Thursday, December 31, 2009


When you learn, teach. When you get, give.
--Maya Angelou

Building a Bridge in Social Work

Most, but not all, Social Work Professors have two years or less of clinical experience.

Most, but not all, Social Work Clinicians haven't read a research or journal article since their two-year Masters program.

How do we begin to bridge this divide?


fear -----------------------hope
doubt ---------------------believe
second-guessing self ------ trusting inner voice

where are you on the continuum today?


I can't believe the first quarter is over. It felt slow - fast - slow, like a Pixie's song.

I survived, I didn't get thrown out of the program, my fellowship has not been revoked, I passed all my classes.

I remember the pain in my chest because of the pressure I felt the night my epistemology paper was due.

I remember the feeling of panic and praying a lot the morning I drove into school to take my Statistics final exam.

I remember sleeping a lot the week after everything was submitted and the quarter was officially over.

Winter quarter begins next week and I just finished the reading that is due for my Monday afternoon Intervention Research class. I am looking forward to this class.

I am looking forward to the new schedule - driving in to school only two days a week.

I feel very lucky to be in this situation - tired and stretched thin with a big smile of fulfillment.

It has been my new years resolution since forever to spend more time writing. Cheers to making good on dreams. Happy New Year and everything that means...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness

"...a new Army-wide holistic initiative focused on building resilience" and here is the link:

Including 5 Dimensions of Strength:

Can you believe this? wow. How can we get this into the schools for teachers, administrators, learning support staff and students? I think that Martin Seligman would be game - are we ready?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Martin Seligman on Flourishing

Here are my cryptic notes from Martin Seligman’s one-hour talk at the recent Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim. It was one of the best hours – we gave him a standing ovation. The inspiration may not translate in my notes, but if it does, it will be worth the read…

Martin Seligman's book The Search for Well Being, comes out in 2010!

Well-being is concerned with, but is not about, happiness. It is what people do when choosing freely (not oppressed or forced):
1. Happiness/positive emotion
2. Meaning – using what is best inside you in the service of something bigger
3. Positive relationships
4. Accomplishment - achievement/mastery/competence

Happiness (positive emotion, engagement, meaning) vs. Well-being (not a real construct but hypothetical, like freedom)

Human flourishing = building positive emotions, meaning, relationships & accomplishment

What makes people lastingly happier?
In the book, he describes 8-12 exercises that work (based on measures of depression over six months and a comparison of placebo and happiness exercises), for example:

(Placebo) write about a memory
(Happiness exercise) journaling about a blessing

(Placebo) write a story
(Happiness exercise) gratitude visit (highest trait correlated with life satisfaction)

(Placebo) taking the VIA (an assessment of strengths on Seligman's website)
(Happiness exercise) Using VIA, that is, using identified signature strengths in work setting more often

We have tricks to relieve depression and anxiety but there are many days that you will wake up depressed/anxious and that doesn’t mean that you can’t function beautifully despite depression.

“Teaching people to shoot when they’re dead tired” – how snipers are trained because it takes 24 hours to get in position and 12 hours to stay on a target. Sniper training is an analogy for teaching people to do things despite their weaknesses.

Removing depression & anxiety leads to an empty person instead of a happy person.

Teach people to overcome the negative symptoms AND teach skills for building positive emotions, meaning, relationships, achievement.

Psychiatric drugs mask symptoms (temporary symptom relief). The goal is permanent change vs. palliation.

Positive Education
What things do you want for your children? (in 2 words or less) – love & happiness
What do schools teach? – rules, conformity

Positive Psychology Experiment
1. Trained teachers to use it in their own lives first
2. Then, how to embed this into what they are already teaching

We need a highly psychologically resilient workforce (especially in education and LAUSD!)

Comprehensive soldier fitness (google this to find out more)
Army testing all soldiers, beginning October:
Part 1: emotional, social, family, spiritual fitness testing
Part 2: online courses in emotional, social, family, spiritual (family fitness course by Gottman’s) based on fitness test results

Positive Psychology training for 40,000 drill sergeants in the army (train the trainer model). Capacity to love or be loved – is the highest correlate with successful leadership in the Army.

If this can be done in the Army, then we can build flourishing & resilient school communities!

Mental health is the presence of positive emotions, meaning, relationships, achievement – not just absence of mental illness.

Formerly, studies only analyzed risk factors. Now they are taking the same data and analyzing for protective factors like optimism. In a reanalysis of longitudinal studies of cardiovascular death, where optimism was measured, it was discovered that optimism is a major health asset, controlling for risk factors.

Politics of well-being – investing our surplus in beauty lead to the Renaissance period. Let's build a monument of well-being. Wealth should be used for well-being, not more wealth. More positive emotion, engagement, meaning, better relationships, achievement!

Flourishing adults – variations of flourishing rates among Europeans. Seligman goal/benchmark: By the year 2051, 51% of the world population is flourishing. Worthwhile goal even if we are not there to see it. Increased productivity at work, better health, peace & calm.

We have long been the custodians of pathology, now we have tools to build positive emotion.

We can be agents of human flourishing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Protective Factors

"When stressful life events outweigh the protective factors, even the most resilient . . . can develop problems (Werner, 1990, p. 111)."

"Protective buffers...seem to be helpful to us [as] members of the human race....[They] appear to make a more profound impact on the life course of individuals who grow up and overcome adversity than do specific risk factors. "
--Dr. Emmy Werner (1996)

So what are the much needed research-based protective factors?

1. Caring relationships
2. High expectations (I believe you can do it!)
3. Opportunities for meaningful participation
4. Social competence: cooperation & communication skills, empathy and problem-solving skills
5. Autonomy & sense of self: personal conviction, self-efficacy, self-awareness
6. Sense of meaning and purpose: optimism, goals & aspirations


Gu, Q. & Day, C. (2007). Teachers resilience: A necessary condition for effectiveness. Teaching and Teacher Education 23, 1302–1316.

