Conference: Flourishing Through Meaning and Purpose

A summer conference entitled The Positive Psychology of Flourishing Through Meaning and Purpose will be held July 26-29, 2012, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

This is being hosted by the International Network on Personal Meaning.

Who should attend?
Students, scholars, mental health professionals and anyone who values Viktor Frankl, positive psychology, resilience, and eudaimonia is invited to submit a brief summary of their work for possible presentation at the conference. Or, delegates may attend as an interested member of the listening audience.

A selected sample of keynote speakers include Richard Ryan, Chris Peterson, Jordan Peterson, Laura King, Todd Kashdan, Alan Waterman, and many other leading scholars such as humanistic psychologist Stanley Krippner as well as logotherapy practitioners such as Emmy Van Deurzen from the UK. and Paul Wong from Toronto. Viktor Frankl’s grandson, a filmmaker, will fly in from Vienna to talk and show his feature documentary film entitled, Viktor and I.

The deadline for the call for papers is June 15 for non students and June 1st for students. For full conference information, visit

Traumatic Memories

Traumatic memories in the brain are like an overstuffed closet. You slam the door and try to keep them all locked tightly inside but every time anything jars the door open a crack they start to spill out. In therapy, you are opening those doors a bit at a time. Then you deal with what falls out first but there’s still the rest of the pile behind those ones. So you open the door a bit more and more spills out, and so on.

It is difficult work but the more you keep pushing forward the closer you get to being able to open the door all the way to an uncluttered closet.

Curse of Tourette’s becomes a blessing in disguise

Horseheads, N.Y.  Teen Finds New Purpose Through Illness
‘Curse’ of Tourette’s becomes a blessing in disguise
August 7, 2011

HORSEHEADS, New York — Seventeen-year-old Cory Sweet wanted to die five years ago.

His  school report card, once full of the high 90s that made him proud, was in the tank. And his body would not stop shaking. It started in his head and neck, then moved to his arms and hands, where it remains today.

Three years passed before the cause — Tourette’s syndrome — was found. Three years of painful involuntary arm and hand movements. Experts said the cause was Cory — he wanted attention. He was picked on by classmates who couldn’t understand such behavior from a normally quiet and intelligent teen. His mom and dad, Debbie and Arnie Brown, took him to medical centers as far away as Rochester and Buffalo in futile searches for a diagnosis.

Cory sank into a depression that ruined his grades and triggered thoughts of suicide.

There is a happy ending, thanks to Cory’s grit, his loving family, a letter of apology from his classmates and an act of God. He graduated from Horseheads High School with high honors in June. Soon he’s off to college and a career fueled by lessons learned from his ordeal.

Tourette’s is described as “recurrent involuntary tics involving body movement.” To Cory it was a curse.

He reached his lowest point in an eighth-grade report card. He had failed English — unheard of before the shaking began. Convinced his only choice was suicide, he made a plan before his parents arrived to take him home. “I knew he was struggling, but I didn’t realize how bad it was,” his dad said. Cory fell apart on the way home. “I broke down and told them everything,” he said.

He voluntarily spent five days in a mental health program at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca. Finally, a diagnosis was made by Dr. Daniel E. Britton, a Corning neurologist. Debbie calls Britton her son’s “lifesaver medically.” Said Cory: “The best thing he did was believe in me. He was the first doctor who told me I was not doing it for attention.”

Cory’s mental recovery began in ninth grade during family visits to His Tabernacle Family Church in Horseheads, where he said God got his attention. The depression left him. “I accepted Jesus as my savior, and I felt joy,” he said. Said his father, “It was overwhelming to see the changes in him.”

Cory found relief from Tourette’s in the church sign-language ministry. “They signed the praise and worship songs,” he said. “I imitated them and found it helped with my tics. I have control over my arms and hands.”

Today he is leader of the sign-language ministry. His report card returned to the 90s and he was inducted into the National Honor Society, the National Technical Honor Society and Phi Beta Kappa. Final high school average: 95.

