Saybrook University

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2000 year old wisdom wins again: Tai Chi for seniors is great elder-care

03/17/2011

399px-Elderly_Shanghai_woman_practices_tai_chi Tai Chi has finally caught on in the field of geriatric care and research – and this is great news for the estimated 2 million people over the age of 65 who suffer from depression.  

Tai chi chin is a westernized version of the Tai chi chuan, which is an internal Chinese martial art that has been practiced for centuries. Tai chi chin is a series of 19 moves with one pose that focuses on developing and balancing internal energy – chi. It is believed that this practice increases overall well-being, physical energy and stamina.

Recently Tai chi chin has received tentative acceptance as being beneficial for overall psychological health. A review published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that Tai Chi is effective at reducing stress, anxiety, depression and increasing self-esteem.

But the impact on seniors was particularly noteworthy … and important during a time when we face a crisis of affordable humane and empowering nursing home care.

Two studies published in 2009 found that Tai chi chin reduced osteoarthritis pain. Tai chi chin incorporates a range of motions that increases muscle conditioning and flexibility. Increasing physical strength and flexibility helped to improve overall movement and reduced pain in 20 of the participants of this study.

The practice that builds strength also aids in improving balance. The Oregon Department of Human Services incorporated Tai chi chin programs in an effort to promote physical activity as a way to prevent injuring and sometimes life threatening falls in older adults. All of the adult community centers that provided Tai chi chin to their residents saw a significant reduction in falls and an increase in physical independence.

Another study published in 2007 showed that practicing Tai chi chin boosted the immune systems of older adults.

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Having meaningful work matters to your mental health: here's how you get it

03/16/2011

Cubicle_land A recent study showed that having a job you hate is one of the worst things you can do to your mental health – so bad that being unemployed is actually better for your psyche. 

Having work that you find meaningful, on the other hand, makes a great difference. 

How can we find work that is meaningful? Or perhaps another question would be:  how do we make our work more meaningful?

The answer to both of these questions is dependent a couple things and researchers have long been looking at what makes work meaningful.

Brent D. Rosso, University of Michigan, Kathryn H. Dekas from Google Inc. and Amy Wrzesniewski of Yale University reviewed literature on meaning in work and found seven mechanisms that make this happen.

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We are the first people in history to watch disaster footage on-demand. What impact does that have?

03/15/2011

Earthquake aftermath We’re witnessing another devastating natural disaster. We’ve been through this at lot recently, New Zealand, Haiti, now Japan … one of the things they have in common, aside from human suffering, is our inability as bystanders to turn away. 

There are endless news stories about the devastation, loss and pain that millions are experiencing right now.  There are 20,800 YouTube videos of Japanese buildings falling down; a Google image search produced millions of images of the devastation including any and all news related to the event.

While people have always be aware of the dangers in the world, the hyper connectivity and broadcasting of disasters such as these can make us feel even more vulnerable. What is the impact of being a witness, even a distant witness, on our own psyche, on our desire to help?

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Subliminal advertising has gotten more powerful: it's time for the FCC to keep up

03/14/2011

Apple_Inc._Mosaic Turns out, you are choosing things based on subliminal messages.

The way you vote, the food you buy, the brands you dig—they are all being deeply affected by subliminal advertising. It’s totally legal – and totally unethical.

In recent years, an abundance of literature has surfaced proving that subliminal messaging can indeed affect our thoughts and behaviors—even without conscious awareness. As consumers, we all have an invested interest in understanding the research – how it’s being used against us – and what we can do to uphold our rights.

Here’s a peak at the research:

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Hospice care is better care -- by any measure

03/11/2011

WoodsideHospice Palliative care has proven more cost effective and more care-oriented for seriously ill Medicaid patients.

The Wall Street Journal reports that palliative care saves Medicaid an average of 6,900 per seriously ill patient; research proves that that care is better for mood, affect, and survival. More, research is proving that humanistic methods of care are the source of success;  humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is being used as the foundation patient care and treatment.

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study on palliative care looks at 151 patients with Metastatic Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, and early palliative care intervention. The patients chosen for the study were randomly assigned to one of two groups; palliative care with standard oncologic care or standard oncologic care alone. At the twelve week mark, the quality of life and mood were assessed in the study participants through a variety of scales and instruments. Based on the data, researchers concluded that quality of life, mood, and affect were significantly greater among patients receiving palliative and standard oncologic care concurrently.

Complimenting this, researchers Zalenski and Raspa from the Department of Emergency Medicine and Palliative Care in Michigan, found statistically significantly results for palliative and hospice care environments when implementing the motivation and needs theories of Abraham Maslow. Researchers clearly adapted the five levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to palliative care environments – including:

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International Women's Day has come and gone - what do we know about women around the world?

