Sunday, April 22, 2012


If you are stressed, do you like it when others point it out?  Why?
Personally, I don't like it.  It's not a pet peeve of mine.  It doesn't cause a knee-jerk reaction.  It's not a huge thing, by any means.  I just think of all the things a person could say to another, pointing out how bad someone looks is usually not appreciated.

The message being sent might be interpreted:  you look haggard; you look tired; you don't look so good; your work quality is slipping; or some semblance of the above adjectives.  Whatever you interpret it to be, it's generally not going to be positive (especially if you are stressed!).

It's bad enough to be stressed out, much less to hear about how it makes you look.  How about some help, instead?  How about suggesting a rest? Or some other diversion?  Like a caring conversation about how they are feeling...

I'm sure that most of these people don't mean anything negative by it.  They're not out to rattle my cage (usually).

It's just that we're conditioned to using certain phrases from our own cultures without thinking.  Yet, how many times would it  be better, nicer to have something positive pop out of our mouths?  

Friday, April 20, 2012


The following is a discussion/rant about educational requirements and other serious issues presently plaguing the field of mental health.
PHILOSOPHY, PSYCHOLOGY, AND RELIGION:  Is training in these fields necessary for ultimate results in therapy?  The concepts of philosophy, psychology and religion are closely intertwined.  If broken into segments, the encompassing “picture” of mental health is lost.

For example, the philosophical concept of dualism vs. monism brings us into the realm of religion.  Therefore, the type of approach or modality used are more effective when reflecting clients' belief systems.   How much do peoples' beliefs in “good” and “evil” affect their decisions and their moods?  How do these belief systems affect cognition and, therefore, the emotional lives of people?

Understanding the worldviews of clients opens doors to therapists' understanding of clients' philosophies of life.  Simply put, the more therapists know about their clients, the greater the potential to help them.

I believe a truly effective healer, it helps so much to be educated in at least two of these three fields. However, this kind of academic discipline is rarely required of students studying to be therapists.  Therefore, their effectiveness is often limited (except in rare cases where the client is exceptionally astute, intelligent, and committed to their own continuing research and education.)

Clients' beliefs regarding philosophy, psychology, and religion helps determine the type of approach used in therapy.  In other words, the theories and methods employed would be those therapists decide are most effective for the particular client.

So how effective can therapists truly be without an education in the liberal artsTo be a truly competent therapist, I believe (with some reservations), a person may need to be as disciplined and educated as a medical doctor.  (How often does that happen?)  

A common belief is that, in psychology we aren’t dealing with the nuts and bolts of body parts and instruments and, therefore, do not directly impact life and death. However, within the realm of the mental and spiritual life of clients, the therapist can be effective in enhancing the quality of life and even in helping to prevent early death and suicide.  Considering this, appropriate therapeutic methods and qualified therapists seem indispensable!

Some therapists appear naturally intelligent and emotionally in tune with others' emotions.  They seem to have incredible instincts when it comes to what to say and do with a particular client.  They seem to have a natural talent.  Yet, without adequate education, I still believe even the most intuitive therapist is at a disadvantage.  

In providing effective therapy, counselors need to ask themselves a number of critical questions.  For example, how does providing therapy affect clinicians' emotions?  (Consider burn-out.)  Can they effectively manage their involvement with others?  Can they keep their boundaries?  Have they learned tools, backed by good research that are most effective in particular cases?  Can they conceptualize their clients' cases more fully due to their additional training in philosophy and/or religion?

Being a therapist is one of the most difficult professions. Considering the financial aspects alone, even if students are minimally trained, the cost of education is daunting and can be at par with training medical students.  

Medical doctors are usually paid well (partly because of the AMA’s artificially limiting the number of doctors allowed to practice and other unsavory practices).  The therapist, in most cases, is ubiquitous and underpaid, and that is anathema considering that they are involved in the delicate process of helping heal human minds and souls.

There are many therapists who do the minimum and who are relegated mostly to social work activities within their community mental health centers.  That is a sad truth.  However, in all fairness, this truth extends to most fields of endeavor.  It is like a continuum, with the least capable, unlucky, or unwilling at one end of the continuum and the brightest, most committed, lucky, political, educated and driven at the other.  

There are, however, exceptions:  bright, committed, motivated therapists who are unwilling to cave into the political expectations of a mental health organization.  There are those who are not willing to bend on ethics, as well.  I guess those therapists go into private practice.