Cory joined the Health Occupation Students of America and competed in its New York state medical math and prepared speaking contests this year.

Read more…

The story doesn’t end there, though. Recently, on tyhe Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada’s Forum Community, Cory’s mother joined to update us:

Thank you for sharing my son’s story with everyone. He said if it even helps one individual then it was well worth telling his story. Cory is doing great in college and enjoys it very much. He is not limiting himself. The nice thing about college is everyone tries to be different. He is trying many new things like football, rock climbing and other activities. I know he has struggles and I’m sure when he gets stressed or homesick, his tics become much worse, but he is at home at this college learning interpreting, because it is a way of life for him. He is human and does have his days, but then realizes how bad it was at one time. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything or limit you! Find your calling and embrace it! Never give up! God Bless!

And she added the following:

Below is a… video of an example of a prepared speaking presentation that he took 2nd Place in at the HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) this past Spring.

Cory was also denied the extra time from the College Board for his college testing, but he adjusted. He knew he had overcome much worse & this was just another obstacle he would have to overcome and not let it overcome him.


The discussion continues here


The Five Love Languages

The Five Love Languages:How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate

by Gary Chapman

I discovered this book quite by accident while searching for a different title in a local Chapters-Indigo store and I grabbed the last copy in stock after flipping through the pages. I’m now recommending it to clients in couples counselling, especially those with communication issues.

From the book jacket:

Are you and your spouse speaking the same language? He sends you flowers when what you really want is time to talk. She gives you a hug when what you really need is a home-cooked meal. The problem isn’t your love – it’s your love language!

Dr. Gary Chapman reveals how different people express love in different ways. In fact, there are five specific languages of love:

  • Quality Time
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

What speaks volumes to you may be meaningless to your spouse. The key to understanding each other’s unique needs [is to] apply the right principles [and], learn the right language, and soon you’ll know the profound satisfaction and joy of being able to express your love and feeling truly loved in return.

This book is an easy read and most readers will probably find it an eye opener in many ways, not only in terms of learning about your spouse but also in terms of learning about yourself. The book includes a quick test for each partner to identify individual love languages and to allow you to compare the love languages each uses.

My major (minor?) complaint is the labels given to the five languages, notably Acts of Service, which sounds like a demand for what my wife sometimes calls “a work donkey”. In reality, it’s not about minions but about little things one does for one’s spouse that convey the message that you are thinking about him or her and eager to express that by doing little things on a day to day basis, much like Gifts is really less about the gift and more about the overt demonstration that you are thinking about your spouse when you are apart and when you are together.

I highly recommend this book, whether you are currently in a relationship or looking for one. The author, Dr. Gary Chapman, also has a website you might find of interest: The Five Love Languages.

couples, relationships, couples counselling, self-help, communication

UK psychiatrists oppose streamlined services

File under “Whose Interests Are You Really Trying To Protect?” 

The Mental Health Bill Will Not Help Vulnerable Patients, Say Doctors, UK
25 Apr 2007

With the Mental Health Bill for England and Wales going through Committee stage in the House of Commons, the BMA is concerned that the proposed legislation will harm patients with mental health disorders.

Currently two doctors [at least one must be a consultant psychiatrist] have to agree before anyone is detained under the Mental Health Act but the Government is proposing to change this and widen professional roles within this field.

Under the new Bill, it is proposed that doctors, psychologists, nurses, occupational therapists and social workers could receive training that would enable them to have overall charge and be the responsible clinician for a patient who is sectioned. This could mean that for some patients there could be the possibility of no medical input at all.

The Chairman of the BMA psychiatry committee, Dr JS Bamrah, said today:

“Psychiatrists have undergone in-depth and intensive medical training so that they can provide the best, up-to-date health care to patients suffering from mental health disorders. As the delivery of mental health services is multi-disciplinary, there should be recognition of the professional roles involved but the Government’s proposals go too far.”

