Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Cinematherapy - Hunt For The Wilderpeople

 Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Movie on Neflix streaming.

Plot - From IMDB - Reclusive country folk Bella and Hector become foster parents to Ricky, a problem child from the city. After some adjustment, things go reasonably well. However, Bella's death means that Hector must now look after Ricky himself, and they haven't been getting along. Moreover, her death causes Child Services to decide to send Ricky back to the orphanage. Ricky refuses to go back and runs away, ultimately sparking a national manhunt for him and Hector.—

Audience - The movie is intended for a general audience. It can be enjoyed by all ages from 10 and up. This review is written though for human service professionals.

Creative tension - The creative tension in Hunt for the Wilderpeople is derived from two sources. First Ricky Baker is a foster child, 13, who has been difficult to place and retain in a foster care setting.. How will he adjust to this new foster home, way out in the country, with Bella and Hector, a childless older couple. Bella is very motherly, almost grandmotherly, while Hector is antisocial and a curmudgeon. The second source of creative tension arises when Bella dies and Child Welfare Services writes a letter to Hector informing him that they will be coming to remove Ricky from his home now that Bella is dead. Ricky refuses to go back to child welfare,  and Hector is upset that they don’t think he can raise a child without Bella. Hector and Ricky escape to the bush to avoid capture by Child Welfare authorities.

Moral of the Story - Family comes in multiple forms and Ricky and Hector have formed theirs no matter how unlikely and mismatched. Does their form of family coincide with community norms? No. But does it work and is it filled with love and caring? Yes.

Utility of the movie for human service professionals - To learn an appreciation for diversity in all its multiplicities. What conforms with social convention might not always be the best. In such cases do the nonconformists become outlaws? As outlaws do people evade, resist, and attack the forces of subjugation and oppression? As witnesses do we side with the conventional authorities or with the right to self determination of those the system would subjugate? In these dilemmas what is the appropriate ethical stance of the human service worker?

Recommendation - This film is highly recommended for its entertainment, and for its presentation of deeper ethical dilemmas. It earns a 5 out of 5.

Articles about Cinematherapy appear on Markham's Behavioral Health on most Tuesdays.

Analysis cf. systems thinking


Monday, January 30, 2023

Bibliotherapy - Persuasion by Jane Austin, Love or money?

What happens when we dismiss love for ulterior motives? Persuasion by Jane Austin describes the situation through the perspective of Anne Elliot,, a middle child of an aristocratic family in England in the early 1800s. Some consider it Austin's greatest novel.

Anne is dissuaded from accepting Frederick Wentworth’s proposal of marriage because he has no social status and no money. Anne’s family and friends are very class conscious in a time when a woman’s place in the world depended more on her husband’s status and wealth than on her own.

Vanity trumps love and the novel is about the suffering that results..

The story is one that occurs in a historical context that society has evolved through and yet the back story about the importance of love in our life satisfaction and fulfillment is enduring.

Given the customs and norms of the times the story is interesting and believable. The characters are well developed and gain our sympathy and empathy. The moral of the story is not to let ulterior motives squash love. The question of love or money is as alive today as it was back in the 1800s.

Articles about bibliotherapy appear on Markham's Behavioral Health most Mondays and accessed by clicking on the tag "bibliotherapy" at the bottom of the post.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Psychotherapeutic humanities - Knowing about, and experience.

There is a big difference between knowing about something and experiencing it. When working with people with substance misuse problems they often ask the counselor if the counselor is in recovery themselves. The saying in AA and other twelve stop programs is that “it takes one to know one” or as my friend, Jim, told me one time, “Dave, you can’t bullshit a bull shitter.”

Of course to expect that a helper has had personal experience with the problem influencing the helpee is unreasonable and unnecessary for the helper to be empathetic and understanding. Often the helper has vicariously experienced the problem from the stories of other helpees and from works of art, the most relevant being fiction, nonfiction, and films.

