I spoke with an old friend who is a psychologist recently. They told me of a father who brought his son to therapy due to his son’s anxiety. He wasn’t sleeping and his grades had slipped. He was irritable and argumentative one moment and in tears the next, heartbroken by some minor insult. During the course of the initial interview the father returned again and again to the topic of the “destruction of America.” He spoke with increasing anger as he described our leaders with outright disgust. He even asked the psychologist for advice on how to help his six year old son understand the dangers of “socialism.” Then, at the end of the session, he asked my friend for their thoughts on why his son was anxious.
I heard another story recently of a psychologist who asked a patient to describe their biggest fear. With no hesitation he responded, “Environmentalists.” When asked how many environmentalists he knew, he admitted to having never met anyone who he would describe as an environmentalist. He couldn’t name one individual besides a celebrity or politician who he thought of as an environmentalist. He was able to name topics of environmentalism but was unable to describe the threat they placed on him. He had a basic understanding of the politics involved but struggled to explain what he was afraid of and this was supposed to be is biggest fear? You can replace “environmentalists” with “Christians” or any other subgroup and likely hear surprisingly similar stories.
Some of you may have read my recent comment on apologizing.
I did not intend for this to be a political statement but it was interpreted as such. Interestingly it was seen as both supporting and rebuking President Obama. We have devolved to a state of filtering everything through a socio-political lens. Many of us cannot conceive of a world that is not dominated by political opinion. This is unhealthy. Political motivation and investment is a wonderful thing and I wish more people would spend time working in that arena. The issue I see is that many people consume opinion and turn that into fear without ever lifting a finger to actually work on an issue or a problem. Everyone has an opinion on school funding, but I don’t know anyone who volunteers to help poor kids read.
I do believe our President, and many others before him, could use a little more authenticity when it comes to apologizing for mistakes. I think all of our leaders could stand a little of this, but the problem lies in a culture of blame and fear. Admitting any weakness results in people calling you incompetent, changing your mind makes you a “flip flopper” regardless of any change in circumstance, and standing up for a principle you believe in means you are arrogant. Unfortunately, none of it is real. There is no truth in leadership anymore, there are only never ending campaigns to stir up the true believers which result in fear and hatred of some faceless “other.” The decline of America rests at the feet of the citizen who has abandoned reason and civility in exchange for hyperbole and disgust.
I believe this election cycle will be the worst in my lifetime and possibly the worst since generations before me. The amount of money that is being poured into advertisement that has no accountability will result in a flood of fear-based propaganda. I remember as a child how fascinated I was with the Soviet Union and the messages the government gave to the people. Yes, I was a shrink even as a kid. The Soviet government told the people what to think. They bent the truth and distorted reality to the point that truth was impossible to ascertain for the common man. Without strong personal boundaries on how we subject ourselves to the coming onslaught of propaganda we too will find truth difficult to ascertain. I feel that American society is at the apex of a decision between allowing the ivory towers to dictate our path and taking back control of the political process in our country. I encourage everyone to disconnect from the matrix, turn off the TV when an ad runs, choose music instead of talk radio, read the news instead of watching it, and most of all I implore all of us to avoid the insanity of demonizing the opposition. Let’s all try to listen more than we talk and to love people without the litmus test of political ideology. Let’s all try and apply the Golden Rule instead of spewing vitriol and well rehearsed political catchphrases.
Choosing a psychologist can be daunting. Often people are aware of the need for help but are presented with a list of providers through their insurance or the phone book. Dr. Covin offers 5 practical considerations for finding a psychologist.
Google them! Find out if they are active in an online forum be it twitter, facebook, or a blog. Do they have a practice website? What can you glean by how they present themselves online?
Understand your costs. Therapy is expensive. The expense is a financial one but also has hidden costs in other areas. Available hours, flexibility in scheduling, distance from your home, no-show fees, testing requirements all of these can impact your ability to receive the consistent treatment that is required for effective psychotherapy.
Information Consumption has Fundamentally Changed
I just read this article - YouTube Reaches 4 Billion Views Per Day | TechCrunch. What do you think this means? YouTube is now used for everything, not just watching Dinosaur Office. YouTube works because it conforms with [and has helped to influence] our changing expectations regarding how we learn new things. The way we consume information has taken a dramatic shift in the last few years. We consume small bits of information, densely packed into distinct units. Facebook status updates are limited to 420 characters, Twitter limits tweets to 140 characters!
Psychologists, Listen Up! The days of long winded lectures on the theoretical framework of blah blah blah are up. We need to know these things, we need to be academically rigorous and scientifically grounded but we need to be able to effectively communicate with a society that expects to be fed information quickly and with clear purpose.
Therapy is still therapy, your patients need your insights. Academia should resist the dumbing down of education and retain high expectations. What I am referencing is how we communicate what we do. How do we educate the public on psychological principles? How do we promote a professional identity that reflects the true value and relevancy of psychology?
Culture is changing, are we keeping up?
What can we do to be more effective communicators?