Thursday, September 4, 2014

Practical things you can do for anxiety

Hope for Everyone

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Kjetil Mellingen

September 3, 2014

I am a very optimistic psychologist, but with reason. For 25 years I’ve been working with people who have had psychological problems in every conceivable area. Many psychologists have problems with burnout, especially early in their careers. For me, this has been very different. By using the treatment techniques that I do, I feel anti-burned out. It is so gratifying to see people get out of their serious problems, that I look forward to every day of clinical work.
The reason why many in the mental health field get burned out may be that they are not able to make changes in people’s lives as they had hoped.
I often get frustrated when patients come to me after a treatment career with four or five previous psychologists. The clients have been very close to giving up, but they often give it a last try, especially in the anxiety clinic where I work. Having failed in many therapies, having been made very pessimistic, I really admire them for not giving up completely.
Usually these patients have been to psychologists who are very concerned with childhood experiences. For years they have been talking to the psychologists about all kinds of bad things that have happened to them, in an attempt to find out what may have caused their psychological problems.
The problem is that even if we could reliably find exactly what caused the problems, this does not give us any direction about how to help cure the problem. The sad fact is that we cannot change people’s childhoods.
Another sad effect, is that doing psychotherapy that is not working may be very demotivating and give people the feeling that there is no hope for their condition.
What makes more sense, especially to clients, is to look at their everyday situation, and find out what problems they have within their daily lives. In technical terms, this is called formulation.Many British psychologists see this as a very useful alternative to diagnosis. The formulation would describe in everyday language what triggers your  problems, how you react, what  makes the problem worse or better, and eventually what may be done with this in the here and now.
Read this rest of the article here. There is a very good video in it for learning to handle the anxiety associated with drug withdrawal.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Life goes on

I'm still here. Life goes on at its decidedly slower pace now that Chris is becoming a self. I haven't blogged about him in a while, but recently I've been getting a flurry of e-mails from mothers seeking my advice about what to do about their own sons and daughters who've been recently diagnosed. I can't just tell them to read my blog (all 912 posts) and expect them to get a handle of how to help their relative NOW. Years ago, an Internet pal told me that the best way to be influential is to write a book, so yes, that memoir I've been talking too much about and doing too little to finish, will take precedent over  regular blog posts once again, beginning this month.

I've been looking over some of my earlier posts and wince at how garbled some of them are. What was I possibly thinking when I wrote THAT? I wonder. A future project for me will be to clean up some of the language to make the posts more readable. (Ref. Weird Al Yancovic's Word Crimes, "Saw your blog post. It was fantastic! (I'm being sarcastic.) Cause you write like a 'spastic.") . . . Better book some quality time with my book editor beginning this month.

Monica Cassani has started a weekly blog post about psychiatric drug withdrawal called It Gets Better. Seeing her post today reminded me that an important part of my blog is to also show people from my own experience with Chris, how it does get better. The person you thought you knew at eighteen or twenty, was probably not a personality, not a cohesive self. The person you see ten years later may the person he or she has been struggling to be all along, defining themselves in surprising ways. Given the right conditions, the caterpillar eventually becomes a butterfly, the seedling becomes a plant. The building up of a personality is for patient people. The results are gratifying.

Chris has been wonderfully productive recently. He's taken two intensive French language courses and passed his language proficiency exam, which he will need to show to a potential employer. One step at a time. He just got back from a week's technical training in sound and light for theater productions. Since he dropped out of university at age twenty, he has not wanted to/not been able to, take a course involving assignments and grades and he hesitated to venture far from the nest. What he has done recently should give anyone struggling under the diagnosis of schizophrenia, cause for hope. I don't see "schizophrenia" anymore. Haven't seen it for a long time. I prefer to talk in terms of spiritual crisis, maturation, and a finding one's self.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Free Online Training Module Using Normalizing Within CBT for Psychosis

Ron Unger is a licensed cognitive behavioral therapist whose understanding of psychosis I greatly appreciate and admire. His writing has helped me enormously in "normalizing" the way I think about my own relative, calming ME down, and increasing MY hope for my son's recovery. Ron has recently created an online course in "how to talk to people with psychotic experience in a way that allows them to calm down, feel more grounded, access coping skills, and increase hope for recovery." His course was designed with professionals in mind, but it is also open to service users, ex service users or survivors, and family members.

  • Free Online Training Module Using Normalizing Within CBT for Psychosis

  • Use the link above to signup to get access to a free online training in how to talk to people with psychotic experience in a way that allows them to calm down, feel more grounded, access coping skills, and increase hope for recovery. By signing up here, you will also be added to an email list to be notified about upcoming events like the release of the complete online training in CBT for Psychosis, which will include CE credits for US professionals. You can unsubscribe from this list at any time.

Please read more about the background for this course. I have reprinted an excerpt from Ron's Mad in America post below. (If the link above doesn't work, there is further information in the comments section of Ron's post.)

How Can Professionals Learn to Reduce Fears of Psychotic Experiences Rather Than Emphasize Pathology?

