Columnists, Articles

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]

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]

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