Archives For: November 2010

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It’s an outdated notion, if it was ever true.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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Thanksgiving Gratitude 365 days a year


Obama_ThanksGiving_Turkey_Pardon_2009 This is a time of year when the word “gratitude” receives a lot of press, but if we’re honest about the way most of us spend the holiday, Thanksgiving is really all about the turkey, retail sales, and getting together with the family we hardly ever see. 

We’re selling gratitude short.  It’s not just a “feel good” measure – expressing gratitude actually does make you feel better.  It can also help you be healthier and live longer.  This Thanksgiving let’s walk through the scientific research and spiritual traditions that highlight gratitude’s importance.

Social scientists and psychologists have conducted research that supports the practice of gratitude. Robert Emmons has made it his professional life path to study the effects of living in gratitude. After interviewing over 1000 people who took part in the study by completing daily gratitude journals and by incorporating daily gratitude practices, Emmons found that there were overwhelming benefits for living in gratitude.

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Sanitation counts


Decorative_toilet_seat Be honest:  did YOU celebrate World Toilet Day on Nov. 19? 

This may be something that is off your radar, but there are billions of people without safe and clean toilets. Toilets are a bit of a taboo and ewwwww subject ... but this is a serious and dangerous issue that is linked to millions of deaths every year.  Worlwide Diarrhea is the second biggest killer of children under the age of five:  providing children access to sanitary, safe, facilities reduces such deaths by 40 percent. 

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High school's Faustian bargain: academic success can lead to lonliness


Girl reading Many youth make it through high school with a shelf full of trophies and awards. There’s not much that would make the average parent more proud of their child than to see their names listed on the honor roll at school or to be valedictorian.

For some youth - especially some minorities - being a shiny success in academics leads to many lonely days.

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Education doesn't start with teachers


Classroom_Urumqi_No_1_high_School It seems every week now, local school districts and state and federal governments are announcing cuts on educational budgets with the ultimate impact on our children and their greatest resource; their minds.

Some people think they have better ideas.  Bill Gates, founder and former chairman of Microsoft Corporation, has been one of the most outspoken critics on educational reform in the wake of budget cuts. In the wake of stimulus money running out in school district, Gates has urged school budget officials to compensate based on teacher excellence; not on seniority or education. And, more importantly, to reward teachers based on their ability to control classrooms, educate troubled children, and include families in the process of educating their youngsters.

This agenda for schools assumes, however, that teachers can control the most significant variables impacting a child’s performance in school.  Is this really the case? 

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The search for meaning is NOT a mental illness!


Something is wrong in the world of psychiatry. DSM 4

It’s not just that the new edition of the medical profession’s Bible, the DSM 5, was originally due to be released in 2012, but has now been delayed to 2013. 

It’s that the whole reason a new DSM is deemed necessary is that we’ve made recent advances in neuroscience, molecular biology, and brain imagining.  You CAN’T have a diagnostic manual that doesn’t represent brain imaging! 

The trouble with this rational is:  there is not a single biological test that will be included in the diagnostic criteria sets of the DSM-V. So we need a manual about mental illness that includes our knowledge of biology and neuroscience, but we’re not actually going to include these things in the final result.

It seems the methodology of the psychiatric Bible is not as seamless as its proponents would like us to believe.

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Do parents know that antibiotics for kids sometimes do more harm than good?


The last thing parents want to see is their child in pain – and the pain and discomfort of an ear infection is a time of sadness, sleeplessness nights and worry for everyone.  But it is possible to make a bad thing worse. 

Most of the time, the parents’ immediate response is to see a physician who will then make the make their own “immediate” decision for treatment – usually antibiotics.  For many years the first line of treatment for ear infections in children has been a full regimen of pills for 7-14 days. Children usually get better, but at what cost?  

A recent research study published in the November 17th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) explores the cost/benefit of using this traditional treatment method, and what the researchers found reinforced previous studies on antibiotic use for treating ear infections:  don’t do it.

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Your energy drink is not a revolution


569px-TNT_LIquid_Dynamite Red Bull…Energy Star…Starbucks Shots…o yes and in a bind--don’t forget Five Hour Energy. Welcome to American Society. Do more, with less and do it better! It seems plausible that in the near future, some pharmaceutical company or corporation will find a way to give caffeine by IV ... FDA approved, of course!

