Columnists, Articles

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]

March 1st, 2012

The birth of a new hospital

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

In the course of my career as a psychologist, I have witnessed the closing of many of the hospitals but I have never seen a new one open. That is about to change with the scheduled opening of the new Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital in July of 2012. Every day is a step closer to the awakening of the sleeping giant that shares a hilltop with the last functioning building of Worcester State Hospital, a 1950s era, eight-story afterthought to the original 1876 structure destroyed in a 1991 fire. All that remains of the original hospital are the shells [More]

February 1st, 2012

Traveling on winter’s broad plain

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

Words written in the first week of January meant to be read a month later stand on the threshold of the unknown, always a mystery, but more consciously so at the beginning of a new year. As the last scraps of confetti from last night’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are swept up and carted away to wherever such things are taken, the sun is already shining in a cold blue sky on the sharp outlines of a snowless winter landscape. We are but a grand parade and a few more bowl games away from the official end of the holiday [More]

January 1st, 2012

Moving ahead with our lives

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

January reminds us that there is only one inexorable thing and that is the passage of time. The proactive response to this realization is the New Year’s resolution or what we psychologists might view as a behavioral short-term goal or collection of goals, affirming our determination to make the most of the time we have left. This year, before I start making promises to myself that I probably won’t be able to keep, I resolve to give a bit more thought to the challenges that the passage of time brings and what it takes to meet them head on. When [More]

December 1st, 2011

Psychologist wins Nobel Prize

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

When this year’s Nobel Prize winners were announced in October, there was a psychologist on the list. Sweden’s Tomas Tranströmer is not the first psychologist to win a Nobel Prize, but he is the first to win one for poetry. The news is at once surprising and overdue – surprising because previous Nobel honors for psychological work have gone to staunch empiricists, overdue because of the strong conceptual links between psychology and poetry. In a Sept. 2003 article in the American Psychologist, “Behavioral Science and the Nobel Prize,” Ludy Benjamin Jr. traces the history of the Nobel Prize with particular [More]

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]