Thursday, March 21, 2013

Defining Key Terms

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Mental health is the state of balance that individuals establish within themselves and between themselves and their social and physical environment.

Resilience metatheory has taken psychology to its original Greek meaning of ‘the study of the soul,’ where ‘soul refers to the whole integrated being of an individual with one’s transpersonal nature or human spirit as the primary force of the system,’ effectively recognizing the inevitability of interdisciplinarity when tackling complexity. 

Almedom & Glandon, 2007

Latino Parenting for Resilience

"In terms of adaptive cultures in Latino immigrant families, researchers have focused on the protective qualities of respeto and familismo

Respeto, or respect, refers to the importance of teaching children the proper level of courtesy and decorum required in various social contexts with people of a particular age, sex and social status.

Familismo, or familism, refers to "feelings of loyalty, reciprocity, and solidarity towards members of the family, as well as the notion of the family as an extension of self."

Both have been associated with improvements in the physical health, emotional health, and educational well-being of adolescent Latinos."
Perreira, Chapman & Stein, 2006
Becoming an American Parent:  Overcoming Challenges and Finding Strength in a New Immigrant Latino Community
Journal of Family Issues, 27(10), 1383-1414.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

We don't control the outcomes but we can desire and be receptive.
It's your birthright to travel as far as your eye can see and heart can bear, if you wish.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Eventually, put it into words

". . . in a recent study, students were randomly assigned either . . .
  1. to express a traumatic experience using bodily movement, 
  2. to express a traumatic experience first through movement and then in written form, or 
  3. to exercise in a prescribed manner for 3 days, 10 minutes per day (Krantz & Pennebaker, 1996).  

Whereas participants in the two movement-expression groups reported that they felt happier and mentally healthier in the months after the study, only the movement-plus-writing group showed significant improvements in physical health and grade point average

The mere expression of trauma is not sufficient.  Health gains appear to require translating experiences into language."
Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process
James W. Pennebaker (1997)
American Psychological Society, 8(3), 162-166.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

ACE Study & Score

A study shows there is a connection between "adverse childhood experiences" (such as abuse, neglect and family dysfunction) and health and mental health problems in adulthood.

Dr. Felitti from Kaiser Permanente in San Diego began a weight loss clinic for patients who were obese.

Unexpectedly, the weight program had a high dropout rate, mostly by patients successfully losing weight!

Exploring the reasons so many patients inexplicably fled their own success in the program led the researchers to recognize that:
  • weight loss is often sexually or physically threatening and 
  • that certain of the more intractable public health problems such as obesity were also unconscious, or occasionally conscious, compensatory behaviors that were put in place as solutions to problems dating back to the earliest years, but hidden by time, by shame, by secrecy and by social taboos against exploring certain areas of life experience
Patients were asked 10 questions about abuse, neglect and family dysfunction experiences (for example, parental incarceration, mental illness, drug use or loss) from ages 0 to 18 years.   Their ACE score is the total number of experiences reported when each experience equals one point.

It turns out that the higher the ACE score, the greater likelihood of:
  • self-reported chronic depression
  • self-acknowledged smoking and IV drug use
  • sexual activity
  • liver disease
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • autoimmune disease
Many of our most intractable public health problems are the result of compensatory behaviors like smoking, overeating, and alcohol and drug use which provide immediate partial relief from the emotional problems caused by traumatic childhood experiences.

That is, the very things that harm our health also help us to survive the pain of what happened.

Adverse childhood experiences are lost in time and concealed by shame, secrecy, and social taboo against the exploration of certain topics of human experience.

The findings of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study provide a credible basis for a new paradigm of medical, public health, and social service practice that would start with comprehensive biopsychosocial evaluation of all patients at the outset of ongoing medical care.

Chapter 8  The relationship of adverse childhood experiences to adult medical disease, psychiatric disorders and sexual behavior:  implications for healthcare
Vincent J. Felitti and Robert F. Anda

Saturday, March 2, 2013


My mom had five kids - numbers two to five are 6 to 8 years apart.

