Articles, Columnists

November 1st, 2011

Health care law provokes strong reactions

By Edward Stern J.D.

Is it the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) or is it Obamacare (O)? A person can tell whether or not someone likes or dislikes this federal legislation by the name he uses to describe it. The law’s name is PPACA, but opponents have dubbed it Obamacare. The use of vocabulary to frame discussion is similar to the concepts of language used in the debate surrounding abortion. Those who are in favor of the availability of abortion use the phrase “a woman’s right to choose,” while opponents use the phrase “right to life.” Vocabulary is a very powerful tool. [More]

November 1st, 2011

Just one of those days?

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

“Hi, my name is Rex and when I’m not doing psychology, I climb mountains. This past season I summitted Everest for the third time.” Anyway, that’s what I thought he said. It probably just felt like he was living an impossibly adventurous life, especially on a day when I wasn’t much in the mood for going around the table and telling something about ourselves that isn’t related to work. We’ve all participated in these kinds of “getting to know you” exercises, usually at the start of a new work group, so I should have been prepared. On that particular day, [More]

October 1st, 2011

Serenity prayer for psychologists

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

You don’t have to work very long in the mental health field before you encounter the serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, /Courage to change the things I can, /And wisdom to know the difference. For many of us, our introduction to these lines may have come in connection with addictions work since the prayer has been a part of the AA literature ever since a member brought it to the attention of AA co-founder, William Wilson, in 1941. The serenity prayer is generally attributed to the theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, who may [More]

September 27th, 2011

Psychology at the ballpark

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

When the pace of work in the psychology department of a busy psychiatric hospital becomes almost too hectic to manage, I watch a baseball game. On a special occasion, I go to the ballpark. It wasn’t always so. A few years ago, I would have said that baseball is too slow but now it is deliberate and reflective. It’s funny how a game can change so quickly. Of course it is not the game that has changed but my own preferred tempo. When my professional life allowed me the time to be more reflective, I sought balance in the speed [More]

August 15th, 2011

The psychologist’s role as expert witness

By Edward Stern J.D.

At times, a psychologist will be called upon to be an “expert” witness in a case that may proceed to a court trial. Today in the United States, although the figures vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, about 10 percent of cases started in a court actually proceed to a completed trial. In any given court case, the psychologist could take on many roles. In addition to participation as an expert, a psychologist could be the therapist for a patient and be asked or required to testify in that capacity. As a therapist, the issues of patient privilege and waiver [More]

July 15th, 2011

Was justice served in Phoebe Prince case?

By Edward Stern J.D.

What is justice? This question has been the basis of a debate since the conclusion of the cases resulting from the harassment and suicide of Phoebe Prince in South Hadley, Mass. This case has been used to support the need for the new anti-bullying law in Massachusetts (see “In Wake of Suicides, Anti-Bullying Bill Passed,” New England Psychologist, June 2010). Bullying deals with persistent or unreasonable hurtful acts against another of unequal power. The six defendants faced different charges. The charges were begun under a district attorney who was no longer in office at the time of the trial. According [More]

July 1st, 2011

The inventory of terrible things

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

When American architect Louis Sullivan coined the phrase, “Form follows function” in 1896, he certainly wasn’t thinking about how psychologists would be doing risk assessments more than a century later. Now here we are busily re-defining our functions throughout the spectrum of mental health services and looking for forms to help us categorize the things we consider important in understanding and changing human behavior. Especially in the realm of inpatient care, psychologists throughout New England, if not the entire nation, are shifting their focus away from doing therapy and toward providing specialized assessments and developing treatment plans to be implemented [More]

June 15th, 2011

The games therapists play

By Mitch Abblett Ph.D.

Tug-of-war is a silly game – all of that straining in order to move a rope a few yards. If you’ve ever played, the whole thing seems pointless, yet it is so easily and regularly played in our daily social lives. Husbands with wives, parents with children, co-workers and confidantes – no one, not even the experienced therapist, is above such game playing. One person feels an unmet need and pulls at an important other to meet it. The other misreads or rejects the person’s pulling and gives a yank themselves. Whether you call it a “power struggle” or a [More]

June 1st, 2011

How to love the job you have

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

When I ended last month’s column with the challenge to reconcile the work of psychology with the demands of available jobs, I realize now that I was being much too abstract. Without suggesting who is responsible for this reconciliation, I risk giving the impression that it should be left to professional organizations or administrators. The task is too important and the world moves too fast to wait for that to happen. It is up to us. Every day, psychologists at every stage of their careers make decisions about what jobs to apply for, which offers to accept and how long [More]

May 15th, 2011

Who do we think we are?

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

You would think by now I would know what to expect when a room full of psychologists meets to discuss issues bearing on our professional identity. Then why do I still come away from these gatherings surprised and impressed by our diversity? Earlier this spring, the Massachusetts Psychological Association hosted a conference that brought together psychologists and graduate students from all over New England to discuss contemporary challenges in psychology training. Featured speakers included representatives at the national level from APA, APPIC and ASPPB, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. Regional interests were represented by directors of clinical [More]

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