Category Archives: Mental Health

Voltuntary Madness by Nora Vincent

Voluntary Madness is a disappointing book. I was intriqued by the premise of the book and the writing started out all right. Ms. Vincent “voluntarily” checks herself into three separate mental health organizations in attempt to bring down the system around our ears. She sets out to expose the big bad system. She doesn’t actually pull it off, although she does get some points across well and manages to make a personal breakthrough in her last placement.

The interesting thing is that Norah Vincent just comes across as angry. Angry at the whole world.  She slams the people who work in a mental hospital or ward calling them lazy and unsympathetic.  She rants against the rules. She rants against this drugs. I actually wanted to agree with her on this one because I believe by and large we overuse drugs in our society and she made some valid points but they get lost in her anger.  She blames the residents/clients who start coming to her with a sense of entitlement .

The author ends the book with perhaps the best writing of the entire tome. She wonders about institutions being the way they are because of people or it is vice versa?  She then turns her anger from the institutions to the people and asks,

“Why waste therapy and resources on people who will actively resist, and so derive no benefit from them anyway? Why not just medicate the bejesus out of people, when medication is the one thing that requires no effort or willpower to have an effect? If people arent’ going to heal, because they don’t want to heal, then containment is the most any system can do for them and for us. And containment is necessary.” (p. 275-76).

 

Ms. Vincent continues to philosophize in such a manner for a while before she flips the script and tells the reader that there is a bright side. People can help themselves. Ultimately, change is up to the individual, he or she must take responsibility for their own change. It is in this that I agree with the author fully. It is also this part that will cause those entrenched “in the system” to become angry with her.  This book is a quick read and not exactly a deep read. It’s a lot about the author and I never felt like I should care about her all that much. Some of her conclusions are interesting. Ultimately, the value in this book came from being able to watch her work through her naivety (she even admits to it in the book). I’d be fascinated to meet her I suppose to see if her anger comes out in her personal life as it does in her writing.

Right now, Amazon has this book for 6 bucks. It’s probably not worth a whole lot more than that, but at that price you might enjoy it.

2.5 Stars out of 5.

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Hope, Help and Healing for Eating Disorders by Gregory Jantz

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Dr. Gregory L Jantz’s book, Hope, Help and Healing for Eating Disorders deals with both “eating disorders” and “disordered eating.”  As a Counselor I was immediately drawn to this book. It seems in our society, overweight people are the last  people group that it is OK to mock and make fun of for our enjoyment. I actually had a guy tell me that he enjoyed me being at the poker game because I was fat and it was not only OK but it was expected that people would make fun of people. For some reason, I had no desire to visit his faith community.

In another conversation I heard someone use the terms overweight and glutton synonymously.  When I asked about this, I got a rather convoluted answer—in my opinion. What does this have to do with the book? Well, a lot of people who talk about food intake are rather judgmental about it. Rather than admit that they are selling out to our society’s obsession with being thin, they are cloak it in spirituality and science, which is usually a parroting of the latest book/DVD/commercial they read or saw. The truth is that body image is a huge issue for almost everyone. Many people are struggling to answer core questions about themselves through their management of food and their body image. Some try to answer this question through exercise and food control, while others choose to answer it through over-indulging.

This book deals with eating disorders without becoming judgmental about them. He points out that there are people who look healthy, who have disordered eating.  A great quote early in the book is “Some people suffer from a diagnosed eating disorder and some suffer from a debilitating pattern of disordered eating” (p. 27).  He points out that it’s not just people who have bulimia, or anorexia that have food disorders. If food has moved from being about nutrition to some sort of control in your life, you probably have an eating disorder. I found this perspective to resonate powerfully.

He comes at these issues from what is essentially a Family Systems approach first and foremost.  There is nothing wrong with that necessarily, but I do think there are other issues that factor in from an existential point of view, which he doesn’t seem to address but that could be because I tend to view almost everything from a search for meaning point of view.   He also deals with the issue of abuse and how that factors into eating disorders/disordered eating.  These two aspects are the strength of the book. He offers hope and guidelines to help people through these disorders. I do wonder how helpful a book can be on its own merit. It seems to me that eventually a person dealing with these will have to enter into Therapy.

