Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Knowing full well that I should be writing, I have been neglecting my blog. My one reader (my mother) has been missing it, so I thought I'd sign on. Here are some current events in mental health: The Milton Erickson Foundation puts on the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference every few years. It is largest conference of mental health professionals in the world. I for one have not had the opportunity to attend; however, I hear it is quite the place to be. The speakers are usually well-known psychotherapists, counselors, educators, psychiatrists, and physicians from all over the world. Next year, it will be held in Anaheim on December 11th through the 15th. The prices at this point for registration are very low, and considering the people who will be there (Aaron Beck, Martin Seligman, and John Gottman to name a few), the price is phenomenal. Students can volunteer and get a huge discount, as well. I hope to be able to attend next year! Jamison Link: http://www.evolutionofpsychotherapy.com/

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Leadership from an Astronaut

I attended the ACA Institute of Leadership Conference in Alexandria, VA. It was one of the most enjoyable conferences I have attended as a professional. The keynote speaker was Mike Mullane, a retired Astronaut with NASA. He gave a great speech on teamwork and leadership fundamentals. Some of them are as follows: 1. Avoid Normalization of Deviance Human tendency is to rationalize shortcuts. This happens due to budget cuts and schedule problems, at times. To avoid it, PLUS everything. Figure out a plan, and PLUS it (that is from Walt Disney, not from Mike Mullane). Deviance can become the norm if you're not careful. The Space Shuttle Challenger's explosion was predictable. The problems with the O Rings were known, but not addressed. The team accepted it due to high schedule and budgetary demands and it resulted in the deaths of seven astronauts and the loss of property. Rather than address the issue and slow things down, they decided to fix the problem on the fly. They began to tolerate a problem that was previously intolerable. In order to avoid normalization of deviance, one must defend against it. Recognize that you are vulnerable. Plan the work and work the plan. Leaders must maintain "best practice." The team must be trained in "best practice." Do periodic "re-sets" which demonstrate the best practices. Also, review past failures. There must be a free-flow of information from those who have experience to those who have less. 2. Responsibility Always be a team member. Don't be a passenger. Your opinion and experience is valuable no matter how much experience you have. Weaknesses can come from position and longevity. Everyone must always have a say. Weakness also comes from the need for acceptance; fear of rejection; fear of the boss, etc. Remember that "One person with courage forms a majority" Andrew Jackson. 3. Courageous Self-leadership Expand your performance envelope and have tenacity. Set goals and do them. For more information on Mike Mullane: see http://www.mikemullane.com/

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Disney, Service, Compassion, and other things...

It’s amazing what you learn from the people you are trying to serve. You may approach a task with the idea, like most, that you are an expert at the task, and that you might know best. However, the point of serving is to exercise an empathetic eye and ear to those who are receiving your services. This thought has come to my mind as I have been reading “How to Be Like Walt.” I already wrote a small blarticle (blog+article) about this book, but the further I delve into the author’s information and humor about Walt Disney, the more I see the innovation behind Disney’s approaches to business and human beings. First, the author indicated that Disney was never trying to make money. He loved what he did, he believed in it, and it required money to do it; therefore, it was only a means to an end. We all know who Walt Disney was, and we know that he was no slouch when it came to money, as well. Then, why do we seek after money in trying to serve? It doesn’t make sense. I’ve tried it and I was miserable. I tried it the way others said to do it; the way the universities told me I had to do it; and the way that the “experts” said. I wonder if it is the incorrect way, though. Therefore, these are just my thoughts on some observations I’ve been thinking about. I began my career path as a mental health counselor about 12 years ago. I had spent two years as a volunteer for my church in another country where I served others. My parents paid my way for the experience and I worked hard. During that time, I found that I enjoyed working with people, getting to know them, learning from them, and teaching them. Therefore, when I returned back to the States, I decided to pursue a service-oriented career. I talked at times with my dad and others about opening up a ranch for at-risk youth. The focused activities would include learning how to care for and ride horses, as well as do cattle drives. Other activities would include care for their camp and cabins as an attempt to instill a desire to work hard and to find the joy that work can bring. Alas, it did not happen, but it was the beginning of my pursuits. Now, I have been working as a clinical director for a residential treatment facility for addictions for the past year. It was a great career move and I have spent the past 12 months learning, a lot. During my time there I began doing exit interviews with residents during their last day of treatment. I would ask them a few questions at first, but then narrowed it to one: “If you returned here a year from now, what would you like to see change and what would you like to see remain the same.” Almost always, and I don’t exaggerate this, they would say that they do not want the atmosphere and environment to change. They said that the front-line staff and the therapist staff members worked well together. They treated each other as equals. Most importantly, they felt the compassion that the staff members have for them and the other residents. They felt welcome and a part of a community. They felt on equal ground with the other residents, the line staff, the therapists, the administrators, etc. The residents said that the therapy was good (whatever that means) and that they learned a lot, but the emphasis was on equality and compassion. It makes me wonder if that is a catalyst for change. Is it possible that having compassion for your fellow man is a huge piece of successful change? My guess is yes. There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate such whether its from Christian texts, Buddhist beliefs, or psychological texts by Carl Rogers. Therefore, I would make a few suggestions to those who are in the service-oriented field. 1. Get to know your clients on an individual basis (by clients I mean anyone you serve whether you are a therapist, scout leader, parent, parishioner, or music teacher). 2. Do not be afraid to be human with your clients. Many people see us (therapists, etc.) as being an expert, and therefore, there is a power differential, which can lead to defenses and resistance in clients or ourselves. Don’t forget that you eat, sleep, and that your heart pumps red blood just as your clients. Be a vulnerable human. For more information on vulnerability, see http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html 3. Holistic approaches: Not every client is the same. Be open and willing to help the client from their viewpoint, not yours. At times, yours may have to be the voice of the expert, but most people are an expert at their own lives. If you don’t know how to help a person, ask someone who does. You don’t know everything and you’re not supposed to. Be bendable and ethical. 4. Watch for patterns of behaviors that are indicators of your clients’ needs. They will show you what they need if you just pay attention. 5. Be equal with the people you serve. 6. Have fun with your service. If you don’t know how to live after the manner of happiness, it is hard for others to want to follow you. A. Bandura indicated that people need social models to follow at times. Social models are people with similarities of a others that provide a model or likeness that others can follow. These are just my ideas for now. Until next time.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dracula is and Addict!