Constantine, N.A., Benard, B., & Diaz, M. (1999). Measuring Protective Factors and Resilience Traits in Youth: The Healthy Kids Resilience Assessment. Paper presented at the Seventh Annual Meeting of the Society for Prevention Research, New Orleans, LA

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


"When faced with obstacles, setbacks, and failures, those who doubt their capabilities slacken their efforts, give up, or settle for mediocre solutions. Those who have a strong belief in their capabilities redouble their effort to master the challenges. (Bandura, 2000, p. 120)."

Have you ever heard anyone say, "cut 'em some slack" or "give 'em a break" and thought that person was just being nice? Turns out they were doubting someone's capabilities - essentially saying, "I don't believe you can do it." Wow. Not very nice.

I don't feel sorry for you - I believe you can do it. If you don't believe you can do it - I wonder what or who shook your confidence to believe?

"...Ordinary social realities are strewn with difficulties. They are full of impediments, failures, adversities, setbacks, frustrations, and inequities. People must have a robust sense of personal efficacy to sustain the perseverant effort needed to succeed. Self-doubts can set in quickly after some failures or reverses. The important matter is not that difficulties arouse self-doubt, which is a natural immediate reaction, but the speed of recovery of perceived self-efficacy from difficulties.. . . Because the acquisition of knowledge and competencies usually requires sustained effort in the face of difficulties and setbacks, it is resiliency of self-belief that counts. (Bandura, 1989, p. 1176)."

Gu, Q. & Day, C. (2007). Teachers resilience: A necessary condition for effectiveness. Teaching and Teacher Education 23, 1302–1316.


Barbara Fredrickson proposed a ‘broaden-and-build’ theory of positive emotions and observes that positive emotions—joy, interest, contentment and love— build personal resources.

These personal resources, ranging from physical and intellectual resources to social and psychological resources, ‘‘function as reserves that can be drawn on later to improve the odds of successful coping and survival.’’ In other words, positive emotions fuel psychological resilience.

Evidence suggests, then, that positive emotions may fuel individual differences in resilience. Noting that psychological resilience is an enduring personal resource, the broaden-and-build theory makes the bolder prediction that experiences of positive emotions might also, over time, build psychological resilience, not just reflect it.

That is, to the extent that positive emotions broaden the scopes of attention and cognition, enabling flexible and creative thinking, they should also augment people’s enduring coping resources.

‘‘The personal resources accrued during states of positive emotions are durable, (outlasting) the transient emotional states that led to their acquisition,’’ and that ‘‘through experiences of positive emotions . . .people transform themselves, becoming more creative, knowledgeable, resilient, socially integrated and healthy individuals.’’

Gu, Q. & Day, C. (2007). Teachers resilience: A necessary condition for effectiveness.
Teaching and Teacher Education 23, 1302–1316.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Measuring What We Do

If it exists, we can measure it.

Rubin, A. & Babbbie, E. Research Methods for Social Work. 1993. Brooks/Cole Publishing Company: Pacific Grove.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Body & Trauma

They will fail to cope psychologically with their problems until they have a sense of security in their bodies. In loosing control over their bodily functions they are not the competent people they were before. (Kolb & Multipassi, 1982 p. 985).

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Courage in Learning and Theory-Building

From Bretherton, I. (1992). The origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Developmental Psychology, 28, 759:

"In his last work, a biography of Charles Darwin, Bowlby may have been talking about himself when he said of Darwin:

Since causes are never manifest, the only way of proceeding is to propose a plausible theory and then test its explanatory powers against further evidence, and in comparison with the power of rival theories..,. Since most theories prove to be untenable, advancing them is a hazardous business and requires courage, a courage Darwin never lacked. (Bowlby, 1991, p. 412)"

It takes courage to be curious, question, imagine, challenge, offer up an alternative explanation, and test it, knowing all the while that you may be wrong, publicly, or that you may be on target and still viewed as wrong, publicly.


“If a community values its children it must cherish their parents” (Bowlby, 1951, p. 84).

Finals Week

It is all fun and games until MidTerm or Finals week. Then it all becomes due. And studying becomes an act of discipline and meditation. Sitting for hours to read and attend and focus despite where your thoughts lead you and distract you. Like now I am distracted because I really have to finish a 20-page paper that analyzes the epistemology and ontology of my chosen topic - attachment theory and it's mediating effects on post-trauma symptomatology. And as much as there is an urge to quit and shuck it all for more leisure time, I realize I am too far in, too invested to turn back now.

Pearls from Dr. Crimmins

May you have light moments of play with observer as you move through the "red"!

Graduate School Math

Time spent per week*…

30+ hours of course reading

10+ hours of commuting time from Eastside to Westside

12+ hours of in-class time (lectures and labs)

16+ hours of School Mental Health part-time work on projects like:
Response to Intervention and social-emotional interventions website content
Reflective Learning Groups (RLGs) for Psychiatric Social Workers and Social Work Interns
Organizing RLG Facilitator meetings
Organizing Professional Development committee meetings and developing training powerpoints
Training, consultation and product development for the Trauma Services Adaptation Center
Disseminating the South Los Angeles Resiliency (SOLAR) Project model and findings
Other duties as assigned

56+ hours of sleep (8 hours of sleep per night is mandatory for my functioning)

*Not including math and Spanish tutoring time with my daughter and all the stuff that makes life fun and worthwhile – family and friend time!

This is a fraction of the cost of investment.

Truth Opened

Freud presented a paper in April, 1896 to the Society for Psychiatry and Neurology in Vienna on the sexual abuse of his female patients by t...