While good and stimulating opportunities for medical doctors are many, therapists’ chances of finding fulfilling work where they can be maximally effective are minimal.  LPC’s and MFT’s are a dime a dozen.  They are usually the last resort of choice when hiring at community mental health centers, licensed clinical social workers (LCSW’s) being preferred.  Even though the state examinations for licensing are the same, the real work and expertise required for therapy differs greatly from social work.

A community health center is a bureaucracy.  That means lots of red tape.  That means lots of paperwork.  That means lots of involvement with other agencies.  That often means money shortages.  

Most therapists’ time (regardless of titles) is spent dealing with these areas.  Can they still be effective in therapy?  Yes and no.  

Those who have enough time and energy to do so, those who are willing to sacrifice personal beliefs, conform, and are capable of working within very political environments seem to be the ones who are most "successful" at their jobs. It also helps to have flexible values.

At least, therapists are usually able to give much-needed, minimal band-aids on clients' issues.  However, the price therapists pay is often the sacrifice of their personal value systems, significant frustration with organizational politics, dissatisfaction with low-success rates, and paying for their own books and tools, often resulting in career apathy and early burnout.

If clients' issues are minimal, the help they receive is often perceived as great.  However, most clients who frequent MHC's (mental health centers) have grave and complicated issues that most therapists are inadequately trained to deal with.  This situation easily inflates the actual good MHC's do.
Another issue is that poorly supervised trainees and interns are often pressed into giving therapy they are not qualified to give, increasing the likelihood of poor quality therapy. Those issues, combined with time constraints (allowing only 6-8 or 8-12 sessions, which is usual), can only serve to scratch the surface of the clients' issues.  If clients are lucky, the therapeutic band-aid is applied, and they generally feel temporarily relieved.

Most clients have additional frustrations with the time limits of sessions (45-60 minutes) and the general structure and artificial nature of conducting therapy in offices with their therapists. The hassles and costs of keeping appointments put an additional strain on clients struggling with just getting through the day.

The effectiveness of therapy depends heavily on the therapist developing a good relationship with the client.  It is estimated that 30-50% of effectiveness depends on this aspect of therapy.  However, trying to establish this kind of relationship in so few sessions is a challenge for even the best therapists.  To complicate matters, many clients have serious trust issues; therefore, more sessions are needed to establish that kind of trust.

To sum up, lack of education, proper training, and time with clients, the structures and constraints of MHC's, and the high cost of education severely limits therapists' effectiveness for those who suffer from mental illness.  

It is past time when society needs to throw out their prejudices about mental illness and therapy and place it on par with medical help, giving therapists and therapy students at least the same level of support.  After all, considering the mind/body connection is crucial to effective therapy.  Poor physical health is often caused by poor mental health and vice versa, either directly (e.g. by self-medicating) or indirectly (e.g. by depression and loss of hope).
I ask out of frustration, how long will it take before the stigma of mental health abates?  How long before enough money is available to set up effective mental health centers?  

How long before the majority of educational institutions incorporate and require a more thorough, well-rounded education for its mental health practitioner students and train them adequately, thereby treating clients ethically and effectively?
Are you familiar with any of these issues?  Have you ever struggled with the mental health system and the level of therapists expertise?  I am very interested to hear about it.  Please blog your experiences, and share any ideas for improvement in the field of mental health.
Thank you!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Some years ago, I was talking to a good friend of mine who asked, "So, how are you feeling these days?"

I quickly answered, without thinking, "Well, I've lowered my expectations, so life is actually more tolerable."

Having struck us so absurdly funny at the same time, we laughed about that for a long while.  After the conversation, I thought my comment sounded negative and morbid--like I've given something up.  And then I realized I did:  my perfectionism.

This is what is called REFRAMING in Cognitive Therapy.  It's a good thing.  But I still think back on that conversation and feel torn.  Yes, I know the world is not perfect and neither am I.  However, when you are young, you have a tendency to look at the future with much more hope and anticipation.  People tell you, "Anything is possible!"

But as you bump along in life, you find out eventually (or very quickly!), that your opportunities are shrinking and life is usually NOT what you had imagined it might be.

This situation can be worse for people who are told they should set goals, and work for them, and they will accomplish their dreams.  Sounds nice--and productive; however, unless you are willing to re-set your goals along the way, willing to be very flexible, life may seem like one disappointment after another.

By middle age, in times of grief and loss, I found myself working hard on looking at the glass half-full, counting my blessings just to stay balanced and not go off the deep end.  It really worked! (Usually...) It got me through some very tough times and I learned to survive.