The following link has a creative and innovative adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula as a metaphorical description of alcoholism and drug addiction. I thought that it was a definite "thinking out of the box" description that may have information beneficial to some of our clients. http://robertchapman.blogspot.com/ Jamison

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Business and Mental Health...Do They Coexist and Can They?

Over the past few years, I have worked for several business owners who were clinicians and even fewer who were not clinicians. It is understandable that a business must focus on the "bottom line" in order to maintain itself. I have seen poor marketing result in a decline of client flow, which then resulted in budget cuts, lay-offs, or loss of benefits. I have seen bosses who consider penny pinching the only way to run a business and it affect the clients and the workers, thus affecting the environment. I have yet to see a healthy balance of employee and client-focused business practice that creates an environment of trust and safety for all involved. I find it ironic that the mental health industry focuses heavily on aiding the individual, family, and society to learn how to maintain a sense of interpersonal and intra-personal safety, and yet the business practices may not match. I'm not saying this as a global problem and I'm not trying to overgeneralize. Simply put, my experiences are on the negative end and I am curious if business practices can match person-centered styles that we as clinicians attempt with our clients? My belief is yes. I have recently been reading a book called "How To Be Like Walt" by Pat Williams. There are many books about Walt Disney, his life, his profession, his personality, and his follies. I am enjoying this one, because it appears to embody the American Dream that Walt Disney attempted to live. It certainly does not say that he was by any means a saint. Appropriately, the book reviews his personality and behavioral flaws that negatively affected his employees and relationships. On the other hand, it reviews the story of a man with a dream to provide entertainment with a high level of excellence and to keep pushing the limits of the field of animation and family-oriented entertainment. It is interesting that he was willing to sacrifice so much of his own personal comfort to, at times, pay his staff more than he was making. His brother, Roy, would focus on the books and the "bottom line," but Walt pushed those limits to make his dreams come true. There were many failures. I appreciate reading about those. However, it appears in the end that he was very person-focused and person-oriented and sacrificed his own bottom line. Again, I am not endorsing him or his business models as the be-all end-all; just simply one example of many that demonstrates that the bottom line is important, but it does not have to be what drives a business. In mental health, there needs to be a similar approach. Seek for excellence as a clinician or clinical practice with the desire to be better for the sake of being better, all while attempting to be client and employee-focused even at the expense of the owner's pocket. This can create a sense of unity and appreciation for all employees involved and then the client-care quality can increase.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mental Health Change: The Knight in Rusty Armor

"The Knight in Rusty Armor" is a metaphorical story about change and the simplicity and complexity of it. I know that sounds dissonant, because it is. The main character is a Knight who spends his days fighting dragons, rescuing damsels in distress, and buying castles for his wife and son. He dons himself with the shiniest and strongest armor money can buy. He likes it so much he never takes it off. Eventually, he leaves it on for so long that his own child doesn't know what he looks like, his wife misses seeing him, and he is afraid to take it off. When he decides to remove the armor, he finds that it cannot be removed. Therefore, he goes on a journey to find Merlin the Magician who teaches him how to remove it which requires him to go on a quest. It's a fun book about change and the difficulties and simplicity of it. I recommend all to read it.


Expressions of Addiction in Art

I am no art connoisseur. However, a few years ago my wife tied me to a chair and duct-taped my eyes open forcing me to watch "So You Think You Can Dance." Humiliated, I succumbed to watching and found myself moved by a dance (see the link below) that described addiction. I was blown away at how the dance described through movements and music the experiences my current clients go through. Watch it!


Monday, January 09, 2012

Addictions, ADD, Mental Health, and the DSM V Concerns

I read an article by the Huffington Post this morning that discusses the problems with diagnosing using the DSM, over-diagnosis of many disorders such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, etc. and the overuse of psychotropic medications. The article is written by a psychiatrist who was on the task force for the development of the DSM-IV. He reports that diagnosis is often done by general practitioners, rather than psychiatrists who may have insufficient training in mental health diagnostics and treatment. Furthermore, he reports that the the upcoming DSM V may cause an increase in similar aforementioned problems. It is an interesting read that also includes the difficulties in studying the human brain and bridging the gap between psychology and neurology. The link below will take you to the article. Enjoy!

Jamison D. Law, LPC, NCC