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Joseph Nowinski recently wrote an article for “The Psychotherapy Networker” on the effects advances in medical technology have had on the grief process. Life continues while quality of life may dissipate and for the first time in history, death sneaks and and stays awhile before stealing away. An excerpt from the article is below:

…The grief we experience today results directly from the increasing ability of modern medicine to arrest or slow terminal illness and stave off death, even as the body and mind progressively shut down. I lost my grandfather whole, in one fell swoop; I lost my grandmother piece by piece.

The essence of the new grief is the gritty business of living with slow death…

How do you think quality of life is related to grief?

Diana Laufenberg presents a TED talk on teaching kids to learn.

I have completed my thesis, entitled “Metaphorical Language and the Nature of Hope Among Mothers of Children who Deal with Mental Illness.” If you are interested in a complete copy, please email me.

A qualitative study of mothers’ experiences raising a child who dealt with mental illness is presented. Twelve (n=12) mothers participated in this grounded theory study. Metaphorical analysis was used to understand how mothers conceptualized mental illness and hope. Mothers described mental illness in both static and dynamic terms, meaning that for some mental illness was primarily a fixed entity, or a “fact of life,” whereas for others, mental illness was an active entity that maneuvered to change their children’s and their own lives. Mothers described hope in terms of striving for presence, “normality” and productivity. Emotional experiences of mental illness, grief and loss, and stigma were also discussed. Recommendations for further research are made.

Final excerpt…

…This study contributes to existing research by exploring and analyzing metaphorical language mothers use with regard to mental illness and hope. It also contributes to understanding some of the emotional responses mothers may have to their children’s mental illness. Additionally, by highlighting metaphor as used by mothers of children who deal with mental illness, this study emphasizes the importance of the abstract, spiritual and meaning-based structures that frame experiences of mental illness. Anticipating, exploring and understanding the abstract elements of an individual’s experience with mental illness may promote therapeutic alliance, and thusly, would improve treatment outcomes. By including another family member (in this case, mothers), this study also contributes toward development of a systemic conceptualization of mental illness…

 

Thesis Excerpts Continued:

…Mental illness affects not only the individual who personally deals with it, but that individual’s family and friends. Research on microsystemic experiences of mental illness has generally focused on recommendations for social service providers and caregiver burden. Little research has been completed on the wider lived experience of family members and loved ones who may or may not be primary caregivers for individuals who deal with mental illness.

Familial caregivers of those who deal with mental illness report a variety of experiences and outcomes. The care giving experience, as perceived by caregivers, is at once described as stressful, unsatisfying and upsetting, and at the same time critical and therapeutic (Chang & Horrocks, 2006). When an individual presents with mental health concerns, it is not typical for family supports to be immediately offered. Additionally, it is rare for family members to report their own needs (Heru, 2000). Parents and families of those who deal with mental illness may be reluctant to seek psychotherapy for themselves, possibly because of a denial of their own trauma or the belief that their loss is not worth mourning (Burkhalter, 2010). A psychotherapist who wrote of that loss described his own experience parenting a special needs child as trauma: “There is the initial trauma, which for us was the realization that those silent ten fingers/ten toes prayers had gone unanswered…” (Burklalter, 2010, p. 23)…”

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, my posting has slowed down quite a bit on this blog. I’m working on my thesis, so for the next few months I’m going to focus on putting out excerpts from my thesis. If you are interested in a final copy of this project when I am finished, please feel free to email me.  The first excerpt begins below:

“The preoccupation with categorizing and diagnosing mental illness has led to an emphasis on the tangible and objective, and a corresponding de-emphasis of the subjective, emotional, spiritual and symbolic” (Young, Bailey & Rycroft, 2004, p. 191).

            Current conceptualizations of mental health and illness focus on the diagnosable individual. However, individuals who deal with mental illness also have families, friends, partners and other loved ones who are affected by their experience of the mental illness. Minimal research exists on loved ones’ experiences of mental illness. This is problematic because as Cowling, Edan, Cuff, Armitage and Herszberg, (2006) state: “the unwell person is enmeshed in a family context. The distress of the unwell person is also the distress of the family. Clinicians should be acutely interested in the family context” (p. 416)

A blogger ‘came out’ as someone who deals with mental illness, and here he talks about what’s happened since then. The video is long, but beautiful and worth the watch.

“I was warned that I would lose myself. But I’ve never been more Michael Kimber.”

Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of attending a seminar on Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) through the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Family Social Science Department.  Narrative Exposure Therapy is a relatively new, but very effective, intervention for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  It was developed and is being used in mass trauma situations, like refugee camps.  Multiple experimental randomized, control studies demonstrate its effectiveness at eliminating PTSD for victims of multiple trauma events (Neuner, 2004; Onyut, 2005; van Minnen, 2002).

Narrative Exposure Therapy is conducted in a short series of structured sessions.  In the first, individuals participate in a diagnostic interview partially to evaluate for the presence of PTSD.  In the subsequent session, they asked to create their “lifeline” by laying out a length of rope and indicate positive events with flowers and negative events with rocks.  Subsequent sessions consist of explaining their “lifeline” with the inclusion of both their flowers and rocks.  They may also be asked to describe some of their hopes and dreams for the rest of their lives.

In each session, counselors record the individual’s life story and ask for corrections.  When counseling is completed, a digital photograph of their lifeline is taken.  Through the use of the lifeline, the traumatic event becomes integrated into the total narrative of the person’s life.

I ran into the literature for this approach earlier this year while I was working on a literature review with the U of M and was impressed by the elegance and effectiveness of the approach.  Attending the seminar really highlighted the theoretical basis, need and again, effectiveness.  I will probably be writing future posts about some of those other things from the seminar that really stood out to me.

Neuner, F., Schauer, M., Klaschik, C., Karunakara, U., & Elbert, T. (2004) A comparison of narrative exposure therapy, supportive counseling, and psychoeducation for treating Posttraumic Stress Disorder in an African refugee settlement. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72(4), 579-587

Onyut, L.P., Neuner, F., Schauer, E., Ertl, V., Odenwald, M., Schauer, M., & et. al. (2005) Narrative exposure therapy as a treatment for child war survivors with posttraumatic stress disorder: Two case reports and a pilot study in an African refugee settlement. BMC Psychiatry, 5(7).

van Minnen, A., Wessel, I., Dijkstra, T., & Roelofs, K. (2002) Changes in PTSD patients’ narratives during prolonged exposure therapy: A replication and extension. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 15(3), 255-258.

Most developmental disorders are diagnosed on the basis of behavior alone.  However, they originate in the brain – why not use brain imaging to try to confirm diagnoses?  Up to 50% of children dealing with what seems to be autism, may actually be dealing with a particular type of brain seizures.  Knowing that means that we can treat those seizures effectively, and a previously pervasive developmental disorder becomes something that is significantly less chronic.

…In a neuroscientist?

James Fallon, a neuroscientist for the University of California – Irvine, ran a PET scan on his brain after finding out that his family had a history of serial killers (including Lizzie Borden).  He found that his brain demonstrated the exact same patterns as those of many serial killers.  Check out the article below for an interesting perspective on nature vs nurture:

NPR: A Neuroscientist Discovers a Dark Secret

August 2017
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