Overall, I think this book is an excellent read. There are a few minor points where he and I would part ways but I am not the one of us that is running a successful recovery institute.

3.5 out of 5 stars

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

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The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing To Our Brain

I love to read. Apart from blogging here about books, I also blog a few other places about what I read. The problem is of course, having money to read. Books are not cheap and I am not saying that they should be, I’m just pointing out that occasionally, a book reader has to make choices. There are books I only buy when they are on sale, at a used book store or other such reduced price venue. Occasionally, I want to read a book that I simply cannot justify buying. More accurately, I want to use my book money on other books and I’m not sure if I want to dip into my emergency book fund money to purchase this book. So, I go to Barnes & Nobles and I read the book there. I start out just skimming chapters. Kind of reading it piece meal. Then I read some online reviews of the book. If by this point, I’m still not sure I want to buy the book but I am sure I want to continue reading it, I will continue my Barnes & Noble approach over a period of time.

This is what I did with the book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. I had two separate people recommend it in real life (one liked it, one hated it) and I have read reviews of it on a few other book review blogs.
The short of it is that I am not a fan of Mr. Carr’s book. As a therapist, I believe that the foundation of his argument is built on either debatable science or science that contradicts his point.

He talks about “the Flynn effect,” which is the name given or the fact that our raw IQ scores have constantly been going up. Later, the same scientist who made this discovery realized that simply because those scores are going up doesn’t mean that we are actually smarter or that our brains are better, they are simply different. He then goes on to lay out his case that short snippets of internet surfing make our brain “dumber” not just different. Well, why is one only different, not better or worse, while the other is not just different but worse? It makes no sense. It is an incongruent argument at best.

Much of the research that he quotes is not peer-reviewed as he would like to make the reader think it is. Yes, I looked up more than one article. Even the ones that are peer-reviewed don’t seem to support his hypotheses all that much. The book is full of anecdotal evidence, not research. That’s OK, if this book is going to be pitched as his idea and not some sort of science book. His arguments ring hallow and tired when you realize that they are the same sort of arguments used against TV, radio, and even music itself throughout various stages of history.

The last thing that he did that drove me nuts was his use of subjective statements given as though they were objective. For instance, his chapter on Google is supposed to be the money chapter of the whole book (proponents all seemed to mention this chapter as being worth the price of admission on its own) but I found so many distraction subjective statements that it made reading intolerable. For instance he says, “

By freeing us from the struggle of decoding text, that form that writing came to take on a page of paper, parchment or paper enabled us to become deep readers, to turn our attention, and our brain power, to the interpretation of meaning. With writing on the screen, we’re still able to decode text quickly—we read, if anything better than ever—but we’re no longer guided toward a deep, personally constructed understanding of the text’s connotations. Instead we’re hurried off toward another bit of related information, and the another, and another. The strip-mining of ‘relevant content’ replaces the slow excavation of meaning. (I don’t have the page number because I took a picture of the text on my blackberry)

Do you see what’s missing in this highly subjective statement? It’s missing any grounding at all in a cited source or research. This entire book is based upon an article that the author wrote because he came to the conclusion that he could no longer read deeply because he had trained his mind to read news snippets and blasts, chasing each new link. He came to this conclusion on his own. I wonder, did Mr. Carr stop reading books during this time because he decided to allocate his time differently? Did he age? Could that have had an impact on his ability to “read deeply?” Did he go through a medical issue? Did he have a troubling life event occur?

In fact, the entire premise of the book is based on a rather subjective term; namely the term, “deeply.” What does that mean? When did Mr. Carr’s ability to read “deeply” begin to slide? There are numerous other potential answers to the cause of this loss that may have nothing to do with the internet at all. Perhaps, it was something as simple as he just needed to start reading “deeply” again.

This book will not make it to my shelf as it seems to be a rather agenda driven book that lacks real substance beyond the author’s unqualified opinion. In the end, Mr. Carr didn’t really convince me at all that he knows what the internet is doing to our brain or if I should be concerned about it all.