He added:

“A decision to detain a patient is a very serious one and it would be irresponsible to by-pass clinicians when detention decisions are being made. We strongly urge the Government to think again and ensure that psychiatrists are fully engaged in caring for these very vulnerable patients. It is well documented that psychiatric patients often suffer from a range of medical problems so it is vital that the clinician responsible for their overall care is also able to deal effectively with a range of health issues.”

The reality is that this is scaremongering and professional protectionism of the worst kind. First, as a psychologist I don’t have a medical degree. I don’t have the legal right to prescribe medication or to recommend or perform medical procedures, and I don’t believe psychologists should be given that authority, despite what some of my colleagues in Canada and the US may say to the contrary. But I don’t need a medical degree to provide an accurate mental health diagnosis (indeed, many of the members of the committees who have worked on various versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals [DSMs] which define the criteria for those diagnoses have been psychologists or other professionals without medical degrees). And I don’t need a medical degree to be competent to determine imminent danger to self or others at least as well as a psychiatrist.

Second, the statement that someone could be hospitalized as an involuntary patient without involving and physician or psychiatrist at all is ludicrous, not the least because a physician of some type would need to be involved to prescribe any psychotropic medications, and it’s difficult to believe that someone meeting the criteria for involuntary detention under the mental health act would not require some sort of medication as part of that hospitalization.

And third, involuntary detention is always limited in scope and always requires review by mental health practitioners beyond the admitting practitioner, physician or otherwise. In Canada, that means the case must be reviewed after 72 hours to ensure that the patient still meets all of the criteria for involuntary detention.

I find it hard to believe that the protest of the BMA has anything really to do with the welfare of the patients who may be affected by the proposed new legislation. Frankly, I think it has far more to do with fears on the part of the BMA that the traditional sanctified hierarchical position of their member psychiatrists might be eroded should the legislation pass – and that, of course, might translate into some loss of income for the profession at the same time as it improves service to mental health consumers and their families.

UPDATE: A Bogus Poll

Today, this report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists attempts to claim that the British public is opposed to the new legislation:

“The public do not support proposed laws that would make it easier to detain and treat people with mental health problems against their wishes, according to a YouGov poll published today.

The poll, commissioned by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, showed that 72% of those surveyed do not think that people with mental health problems should be forced to have ‘treatment’ from which they cannot benefit. And 68% do not believe that hospitals should be used to detain people with mental health problems if they cannot benefit from treatment and have committed no crime.”

What’s wrong with this survey?

The UK psychiatrists are asking questions in a way almost guaranteed to elicit a negative reaction. And they are doing so without providing respondents with the information needed to make an informed decision.

This is almost a replica of how civil rights activists have opposed the implementation of “Kendra’s Law” in the US. Those states that have approved such legislation to date have not seen the predicted mass involuntary detentions – again, this is scare-mongering at its most blatant.

The goal is not and never has been to hospitalize individuals who do not need to be hospitalized. The goal is to facilitate the involuntary treatment of individuals who are a clear and imminent danger to self or others and who lack the capacity to make informed decisions regarding their own welfare. And in the case of the UK legislation, the proposal is to allow mental health professionals other than psychiatrists the authority to make such decisions within existing legal and ethical restrictions on involuntary hospitalization.

And THAT is the real reason for their vigorous opposition to this bill. 

mental health legislation, mental health treatment, politics of health care

“Junk medicine”: UK debates cognitive behavior therapy

Junk medicine: Cognitive behavioral therapy
November 04, 2006
by Phillip Hodson, The Times

Talking cure is cheap The five main mental health charities [in the UK] have announced their support for the planned expansion of NHS psychotherapy, with a broad emphasis on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). But is CBT – a talking therapy that attempts to train your thought patterns then alter your behaviour – the best investment?

An ideological struggle has broken out between two of our leading “happiness thinkers” about whether the claims made for CBT can be justified. On one hand, Tony Blair’s adviser, the economist Professor Richard Layard, is about to launch a health service program of CBT nationwide employing 10,000 novice recruits. On the other, psychologist Oliver James tells Daily Mail readers that CBT only appeals to Tony Blair because it is “quick, cheap and simplistic” but is seriously lacking in long-term efficacy.

