Archive for January, 2012

Better outcomes for therapy clients

January 31, 2012

Below is a protocol used at the University of Rhode Island by Dr. Jacqueline Sparks to help her students with cases. You can learn more about ASIST at or

It is particularly important that “at risk” clients be identified as soon as possible to prevent dropout or a negative outcome. Any case indicated as “at risk” (yellow or red in ASIST) requires priority supervision. Students will identify priority cases by completing and turning in each week the Weekly Case Status Report. Supervisees must bring all feedback forms and graphs for each case discussed in supervision. Prior to supervision, supervisees should consider the following questions:


  1. What does the client say about the lack of progress?
  2. What is the status of the alliance?
  3. What have you done so far?
  4. What can be done differently now?
  5. What other resources can be rallied?


The following are additional supervision discussion points based on case status:


Client Progressing as Expected  (no color for ASIST listing).


–       Identify what the client/s and therapist are doing well

–       Continue with current strategies

–       Discuss termination or spacing of sessions as appropriate


Client Not Progressing as Expected (yellow or red for ASIST listing).


–       Examine and discuss alliance, including fit of goals with current work

–       Identify family or community resources

–       Brainstorm new directions*

–       Utilize in-house resources*


*New directions can include:


–       Different activities or methods

–       Inviting others to sessions

–       Role of extended family

–       Barriers (financial, social, etc.)

–       Community resources and/or other venues for help

–       Different schedule of meetings


*In-House resources can include:


–       Use of current practicum team

–       Variation of team input (reflecting team, etc.)

–       Use of new team (different students, supervisor)

–       Use of consultant (program faculty not supervising the case)

–       Groups

–       Educational materials


Learning about the Comparision Effect has a Comparison Effect

January 29, 2012

Our perception of what is happening to us or around us is influenced or changed based on what just happened before. This is called the comparison effect. Example – your teacher tells your class they did well on the exam. How do you feel when your test shows a C for a grade? She tells the class they did poorly on the exam. How do you feel about a C now? 

This is scary because we can never control what just happened before. So you are never really in full control of your perception.

So I just learned about the comparision effect,  so learning about it is what ‘just happened before’, and I am feeling a little hopeless about my  psyche as a result. But why hopeless, how about relieved? Relieved in the sense that I am not fully responsible for my perception. It doesn’t make sense to be too hard on myself. Better to roll with it, and make it a habit to just wait. I am always a little or a lot drunk from what just happened in the last moment if I believe that the comparison effect to be true. If  I wait, I’ll be drunk on the next moment, but maybe in a different way. Maybe  a worse way, maybe a better way. Wait and watch and consider how I would have acted or seen it if I hadn’t waited to sober up from that moment. I guess the problem is we perpetuate moments by just acting quickly on them and then one moment can lead to decisions that can  cast a cloud on your whole life.

So I can try to be in the habit of watching myself and getting to know myself. Learning can influence how resilient I am to the intoxicating influence of the prior moment.

I do know that certain actions I take can help my capacity to wait and not get to caught up in prior moments.

 Exercising regularly helps. Admitting mistakes quickly helps. Listening more and talking less helps. Eating when I am hungry helps. Drinking when I am thirsty helps. Resting when I am tired helps. Simple self-care. It all helps with waiting and investing in learning. The more you learn, the better able you are to wait and watch, and learn even more.

The comparison effect will pose less of a threat to a more highly developed mind.

Switching it up

January 29, 2012

Today my family is embarking on an adventure.  I am going to bring our younger daughters to Sunday School, and Reena is going to bring my son to his soccer game. We never do this. I usually run the older kids around. We are  a stepfamily, and the older kids are her stepkids. But we have gotten into a bit of a rut. The reasons why are very complicated and not something I want to blog about. Fact is,  it has gotten to the point where something has to be done. Reena and I went to a therapist for a session to discuss the problem and to talk about how we each want our family to look. We really don’t disagree but actually just needed to talk about some of the painful circumstances that led us to become somewhat stiff and rigid in our roles. It was hard for just the two of us to talk about it. We tried, but we’d get bogged down.