I’d give it 2 out of 5 stars.

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Smashed by Koren Zailckas

I fell into possession of this book quite by accident. A colleague was leaving her position at the Mental Hospital where I work and it was one of two books that she owned. She told me I could have them.

I read this in piece meal fashion. It’s a fascinating read, not just for the content but for the messages that the author sends. For instance, she takes a lot of criticism for seeming to blame men throughout the book. I think this criticism is justified. She seems to act as if drinking is only a female problem and all men are predators who use this truth to pounce on the poor drunken sods of women.

She comes across as extremely angry. It’s hard to understand what she is so angry about though. Is it her idyllic childhood? Is it her doting parents? Is her fortune to be born to a well to do family? She never really explores that aspect of her drunkenness. She is more than willing to help you understand how the rest of society directed her to drinking though.
She even ruined what I thought was a beautiful rant against the word, “whatever.” You know how that word gets thrown around when someone is forced to see the cognitive dissonance their living inside with? I was actually shaking my head in agreement, then she ruined it buy claiming it for womankind as if men don’t say it.
Throughout the book, one could almost get the idea that the only reason poor miss Zailckas drank was because society pushed her that way.

There is also some very poignant statements in this book. In one chapter she states, “A rare truth falls over me like the glare from streetlights. I know that as long as I keep drinking, I will drive back everyone who is good-natured. Only people who are as drunk and as damaged as I am will stay.”

It is moments of refreshing honesty such as this one that make this book one that sticks with the reader. She is strait up and she writes with a style that is very engaging, almost as if she is a friend whispering to you sordid details of her life. This is the genius and the greatest failure of the book, because as a friend that might be whispering the short-comings of her life, the author seems to fail to see her own responsibility in the situation.

She can turn a simile like a skilled pitcher dropping a curveball on a 3-2 count with the bases loaded. If this book is any indication she is truly a skilled artist and I will look for more books from her.

4.5 stars

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The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

I have a man crush on John Gottman and I actually have no idea what he looks like. Hold on, I’m going to go and google his image. John Gottman’s research and writings have changed the way I counsel, they’ve changed the way I am a husband to my wife. Having said that, a lot of his writings are dry. This book is no exception. His seven principles are not earth shattering, although I’d encourage to google his 5:1 ratio or use it in all of your relationships.

Gottman’s seven principles in this book are fairly straightforward (my thoughts are in parenthesis:

1. Enhance your love maps
2. Nurture your fondness and admiration
3. Turn toward each other instead of Away
4. Let your partner influence you

-The two kinds of marital conflict (this isn’t actually a principle but understanding this is important

5. Solve your solvable problems (does that mean there are unsolvable problems?)
6. Overcome gridlock
7. Create shared meaning

All in all, I think everyone will find this book to be a satisfying read and for almost everyone there will be at least one “ah-ha” moment where it speaks directly to something going on in their relationship. Even if you are thinking that your relationship is on solid footing I encourage you to read this book.

Marriages are something we do and something we have. As something we have, they are fragile and need constant attention and care.

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Unprotected by Miram Grossman

Unprotected is a book Dr. Miriam Grossman. I highly recommend it to everyone. I don’t agree with everything that Dr. Grossman states in the book, but the general tenor of the book cannot be ignored.
Sex has been made political in America. It is wrong to offend anyone except the religious and the fat. The psychological field is filled with left leaning and anti-religion sentiments. In short Political Correctness is causing doctors and counselors to not be able to give total treatment. To be sure, Grossman is more right leaning than I am but this book was a quick, easy read that brings into focus some necessary questions about the field of mental health and the direction it is taking.
In the world of APA the holy mantra is citation of sources and this book is full of them. Books, journals, peer-reviewed articles–they’re all there and most of them can be easily accessed for the lay reader to examine and check for accuracy.
My fear is that too many will dismiss this book because the author is on the right in the political arena. That would not only be unfortunate, it would be a tragedy because at the very least this book should begin a dialogue about how parties are treated, from the most left atheist to the most right fundamental.

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