Saybrook University


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


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


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


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


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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No education, no peace -- that's the way the world works


Tarakan_refugees_(090819) The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) released the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report on Monday that gives some discouraging news about the children that are living in our war torn nations.

In a press release issued March 1, 2011, UNESCO states that armed conflict is robbing 28 million children of education.

Living in a conflict area puts millions of children at risk of sexual violence, human rights abuses and targeted attacks on schools. These armed conflicts are not only destroying the educational infrastructure but the social structure that sustains the school and educational system. Teachers often flee the country during war time.

Violent conflicts reinforces inequities that are already rooted in a country, wars push those on the edges further out, depriving them of the needed basic resources and a tool to help them overcome disparities – and a resource that is almost always overlooked for refugees is education.

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Can we stop pretending the private sector is so efficient?


Ship of Fools Recently in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed capping the salary of school superintendants at $175,000.  That’s still a lot of money, and it would certainly help school districts save $100,000 here and there annually. 

But I’m confused:  why is it that, when private sector CEO’s are offered multi-million dollar incentive packages during the height of a recession, it’s considered essential business strategy because they need to attract top talent – but when school districts pay a fraction of that for quality superintendents, it’s considered waste and inefficiency?

We’ve all somehow gotten the idea in this country that government is wasteful while the private sector is efficient ... but then why is it that Goldman Sachs can justify offering its already wealthy employees billions in bonuses for 2010 alone, while teachers and hospital workers are told they can’t even organize for better working conditions?  Wouldn't teachers and hospital workers demanding bonuses be the height of efficiency?  Because, just like it's supposed to do for bankers, it would keep and retain the top talent? 

Why is Goldman’s extravagant spending a savvy, efficient, use of shareholder dollars, while the comparatively small amounts needed to better support government employees are considered a waste of taxpayer dollars? 

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Mindfullness training results in more ethical business decisions


Meditating Monks Recently the federal Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded about the 2008 economic collapse:  “there was a systemic breakdown in accountability and ethics.”

No kidding. 

It goes on:  “Unfortunately – as has been the case in past speculative booms and busts – we witnessed an erosion of standards of responsibility and ethics that exacerbated the financial crisis.”

This isn’t limited to the past, either:   lack of accountability and ethics is prevelent all over the business world. How do we encourage ethical decision making in business? If ethics courses in business school did the job, we wouldn’t have had a financial collapse in the first place.  Two researchers offer another solution.

Doctoral Student Nicole Ruedy and Maurice Schweitzer professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania have published a report called “In the Moment: The Effect of Mindfulness on Ethical Decision Making”, in the February issue of Journal of Business Ethics.

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The horrors of the past are very much a part of the present. Why are we ignoring them?


Most people think the Holocaust was a one-time, unthinkably tragic sequence of events that we would never let happen again.

Most people think that slavery ended decades ago – and was a horrendously barbaric practice that has no place in the modern world.

Most people are mistaken.

Our world continues to condone slavery and genocide.  They’re more clandestine, more under the radar, than their historical predecessors, but they’re very real and very 21st century. 

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Research shows: the secret to lasting love is gratitude


Love by Bohringer Friedrich We all want a relationship that works – but most of us, if we’re honest, admit we only have a limited idea how to do that.  

What makes relationships between committed couples and married partners work? What causes them to fail? It turns out there are answers, and one of them will surprise you.

In March, the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences will publish a study that looks at gratitude among married partners. A first of its kind, the research comes in the wake of studies that prove the positive effects of gratitude for the physical and psychological well-being of individuals. The couples research looks at fifty married couples of at least twenty years, and gathered specific data. A sneak peak of the research results suggest:  gratitude makes all the difference.

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"Dreaming" isn't just sleeping: it's problem solving, meaning making, and a key to health


Nun's_dream_by_Karl_Briullov We spend a third of our lives sleeping – and if you’re not sleeping enough, you could be in trouble. The National Sleep Foundation compiled research that shows lack of sufficient qualitysleep is linked to:

But the thing we miss out on most is dreaming.  Dreaming gives our brains the time and the space to process our everyday experiences. That process in itself is beneficial.

Scientists at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center recently published research that supports this perspective. They found that while we are sleeping, our brains are happily working, undistracted by the day to day busyness. In the sleep state the brain has the opportunity to track, file and integrate all of the information that was gathered throughout the day with what we already have stored away. In that tracking the mind can find solutions to tasks that may have stumped us earlier in the day.

It’s as if our brains are working hard to organize our thoughts – and that’s beneficial for our waking lives.

Dream research is looking how we can be more active in our “learning” or “problem solving” while we’re sleeping.

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