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New Website

Since my practice moved to the Los Feliz neighborhood, about a year ago, I decided it was time to shift my web presence. To emphasize that this is “old stuff”, I revived an old blog template (“Misty Look”) that I used a few years ago. I decided to keep the blog as an archive, since I wrote quite a bit that reflects my thinking.

There’s a map on the sidebar to the right, should you wish to locate my new office.

And online, find me at kaleachapman.wordpress.com

I hope you’ll stop by!

For some time now I’ve hosted a page with a compilation of thoughts on “What is Psychotherapy?” I’ve now combined and lightly edited these posts, and bundled them together into a free ebook, Psychotherapy: Frequently Asked Questions. The book is divided into two parts.

Part I focuses on the many questions —  frequently relating to doubts, fears, and misconceptions – that people have about psychotherapy.

Part II digs in a little more – focusing more on the nature of therapy and what one might expect from treatment. You can click here for the page.

Or click here psychotherapy faq to download the ebook.

 

Recently came across, and enjoyed, this graphic novel that chronicles one woman’s struggle with bipolar disorder. I’m not going to review it here, but I will say that I enjoyed it. It accurately describes the frustrations that those with bipolar face to find the right balance of treatments. As the NPR reviewer wrote:

Bipolar disorder defies easy treatment; each individual patient must become their own guinea pig to discover the balance of medication and lifestyle therapies that will allow him or her to achieve long-term stability.

Here are a few reviews, including the one from NPR:

From Manic Highs to Oceanic Lows, (NPR)

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me, (The Guardian)

Marbles, By Ellen Forney, and More, (The New York Times)

The issue of torture by our government, and the role of psychologists in that policy, has been a concern of some psychologists since as early as 2009. Obviously it’s gotten more airtime since the recent senate report. Some of you may find the thoughts of one prominent psychologist — known for his ethics textbook, among other things — of interest.

Here’s the link to that earlier post.

I want to share a little gem of a resource that I’ve been admiring for some time.* It is a web comic about depression. That might not sound all that inspiring, but if you’ve ever cared about someone with depression or struggled to explain your depression to someone who cares — you know that it can be very difficult.

That’s where Hyperbole and a Half comes in, a website that includes some amazing comics about what it is like to be depressed. And perhaps the best starting point, is the episode: Depression Part Two. The art is rudimentary, even crude. The message is as spot on as anything I’ve ever read about depression. Here’s a sample quote:

It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared…

…The problem might not even have a solution. But you aren’t necessarily looking for solutions. You’re maybe just looking for someone to say “sorry about how dead your fish are” or “wow, those are super dead. I still like you, though.”

I’ve also added, in the sidebar under the heading “blogs on depression”, links to both this and the first comic in the series, Adventures in Depression. It is equally insightful and funny, and begins: “Some people have a legitimate reason to feel depressed, but not me. I just woke up one day feeling sad and helpless for absolutely no reason.”

I hope you gain some comfort or understanding from the comics.

*As a coda, I was unaware that the author, Allie Brosh, just published a book of her comics with Simon and Schuster and has been getting some press recently. In fact, she did an interview on NPR which aired yesterday. Recommended.

Also:

Meet Allie Brosh, Reclusive Genius Behind the Blog (and Book) “Hyperbole and a Half” at Mother Jones.

‘Hyperbole and a Half’ illustrates Allie Brosh’s precise crudeness at NY Daily News.

“Hyperbole and a Half” creator Allie Brosh: “Good comedy has a lot in common with good horror” at Salon.com

 

If this topic interests you, I recommend you click on the “mindfulness” tag at the end of the article to bring up other posts on this and related topics.

What if you could enhance your well being? Just published by Judson Brewer, PhD, MD, medical director of the Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic, a solid piece of exploratory (and confirmatory) research on the role of a part of the brain called the posterior cingulate in meditation.

Meditators have been speculating about the states of mind evoked by meditative states and various relationships between meditating and well being. Turns out, the posterior cingulate is implicated, mostly negatively, in the subjective well being of meditators. What makes this interesting, is that the meditators could control the activity of this part of the brain, through real-time feedback.

There have been a number of studies that have shown that meditation lights up certain brain regions, that it’s associated with changes in brain thickness, and that it alters the way our brains respond to stressful stimuli. But meditation is complex, and it involves processes like attention, working memory, and self-monitoring. So, which components of meditation actually line up with specific brain regions?

Researchers found that the posterior cingulate increases activity during states of distraction, discontentment, and a particular kind of mental effort — all states implicated in unhappiness. A decrease in posterior cingulate activity was associated with states of effortlessness and contentment.

The implications of this are great. Not only does it mean that meditation can be used to enhance well-being, but eventually the technology could be used to help people to learn to meditate more quickly. Learning to meditate more efficiently also potentially means strengthening the “wiring” in those parts of the brain that bring about well being.

If you’re curious about Judson Brewer’s work, here’s his TEDx talk on meditation: You’re Already Awesome. Just Get Out of Your Own Way! which touches on the effects of tracking and training flow states, turning off the blah blah blah part of the brain.

Or an interview at Buddhist Geeks, Mapping the Mindful Brain.

There’s been some big news this week in the world of mental health (for one that suicide among baby boomers is increasing to the point where the number of suicides per year in the United States now exceeds deaths by automobile accidents), but perhaps the biggest story relates to the National Institute for Mental Health rejecting the authority of the soon-to-be-released Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known to most in the business as simply, DSM-5.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Christopher Lane’s Psychology Today piece:

In a humiliating blow to the American Psychiatric Association, Thomas R. Insel, M.D., Director of the NIMH, made clear the agency would no longer fund research projects that rely exclusively on DSM criteria. Henceforth, the NIMH, which had thrown its weight and funding behind earlier editions of the manual, would be “re-orienting its research away from DSM categories.” “The weakness” of the manual, he explained in a sharply worded statement, “is its lack of validity.” “Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure.”

This could prove to be a very thorny issue for insurance companies, practitioners, not to mention clients — if the diagnoses in the manual, which are used for billing, are not considered to be reliably valid.

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