 The kids follow our lead, naturally. It starts with us.  We want all of our kids to see our family as a unit throughout their lives. So I am justabout to leave for church. The girls are protesting…they want Mommy. Xavier doesn’t even know Reena is bringing him to the game ( still refining the communication aspect).

We are jumping into a deeper end of the pool, and we hope it will be more fun for everyone and that the challenge of it will better prepare  them for the deeper waters that they will need to traverse in their lives. And eventually, we will come out stronger and the family can be an even better refuge from the trials and tribulations of the world outside our home.

My first aerobics class

January 28, 2012

My wife goes to an aerobics class on Saturday mornings, but she had to take our daughters somewhere so she suggested I go.

I did.

Yes.  It is was all women.

Yes I was a doofus.

It was a great workout. Toward the end, our chirpy instructor said,


Except I was the only guy, and I was definitely not awesome.

So validating though, you know, to hear that..


I was welling up.  Not really. I think I lacked the emotional range to really appreciate it when someone says,


I don’t think it would go over well if I said that to my men’s basketball team.


  Actually, I have noticed women are very stoic when they are suffering through a workout. Maybe they are usually more expressive unless a man shows up in their class.

One thing is for sure , Betty White was right… women can take a pounding much better than a man.

Bullying behavior exposed for what it is…ridiculous

January 27, 2012

My teen daughter and I were bantering back and forth yesterday while we were in CVS , mostly I was teasing her, and she told me at a certain point I was being irritating. I misspoke as I responded with mock disbelief, ” I’m irritaining?”

Of course, I ran with that, I was being irritaining. Cool. I was irritating her and entertaining myself.

So I thought about it more today and it occurred to me that the words ‘bullying’ and “teasing” might perpetuate themselves because they freeze us into thinking of two players, a victim and a perpetrator. Calling someone a bully always presumes that someone has been wronged.

I hope you are following me so far. I hope so, because this is going to be good.

So what about using  a word that doesn’t imply that there is a victim, like    




 If you are being irritaining or aggrataining, it is something you are doing to yourself, not me. You are intending to aggravate or irritate for the purpose of entertaining yourself. Victims make the mistake of thinking that the bullying is about them and they personalize it, when it is really all about the bully looking for some cheap thrills.

Something like masturbating – you do it to yourself and for yourself. Only difference is that irritaining  is a public behavior. At least one other person has to  be a witness. Masturbation can be public too but fortunately it doesn’t have to be to be effective for most of us…circle jerks nonwithstanding.

So there you have it. I have solved the bullying problem 😉 If we change terminology bullies are going to start to look like public masturbators, right?

Before you dismiss that notion, consider this:

The method of using ridicule to eliminate a behavior that violates ethics but is accepted by the culture has a lot of precedent. See The Honor Code by Kwame Anthony Appiah. Slavery, foot binding in china, and dueling were all practices that were accepted  in their time as normal and necessary. We look back and cringe, but Mr. Appiah explains how honor codes developed around these practices, and how their absurdity only came out when a critical mass of people began to point out that the emperor has no clothes.   A lot of people knew these practices were wrong, but it was only when people began  to ridicule them that they were abandoned.

The naked emperor,  in this case, is the bully. He or she  is publicly masturbating, and we can start to point it out.  Coining some new terms like irritainer might be a start.   Bullying behavior, after all,  has an obscene feel to it,  like public masturbation would.

So give it whirl. Just don’t have too much fun doing it or you will become an irritainer yourself.

Beware curry without the rice

January 26, 2012

Here is the curry:

Beware the sociopaths

Here is the rice:

I apologize for only serving curry before.

I can lead a horse to rice and curry, but I can’t make it eat both.


Setting the table for a powerful thinking method

January 26, 2012

This method of addressing problems  and situations is very effective  and powerful. It really isn’t that complicated, but it takes practice, and mindfulness, which I touched on in my last post.  

 Even harder is actually getting agreement with the other people involved that you are going to use the method, in other words, you have to be able to negotiate well.