There’s one hitch:  recently the food gurus in the Food and Drug Administration are clipping the wings of energy drinks that combine alcohol and caffeine.  This is none too soon.

While promoted for their beneficial aspects, many such energy drinks are said to cause severe health concerns, including sudden death (yikes!), unexpected illness, and conditions that mirror heart attacks. Medical officials have spoken out about the dangerous effects of the drink saying that the caffeine masks the effects of the alcohol, keeping the consumer from adequately gauging their blood alcohol level while providing increased energy to continue alcohol consumption. Additionally, no studies have yet adequately measured what amounts of these drinks should be considered safe or dangerous.

The New York Times suggests that after a year of study the FDA is likely to decide the fate of such energy/alcohol drinks in the coming week, perhaps as early as Wednesday. If the FDA finds the drinks are dangerous, expect a challenge.  The most popular alcoholic energy drink, Four Loko, has reported sales of over $144 million each year. 

Is this really all about energy and focused attention, or is it about mood enhancement? 

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Guided imaging comes out of the wilderness


Alaska_locator Complementary medicine has taken some big steps in America’s biggest state. 

A program of guided imagery for those who have undergone cancer treatments will be utilized at Alaska Regional Hospital – and the State of Alaska’s insurance carrier, Wells Fargo Alaska Care, will pay for state employees and retirees to go through it. 

The Commissioner of Administration for Alaska, Annette Kreitzer, has also asked Lyn Freeman, the Saybrook alumna who created and runs the guided imagery program, to develop similar mind-body based programs for state employees and retirees with hypertension, diabetes, and stress. 

Much to Freeman’s surprise it’s being most embraced by oncologists, who have reputations as the most by-the-book, no nonsense doctors there are.

“I’d been expecting resistance,” says Freeman. “But in fact most oncologists I talked to said ‘it’s about time.’”

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Tweet 911!!!


Fire emergency vehicle Sometimes the hardest part of an emergency is knowing where to turn. When something goes wrong, what do you do? Calling “911” is an option that most of us know by rote, and it’s a great choice – help is often just a phone call away.

But the 911 system, like most of our Emergency Management (EM) systems, was designed for the analog age, and according to a recent article in governing magazine, emergency services organizations around the country are asking if the social networking tools of the digital age might set the next standard for emergency communication in the 21st century.

According to the article:

It's been almost a decade since 9/11, but our multi-billion-dollar efforts to improve public safety departments' communication have yielded very few results. In fact, during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina relief work, some emergency personnel had to resort to communicating by running handwritten notes back and forth. While the feds continue to try and figure out a way to utilize public safety radio for emergencies, some states and localities have come up with solutions of their own.

Saybrook Organizational Systems alumnus David Williams, PhD is a leading consultant to emergency service organizations and health care systems around the globe. He was also responsible for publishing the leading comparative data survey of the nation’s largest EMS services, and helped design and develop the national EMS conference for operational leaders.

From this vantage point, Williams says that what’s most noticeable about social media and is not that it’s replacing traditional forms of EMS service …. you still want to call 911 … but how effectively it’s doing what social media is supposed to do:  better connecting one group of people, like emergency service providers, with the people they want to stay in touch with ... the public and their patients.

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Saybrook introduces certificate program in Existential-Humanistic therapy


Saybrook University was founded on the premise that the human element is crucial to human Saybrook logo interactions ... like therapy.  The therapeutic encounter is at its best when the therapist and patient have a strong and vital connection, and weakest when it reduces the patient's humanity to a check-list of symptoms. 

Mainstream therapy may finally be catching up.  In a review for the APA of Saybrook alumnus and faculty member Kirk Schneider's recent book Existential-Integrative Therapy, leading researcher Bruce Wampold noted that:  

“an understanding of the principles of existential therapy is needed by all therapists, as it adds a perspective that might …form the basis for all effective treatments” (PsycCritiques, February 6, 2008, p.6).

