Empathy: The Missing Ingredient

Right about now you may be putting some changes in action for 2015, perhaps renewing a gym membership, squaring away your finances, or getting that juicer you’ve been eyeing. If your New Year’s resolutions include a desire to improve communication with your kids, empathy is a good place to start. It takes skill, patience, and a lot of practice. Continue reading

Answering the Call for Social and Emotional Education in Schools

Imagine you are a teacher looking out at a classroom of students. They sit at their desks vacantly looking back at you, perhaps whispering to each other, or maybe laying their heads down. Now imagine thought bubbles rising from their heads that summarize their emotions. Among them you read, “I’m angry at my brother for touching my stuff” and “I’ll go crazy if I have to sit still another minute” and “I’m worried about my mother returning home from prison” and “I’m excited because that boy I like told my bff that he likes me too!” Got all that? Ok, now teach them grammar or math or history. Continue reading

Manipulative: The “M Word”

Before studying to become a psychologist, I worked in a psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents, a landing place for distressed kids coming from impossible situations. Life in the hospital relied upon a rigid schedule and a behavior point system. For some, the structure was a welcome relief from chaos, but for others it was a reminder of how little control they had in their lives. These children threw themselves time and again into a state of turmoil. They were violent toward themselves and others, oppositional, deceitful and vindictive. I can recall one patient who told me flat out that she would “go off” that evening simply because it was my night to be on call and she wanted to keep me stuck at the hospital. It felt as though she wanted to punish me, and she delivered with dramatic threats to hurt herself and her peers. We called these patients manipulative because, well, that’s what they appeared to be. Continue reading

Who’s Afraid of Richard Saul? On the Existence of ADHD

ADHD Does Not ExistIn February of this year, behavioral neurologist Richard Saul, MD, proclaimed in the title of his book, ADHD Does Not Exist: The Truth About Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. The publication launched a flurry of heated chatter regarding the legitimacy of the ADHD diagnosis, use and misuse of stimulant medications, and the culture at large that fertilized the seeds of the ADHD epidemic. A glance at the title suggests that Dr. Saul is challenging everything we ever believed to be true about ADHD, perhaps that there is even a problem at all. We and our children are just a bunch of entitled whiners looking for a magic bullet explanation and a shot of legalized speed. Or perhaps western society was duped by psychiatrists and their overlord, Big Pharma, manipulated into a state of learned helplessness and chemical addiction. Continue reading