Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Asset Based Care and Counsel

Don't Take NO as the Answer

If we want to truly assist our family and friends we need to look carefully at their assets. This does not mean we ignore their needs, problems and concerns. As a therapist I can do a Differential Diagnosis and place a Client into a rigid category or two with little trouble. In fact, I can even give you a number and always refer to you as the Depressed Patient.

Take a quick look at that diagnosis. Is that all the person is? Have I successfully summarized that man by reducing him to a psychological category? If that Client were you would you be satisfied by that category or would you want me to know that you are much more than a Depressive?

You might say, "I am also a mother, an aunt, a Doctor and skilled bridge player and a talented golfer. Oh, by the way, I am also a devoted daughter of a wonderful mother."

If I were to ask you some simple questions I could discover that you have many skills and talents and gifts in addition to the NEEDS that brought you to my office. It is the problems that brought you to see my but it will take the strengths and abilities to get you healed. No one is healed by focusing on his/her weaknesses. In fact, that will very likely keep you depressed.

I immediately know some of your strengths and assets:

You have a very good ability to think. You are a Doctor and a bridge player, two things that demand an ability to reason well. Since Reasoned Christian Thinking is one of the best ways to rebound from depression there is a strong hope for a quick recovery.

Second, you have athletic abilities because you play golf. That tells me that since exercise is a great way to reduce depression you can take up walking or running.

Third, I can see that you have a warm, caring social and family support system, both of which are essential for recovery from depression.

Fourth, since I can quickly some of your assets it means that you are probably not using them to as well as you could so I can see ways to coach you that allows you to utilize those assets more effectively.

In depression, it is hard to see or affirm one's assets so a good coach, caring friend and counselor will work to encourage the client to more accurately assess them. This needs to be done with sensitivity but by listening carefully the client can begin to hope again and hope is essential to recovery.

As an exercise in regaining hope, write down some of your assets, strengths, gifts, talents and hobbies. Look them over daily and thank God for His wonderful blessings.

Count your blessings name them one by one
Count your blessings see what God has done

Growing Through Autism

The Bolduc Family

For the past two years I have been focusing a lot of time and energy on learning more about people who live with severe disabilities and how the family and friends who love and care for them get along in life. Some of the very special people I have met along the way are Kathy Bolduc and her husband Wally.

Kathy is better use her gifts of writing and praying to survive and thrive despite rearing a son born with rather severed Autism. Wally is a business man and a prayer warrior that takes teams of people around Cincinnati and the USA to support and love people in need with Gods truth and power.

Her web page is a wonderfully designed and written place to go for inspiration and understanding.

Kathy's recent interview on the Interfaith Magazine can be found here. It starts at minute 22 and 30 seconds. After reading her web I suggest that you listen to the interview and thank God for her talents and abilities as well as ask Him to pour out His grace and love on her, Wally and son Joel.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Origins of American Thanksgiving

Most of us have heard the stories about the origins of the first Thanksgiving held by the Pilgrims and their friends during a bitterly cold winter. Here is a link I think you will appreciate from The Wall Street Journal that expands that story and adds some wonderfully inspiring details.

This story reminds me of the long term implications of Christin charity. What might seem to be rather small instances of caring can blossom into lasting celebrations of love, family gatherings and positive attitudes of compassion.

A few years ago Steve Griebling and I were in Moscow, Russia on Thanksgiving. The Russians were fascinated by our nation including a National Holiday of Thanks to God for His blessings.

The recently fallen Communist state had banned all kinds of references to God and forbade either implicitly or explicitly most people from attending church or wearing symbols of Christianity. So my friends were hungry for ways to show appreciation to God and to thank God for their new found liberty.

Galina's sister, Irena, was the Head Mistress of a Christian based school that served the children of wealthy parents. Irena had founded the school in order to make sure these newly wealthy families had some good, solid Christian values in the midst of the harsh, bitter, selfish Communist and atheist values.