Wampold’s findings along with others place E-H therapy squarely at the center of psychological theory and practice. Now Saybrook, long the leader in humanistic graduate programs, is partnering with the Existential Humanistic Institute, EHI, to offer a new and unprecedented certificate program in existential-humanistic therapy. 

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LIOS alumna directs documentary on gender roles in suburbia


Local film award Put This On The (Map) is a new documentary training film that features 26 young people from East King County re-teaching traditional notions of gender and sexuality. The film was co-produced/directed by Megan Kennedy (LIOS 2004) and Sid Jordan Peterson (University of Victoria - 2004). Kennedy is the Outreach Supervisor at Youth Eastside Services where she provides individual and group counseling for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning youth. Peterson was the Director of the Kirkland Teen Union Building in 2008, when Kennedy and Peterson embarked collaboratively on their mission to create a local community where all people have the opportunity of success regardless of their sexuality and gender.

Put This On The (Map) documents young people who challenge their suburban community to do more than sweep their existence under the rug. Fed up with a lack of queer visibility, youth provide an honest evaluation of their schools and families. Professing expertise over their own lives - from getting beat-up in a schoolyard to being picked up as a runaway - we learn that queer youth in the suburbs exercise courage daily.

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WARNING: daydreaming may be hazardous to your (mental) health


Uel_de_Cervantes_-_Don_Quixote_-_Part_1_-_Chapter_1_-_Plate_1_%22A_world_of_disorderly_notions%2C_picked_out_of_his_books%2C_crowded_into_his_imagination%22 Do you suddenly find yourself thinking about that argument you had last night or dreaming about leaving your job to live in Belize?

We think of daydreaming as a pleasant pastime, but research suggests that letting your mind wander may actually be a downer.  According to Harvard researchers Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, bringing your mind back to the present moment will make you happier. 

Killingsworth and Gilbert’s research method was novel:  they reached out to participants via a digital application that was accessible online at and an Iphone app, getting about 5,000 research subjects involved. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 88 years and represented diverse income and occupational backgrounds. About 70 percent of the participants were Americans.

The project was simple but revealing. At random times during the day the app would chime in and ask three questions:

  • How do you feel right now? Participants could then respond on a scale ranging from very bad to very good.
  • What are you doing? Participants could select from a list of 22 different activities, such as exercising, making love, sleeping etc.
  • Are you thinking about something other than what you are doing at the moment? They could answer either no or yes and if what they were thinking about was pleasant, neutral or unpleasant.

Overall 46.9 percent respondents reported they were basically daydreaming! 

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Sometimes the annoying hipster parents are right


Baby in sling White picket fences….suburban windy roads…..and two Pamper smelling Gerber babies;  add two parents and you have a family of four. Mom stays at home, practices attachment parenting and Dad leaves at eight each morning in his suit and returns promptly at five. Welcome to the modern idealized family:  a figment of the imagination.

An estimated six-percent of families in the United States come from two parent single income households.  Yet this is held as the gold standard for raising healthy, competent, and successful children. If, God forbid, a child struggles during his teenage years, poor mom’s “choice” to work is blamed.

A recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted the illusions inherent in the idealized version of the modern family. Poignantly coining the term Motherphillia, the article speaks to the delusion of motherhood and family life displayed on television, in the tabloids, and in society’s psyche. For all we think family life should be like a 21st century version of Ozzie and Harriet, the demands on mothers and fathers only seem to be growing, with the latest hip expectations of cloth diapers, homemade baby foods, and – the newest fad – attachment parenting.

Actually, though, that last one may not be so bad.  Attachment parenting is new, but its roots go deep into efective, and humanistic, approaches to parenting.    

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Save the date - and join us for President Schulamn's inauguration


Saybrook logo Saybrook University’s 40th anniversary year will officially begin with the inauguration of Saybrook President Mark Schulman on Friday, January 14, 2011.

All members of the Saybrook community are invited, and will receive an electronic invitation with additional information later this monthThe ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. at the Bentley Reserve (and be followed by an inaugural luncheon from noon to 1:30. 

An academic colloquium with faculty presenters from the Saybrook University Colleges will take place after the luncheon and focus on humanistic values in higher education.