Now, I'm grateful for knowing how to change my perspectives; I'm grateful that I know perfectionism and rigidity ("thinking errors") are unhealthy, and I can avoid them.  I'm grateful to have found a way to be content most of the time, even though I realize that I am working through my subjective reality and not objective reality.  (I believe there IS objective reality, but who is to say what that is for sure? ;0) But I'm getting Existential again...back to Cognitive!)

Some people are suspicious of reframing, saying that it is just a way of fooling yourself.  If that is how they see it, it probably is--for them.  As a therapist, we try to get clients to see that there are different ways of looking at the same situation.  Certainly, as humans, that is what we all do naturally--we all have our personal perspectives.  Just ask any group of people who have witnessed a car accident...

While it makes sense to me, it can be difficult to teach this tool to some clients who use black and white thinking (another thinking error); things are all one way or the other for them.  Other clients snap into reframing quite quickly.  I have seen the "miraculous results" of cognitive therapy often.  So, I believe in its power.

And yet--I still somehow feel uncomfortable at times trying to teach reframing or reframe things for myself.  If we are recreating our own reality, how far is it from actual reality?  I mean, are we just becoming Pollyannas?

Some of the latest therapeutic approaches emphasize heavily the positive approach--think positive, be positive, avoid negativity whenever possible, and life will become oh-so-wonderful.  When I see people really "up" like that, my first reactions are that they "drank the Kool-aid", that the person is not "genuine", living in a world of their own. (Well, it's THEIR perspective, right--isn't THAT OK?) (I sometimes wonder what would happen if objective reality ever crept into their lives. They might explode--or melt!)

I want to be "realistic" with myself and my clients.  I think a worthy goal, existentially and theoretically speaking, is to bring objective and subjective reality together as closely as possible, so that we can live a practical life in the real world and reduce the denial in our lives.  That sounds harsh, though, too, doesn't it?  For me, it is often a balancing act between Existential and Cognitive principles. (After all, not much occurs in a vacuum.)

It is very difficult to know where to draw the line with others; how much reality can they digest?  Some denial is a healthy stop-gap measure to keep us going until we are ready to face certain realities.  Some people really limp through life, so it is imperative NOT to take their denial "crutches" away from them.  Gently guiding, leading, over time is better.  (Or, in some cases, never may be better.  We don't want anyone contemplating suicide.)

So, maybe reframing can be defined as using a new perspective that is still feels REAL (whatever that is), but feels more HOPEFUL.  I do think we can reframe ourselves to a place close to objective reality, if we do it skillfully in conjunction with the personal issues of the client.

Personally, I continually check myself and weigh sides to make sure I'm not just living in a "fool's paradise".  Cognitive therapy, done well, can be a very tricky road; but until some other better mode of therapy comes along, I'll stay on that highway!


"The philosophical origins of cognitive therapy can be traced back to the Stoic philosophers" 
~ Aaron T. Beck, father of Cognitive Therapy philosophy and psychology overlap?

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Every once in a while, I post articles that I especially like and want to share.  No amount of writing on my part could communicate what this article says.

Why Hate Gilad Atzmon?

By Kevin Barrett
March 9, 2012

Gilad Atzmon is one of the sweetest, funniest, most charming and likable people I’ve ever met.

He’s also one of the world’s best saxaphone players. Gilad’s music is not only gorgeous, but uncommonly accessible for music in its class.

His writing, which includes two novels, a nonfiction book, and countless essays, is grounded in the highest humanistic ideals, invigorating laughter, and an irrepressible joie de vivre.

In short, Gilad is outrageously easy to like.

So why is he hated so much?

Why are his appearances protested by angry picketers? Why is the most vicious and mendacious kind of calumny being hurled at him in such quantities? Why is there an organized effort to make this gentle, loving free spirit out to be some kind of deranged Nazi?

His detractors say his writing invites it. But they’re wrong. The proof is that the anti-Atzmon brigade has to resort to lies (or to be charitable, gratuitous distortions) to make him look bad.

There must be some deeper reason why they hate him.

Maybe it’s because he’s such a powerful symbol of – and argument for – the end of Zionism.

Gilad Atzmon grew up in Israel in a Jewish family that included Holocaust survivors. He fell in love with jazz as a teenager, so when it came time to serve in the IDF he joined a military band. During his IDF service, Gilad awakened to the horrors of Zionism and its brutality toward Palestinians. Shortly after leaving the IDF, he also left Israel and never returned.