The three main factors of helpful bibliotherapy and cinematherapy are trust, connection and action. Trust meaning that the fiction or nonfiction seems realistic, authentic, relevant, and believable. Connection meaning that the reader, viewer, can identify with the characters, and action in the sense that the scenarios, interactions, and dynamics can be replicated.

Can we experience life vicariously through the artistic rendition of other people, events, and dynamics? Absolutely, and this living vicariously can help one become wise, compassionate, knowledgeable and helpful.

Art facilitates the growth of the soul, not just the intellect. A competent helper needs both intellect and soul.

Articles about the Psychotherapeutic Humanities appears on Markham's Behavioral Health most Sundays.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Article of the Week : MAiD (Medical Aid in Dying)

In Canada, some US states, Australia, and few other countries doctors will help you kill yourself or even do it for you. It is called “Medical Aid in Dying.” It seems if you are old, poor, and mentally ill you may be a prime candidate to save the government and health insurance companies the expense of helping you stay alive and enjoy an even minimal quality of life.

Canada’s MAiD program is one of the world’s most extensive such programs. In 2021, it was used by 10,058 Canadians – about 3 percent of Canada’s recorded deaths that year. 

Ebersole, Phil, Rx: Assisted Suicide For The Sick, and Poor.

For more click here

Article of the week appears on Markham's Behavioral Health most Saturdays.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Seeing what we usually don't allow ourselves to see.


It is called "confirmation bias." "self fulfilling prophecy," "projection," "displacement," "stupidity," "the shadow," the "unconscious."

Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living.

The Oracle At Delphi said that  we should know ourselves.

Psychotherapy is an uncovering process. It helps make the unconscious, conscious.

Freud said that we can either talk it out or act it out.

Milton Erickson encouraged us to see what we don't allow ourselves to see.

Quotes from the psychotherapy masters appears on Markham's Behavioral Health most Fridays.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Music Therapy - But I Still Haven’t Found What I am Looking For, U2

Some have called “But I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2 a gospel song. Perhaps it is called a gospel song because it raises the question about what we are ultimately yearning for, our Transcendent Source.

Many people come to psychotherapy with multiple complaints but the underlying dynamic is always that they haven’t found what they are looking for often not knowing what it is that they are looking for.

When we look in the right places we find peace and bliss but when we look in the wrong places we find fear, guilt, shame, and depression.

A good psychotherapist is a guide who helps the client find what they are ultimately looking for. U2’s great song can be the song track for the drama that unfolds in any good psychotherapy.

Music therapy is a regular feature on Markham's Behavioral Health which appears most Thursdays.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Cinema Therapy - Dead To Me

Dead To Me - TV series, three seasons

Secret keeping

Dead To Me is a TV series with three seasons currently streaming on Netflix. It is the story of Jen Harding, a realtor whose husband is killed in a hit and run crash as he is jogging on a dark night on a suburban road. Judy Hale is an activities therapist at a nursing home whose fiance just broke off their engagement. Unknown to Jen, Judy was the driver who struck her husband while driving a car home from a party when her fiance was too intoxicated to drive. The fiance convinces Judy to keep on driving. Judy, out of her guilt, decides to reach out to the grieving widow, Jen, and they become best friends.

The series is a dark comedy but the characters are well developed and the scenarios very believable. As one watches the episodes the veracity of the plot is believable and both characters are likable. The problem is that they both lie to the other about essential events and therein lies the creative tension of the story.

The therapeutic elements of the TV series are based on the keeping of secrets which one's partner has a right to know. How do these secrets influence the dynamics of the relationship and what is the best way to manage them?

As the episodes are watched, the secrets slowly emerge, and another question arises about whether the strength of the friendship can overcome the resulting disillusionment, resentment, fear, and guilt. These are human situations which we all face in our lives when we have done things of which we are ashamed and guilty and fear punishment. How are these feelings and situations to be managed best?

This TV series is recommended for people interested in the best way to manage secrets and work through the consequences when the secrets come to light.