She raised us to take care of each other.  Number 2 took care of number 3 and 4.  Number 3 took care of number 4 (me) and 5.  And I took care of number 5.  We all took care of my mom too.  And she took care of us.

The family is a microcosm of society, the macrocosm.  In my school and work families, I draw from my family model to inform my relationships and take care of business.  That is, instead of acting out sibling rivalry and competing ruthlessly for perceived diminishing resources, I believe that we can help each other and things will work out.

Not all co-workers or classmates operate from the same working model.

Fortunately, my PhD cohort of three does this beautifully.  We have met regularly since day one of the program.  We share notes, resources, ideas, support, drinks at noon on birthdays and whatever else will get us through sanely.  When others romanticize the journey we are on, it's nice to know that we get it - the good, the bad and the terribly horrible.

It is the fourth year of our PhD journey and we are all done with coursework, passed all our comprehensive written exams, completed the required publishable paper, and are diligently working on our dissertation proposals.  We also have families and jobs and other responsibilities.  Ours is a model cohort in that we are all on target and genuinely care about each other.  I know that we got here because of our relationships. 

I have been mentoring since I was a girl.  I get thank you messages from people that I mentored 20 and 30 years ago.  My mom taught me to love and care about others.  It has been my joy to do so.

I have been mentored by wonderful people my whole life too - public school teachers, Sunday school leaders, professors, supervisors and friends.

If I have accomplished anything it is surely because someone gave me support, advice, encouraged and believed in me, and modeled for me how to do it.

I wish us all healthy relationships with ourselves, people who are older, people who are younger and people our own age.  It's amazing what we can do together.  If we are not here to love each other, then what are we here for exactly?


Young children feel loved to the extent that somebody takes care of them.  Caring transmits the message, "You're important, you matter, you are loved."

--Pia Mellody


We all need to . . .

. . . learn to value ourselves

. . . develop boundaries (self-protection)

. . . identify who we are and share that appropriately

. . . take care of our needs and wants independently

. . . and become centered and moderate.

--Pia Mellody 

Here's to a healthy relationship with our self :)


All people are perfectly imperfect and are of equal value.
--Pia Mellody

The Wisdom of our Senses

As Fritz Perls said, “Lose your mind and come to your senses.”

Existential Philosophy

The Existential approach to therapy is rooted in existential philosophy (think Neitzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, etc.)

The following are assumptions of existential philosophy . . .

Individual Emphasis: the goal in life is to really exist as opposed to so-called living, to fully manifest your talents and virtues, thus “becoming the person you really are.”

Passionate Commitment: urges us to live our lives to the fullest, according to our own individual understanding.

Human freedom to make choices and the responsibility to do so consciously: responsible for what we do, responsible for who we are, responsible for the way we face and deal with the world, responsible, ultimately, for the way the world is.

Authenticity: Encourages us to be authentic, to “take hold of ourselves” and in the engagement with self to make the most appropriate choices in living in the world.

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2003, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 3-46
The Existential Approach in Heart-Centered Therapies
David Hartman, MSW and Diane Zimberoff, M.A.

Existential Approach

There are many ways to think about how change happens in therapy.  No theoretical framework captures the phenomenon fully, but they all provide a lens.  The existentialist approach to therapy, healing and transformation is this . . .

1. Meaning in life is found in the living of each moment.

2. Passionate commitment to a way of life, to one’s purpose and one’s relationships, is the highest form of expression of one’s humanity.

3. All human beings have freedom of choice and responsibility for our choices.

4. Openness to experience allows for the greatest possible expansion of personal expression.

5. In the ever-present face of death itself, we find the deepest commitment to life itself.

Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 2003, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 3-46
The Existential Approach in Heart-Centered Therapies
David Hartman, MSW and Diane Zimberoff, M.A.

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...