Now London-based, Gilad Atzmon is considered one of Europe’s top jazz musicians – and, increasingly, its leading ex-Israeli anti-Zionist voice. He has published two acclaimed novels, and his new book The Wandering Who? has endured vicious attacks, smear campaigns, and boycotts by such Zionists as Alan Dershowitz, and is becoming a worldwide bestseller.

In all of this, Gilad Atzmon is quite the anti-Zionist success story. His creative output, both musical and verbal, challenges arbitrary boundaries and celebrates freedom. (Jazz, the greatest art form America ever produced, is at its root a celebration of musical freedom by once-enslaved African-Americans.)

Today, more and more Israelis are lining up to get second passports and asking themselves, “Is there life after Zionism?” Gilad Atzmon offers a perfect example, with plenty of supporting arguments, of how ex-Zionist Israelis can liberate themselves from the shackles of a brutal, abusive, and ultimately doomed ideology and identity.

So that’s why they hate him. He’s the walking, talking, saxaphone-blowing embodiment of the joy of life after Zionism.

You see, most of the people who hate Gilad are radical Zionists; all (including the handful of “pro-Palestine” phonies) are prisoners of Zionist ideology. They have been trained to heap mountains of hate on anyone who crosses the one meaningful line in the whole Israel-Palestine debate: The line that separates those who support or accept the existence of a “Jewish state” in Palestine from those of us who do not.

As Norman Finkelstein inadvertently pointed out, Israel – despite its horrendous human rights record – is not going to be changed by people focusing on ephemeral abuses of human rights. The Zionists (like Finkelstein) will simply respond, “There are, and have been, human rights abuses elsewhere that are just as bad; so anybody who focuses on Israeli human rights violations must be an anti-Semite.” (Most murderers don’t get off by pleading to the judge that someone else committed an equally bad murder; but we’ll let that slide.)

Chris Hedges might respond to Finklestein that nowhere else do army snipers lure children into range of their guns, then gut-shoot them for sport; and British Medical Journal might add that the more than 600 children sport-shot during the interval they examined, who were essentially hunted and killed for fun by IDF soldiers as a de facto national policy, died from a specific and horrific type of human rights abuse that has never been seen anywhere else. But these events will be buried by the Zionist-dominated media; and no matter how horrific the abuses, there will always be different sufficiently revolting examples of inhumanity from other times and places to relativize the Israeli atrocities.

There is only one argument the Zionists cannot possibly win: The argument over whether there should be a “Jewish state” in Palestine in the first place.

Defenders of this bizarre notion must argue that it is perfectly fine for a religious-ethnic group to invade and occupy another group’s land, halfway across the world, on the basis of the aggressor group’s ancient mythology. And that it is perfectly fine for the aggressor group to dispossess and destroy the people living on that land, and to create an ethnic-specific apartheid system under which the invaders are first class citizens, while the victims are either second-class citizens or permanently exiled from their homeland.

To defend Zionism, you would also have to grant American Celts (like me) the right to invade, occupy, and erect a “Celtic state” in the Baltic or Western France or wherever our mythology says we originated. You would have to allow Andalusian Muslims (another ethnic-religious category I identify with) to invade, occupy, and ethnically-cleanse Spain. You would have to allow Protestants, whose mythology tells them that they are the true Christians, to invade and occupy the Vatican – and Palestine, for that matter. You would have to allow virtually all of the 3,000 ethnic groups on earth to invade, occupy, and ethnically cleanse someplace halfway across the world that they can claim is their “ancient homeland.”

Obviously, any and all “invade-and-occupy-our-mythological-ancient-homeland” projects are equally indefensible and equally insane.

Zionism is genocidal insanity.

It must be ended.

No more Jewish state in Occupied Palestine.


This is the bottom line. This is the line that all the Zionists, from right-wingers like Netanyahu to left-wingers like Chomsky and Finklestein and Amy Goodman and Matt Rothschild and Michael Lerner and Rob Kall and Chip Berlet and all of the hundreds of other Zionist gatekeepers that dominate the “alternative” as well as mainstream media DO NOT WANT YOU TO CROSS. These are the Police Lines that the Zionist thought police have erected, and are working overtime to maintain.
Because if you ask that one little simple question – “is the Zionist project, and the Israeli ‘nation,’ legitimate in the first place?” the whole thing crumbles to dust and ashes.

That’s the real reason the Zionists want to nuke Iran. The Iranian government is the only government in the Middle East to have, as its official policy, exactly the same position as the vast majority of the people of the Middle East: The Zionist entity in Occupied Palestine is not, and never will be, legitimate; and it must be ended, preferably by nonviolent means, as soon as possible.

