Columnists, Articles

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]

July 1st, 2012

Mystery of a hospital’s sacred place

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

Not long ago a man I hardly knew and barely understood agreed to walk with me on the hospital grounds. I wanted to see if he was able to manage more privileges without getting into a fight or taking off. I am not sure exactly what he wanted and the combination of his disordered thinking and impaired speech made it difficult for him to tell me. All I do know is that when he agreed to sit with me at a picnic table, he very clearly said that this was a sacred place. That got me thinking. The idea of [More]

June 1st, 2012

‘Stand Your Ground’ case examined

By Edward Stern J.D.

On Feb. 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida, there was a confrontation between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. The result was the death of Trayvon Martin. With the exception of Trayvon Martin’s death, there is little agreement as to what happened, why it happened or the law which would be applied to this situation. The location of the event was The Retreat at Twin Lakes a gated community at approximately 7:09 p.m.. Martin was a 17-year-old African American male who was reportedly unarmed. He allegedly was staying with his father’s fiancée, who lived in the community and was on his way [More]

June 1st, 2012

Stop the world, I want to get on

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

The small room where the treatment team meets was crowded with hospital staff and representatives from the community where George would be going after his discharge. George dominated the tableau more by his imposing size than by anything that could be mistaken for a confident manner. He insisted that he was ready to leave the hospital, praised the members of his outpatient team and the staff of his new group home and had nothing but good things to say about the residence itself. Yet he said it all in a tone of voice barely louder than a whisper. Someone suggested [More]

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]