So, Irena invited Steve and me to share the story of Thanksgiving with her students. She gathered them in a warm room and introduced us by saying something like this. "We all know that America is the richest and most powerful nation on earth and in history. When we look at how Americans live we can see why. There are two signs of where their strength comes from inn their money and their national holidays. First, their money has inscribed on it, "In God we trust." No other nation has their faith in God so plainly established.

Second, America even has a national holiday to thank God. Steve Griebling and Gary Sweeten are here today to tell us how that holiday was established and why. If we in Russia are ever to become a strong and prosperous as America it will be because we also show that we live by God's laws and God's love."

Steve and I spent an hour discussing Thanksgiving with these wonderfully bright and curious children. They asked many questions and had many interesting and insightful comments, all in perfect English.

May God continually remind us of His blessings and His watch care as we spend money He has brought to us and the lives we live under His oversight.

Pass it on.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Analyzing Effective Leaders: Why Extraverts Are Not Always the Most Successful Bosses - Knowledge@Wharton

Knowledge at Wharton is a business and management online newsletter that has interesting stories every time it comes online. This month they have a story about the difference between Introvert and Extravert people in leadership. Here is the beginning of their story and I hope some of you will go to their link for the rest and read my comments as well.

Conventional wisdom tells us that leaders are the men and women who stand up, speak out, give orders, make plans and are generally the most dominant, outgoing people in a group. But that is not always the case, according to new research on leadership and group dynamics from Wharton management professor Adam Grant and two colleagues, who challenge the assumption that the most effective leaders are extraverts.

Analyzing Effective Leaders: Why Extraverts Are Not Always the Most Successful Bosses - Knowledge@Wharton

The Crisis in Ministry

For the past 15 or so years I have spent most of my time coaching people in ministry. Some of these ministers are paid to be Christians and some are not. In most cases, both groups have emotional and spiritual issues, problems, concerns, sadness, anxieties and many regrets. However, as a whole, those who are paid to be Christian ministers have more problems and less spiritual fulfillment than those who serve as volunteers. Seminary graduates are the most affected by these symptoms.

I listen to a lot of people tell their stories about what brought them into ministry. In almost every case it was the excitement they felt when they were in church, studying the Bible, worshiping God or doing some kind of good works in the Name of God. They can usually tell me what they were doing and where they were when they began to feel "The Call" to ministry.

They enter into some sort of formal ministry position with passion, a message to convey and an emotional high. After a few years many of them seek my counsel because they are tired, disappointed, frustrated and spiritually dry. In some cases, they have gotten into trouble with the church, their wife or tempted by sexual lust. Such situations are almost always preceded by spiritual and emotional frustration or anger.

Write and tell me what you think about this observation. Am I seeing things correctly? Do you also observe this kind of behavior in ministers. What are the causes? What are the cures?

Gary Sweeten

Steve Jobs: How to live before you die | Video on TED.com

This short video by Steve Jobs is from his 2005 graduation speech at Stanford. In it he offers three stories about his life that reveal how adversity cannot stop someone from achieving great things. I hope you will be as inspired as I have been by watching it.

Steve Jobs: How to live before you die | Video on TED.com

The Puritan Gift

I discovered a book last year that I really liked and that inspired me to learn more about the people from whom we inherited so much as Americans. We inherited Thanksgiving along with many other ideas, principles and operating processes. The name of the book is The Puritan Gift by the Hopper brothers from Scotland. It is their conviction that one of the main reasons America has been so successful as a nation of innovators, manufacturers and leaders is due to the radical ways the Puritans conducted themselves in the New World.

For example, the Hopper Brothers came from Europe as educated, higher class men and were thrust into the world of Capitalism as practiced by Americans. They discovered that it was vastly different from Capitalism in England and the Continent. The main difference was the practice of top management and middle management to be on the floor and in the fields with the laborers. The knew what was going on and why things worked or did not work.

The opposite was true in England and Europe where “gentlemen” were too good to get their hands dirty or to stoop so low as to work on a machine or in the fields. The gents prospered but the workers did not. Thus America as a whole prospered and they lagged behind us.