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July 19, 2014

The kinds of experiences we call psychotic are often incredibly scary: people feel they are being persecuted by strange forces, or that their brains have been invaded by demons or riddled with implants from the CIA . . . the list of possible fears is endless, and often horrifying.
While standard mental health approaches counter many of these fears, they often create new fears of a different variety.   People diagnosed with schizophrenia for example may be led to believe that they will definitely be mentally ill for life, that this illness controls what happens in their brain and not themselves, and that there are few or even no alternatives if drugs don’t work for them.
This can be extremely demoralizing.  Oryx Cohen graphically described his own reaction to the standard mental health psychoeducation he received after his first psychotic experience:  he reported it made him feel he had lost his membership in the human race!  As a result of it, he felt caught up in a pathologized understanding of himself, he lost his expectation of being capable of learning from experience and shaping his future, and he now felt defined by his abnormality rather than by his humanity.
Despite − rather than because − of what the mental health system taught him to believe, Oryx later discovered other ways of understanding his experience, and he made a full recovery.  But wouldn’t it be better if people like Oryx were helped to find a more humanistic understanding of themselves within the mental health system and from the very beginning of treatment?
Wouldn’t it be helpful if professionals were trained in an approach that could help people shift away from both dangerous psychotic ways of thinking and also away from the sometimes equally terrifying explanations which emphasize pathology?
Further, what if such an approach could also build a foundation for learning effective coping skills, and also help a person build hope and a road map toward a possible full recovery?
And wouldn’t it be nice if this approach was already proven to be “evidence based,” so that both people learning the methods, and their supervisors and colleagues could have confidence in its effectiveness and safety?
Fortunately, at least one such approach exists, and it is called CBT for psychosis.  This method allows professionals to collaborate with people in developing understandings of their psychotic experiences that neither minimize problems nor emphasize pathology, but instead help make sense of extreme human experiences in a way that is grounded in more everyday human experience and issues.
Read the rest here.

Monday, July 7, 2014

People never change because they are happy

Torn from easyJet's latest in-flight magazine issue, an interview with Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic:

You're known for doing crazy stuff, but your latest piece is just you in a room for eight hours a day, six days a week. What's happening?

"After 40 years of being an artist, I really want to see if I can work with just energy. It could fail, so I guess that's why it's worth doing. I've never been in a space where there is nothing."

What do you hope to achieve?

"People are so lost these days, there's a need for this transmission of energy at the moment. They are full of so much pain and direct contact with an artist is not there. Artists become celebrities and are untouchable."

How can you do this by saying and doing nothing?

"We can alert our powers of telepathy. For the past year, Russian and American scientists have measured my brain waves. They have proved that when you're looking at a total stranger, without saying one word, you're sending subconscious information to each other. So you can actually know more about somebody without saying one word than while having a conversation. It's cheaper than a telephone."

In past performances, you've cut yourself, taken drugs and allowed strangers to hurt you. Why?

"Terrible events can make tremendous change, like terminal disease, an accident, someone from your family dying. People never change from happiness. I'm not waiting for this kind of event. I'm staging difficult situation in the form of the performance."

Louise Gillett

Louise Gillett is a writer and creative talent behind the blog Schizophrenia at the School Gate. No, wait, she's not just a writer, she's an excellent writer and she's got a wonderful way of explaining "schizophrenia" from the point of view of her older and wiser self. She writes about her insecurities in a way that I find delightful and insightful.  I got Louise's permission to reprint her latest musings on social anxiety because I think what she's saying can give parents hope in recovery.

Here's just a snippet:

"About me.  Well, I am normal (we have established that.  Or haven't we?!) but I was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young person and that still affects my perception of myself.  I feel quite strongly that this label is wrong - not for me in particular, but for everyone who is afflicted with it.  Because anyone can suffer emotional distress for a variety of reasons (there always are reasons) and anyone can break down - and anyone can also recover.  But the label of schizophrenia doesn't allow for recovery - even if, like me, you haven't had to take medication for twelve years and you have no symptoms of mental ill-health (social anxiety is not schizophrenia). 

Which means that those people who do recover - which is more than you would think - stay very quiet about the fact that they were ever diagnosed.  Which gives the others with the same label - and people are still being given this label today - very little hope for their own futures. " 

Read the rest of Louise's post here

Monday, June 23, 2014

Next Recovering Our Families course starts in August

Recovering Our Families

“Recovering our Families” introduces families to key recovery principles, leaders, research and resources that are person- and family-centered, trauma-informed and strengths based. This interactive, facilitated online class combines emailed lessons with recovery exercises, videos, online resources and a password-protected website with private facilitated group discussions and peer support. The “Recovering Our Families” course was written by and is facilitated by Krista MacKinnon with the help and support of Family Outreach and Response Program in Toronto Canada, and The Foundation For Excellence in Mental Health in Oregon, USA. If you’re not registered in the class, learn more about it hereNext class begins August 29th, registration will be open soon.

A list of warmlines by state

Warmline logo
A warmline is a peer-run listening line staffed by people in recovery themselves.
Scroll down to see a directory of known warmlines around the US.

Information on peer-run respite nationwide.
Other peer-run respite programs to go to:
Another directory of warmlines:

Metro Boston Recovery Learning Community (MBRLC) recent Peer Warmline feature in the SAMHSA Recovery to Practice weekly newsletter 11/12/10.
Warm line featured in the Boston Globe on February 5, 2009! (Article written before our collaboration with NERLC and the expansion from three to six days a week.)

Article about the Metro Boston Recovery Learning Community warmline by Carey Goldberg

The Warmline Guide is now live at:

To search for Warmlines by state, click on a state in the list below.

(Note: Warmlines listed in red are nationally accessible and welcome calls from anywhere)