Riding public transportation to work can provide one with interesting observations of human behavior. In watching people riding the city bus, I immediately become aware of a culture of helping behavior that I don't see in other places. I experience a sense of camaraderie and community and feel more joined with humankind on the bus. This is great contrast to the battle against my fellow citizens I engage in when I try to fight my way through traffic to drive to work.
I sat in the meeting with case workers and social workers of homeless clients and desperately wanted to bang my head on the table. The cause of my distress was the word "barriers". Granted, many homeless clients face serious barriers. But the way the word barriers was being used during the meeting was indicative of the inappropriate and ineffective ways the social services system approaches problems.
Some wise person once said that a rut is a grave not yet filled in. I'm stuck in a rut, and I choose to stay there. How does someone with psychological training get in a rut? We're just like everyone else and we fumble and stumble our way through life like everyone else. If we are healthy, though, we are doing our own work. How does a therapist handle being in a rut? Well, let's see...
A recent story in U.S. News and World Report states, "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as it is known, is hugely influential because it determines what is and is not a mental disorder. In turn, it is responsible for much of the sales growth in prescription drugs." In a recent article in Psychiatric Times Dr. Allen Frances discusses his concerns about the way the next version of the DSM is being formulatedand the possibility that formerly normal human behaviors will be become "medicalized".
Years ago (we won't discuss how many), I sat in my first abnormal psychology class. The professor described the medical model for diagnosing mental illness, explained that mental illness was viewed as behavior that is abnormal, then raised a question for thought, "But how do we determine what is "normal" and "abnormal" human behavior?
I recently listened to the video-taped lecture on the American financial situation by economics professor Richard Wolff. In addition to brilliantly describing the causes behind the current economic crisis in America he also makes the point that "success" in the American culture is defined by consumption. We are what we are able to buy.
A few years ago I was simultaneously working with two middle aged men whose wives had left them. Both of them were completely devastated by the loss of their marriage and family. Both of them showed serious signs of grieving. Both of them went to their doctors, were diagnosed with "depression" and placed on medication. It was interesting to see side by side two different ways this could play out. For one client this was a major factor in his process of healing while for the other it significally complicated the grieving process. What was the difference?