This also led Americans to be resilient and see the world from a practical way. They could, therefore, rejoice even in the midst of difficulty and pain because they had no pie in the sky expectations of work, sickness or death. This was one reason the Puritans celebrated with a feast to thank God for His Providence even though half of them had died in the New World and they had so very little in worldly goods. They were able to maintain a positive, hopeful perspective because they bounced back from challenge and sought to overcome it.

So, despite our losses and difficult times I hope we who came from a background where our parents and grandparents labored in the fields, worked in the shops and saved enough to feed their kids and offer them a chicken leg for Thanksgiving I am sure we will come together with family and friends with a positive spirit of gratitude and drink a toast to our past while looking expectantly to the future for our children.

At this Thanksgiving I am filled with an attitude of gratitude because those hard working and faithful Puritans put their hope and faith in God to provide for their future despite the incredible hardships they faced on a daily basis. So, may you be blessed with the blessing of Aaron.

Numbers 6:23-27

23 Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying,
On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,
24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: 25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Another Area of Crisis

Doesn't it seem that we are in a state of serial crises in the world? Not only in America but around the world. Depression and anxiety are on the rise, wars and their rumors are getting worse and worse. Oppressive, brutal dictators take over a country that is prospering such as Zimbabwe and turn it into a place of starvation, murder and hopelessness. North Korea, Iran and the Islamic terrorists seem bent on world wide chaos and we do not seem to be able to stop them.

Now, just as you were about to suffer from a case of "Compassion Fatigue" I come along and tell you about another crisis. It is a crisis in the number of children born with severe birth defects. I will not bore you with dry statistics but simply remind you how many kids in our elementary schools can't read, learn or even sit still to listen to the teachers. One of five kids has an "official diagnosis".

But there is some hope if we Christians will reach out in love and prayer to their parents. Take a look at my Sweeten Life web page and my blog on Seasoned Believers to see what you can do to support these families.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Great Mystery

Do you like to see movies, TV shows and read books that keep you wondering what is going to happen next? I do. Some of the best are the old English murder mysteries. I recently saw "Dial M for Murder" again and I so enjoyed it even though I had seen it before. The cool, narcissistic demeanor of Ray Milland, the husband who wants to kill his beautiful wife Grace Kelly, kept me hoping he would get his comeuppance and, well you need to see it to find out what happened.

In my field, Christian Care and Counseling, there are some great mysteries. Perhaps not as scintillating as Grace Kelly but interesting to researchers and Counselors just the same. We know that some problems in society are growing dramatically but we don't know why but we need to find out the answer.

As I have recently posted, the number of persons suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental/emotional issues continues to increase in America and Western Europe. If you were born in the early part of the 20Th Century you would have seen far less of these issues than we do now. And that is a mystery.

Why are these diagnoses increasing? Why are depression and anxiety increasing so much? Poverty is often blamed for increasing crime rates and other social problems as if poor people are less moral than the wealthy. But poverty rates are decidedly better today than in 1918, 1928 or 1938. However, depression is worse today!

How about stress? That is often blamed for a multitude of problems. Are the stresses of life worse now than in 1918 when WWI was raging and the Spanish Flu was killing millions of young people? How about the stresses of The Great Depression and WWII? Were they less then than now?

I am curious what you think is the cause of so much increase. Write and let me know and I will respond to you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Healing Mental Illness

Some parts of my profession are dead set on convincing the public at large that they should adopt language that always describes emotional problems as a disease. I have written two short posts about the myths of mental illness and I need to add a bit on that subject.

In my first post I linked to a report that revealed that more Americans are fearful of "Mentally Ill" people now than they were a few years ago. These facts led some Mental Health Spokesmen to lament that fact and wonder why since they had been promoting the notion that depressed, anxious and fearful people are diseased and cannot control themselves.

No wonder the public is scared of this group. The marketing of Mental Illness has convinced many Americans that every person who is upset is mentally ill so no wonder they are most suspicious now than before the marketing campaign began.

In my last post I mentioned that the article which reported the study about the growth in Mental Illness also said that the unemployed were more likely to be Mentally Ill than the employed. Say whaaaaaat!? How does being laid off make a person mentally ill? That is ridiculous!

