I explained that I would like to speak with her about her past year in the hospital. To my delight, the woman smiled and followed my lead [More]

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