And that’s why the Zionists are getting more and more hysterical in their denunciations of “delegitimizers.” (How can you delegitimize something that was never legitimate in the first place?)

And that’s why they’re hate-swarming all over Jenny Tonge, who correctly pointed out that Israel won’t last forever.

And that’s why they hate Gilad Atzmon. Not only is Gilad forthrightly anti-Zionist, thereby showing the “peacenik Zionist” phonies up for what they are; but he is also fearless in his analysis of the way Jewish identity politics fosters the delusion that Jews are an “exceptional people” who should be allowed to do things to Palestine that no other ethnic/religious group would ever be allowed to do to its mythological ancient homeland across the seas.

Worse: The guy expressing these taboo but obviously-correct views, and setting such a beautiful example as an ex-Israeli anti-Zionist, is an energetic and fabulously talented Renaissance man – a superb musician and writer and mesmerizing public speaker. This must gall the Zionists to no end.

No wonder they hate Gilad Atzmon.

Maybe someday, when they get tired of hating, they’ll drop their Zionism (itself an ideology of hatred, starting with self-hatred) and embrace the love, joy and liberation Gilad embodies so beautifully.


Monday, April 9, 2012


"Zionism is a TRANSFER of the Jews. Regarding the TRANSFER of the [Palestinian] Arabs this is much easier than any other TRANSFER. There are Arab states in the vicinity . . . . and it is clear that if the [Palestinian] Arabs are removed [to these states] this will improve their condition and not the contrary." (Expulsion Of The Palestinians, p. 159) -- Ben Gurion, Israel's 1st prime minister.



I've been debating some of my BlogCatalog "friends" on the subject of Israel and racism.  I'm shocked at the reaction my comments inspired.  Intelligent, educated people (who need to be better informed ;0) attacked me verbally, calling me a "racist".

Me...a racist.  Wow.  Of course, these people do not know me personally.  Those who do, however, may call me many things but "racist" is not one of them.  Ridiculous.

So, while I've been "hibernating" in Greece, countries are beginning to make it illegal to criticize Israel.  Yeah.  I'm not kidding!

One even (I'm sure in his best superior attitude) said, "If you were in England, you would probably be subject to prosecution!"  And that's a GOOD thing?!

Now I'm reading about Canada's law along the same lines.  Aaaaahhhh!!!!!

People, they are trying to make this a law in the U.S.  THE U.S!  When this happens, you can be sure it is an evil harbinger for the future of FREE SPEECH in America.  (I know, "evil" is a loaded word, but I am so outraged right now that I can't think of a more accurate one.)

So, the people in those countries where it is illegal to say the truth, are ham-stringed.  You can criticize ANY other country--but NOT Israel!  (I wanna fill this page with exclamation marks!)

I also feel sorrow for the future of the United States, the Palestinians, and anywhere else freedom of speech does not exist.  We are becoming a fascist nation fast!

There are even specific words you can't say like "occupied territories" and "massacre."  There's a YouTube video on "S__T Canadian Students Can't Say" at

"But I'm not a racist!  I am anti-Zionist.  Those are 2 totally different concepts."  I have said it ad nauseum with many arguments to back up my statements.

It doesn't matter, logic doesn't matter, critical thinking skills don't matter.  Denial is furiously at work in the minds of most Zionists.  Really, it's like a switch is turned off in other people's minds when discussing race.  Nobody home.  Creepy.

The Powers That Be (TPTB) have decided that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism mean the SAME thing.  All over the web I read:  anti-Zionism is racism.  Huh?!  But if you say it enough times, write it enough times, write it into law, voila', they have the same meaning!


Zionists seem to be "well-conditioned" and purposely misled.  Your emotions have overcome your logic. For the sake of the world, put aside your fear and get your heads straight.  There really are people who are against the country of Israel, but have no ill feelings toward the inhabitants or believers of Zionism.

I don't hate Zionists; I hate their actions, their policies, their deceptions, their racism against the Arab, racism against everyone else who is NOT Jewish(!), their murders of women and children, their control over the lives of Palestinians (even over water!) purposely created to make life hell for Palestinians.

The hypocrisy of Israel is outrageous.  We don't hear enough about it on U.S. TV or in the news, but the WEB--ah, the web--

I will probably post many, many articles on the Israeli conflict in the future.  And I better do it fast, before it becomes illegal.