Depressed people can be described very differently than being mentally ill. For example, depression and anxiety can be:

1. A wise response to overwhelming and catastrophic stress.
2. A Fight/Flight response to stress.
3. A physical reaction to a threat.
4. The result of ruminating on past hurts.
5. The result of ruminating on possible future disasters.

None of these is an illness. All can be "healed" by personal changes. Medicine and surgery are not needed. Hope for change is high. Learning to think and act differently is a great cure.

More Myths about Mental Illness

An article this morning caught my eye with this glaring headline:

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans had mental Illness in 2009!!!

As soon as I saw it I knew the authors had been fed a lot of myths about mental illness just as I mentioned two posts ago. Here is some of what they had to say.

CHICAGO - More than 45 million Americans, or 20 percent of U.S. adults, had some form of mental illness last year, and 11 million had a serious illness, U.S. government researchers reported on Thursday.

Young adults aged 18 to 25 had the highest level of mental illness at 30 percent, while those aged 50 and older had the lowest, with 13.7 percent, said the report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA.

Adults who were unemployed last year were twice as likely to have serious thoughts of suicide as people who were fully employed, with 6.6 percent of the unemployed considering suicide, compared with 3.1 percent of those who were working.

What is wrong with this?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Seasoned Citizens are Not Dead

In a new book, Dr. Mark Lachs talks about the need for Physicians to interact with and treat the whole person not just his/her age. The book is Treat Me Not My Age, and it looks pretty interesting.

In our research with parents of kids with special needs we found that parents often experience a lack of interest in their ideas, insights and experiences when the Doctors, Nurses or Special Education Teachers are working with their child. In fact, we heard that there is often a sense that the Professionals and the Parents are Adversaries not Friends with the same goal to maximize the child's quality of life.
See our web page for more information.

If a Professional person or system wants to promote the very best in a patent's health, they will certainly treat the patient and his/her entire family with Genuine Respect, Empathy and Warmth. To see them as adversaries or ignorant interlopers will certainly impede the treatment.

The fact is, may Professionals also see elderly Patients in an adversarial or disrespectful manner. Have you ever heard a Nurse, Doctor or Counselor speak in an exaggeratedly loud or slow manner as if he/she was daft not old? I have, many times. I think Dr. Lachs is taking on those disrespectful traits and trying to correct them. I am glad he is doing it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fear of Depressed Folks?

Why are so many people afraid of people with depression and anxiety? Why do folks get so upset when you suggest that they might benefit from counseling? I think I know some of their reasoning. The Mental Health marketing geniuses have scared people with their insistence that every mental, emotional, relational and behavioral problem is a true MENTAL ILLNESS!

I have been leading a team of researchers looking into the ways church and community groups can better provide support and practical assistance to the parents of kids with a disability. While chatting with one hard working, deeply involved, stressed out mom I asked, "Have you ever considered going to a Counselor?"

My question so shocked this exhausted mother that she looked at me in horror and said, "A Counselor? No! I am not mentally ill!"

I quickly said, "Oh, I am so sorry. I am not suggesting that you are mentally ill. By counseling I meant that you might benefit from someone on the outside of your life who has a more objective look at what is going on with you and helping coach you about better ways to help your daughter."

She was instantly relieved and said, "Now that sounds good. I could use some insight and wisdom from an outside expert."

The Mental Health Mental Illness Industry has mandated that all people like me who have been licensed to counsel must use the "Mental Illness Paradigm". I refuse. This mom is NOT mentally ill! She is worn out, stressed and and worried about her child. She needs rest, some practical assistance and the ability to put her worries on the shelf. However, if the Mental Illness lobby has it's way we will all have to fall in line behind their use of the sickness terms and label her as a hopeless victim.

The term Mental Illness leaves us with the notion that the Patient needs long term radical treatment by a Physician that can prescribe drugs. I recently received a newsletter that shows how many kids are being abused by over prescription of medicines. In it, Barry Duncan reports that way too many kids are being drugged in the name of "Treating their Mental Illness". I am astounded by the following statistics.