Bus transportation will be provided from the San Francisco Airport Westin Hotel to and from the Bently for the festivities.

In addition to the San Francisco event, other 40th anniversary inaugural events are being planned at Saybrook's other locations. Current planning envisages:

  • An event in Seattle with LIOS Graduate College.
  • An event in Washington, DC in conjunction with The Center for Mind-Body Medicine for the Graduate College of Mind-Body Medicine..

 For more information, contact Ann Luckiesh, or Sigrid Badinelli,


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Global summits don't have to be so useless


G20 summit The leaders of nineteen of the world’s most powerful nations are meeting this week in North Korea at the G-20 summit. They’re negotiating about international financial stability, trade, currency, and shared responsibilities.

With the worst economic situation in decades tensions are high and risks are enormous, and the United States comes to the table after making new regulatory moves that have many nations concerned.

In the midst of international and domestic upheaval, great changes are undeniably warranted. The scary part is:  summits like this are notorious for not accomplishing much. This morning, Time, released a report entitled “Pessimism pervades at the G-20 summit.” Scary, right? At a time like this, as a nation and a world we cannot afford “cat fights” between our most powerful leaders.

We should be able to do better, and there are ways we can – if we can admit that the old approaches to international cooperation are often ineffective and commit to a new approach. 

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There's a right way, and a lot of wrong ways, to heal a veteran


Veteran November 11th 2010 is Veteran’s Day in the United States – but despite the call to honor our soldiers, most people will be talking about recession and the recent elections. 

Whether we talk about them or not, however, there are still many men and women who are overseas, entrenched in one of the most life altering events that we humans can put ourselves through – war. Life altering may be a slightly pacifying way to say traumatizing, and the experience in being in a war forever shapes an individual, their families and their futures.

While we’ve mostly put the troops in the field out of our minds, there have been more stories recently about returning troops: stories that reflect the potential struggles that loved ones, children, schools, businesses and entire communities must deal with when a soldier comes home. Today we as a nation seem far more conscious oandr aware of the psychological and social aftermath of combat. Their trauma is set to echo for generations as it did for the families and children of the previous U.S. wars.

Stories about soldiers who have committed suicide have been getting far more attention than they ever did in previous wars.

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Meditate - for life!


Abbot_of_Watkungtaphao_in_Tat_Hong_Waterfall We know that meditating can improve your quality of life;  what we didn’t know is that it can also help you live longer. 

Researchers at the University of California, Davis and the University of California San Francisco have found a link between meditation practice and the long-term health – and the results are positive. The study “Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators” was published in the November 2010 issue of Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and an individuals’ ability to cope with stress. In the practice of meditation, we can gain greater insight into ourselves. We can see our anger, stress and pain alongside our joy and happiness. Thich Nhat Hanh (Thây) speaks about the practice of meditation as being a pathway to becoming more aware of who we are and who we are in relation to others and the world around us.Knowing who we are can lead us to understanding the presence of stress, anger and pain in our lives…and we can begin to move through it all with greater ease as the meditation practice continues. This leads back to the research.

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We can't drug our way to a healthy America


Pharmacy How badly does the U.S. need to revamp its health care system?  This badly:  according to a recent report by the Commonwealth Fund, the United States was second to last in providing health care for its communities.

The rising numbers in obesity, heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes also make the case.

The report titled Mirror, Mirror On the Wall: How the Performance of the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally compared the health care systems of the United States and six other countries – Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the U.K.

The rating system looked at five key areas of care, Quality, Access, Efficiency, Equity, Healthy lives. The U.S. health system ranked last in all but one area of the report; that was in the area of Quality. We were only slightly above Canada in this area.

The U.S. certainly spends money on health care:  but spending may not be the answer.

A research study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that spending on prescription drugs does not always lead to better health.

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Has environmentalism reached The Tipping Point?


Usstamp-save-our Environmentalists:  stand up and take a bow.  The surest sign that a green revolution is catching on is that, love it or hate it, everybody knows what a “carbon footprint” is. 

But now that a green revolution has started, what does it take for it to come to fruition?

