The Saybrook Forum



The Human Rights/Humanistic Psychology connection


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


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

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

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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Alumni Messenger

Alumnus Kirk Schneider, PhD '84 Announces New Post on His Psychology Today Blog

I thought you might want to see the recent posting on my new blog at Psychology Today - "Toward a Humanistic Positive Psychology." It's definitely food for thought for the Saybrook community. Warm regards, Kirk

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Deck the halls with Anxiety, Pain, and Loss


Credit_card_terminal Tis the season! Eating…buying….decorating! The cycle seems endless. First there was Halloween candy, then tom the turkey, and now the little man in the red suit.

The holidays in America represent capitalism in all its grandeur.

Most shopping connoisseurs and major retailers agree that the holiday shopping season officially begins with the day after Thanksgiving; notoriously called Black Friday. This year, Time Magazine, published several articles regarding the topic calling the binge of shopping “a carnival of capitalism.”

The National Retail Federation estimates that the average person spent $365.00 dollars during the Thanksgiving weekend. The scary part? It’s up six-percent from last year.

With all the busyness of the holidays, the anxiety, pain and loss that the season brings is easily overlooked and unacknowledged. For many, the holidays represent a time to spend with loved ones. But for others, memories linger of days past when loved ones were living. Often, this pain is only exacerbated by the expectations of the season of gift giving, cookie making and party-going; resulting in phone calls from the consumer credit companies.

With all the hecticness of the season, and its demands that you BE HAPPY, what can someone in anxiety and pain do?

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The Psychology of Survival: what happened after AIDS


AIDS test Prior to the advent of the antiretroviral (AVR) medications, gay men who were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS were confronting almost certain death. Now, with relatively easy availability of AVR medication, they confront a life that will be devoted dealing with a chronic illness and any potential lingering medical and emotional complications. Many experience shame, grief, isolation brought on by stigma or self isolation because they have chosen not to disclose.

They have survived not just an individual illness, but a community-wide epidemic that killed friends, lovers, neighbors and even members of your family. The impact of AIDS, both in succumbing to it and surviving it, can be every bit as great on the psyche as on the body. 

Silvio Machado, a PhD student of Psychology at Saybrook University provides a vivid research based narrative on the existential dimensions of the lives of the men who have survived.  His article, “Existential Dimensions of Surviving HIV: The Experience of Gay Long-Term Survivors,” is published in in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 

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Carl Rogers' legacy of human dignity


Recently, Time Magazine compiled a list of the twenty-five most powerful and influenential women of the century. And, to no surprise, Mother Teresa ranks in at the top.

A Roman Catholic nun, known for her symbolic simple white garb with blue stripes, Mother Teresa brought the values of human dignity and intrinsic worth to one of the most impoverished places on earth, working with the sick and the dying.  Teresa, named at birth Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, undoubtedly revolutionized a world by her humble example and unselfish love to the dying, the sick, and abandoned in Calcutta, India.

As I read about Mother Teresa, I was reminded of another Nobel Peace Prize nominee, one who brought the values of human dignity and intrinsic worth to the psyche, bringing the idea of self-determination and presence into the both the therapists office and everyday life. 

Carl Rogers We are nearing what would have been the 108th birthday of Carl Rogers, and he deserves to be celebrated as much as Mother Teresa – and for many of the same reasons. 

Rogers, a true revolutionary and pioneer, looked at human nature through the lens of hope, promise, and positivism. Rogers was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (an award Mother Teresa won) in 1987 for his work in South Africa and Ireland in conflict resolution. His scholarly work, nearly as influential as that of Sigmund Freud, introduced the concept of research to the world of psychotherapy and brought the revolutionary person-centered approach to psychology, education, organizations and communities.

Roger’s believed in affirming a person’s basic worth; without judgment, doing so in the form of unconditional positive regard. Perhaps nothing describes Roger’s and his theoretical work more than his renowned book, Client-centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications and Theory. In this piece, Rogers describes the nineteen core tenets of his theory regarding the human person, their worth and the therapeutic environment.

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Prescription drug abuse is on the rise among teens. Why? Because they're prescribed so much more.


Hand o' drugs A legal high – there is a way to get one and most likely the teen in your life knows exactly how to do it and where to get their supply. Their doctor. 

A recent study states that the supply is increasing.

Young adults and adolescents are being prescribed more medications to deal with “ailments” like insomnia and anxiety that have been shown to be best managed with diet, exercise and lifestyle choices. But we all have the option of taking a pill instead of making these life changes ... at least that’s what the ads say.

As a result the types of prescriptions (also known as controlled medications) that are most commonly abused by teens include stimulants, opioid, sleeping aids, and sedative or anxiety medications. All of these are available via a doctor’s prescription for pain, insomnia and anxiety.

A study published in the November 2010 issue of Pediatrics found that between 1994 and 2007 the rates for prescriptions of controlled medication doubled from 8.3 to 16.1 percent for teens 15 - 19 years old, and from 6.4 to 11.2 percent for young adults 20-29 years old. The increase was across the board and not influenced by age or gender. Prescriptions were available at multiple medical setting, emergency rooms, ambulatory office and for physical or non-physical (psychological) visits.

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The psychological impact of suburban poverty could be big


Suburban home When we think of suburban areas of the United States, we think of white picket fences, generous green lawns and kids playing hopscotch. The suburbs aren’t always the richest areas of the country, but they’re the most elite:  inhabited by the people who rose above traditional neighborhoods and landed in communities of choice.

It’s an outdated notion, if it was ever true.  During the Great Recession things are quite different for many suburban families. “Suburban Poverty” is now a phenomenon commented upon in newspapers and magazines.  Food and clothing shelters have come to suburbs that never had them before, and existing ones serving suburban areas have seen exponential growth in places like the suburbs of Cleveland, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, and Atlanta. 

In some ways, Suburban poverty is very different from what we still think of as “regular” poverty:  most suburbs aren’t walkable and don’t have effective public transportation, meaning the suburban poor must still have cars.  The schools are often more genteel.  But in other ways “suburban poverty” is just “poverty” with an adjective. 

The question no one has the answer to:  will suburban poverty have the same psychological impact on children and adults that urban poverty does? 

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