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University

Is "pay for performance" innovative? Aristotle says no.

12/15/2010

Plato and Aristotle by Raphael The problem with being “innovative” is that somebody’s usually done it before. 

This winter the city of Quincy, Massachusetts, will be expanding a pilot program that introduces “pay for performance” to the companies it hires to plow city streets.  Instead of paying by the hours worked, the new approach pays them by the amount of snow they plow.  Seems simple, right?

It should be, but “pay for performance” initiatives tend to hit a political firestorm these days (which is why the way Quincy, Mass., plows snow is in the news at all). 

Attempts to re-imagine the way we compensate employees are almost automatically controversial:  large sections of the country think that “pay for performance” and “privatize” (another element of the Quincy plan) are ways to save money by squeezing workers and offering worse service … and they’re often right.  Indiana recently tried privatizing its Medicaid and welfare systems – and the results were so disastrous that even that state’s conservative Republican governor decided to go back to paying unionized government workers to handle caseloads. 

Privatization efforts in prisons have generally led to less safe prisons (for both inmates and employees) and so far the new emphasis on “pay for performance” for teachers … however boldly hyped … has been more likely to lead to scandals and fiasco than improved education. 

And yet … doesn’t it seem like the Quincy snow plowing plan is a good one?  How can you argue with it?

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University

The nicotine/depression connection

12/14/2010

No_smoking_symbol Have you heard friends or family members who smoke say they do it to calm their nerves or lift their mood when they are depressed? Or maybe you’ve even told yourself and others this is why you keep smoking.  It's generally understood:  smoking calms your nerves.

But a new research report found that this may exactly the wrong reason to keep smoking – the results show that when people quit smoking they were happier and less anxious. Even more interesting, when they resumed smoking, depression and anxiety set in even deeper than before. 

The research was published online November 24 in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research sponsored by Brown’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital, Keck School of Medicine at USC and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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University

Social change, from the library to the jail

12/13/2010

Liu_Xiaobo_Photo_on_Grand_Hotel How does a society transform?

Liu Xiaobo had a few ideas.

For the second time in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize, no one was there to receive the award.  The chair of winner Liu Xiaobo sat empty on Friday. Neither Liu nor his wife, Liu Xia, were allowed to travel to Norway to receive the honorary degree.

Liu Xiaobo is currently serving an eleven year jail sentence in a China for “subversion of state power.”

Who is Liu Xiaobo? What have his efforts shown us about what it takes for a society to change?

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University

Why the era of anti-depressants is ending

12/10/2010

800px-Prozac_pills The numbers are startling. More Americans than ever are receiving treatment for depression. The clincher? Psychotherapy is declining and the use of anti-depressant medications is increasing – steadily.

Consumers had better beware.

In 1998, 54% of patients being treated for depression received psychotherapy. Nine years later, in 2007, only 43% of people with depression received psychotherapy.

The problem? Anti-depressant medication alone is not effective at treating most depression in the long-term; and many medications have crippling side effects.

So why is an ineffective treatment more popular than ever?  Because anti-depressant medications are covered by most insurance carriers. Psychotherapy, on the other hand, maybe effective, but getting it paid for is like playing Russian roulette with your insurance carrier.

The result is that more money is being spent to put more people through a less effective treatment to an increasingly common problem.  In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, anti-depressants are the number one most commonly prescribed drugs by physicians in the United States. If only they did what they’re supposed to.

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University

The connection between hope and rehabilitation

12/09/2010

“Hope is important because it can make the present momentPrisoner behind bars less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today." -- Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Having hope can be the one thing that will help prevent a criminal from ending up back in prison.

It seems simple but it is an idea that has yet to catch on in the field of criminology. A research report published in the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, “Is Hope Related to Criminal Behaviour in Offenders?” looked at the relationship between an inmate’s level of hope and criminal behavior. They found that inmates who had higher levels of hope were less likely to reoffend.

This research shows that more can be done for former inmates in order to help them succeed.

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University

Kids in violent environments find a path to non-violence more often than we give them credit for

12/08/2010

Actors portraying killers When kids grow up in neighborhoods that terrify adults, they learn to survive fast. 

In one study, 76 percent of youth living in urban areas were exposed to some form of community violence including fighting, the use of weapons, and gun violence that led to murders. 

When violence is a moment-to-moment experience, when it always seems to be happening just around the corner, it’s easy to assume that the kids are part of it, that they’re stuck in it, and that only a few of them will ever escape it. 

It’s easy, but it’s wrong. 

A recent study shows us why. Teens growing up in these neighborhoods have developed their own way of coping to survive -- to survive not just to the end of the day but into a brilliant future.

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University

The Human Rights/Humanistic Psychology connection

12/07/2010

Friday, December 10th is international Human Rights Day. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, it has been promoting the cause of human rights for 61 years, and it seems there has been just as much progress as there have been struggles and failures. There are still many individuals, organizations, and governments who are hard at work dismantling the social, cultural and political systems that abuse the rights of millions of people all over the world.

The vision and mission that is the foundation of humanistic psychology embraces fulfilling human potential, and in order to do this we must recognize to connection between human potential and human rights. Yes – historically humanistic psychology has been focused in individuals, but the good news is that over time the field has moved from focusing on self actualization and growth to recognizing that the individuals well being is connected to the well being of their community.

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University

Psychiatry and clinical psychology have failed. Here's how we do better.

12/06/2010

DSM 4 This has been a bad week for mental illness.

According to the New York Times, five of the current ten “personality disorders” will not be included in the next publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  The most controversial to be cut is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” – the “Malady of Me” disease!

So if you’re suffering from those conditions, don’t worry – in 2013 they’ll cease to exist. 

In the meantime millions of people have been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the other personality disorders that will soon become extinct. They have been medicated, treated in psychiatric hospitals, received psychotherapy and have permanent records stating their psychiatric diagnosis. They have been stigmatized, charged money in the form of co-payments and out of pocket medical expenses, and experienced deep personal pain and shame – only to find that their diagnosis was a “pseudo-diagnosis” and no longer exists.

Truly, this is malpractice and professional negligence.  Even worse:  there is no known cause of any of the ten personality disorders, and never has been.  The gurus at the American Psychiatric Association hypothesize that the personality disorders come from a mix of genetic and environmental factors – but it’s hard not to be be incredulous when five of ten personality disorders are vanishing.

It’s not just personality disorders, either:  another New York Times article last week points out that the cost of residential eating disorder programs can run $30,000 dollars a month – with many patients needing three or more months of treatment. The kicker:  most insurance companies will not cover long term treatment because the inadequate empirical evidence of effective treatment remedies is inadequate. 

We don’t know how to fix an eating disorder, but we’re going to charge you $30,000 a month for trying.  We claim to understand personality disorders, but there could be five, or 10, or none:  the evidence is unclear. 

It’s time to call it like it is:  mainstream psychiatry and clinical psychology are failing. 

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Alumni Messenger

Postdoctoral Research Scholarships Available at International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

12/03/2010
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international research organization that conducts policy-oriented research into problems that are too large or too complex to be solved by a single country or academic discipline: * problems like climate change that have a global reach and can be resolved only by international cooperative action, or * problems of common concern...

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Alumni Messenger

Seoul Christian University has Openings for Doctoral Students to Teach Theology, Pastoral Counseling, and More

12/03/2010
Seoul Christian University currently has openings for doctoral students to teach one or two semesters in the following areas: Old Testament New Testament Systematic Theology Christian Education Practical Theology Pastoral Counseling Spirituality This is a tremendous opportunity for doctoral students to experience Korea and earn teaching experience at a prestigious institution with over 60...

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