A study of 11,700 children under age 18 covered by Medicaid found that the number of children newly treated with anti-psychotics increased from 1,482 in 2001 to 3,110 in 2005 (Mathak, West, Martin, Helm, & Henderson, 2010). In other words, a staggering 26% of kids in this sample were taking anti-psychotics.

Another study found that children covered by Medicaid were prescribed anti -psychotics at a rate four times higher than children with private insurance, and were more likely to receive anti-psychotics for unapproved uses (Crystal, Olfson, Huang, & Gerard, 2010), or in other words, for reasons of control, not treatment.

A study of foster care children found that 57% received three or more drugs (Zito et al., 2008), six times the national average in spite of the fact that no research supports more than one drug for kids.

Finally, the use of anti-psychotics with privately insured children, aged 2 through 5, has doubled between 1999 and 2007 (Ofson, Crystal, Huang, & Gerhard, 2010). About 1.5% of all privately insured children between the ages of 2 and 5, or one in 70, received some type of psychiatric drug in 2007 despite the fact that there is little to no evidence in this age group. (I received this via a Personal Communication from Dr. Duncan)

It is sometimes necessary and good to use medications for emotional issues. However, far too often they are over prescribed and over abused. Good, caring, interpersonal counseling is the best cure for most problems. If you know someone who is depressed, anxious and upset, be a good friend and listen to them, pray for them and encourage them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Was It Mental Illness?

This is a fascinating story. I can hardly believe my eyes when I see it. The story is so self contradictory and foolish that I cannot believe that anyone in the field of psychology or psychiatry would promote it, yet they are. See if you can see why it mocks itself and leaves an awful residue of confusion behind.

Gary Sweeten

By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
November 2, 2010|9:15 a.m.

Public perception of mental illness and addiction has changed significantly -- and for the good -- in the last 15 years. That doesn't mean, however, that people feel comfortable working or living near or being friends with someone with mental illness, according to a major new survey.

The study compared people's responses to vignettes involving mental illness and addiction to gauge public understanding of the illness and feelings toward those who are ill or addicted. The surveys took place in 1996 and 2006. The idea was to assess whether major efforts to improve the treatment of mental conditions and eliminate stigma in the United States is working. Several sweeping efforts have been made in the past two decades to educate Americans on mental illness.

A major theme of these campaigns is that mental illnesses and addiction are biological, brain-based, sometimes-genetic illnesses that are each "a disease like any other."

The survey finds the public has embraced that concept, but only to a point. The percentage of people who attributed depression to neurobiological causes increased from 54% of those surveyed in 1996 to 67% in 2006. Those who endorsed psychiatrists to help treat alcoholism increased from 61% to 79% in the 10-year period.

However, the willingness to associate with people with these disorders did not change much. For example, the percentage of people who said they are unwilling to work closely with someone with major depression was 46% in 1996 and 47% in 2006. The percentage of people who considered people with schizophrenia to be a danger to others was 54% in 1996 and 60% in 2006.

Though research and treatment options for people with mental illness or addiction have clearly improved, many could be held back by social stigma, said the authors of the study, led by Indiana University researchers. "Public attitudes matter," they wrote. "Attitudes can translate directly into fear or understanding, rejection or acceptance, delayed service use or early medical attention."

It may take a new approach -- something other than science-based anti-stigma campaigns -- to change public attitudes, the authors said. One such approach is to focus on the "abilities, competencies, and community integration of persons with mental illness and substance use disorders."

(Which brings to mind Los Angeles Laker's star Ron Artest and his efforts to raise money for mental health services by raffling his NBA Championship ring. Artest, who has been treated for depression, has been outspoken about the importance and value of seeking treatment. His "Win My Bling" raffle raised $120,000 in just one day last week.)

In a commentary accompanying the study, Dr. Howard H. Goldman of the University of Maryland points to encouraging signs that people with these diseases can live on equitable terms with those who have not suffered addiction or mental illness.

"We may not have eliminated social stigmatization of symptomatic individuals with mental illness," he wrote. "But improved treatment has helped many of them to make their symptoms and dysfunction less visible and less problematic."

Did you spot the inconsistencies? The stupid ways they incriminate themselves? Send in your guesses as to what it was.