So what does the evidence say? First, that it is reasonable for the Government to turn to the psychological therapies as the front line treatment for conditions such as anxiety and depression when the routine prescription of benzodiazepine tranquillizers and antidepressants costs more than £11 billion a year and can yield disappointing results.

In CBT’s favor is the fact that, as a talking therapy, it does what it says on the label. To take the simplest example, if you believe nobody loves you then CBT therapists believe they need only to produce evidence that one person does love you for you to be proved wrong and for your behaviour to change.

The fact that, in a relatively short period, CBT has produced an impressively positive research base must be qualified by the observation that because CBT is tasked with “symptom removal”, not “treatment of the whole person”, research has proved relatively easy and cheap to undertake. Setting out to measure whether someone has got rid of a single symptom (such as spider phobia) leads to only two relevant answers: yes or no. It is much more difficult to evaluate a therapy seeking to show whether you have gone from “greater” to “lesser” unhappiness but the experience in itself might prove more life-changing.

Critics also observe that the case for standard CBT has been favored by the way the guidelines on anxiety and depression, sponsored by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), are presented. Much of the pro-CBT information is to be found in headline summaries; significant qualifying remarks about other valid therapies are found in the small print.

This matters because Oliver James is right about research in the longer term. According to the most authoritative sources, at least half those patients receiving CBT for panic disorder had suffered relapse or sought new help after 24 months, which isn’t very cost effective.

Last Monday, at a conference on Practice-Based Commissioning in Manchester, Professor Layard admitted that CBT is appropriate for only about 40 per cent of patients overall. Stunningly, the largest body of evidence into counselling outcomes, the 35,000 cases comprising the CORE Survey, has been totally ignored by NICE and Layard alike. Looking at the figures just for depression, CORE shows there is no significant difference in the long-term success rates for CBT over traditional forms of therapy such as “person-centered” or “psycho-dynamic”: CBT works for 75 per cent of patients; the rest for 76 per cent.

So a summary of the evidence tends to show that all talking treatments are roughly equal in effectiveness because it is the relationship with the therapist that counts. Patient choice should count, too. I suggest the NHS would be unwise to put all its eggs into a CBT basket.

I find debates like this distressing on many levels. First, the push toward fast, short-term “solutions” for all patients by governments, corporations, and EAP providers is based solely on financial considerations, not on the best interests of the patient or on clinical outcome research. On the other hand, opponents of the move to short-term solutions, like the author of this article, are equally biased, if in the opposite direction, and they seem to be more interested in territorial protectionism than in what is best for the patient. The facts are as follows:

1. CBT is a very effective component of a good treatment plan for many and probably most patients suffering from depression or anxiety disorders, and an excellent adjunct therapy for disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder, among others.

2. Pretty much every study that has ever examined the issue has concluded the medication plus psychotherapy is more effective than either alone for depression and anxiety disorders, both in managing the initial symptoms or crisis and in preventing relapse.

3. CBT is NOT simply symptom management. Individuals suffering from disorders such as depression and the various manifestations of anxiety DO exhibit faulty and distorted patterns of thinking and self-talk and there is no longer any doubt that this contributes greatly to these disorders. Thus, addressing and altering those negative self-talk patterns should be an integral part of any treatment plan for most patients with these disorders.

4. In a total treatment plan, CBT is an excellent way of helping the patient acquire symptom or crisis management strategies. However, it is often the case that once that goal is reached, it may be necessary to use interpersonal therapies or other treatment approaches to address the underlying and more chronic issues.

I would also suggest (a) that government economists and corporate financial advisors are not in the best position to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment approaches; and (b) that it is the obligation of mental health professionals to act more responsibly to educate those who are making such decisions. Articles and statements such as the one printed in The Times are simply not helpful – those charged with making the decisions will simply find the holes in the rhetoric and dismiss it as uninformed and oppositional.

CBT, cognitive behavior therapy, psychotherapy, research-based therapy, politics of health care, mental health care