Cinema Therapy is a regular feature on Markham's Behavioral Health which appears on most Tuesdays.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Bibliotherapy - Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Plainsong is a story of multiple abandonments and multiple helpers. Victoria, a 17 year old pregnant high school student is abandoned by her boyfriend and her mother and goes to her Home Economics teacher, Maggie Jones, who winds up arranging for her to live with two taciturn senior bachelor farmers, Harold and Raymond McPherson. Meanwhile a colleague of Maggie’s, Tom Guthrie and his two sons, Ike and Bobby, are abandoned by his wife. Tom is friends with the McPhersons and with Maggie. The two boys often visit the McPherson farm with their father. The boys also are befriended by an elderly woman, Mrs. Stearns, to whom they deliver the newspaper, and Mrs. Stearns teach the boys how to bake cookies.

While this story is rife with heartache and rejection, it also is fueled by kindness and support from unexpected places. It reminds me of Mr. Rogers' story about his mother telling him, “Freddie, when you’re in trouble look for the helpers.”

The helpers are available in life and even though the story is full of heartache and pain, it also is optimistic and positive about the goodness of people even in the face of abandonment by others.

Plainsong by Kent Haruf is one of my favorite novels and I recommend it often. It was made into a Hallmark movie in 2004 which is good, but not as good as the novel.

Articles about bibliotherapy appear on Markham's Behavioral Health most Mondays.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Empathy and the psychotherapeutic humanities.

One of the most important skills of a helping person is empathy. Empathy is the ability to put oneself in the other person’s shoes while still remaining in one’s own. Empathy is the ability to be responsive without being reactive.

Empathy is based on the platinum rule not the golden rule. The platinum rule is “do under others as they would have you do unto them.” In order to follow the platinum rule the person using empathy must know something about the person’s culture which includes their values, beliefs, opinions, traditions, preferences, and practices. Where does a person learn about another person’s culture, thought system, and world view?

The psychotherapeutic humanities: fiction, poetry, film, visual arts, dance, and music are a good place to start. Theology, cosmology, anthropology, history, and sociology are other sources of information contributing to richer understanding.

There will be a series of articles on this blog describing various examples of the psychotherapeutic humanities, especially novels, poetry, film, and music. What are the novels, poems, films, and music that have enriched your understanding of the other to enhance your empathic skills?

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Article of the week - Practicing psychotherapy in post Dobbs America

There is an excellent article in the Psychiatric Times on January 18, 2023, entitled "Abortion and the Psychiatrist: Practicing in Post Dobbs America." The topic applies to any mental health professional not just psychiatrists. The bottom line is that the laws that apply vary widely from state to state and the risks of legal prosecution for both patient and therapist vary widely as well. All psychotherapists should be aware of the issues that arise in working with patients of child bearing age.

For the article click here.

Article of the week will be posted on most Saturdays highlighting and referencing an article of interest to people interested in the mental health of members of our society and planet.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Music Therapy - Walk right in and sit right down, The Rooftop Singers

Walk right in and sit right down was recorded by The Rooftop Singers in 1962. The song was an old folk tune attributed to Gus Cannon who wrote it in 1929. I sometimes sing it to my clients when I greet them in the waiting room and invite them to the consulting room. The lyrics are perfect for psychotherapy: “Walk right it and sit right down, daddy let your mind roll on.” 

Usually clients under 50 do not recognize this song but when I tell them about it they usually smile and laugh and relax and I say “So, what’s been happening to you,” and we’re off and running for 55 minutes.

An article is posted about Music Therapy most Thursdays.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Cinema Therapy - The Sinner, First season

The Sinner is a TV show which ran for four seasons with the primary character being Harry Ambrose a police detective who has ghosts of his own life which haunt him. Nonetheless his interest in his cases are not the what and how but the why and the why is what drives the creative tension in each season and the episodes.

The first season is about Cora Tanetti, a young mother, who stabs a man at the beach impulsively while on a picnic with her family in front of many witnesses. Harry thinks that Cora’s behavior is the result of psychiatric issues and digs into her past in an attempt to understand her behavior.