So  here it is:

Six Thinking Hats® is a simple, effective parallel thinking process that helps people be more productive, focused, and mindfully involved. And once learned, the tools can be applied immediately!

 You and your team members can learn how to separate thinking into six clear functions and roles. Each thinking role is identified with a colored symbolic “thinking hat.” By mentally wearing and switching “hats,” you can easily focus or redirect thoughts, the conversation, or the meeting.

white hat The White Hat calls for information known or needed. “The facts, just the facts.”
yellow hat The Yellow Hat symbolizes brightness and optimism. Under this hat you explore the positives and probe for value and benefit.
black hat The Black Hat is judgment – the devil’s advocate or why something may not work. Spot the difficulties and dangers; where things might go wrong. Probably the most powerful and useful of the Hats but a problem if overused.
red hat The Red Hat signifies feelings, hunches and intuition. When using this hat you can express emotions and feelings and share fears, likes, dislikes, loves, and hates.
green hat The Green Hat focuses on creativity; the possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas. It’s an opportunity to express new concepts and new perceptions.
blue hat The Blue Hat is used to manage the thinking process. It’s the control mechanism that ensures the Six Thinking Hats® guidelines are observed.

  One way to implement this that I actually haven’t tried is to listen for what hat someone has on as you listen to them. This will require you to have your blue hat on. You can put on the hat that they have on and roll with it. If they switch hats, you can switch with them. At a certain point, if you’d like them to try a hat that they haven’t yet, you can ask them if they’d be willing. If you have been a good listener, they are more likely to do so than if you hav just been debating with them or listening passively.

If you are afraid of shit, you are shit

January 25, 2012

When you are angry, you are going to notice  more things that make you angry. Anger gives you that tunnel vision.

One of the only emotions that I have found that can override anger is disgust. When we are angry, we think our shit doesn’t stink. This is the great illusion. But if anyone has ever caught you on audio tape when you are angry, how did you sound to yourself?

I am betting you felt something like disgust, or embarrassment – a mix of fear , sadness and disgust.

So even though we know this, it is not easy to remember in moments that tend to provoke anger in us.

The other day my daughter held up a mirror to me while I was walking toward her and said,” Look Dad, it looks like you are watching yourself on your own reality show.”

It was funny. I’d love to have that kind of perspective of myself, on the outside looking at myself. I bet I’d avoid a lot of the bad behavior that seem so natural and so right when I am wrapped up in them.

I think that with mindfulness training you can work to build up this capacity to be watching yourself while you are in the moment.

Problem is – mindfulness practice is boring. It is so much easier to just get caught up with stuff and let your brain go into reactive mode rather than stay in re-reactive mode.

Boredom is a form of disgust coupled with anxiety about being understimulated by something.  

Confidence to be able to cope with boredom that might arise comes from practice. It is a bit like the slight disgust you might feel cleaning up a mess. It is just more disgusting to leave the mess so you do it. To not practice mindfulness is really a decision to live with the ugliness of anger and other emotions unchecked and often leading to harm. It is disgusting, but since it hasn’t happened yet, the slight disgust of practicing mindfulness now and systematically throughout your day trumps your efforts.

So I think I need help with this.. some Divine assistance with this purification process which requires that I get messy to be less disgusting when it counts. No room for pride here.

A local dairy farmer from my hometown , Louis Escobar, was known to say to his young farm hands who might have hesitated to shovel manure, “If you are afraid of shit, you are shit.”

I can imagine that first day of work for those kids, showing they weren’t shit.. they were more than shit, they were above shit, they could do this shit, shovel shit, and not quit. It gave them a new perspective on themselves, some new ability to step outside themselves and do what it takes.

We need more teachers like Louis Escobar.

Only a therapist will get this, but you others can read anyway

January 25, 2012

A client once told me, ” I don’t care” , about 50 times in a session.

So eventually I asked, ” What ‘s it like for you to feel this way?”

Client said . ” It sucks.”

Ok – now the ball was rolling.

