Articles, Columnists

March 1st, 2013

The first 20 years

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

Last month marked the twentieth anniversary of New England Psychologist. This month is the twentieth anniversary of this column. It started with a telephone call from the publisher and an invitation to write a column about the day-to-day experiences of a psychologist and the reflections to which these experiences gave rise. And so we called the column, In Person. In all that I have written, I have always intended and hoped that my experiences would reflect yours as we journeyed together through our changing personal and professional lives. If you are reading these words in the later stages of your [More]

February 1st, 2013

All around the world

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

One of the great pleasures of being a hospital psychologist is the opportunity to carry on conversations with patients that go beyond the 50-minute hour to other settings where staff and patients regularly come together. The conversation can start anywhere about anything but once a good idea has been set free, it can bounce around the building and come back to you when you least expect it. This one started in our Wednesday morning community meeting and re-surfaced in the first therapy group of the day. I don’t know where it went from there because my own work took me [More]

January 1st, 2013

Gender Identity Disorder Case could set precedent

By Edward Stern J.D.

n September 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf determined that sex-reassignment surgery was the ‘only adequate treatment’ for Michelle Kosilek, who was previously known as Robert (Kosilek). The basis of this finding appears to be a diagnosis of ‘Gender Identity Disorder.’ Kosilek has been incarcerated in an all-male prison, serving a life sentence without parole for murdering his wife in 1990. From its inception, this case has raised sharp division. The act itself destroyed the framework of a family. Children lose both parents when one parent kills another as one dies and the other goes to jail. It [More]

January 1st, 2013

What I didn’t get for the holidays

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

This is a story that began 40 years ago. When I was just starting out in psychology, it all seemed so complicated that I was never quite sure I knew what I was doing. Then one night an old man appeared to me in a dream. He held a large diamond-shaped crystal which he described as the crystal of wisdom. So I did what any resourceful but insecure beginner would do in that kind of situation. I asked him to give me the crystal. That’s exactly what I need. May I have it? Not so fast, the old man replied, [More]

December 1st, 2012

Are “three strikes” laws the solution?

By Edward Stern J.D.

Ensuring the safety of its citizens is one of society’s most important functions. However, everyone does not agree on how to achieve this outcome. One school of thought is based on the concept of deterrence. There are two types: general and specific. Both types are based on the idea that if punishment is severe enough, a person will not want to be caught and punished for committing a crime and therefore will be deterred from doing the crime. Another argument in favor of lengthy punishment is that the punishment (incarceration) will isolate the perpetrator from law-abiding citizens, thereby protecting society. [More]

December 1st, 2012

Seeing the invisible community

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

There is nothing like misfortune to focus our attention on the importance of community. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we are hearing stories about the way the hardest hit communities have been coming together in their shared sense of loss to support one another emotionally and in more practical ways. From mutual expressions of grief and resolutions to re-build destroyed homes and public facilities to small acts of charity like providing charging stations for cell phones, citizens are finding ways to help one another get through the kind of natural disaster that turns normal life on its end. The [More]

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]

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