03/10/2011

Elizabeth_Cady_Stanton_and_Susan_B_Anthony March 8th marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and March is Women’s history month here in the United States.

What better time to briefly look at the life of a woman.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 1000 women die every day due to complications in childbirth, 13% of women world wide die of HIV/AIDS related conditions and suicide is the fifth leading cause of death for women aged 20 – 44 years. They estimate 73 million women suffer from mild to severe depression.

Of these women 86% of them that live low income countries do not have access to mental health services.

These are numbers we do know. There are most likely countless numbers of women who go unseen and unheard that are not included in this data.

Before we send armies of therapists all over the world, there is one thing to consider, that mental health is intrinsically tied to physical health. Systemic responses to the social, cultural and economic crises of women will ease they psychological and spiritual suffering of women.

The WHO recommended the following actions that can be taken to help women around the world no matter their socioeconomic status.

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Studies suggest it is possible to rehabilitate sex offenders - by acknowledging their humanity

03/09/2011

It’s been a big week for sex abuse scandals:  the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has suspended 21 priests – the largest mass suspension in church history – as a result of accusations involving inappropriate contact with minors. 

Meanwhile victims groups have begun to say publicly that the Catholic Church should monitor accused priests the way the police track convicted sex offenders ... and create special housing for them. 

Sexual violence is never permissible, yet lost in the discussion of these horrifying crimes is the question of rehabilitation.  For the most part, the public assumption is that once a sex offender always a sex offender:  rehabilitation is not possible.

It’s an understandable assumption –  rehabilitation requires taking an offender seriously as a person:  how can we do this with sex offenders, especially child abusers?  How can we reach out to them to address their humanity, and human needs? 

But there are horrifying consequences if this assumption is wrong.  If sex offenders can be rehabilitated, then failure to do so not only is cruel to the offender, it puts more people at risk precisely because sex offenders remain untreated.    

In fact, it is humanistic and existential therapy that has proven most effective in rehabilitating adult sex offenders – and it achieves this success precisely by relating to offenders as human beings. 

In preliminary research (PDF) humanistic and existential psychology, utilized in the group therapy context, has proven successful in rehabilitating sex offenders.

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When insurance companies will only pay for pills, mental health practicioners have to swallow hard

03/08/2011

Assorted pharmaceuticals by LadyofProcrastination Talk therapy doesn’t pay ... or at least pay the bills ... for psychiatrists.

According to the New York Times, many psychiatrists who know perfectly well that talk therapy is a better option for their patients are under the financial gun because insurance companies won’t pay for them to develop a relationship with the people they’re supposed to heal.  The result is psychiatrists who treat hundreds of patients in 15 minute intervals, adjusting doses for people they don’t really know at all.  

The story follows Dr. Donald Levin, a psychiatrist who has been in private practice for nearly 40 years, as he deals with the personal and professional struggle to provide care for his patients. He and his colleagues confront a number of issues:

The over reliance on pharmaceuticals

The need for therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists to be affordable to people of all incomes

The relationship between therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists and the insurance industry

All three of these issues have brought Dr. Levin and other psychiatrists to a place of having to choose between a long held tradition of talk therapy and the all mighty dollar. Generally they choose to follow the insurance companies’ lead.

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The American Psychological Association's new guidelines are a step forward for gay rights

03/07/2011

Rainbowflag Last month, the American Psychological Association (APA) approved the release of the publication, Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients. It’s an essential publication, for psychologists and laymen a like, in order to empathically relate and ethically care for all people with equality—and according to their needs. 

The guidelines were written with an emphasis on what was declared by the APA’s 1975 resolution stating, “Homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities.” Since that time, the APA has been a staunch supporter of the “mentally healthy” aspects of same-sex attraction. In sum, the guidelines speak to the rationale and application of twenty one specific guiding principles for psychological practice with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients.  

Chances are you or someone in your family is in a committed same-sex relationship. And--likely, they want equality and proper care. The recent census reports 1.2 million gay couples living together in the United States; roughly between 3-5 percent of the total population reporting an LGBTQQI orientation. (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning and Intersex)

It recent years, academia, professional organizations and social service agencies have caught on. Rightfully so: Discrimination based on ethnicity or gender is a no-no — sexual orientation is no different. Psychology, specifically psychotherapeutic practice, has made huge growth. These new guidelines are part of that progress.

Highlights include:

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Reports from the UN Commission on the Status of Women

03/06/2011

What do the uprisings in the Middle East mean for the women who live there? UN Commission on the Status of Women

Do women have equal access to social networking technology? 

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