This series is a very good depiction of the consequences of trauma and how PTSD contributes to acting out that can be sometimes lethal to self and others. The viewer comes to understand Cora’s trauma and its influence on her cognitive and emotional dysregulation. This understanding contributes to an experience of compassion for Cora and appreciation of Harry’s persistent effort to get to the bottom of things.

This TV series might be helpful to increase the understanding of trauma and its effects for students in human services fields and the general public.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Bibliotherapy - Skylight by Jose Saramago

 Skylight by Jose Saramago

Ordinary people with ordinary lives each with its own drama.

From Amazon web site : Lisbon, late-1940s. The inhabitants of an old apartment block are struggling to make ends meet. There’s the elderly shoemaker and his wife who take in a solitary young lodger; the woman who sells herself for money and jewelry; the cultivated family come down in the world; and the beautiful typist whose boss can’t keep his eyes off her.

Poisonous relationships, happy marriages, jealousy, gossip and love – Skylight brings together the joys and grief of ordinary people. One of his earliest novels, it provides an entry into Saramago’s universe but was lost for decades and published, as per his wishes, after his death.

Skylight is reportedly one of Saramago’s first novels which he wrote in his 30s and was never published until after his death. It is about the tenants of an apartment building in Lisbon, Portugal, in the late 1940s. Each of the families is quite different although they live together and their lives are interconnected. 

Along with the gossip and intrigue are philosophical reflections on the meaning of life manifested in their behavior and in their conversations. A student of human behavior and emotional life will find the characters and their daily struggles familiar, understandable, and perhaps imitable or not.

Some of the characters are happy, some confused, some perturbed. 

Skylight is a good book for a discussion group. It would be interesting to see what characters people identify with and why. Skylight also describes many interactions and interpersonal dynamics that are ripe for description and understanding. How might situations have been handled differently to bring about better results?

Skylight is recommended to people interested in human nature and what makes people tick. The characters are ordinary people living ordinary lives but each filled with drama of their own making. The degree of self awareness is variable among the characters with Sylvestre, the cobbler, seeming to be the most mature of them all.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Managing one’s own death anxieties to support others.

This book presents a point of view based on my observations of those who have come to me for help. But because the observer always influences what is observed, served, I turn in Chapter Six to an examination of the observer and offer a memoir of my personal experiences with death and my attitudes about mortality. I, too, grapple with mortality and, as a professional who has been working with death anxiety for my entire career and as a man for whom death looms closer and closer, I want to be candid and clear about my experience with death anxiety.

Irvin D. Yalom. Staring at the Sun (Kindle Locations 104-106). Kindle Edition. 

Beyond the symptoms, difficulties in functioning, interpersonal conflicts lurks the fundamental question of mortality. For the psychotherapist, countertransference arises in working with clients who struggle with the existential question of their own mortality and death. All psychotherapists encounter these questions which usually get framed as management of grief and trauma. And yet little attention is paid to how therapists manage their fear of their own death.

At times like this, one does not need a psychotherapist as much as a philosopher.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Why did you kill these people? Because nobody stopped me. The Good Nurse - The movie

 Do police detectives sometimes do good work and save lives by getting to the bottom of criminal activity in spite of obstacles and deliberate attempts to cover up wrong doing? Yes.

Are there good people who struggle with personal hardships to do the right thing? Yes.

There are many lessons that viewers of The Good Nurse, a movie on Netflix, can take away from this movie based on real life events where a nurse killed as many as 400 patients in 9 or more hospitals.

Rather than investigate Charles Cullen's murderous behavior, hospital after hospital, minimizing their risk exposure to liability for their employee's engagement in activities that led to patient's deaths while under their care, these hospitals just quietly terminated nurse Cullen's employment and he moving on to continue the activity in another hospital.

At the end of the movie when nurse Cullen is asked why he killed these patients he simply says, "because nobody stopped me."