Friday, April 6, 2018

Is a Psychiatric Diagnosis Just Another Name For What You're Feeling? A Rose by Any Other Name.....

The concept of mental illness is at its core about control. When someone is labeled mentally ill, a system including physicians, social workers, and government authorities begins to gain access to her life. People have problems. People have mental or psychological problems. The practice of calling these problems by names reflecting illness and thus putting them into the purview of physicians has been doing harm for decades. It is also demeaning, taking ultimate control from the individual and placing it within their genes or their parents.

I have said it many times and shall say it for as long as I can: there is not a pill for that. Make no mistake, your brain is a biological entity--YOU are a biological entity--thus distress of the mind and emotions are also biological entities, but this does not imply that the only or even the best or even a viable way to solve problems of the mind and emotions is with a pill. The overused "chemical imbalance" theory is dead. On the contrary, psychoactive pills cause chemical imbalances--they change your brain in ways science does not understand, sometimes they alleviate symptoms, but they do not CURE distress.

Thus one danger of calling mental distress a "disease" is that it is then treated as such--you become a patient and you look to a doctor to fix something. This works with appendicitis and broken legs and cancer. It is a fact,however, that not all things clearly within the realm of medical disorders are treatable by medical doctors. In general, there is no treatment for the flu or even the common cold, and physicians are stymied by irritable bowel and migraine. Medical science certainly does not work with depression, anxiety, phobia, PTSD, and the many variations of psychological distress delineated in the various manuals of disease such as the DSM and the ICD, because these are not diseases in the once-commonly understood meaning of the term. These problems do not show demonstrable tissue damage such as a cancer or a stroke, nor do they have symptoms that represent the body fighting a foreign invader, such as cough, fever, runny nose. Rather they have emotions and behaviors as their hallmarks.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Out with the Old, In with the New

It's a new year, and we are always looking for resolutions to start our year; ways in which we can commit to self-improvement in the year to come. It has struck me through various interactions in this very early year, that the best thing to do in a new year is often to let go of stuff from the last one and the ones before.

As humans, we have long memories. Our memories vary in their accuracy, but to us, memory is a big part of who and what we are. Each of us is largely the product of the many experiences that we have had and the many people we have known.

The problem with being formed of memories is that it is easy to get stuck in regrets. What if I had not done this or that? What if he or she had not died, left, said that? What if........  And, of course, there is no answer.

When we have erred, hurt someone, suffered a loss, or missed an opportunity, there is an opportunity for growth and learning, but there is rarely a do-over.
It turns out that such difficulties are motivators to change, and are overall a good thing. If nothing ever goes wrong, we are never driven to grow.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hello, Ashland

Goodbye to Bend and all the great people, clients, professionals, and friends and acquaintances, I met and helped or was helped by. It is time to move on, though. While we felt as if, after 3 growing seasons, we had finally mastered small greenhouse gardening in an  inhospitable climate with no soil,  what we really wanted was a place to grow food and watch nature thrive.

Hello Ashland! Up here in the woods, amazingly only 15 minutes from town, clients will be invited to see me in a private space, with the sounds of nature to add to the ambiance. It was gratifying to see our garden immediately begin to thrive as it never had in Bend, and I know the beautiful environment will enhance the healing that occurs for my clients. In-person sessions will begin Sept. 1 in this new space.

I also welcome intensive clients starting Sept. 1: Medford is 30 minutes away and Ashland less than 15, and both have a variety of hotels, motels, B&Bs, and hostels, as well as a fine selection of eateries and groceries. We are 30 minutes from the Medford airport. While a therapy intensive is hardly a vacation, traveling to a beautiful spot far from your daily environment offers a unique opportunity to break old patterns and create new ones. Follow-up in person or via video-chat assists you in maintaining your new learnings in your home environment. 

It has been stressful to move many miles for the second time in 2 years, and perhaps I have learned some new things about managing stress and the ways in which change affects me and others as well. Stress is always both good and bad: it forces new ways of seeing things and behaving, but it can cause strain on the system. Moving changes one's relationship to others, to resources, and to oneself. Out with the old, in with the new, to coin a phrase!