Some excellent suggestions have been made for ways to help businesses adjust to environmental programs;  to use local action as a springboard for global change;  to green our supply chains;  and how to talk about sustainability to non-environmentalists.  New models of leadership have been proposed.  These are practical and helpful:  but so far, we’re all still “raising awareness,” not changing society’s paradigm.  How do we take the green revolution from making people aware of their carbon footprint to getting them to take it as seriously as they do their gas mileage?

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Is depression really chemical? Your mind may vary


SSRI Are you going crazy?  Chances are there’s an expert who says “Yes!”

Statistically the odds are staggering: In the United States today, one in every five Americans is affected by mental illness. It is estimated that nearly half of the American population will be diagnosed with some psychiatric disorder in the course of their lifetime. According to the World Health Organization, mental illness is the second leading disease that affects people in working market economies around the world.

We are, without a doubt, the craziest culture in world history.  At least if you go by the psychiatrists.  With the increasing stress and pressures of the twenty-first century, the demands on our fragile human nature continue to increase. And so, the question becomes, as a society are we “mentally ill” or are we simply buckling under the pressures of everyday living?

The answer, according to psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical companies, is that half of us are suffering from chemical imbalances in the brain (that’s according to the classifications in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM-IV).  Thus, psychiatric medications – with their debilitating effects – attempt to “fix” the chemical imbalances that result in psychiatric conditions. 

Interesting, right? Plausible, not so much.

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Wisdom and age go together


It turns out we have something to look forward to:  life does get better as we age. Old_Mennonite_Couple_Pennsylvania_1942

This is something that qualitative study has taught many people.  Here’s a wonderful quote from a Facebook post by Psychologist Irving D. Yalom, (Yes, he has a Facebook page, you’re never too old to have one)

“On being seventy-nine. We dread the limitations and losses of old age. But an encouraging word about the positive aspects of aging: this may sound odd but the last decade has been the best one of my life. Gone are many of the anxieties of my earlier days and I’ve been able to bask in the sheer pleasure of being alive in the company of those I love.”


This lovely sentiment is now backed up by recent research. 

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Peanut allergies and ego boundaries - what research says parents can give their kids without even knowing it


Peanuts What do parents pass on to their children?  Maybe peanut allergies – maybe more. 

Peanut allergies in children have tripled over the last three years – some three million Americans are now said to have this allergy, which was unheard of 50 years ago.  Millions more children and adults are said to have egg and milk allergies.  If these trends continue, such allergies will be a widespread epidemic. 

Right now the best explanations, emerging from research at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, suggest a potential link involving a mother’s eating habits and the development of food sensitivities beginning in pre-natal development.  The research is proving how a pregnant woman’s eating habits can affect an unborn child’s antibodies and immune system response. It’s possible that a mother can transmit an allergy she doesn’t have to her children. 

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Existentialism and voting go together like freedom and responsibility


Yes, it's another election day.

Are you planning on voting? Maybe, maybe not? Feeling like it won't matter?

Well, you're probably not alone. The polls and pundits believe that voter turnout is going to be low today.  The diagnosis will be apathy.

130 million people turned out to vote in 2008, estimated to be 64% of the electorate. That's pretty good. This year these numbers are expected to drop.

Do potential voters really just not care or is there more to this?

Apathy is a lack of interest or concern, so voter apathy is a lack of interest or concern for voting…but is it that simple?

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Sixty years of rallying to restore sanity


Just before election day comedians John Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallied the nation’s attention in Washington, D. C..  Their “Rally to Restore Sanity” brought over 200,000 people to the National Mall. The goal? To use humor and politics to rekindle enthusiasm, turn away from divisive politics, and engender a spirit of working together toward the common purpose of making the world a better place.

Restoring sanity, of course, is a cause psychologists can get behind – but in fact they’ve been ahead of the curve. Humanists, existentialists, and transpersonalists have been proactively leading the way for decades—unequivocally standing in favor of human potential.  

These days it’s not as flashy or well publicized as a rally on the national mall, but by taking a closer look at the theoretical tenants of psychologists such as James Bugental, Abraham Maslow, Rollo May, Carl Rogers, and Kirk Schneider, one can see the domino effect their work is having in the realms of business, politics and adolescent mental health.

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