 Only a psychotherapist really understands why that was a good thing to hear from someone for the purpose of helping them.  

Actually – Jim Camp and his students would get it.

I’d try to explain it to the rest of you, but to tell you the truth…I don’t care

If you think you get it, give it your best shot in the comment section. Prove me wrong. If you don’t care – join the club.


Anti-Bullying Laws Punish the Taxpayer

January 23, 2012

If you are like most people in the modern world, you have been in favor of strong anti-bullying laws. Everyone seems to be in love with these laws and want to see them made as tough as possible. Our psychological organizations have been informing us that we need to use evidence-based interventions. Laws are supremely momentous interventions that have tremendous repercussions and are not easly undone. Yet without any scientific evidence or even logical basis to support the belief that laws can actually solve the problem of bullying, these same organizations have been actively campaigning for tough anti-bullying laws.

I have been warning for years that anti-bullying laws will never put a stop to bullying, ultimately cause more harm than good, and have the potential of bankrupting our schools. Actually, it’s not the schools that will go broke. It’s the rest of us who end up paying the bills. And it’s an outrage. How dare our professional representatives take it upon themselves to fight for counterproductive laws that are going to waste our money! Is that why we pay dues to our professional associations?

When a school loses a bullying lawsuit, it can cost us millions of dollars. But even when it doesn’t, it can still cost us hundreds of thousands. News just came out of Columbus, Indiana that a federal lawsuit was dismissed and a settlement reached with a girl who complained that a boy bullied her by spreading sexually explicit rumors during one year of high school. The school district determined that the school properly followed anti-bullying policies, and the defendant vehemently denied any wrongdoing. But to prevent further waste of money conducting court hearings, the school district caved in. Their insurance agreed to pay one hundred thousand dollars to the girl, and the boy’s insurance, fifty-thousand. But the insurance (which means the rest of us) is paying, so why should the school district care. Do you think that if the school staff and the boy’s parents had to pay from their own pockets, they would have ever agreed to a settlement? But people have little difficulty spending Other People’s Money.

You wanted anti-bullying laws? I hope you are happy. Now we have less money for holiday gifts. Except for the lucky girl, that is. And the lawyers on both sides.

In five minutes or less, I could have taught the girl how to make the rumors stop. In fact, with no expenditure, every remotely normal kid in the country could learn how to stop rumors in their tracks by reading the chapter on rumors in my free online manual. But no, we want the government to protect our children from rumors, so we pass laws that not only fail to solve the problem but escalate it.

The parents of the girl claim that the school “did nothing” about the bullying. You will see the very same claim made by every parent that files a school bullying lawsuit. This claim is based on the unfair and completely unfounded accusation by the founder of the bullying psychology, Prof. Dan Olweus, that bullying goes on in schools because they do nothing to make it stop. But because his words are considered gospel truth, everyone believes this nonsense. The schools, of course, deny that they “did nothing.” And they are right. They did intervene to make the bullying stop. As did virtually all the other schools that are defendants in bullying lawsuits. Because when they intervene to stop the bullying, the reverse almost always happens-hostilities escalate. Anti-bullying laws are what political scientists call “unenforceable laws.” Like Prohibition, the harder we try to comply with them, the worse the problem becomes.

And the reason is obvious. You don’t need a PhD in psychology to understand it. If I get the authorities involved against you because I don’t like the way you are treating me, are you going to admit your wrongdoing and accept punishment? Of course not. You will defend yourself and try to prove that I am to blame. You will hate me and want revenge because I got the authorities against you. You will turn all of your friends against me, too, and try your hardest to make me look like scum on Facebook. The more time that goes by till the investigation process is over, the further I will sink into depression. In fact, both of us, and our families as well, will become miserable. And if we go to court and get lawyers involved, the hatred and misery go up exponentially.

So if you want to maximize the suffering of school staff, students and their parents while wasting our precious money, continue lobbying for tougher anti-bullying laws. When the schools have no money left for education, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

The article above was written by Dr. Izzy Kalman in Psychology Today. website:

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