The new incarnation of the Center for Conscious Living will offer individual and family therapy, Rational Emotive Therapy, which is the elegant, effective precursor to CBT,  Sensorimotor Trauma Therapy, and clinical hypnosis. I will continue to focus on physical symptoms that bridge the mind-body gap such as gut issues (irritable bowel, cyclic vomiting), headache (migraine, cluster headache), and chronic pain (RSD, CRPS 1, fibromyalgia); those difficult-to-treat issues that often defy medical treatment. Call for a free phone consultation.

Meanwhile, I shall be learning about my new environment and preparing a new space for seeing clients.


Who’s on First?



In the world of caring relationships, we are often told to sacrifice—to put the needs of others before our own. This is considered by many to be the highest form of caring, of service to others.  It contains a fatal flaw, however. It is one thing to “love they neighbor as thyself” and quite another to love him more. This is a valuable clue to many of the ills of humans in society. How can you take care of someone else when you are worn out yourself?

If you continually put others before yourself, whether these are loved ones or total strangers, eventually you will pay the price. As a parent, you often must put your child’s immediate needs first. A child needs help obtaining everything: food, clothing, a place to sleep. When your child is ill, his illness disrupts your sleep. When money is short, your child gets food first. At some point, however, if you wish to be healthy, you will need to catch up. If you continue to put your child’s needs first, you may just collapse one day and no longer be able to care as lovingly or even at all. Caretakers also require care. Even parents fall ill unexpectedly, and always inconveniently! Then, confined to bed, you are finally forced to catch up on self-care.  You realize that this is not the best plan.

It is vital to look inside and ensure that you, as a caretaker, are thriving. In this context, thriving does not mean, staying upright by a thread, thoroughly enjoying the health of your loved one. Rather, it means doing well as an individual—being happy and healthy in your own right. We provide the best care to others when we provide the best care to ourselves.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Is there a Pill for That?

I'll start by admitting something; medications scare me. Not all medications and not in all cases, but many. Perhaps this diminishes my credibility as a psychologist who fancies herself quite scientific, but there are reasons for my atypical stance. Allow me to state for the record that I am not a prescribing physician, and what follows is my opinion, which mostly consists of: "Buyer beware".

 In the years since I have been practicing psychology, I have seen a startling number of serious, damaging reactions to medications. In addition, I have also seen no small number of similarly bad reactions to street drugs. Years of observing and reading have thus led me to a very conservative stance regarding attempts to pharmaceutically solve health problems, both physical and psychological, as well as the ones sitting on the border thereof. Some examples follow, after which I'll provide some details about how I work with my clients in light of my observations.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Memory Again

Today is a snow day, so between bouts of shoveling in 5 degree weather, I am perusing the web. Coincidentally, today's hot topic in the places I read is memory. How accurate is memory?, how easily can memory be falsified?, is there such a thing as recovered memory?, what does memory research teach us?

For me professionally, understanding memory is important in the process of doing psychotherapy. After all, it is with people's memories that I work all day.  Early in my career, I learned that with psychotherapy the validity of a memory is less important than its impact. A client might recall an event as a painful experience, and that memory can have a present-day effect on his mood. That effect does not affirm the accuracy of the memory, just its impact. The impact is what I work with, as I can never know, minus sources of corroboration, whether my client's memory is precise.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Is Mental Illness a Myth?

Have I piqued your interest or accidentally insulted you? I did not make this question up. Thinkers and physicians for many years have wondered the same thing. Mental illness is confusing. It is not diagnosed as is physical illness via tests for microbes, probing for damaged or diseased tissue, nor compiling a list of objectively measurable symptoms. Mental illness is diagnosed via a system of symptom clusters published in one or another manual, the contents of which are agreed upon by scholars in the field. The problems arise when the contents of those manuals change over time, because mental issues are not clear-cut diseases as are physical illnesses. Things are added and subtracted over time--but we could not imagine a time when influenza would stop being called a disease!

Science tries, year after year, to isolate specific markers for mental illness. Tests come and go, but the construct remains elusive. We can objectively test for the flu or cancer or diabetes or a broken leg, but we cannot test in a way that never changes, for depression, schizophrenia, or anxiety. This does not mean that you are not suffering with your problem. It only means in this context, that your problem is mislabeled by being lumped in with physical illness. This is important for many reasons. I hope you are still with me as I elucidate why I, and others like me, believe calling mental problems "diseases" hurts those who suffer with them.