Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Questions of Change

March 11th, 2010 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Psychology

Human potential implies the need to change and grow, for potential is something not yet there that could be there. For people, change is largely a matter of examining and then changing beliefs.

In a leadership meeting at the Wright Leadership Institute this morning, Dr. Robert Wright of the Wright Leadership Institute suggested that beliefs fall into an intersection of beliefs and expectations between the individual and the world, as suggested by these questions:

What’s my belief about nature of the world?

What I can expect of the world?

What’s the world’s belief about nature of me?

What can the world expect of me?

Beliefs are often mistaken, and those are the four categories of where mistaken beliefs fall.

Human change and development as an intentional act considers to additional questions, Dr. Wright suggests:

What are the beliefs you are challenging?

What are the new beliefs you are building?

The institute’s MORE Life training is one of the best overall training experiences you can do to find answers to those questions. To read why I recommend for business, read the blog post at:

Better yet, use this code to register for free: LinkedIn

I’ll be there challenging my own beliefs about myself and building new leadership skills and beliefs by leading the production team. Hope to see you there, too.

What beliefs are you challenging?

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Growth Groups

March 10th, 2010 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Psychology

During the late 1960s and through the early 1970s, intensive group experiences captured the attention of journalists from major media, articles in national magazines like, Look, Newsweek, Playboy, and The New Yorker; best-selling books; and appearances on major television shows by authors and practitioners. Accounts in smaller newspapers followed, with articles by the Associated Press wire service spawning local reporting by local papers like the Milwaukee Sentinel.

Books, both popular and academic, as well as academic articles from the era, opened with wide-eyed wonder and almost surprised prediction at the prevalence and importance of growth group training, viz: The book Carl Rogers on Encounter Groups, opens with a chapter called “The Origin and Scope of the Trend Toward “Groups.”” Psychologist Dr. Carl Rogers wrote that “the planned, intensive group experience” was “the most rapidly spreading social invention of the century, and probably the most potent” (Rogers, 1970, p. 1).

In a textbook Group Procedures: Purposes, Processes and Outcomes, published a couple of years later, the authors wrote, “The use of groups to increase self-understanding and to improve the quality of interpersonal relationships is a sweeping social movement affecting psychology, medicine, education, social work, even business and industrial leadership,” (Diedrich and Dye, 1972, p. v).

Those books and the articles in the popular media followed the publication, in 1967, of the book Joy: Expanding Human Awareness, by William C. Schutz. The cover line of the paper back copy gives the reason: Joy was the book that “made encounter groups famous.” The goal of encounter groups (groups of six to 12 participants who meet for the purpose of personal growth) was to help participants experience joy through self awareness, created as the members disclosed themselves to one another through honest and open self expression.

Groups went under various names like encounter groups (perhaps the most famous), T-Groups (for training groups, the earliest historically), sensitivity training (one of the corporate terms for group training, and process groups (a more generic and descriptive term). Those groups share a key characteristic that the are leaderless—the leader generally facilitates a process rather than sets and guides an agenda. This description of sensitivity training, from the journal article “Training Groups, Encounter Groups, Sensitivity Groups and Group Psychotherapy,” provides a good description of growth groups and their workings:

Sensitivity training is any of a set of experiences, including but not restricted to the training group, attempting to help each participant to recognize and to face in himself and in others many levels of functioning (including emotions, attitudes, and values), to evaluate his behavior in light of the responses it elicits from himself and others at these various levels, and to integrate these levels into a more effective and perceptive self. . . . The trainer is the experienced leader or facilitator within a sensitivity training group who serves as a resource to the group. . . . He does this by calling the attention of the group from time to time to the behavior which is being exhibited and the relationships which are emerging in the group, and by helping the group to clarify its own goals and procedures (Gottschalk, L.A. MD, et. al, 1972, pp. 88-89).

This post on group dynamics is the second in a series of posts on social intelligence and group dynamics, written as part of my studies at the Wright Graduate Institute for the Realization of Human Potential. The first is “Social Intelligence.” Future posts will expand on those ideas and provide the broader historical context in psychology.


“Head Case”

March 2nd, 2010 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Psychology

The New Yorker arrived in the mailbox today, a much-anticipated weekly event in the Canright household, for as long as I’ve lived in one. Today I see in the table of contents the tag, “Psychotherapy under siege.” I can hardly wait to get to the article, by Louis Menand,  a professor of English at Harvard.

“Head Case: Can psychiatry be saved?” is a review of two new books critical of the treatment of depression in America. As I study the history of psychiatry and psychology, with an interest in and emphasis on existential psychology and  human potential practices, articles like Menand’s help build the case of all that’s wrong with the perception and treatment of psychological disorders. As Menand writes:

There is suspicion that the pharmacrutical industry is cooking the studies that prove that antidepressant drugs are safe and effective, and that the industry’s direct-to-consumer adversiting is encouraging people to demand pills to cure conditions that are not diseases (like shyness) or to get through ordinary life problems (like being laid off).

He then cites the frequent criticism of the psychiatric profession’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), as I wrote about in the post “Ill Definition.” Menand goes on to note that complaints are not only from “sociologists, English professors, and other troublemakers” but also from the psychiatric profession  itself. Here’s another passage worth quoting at length:

As a branch of medicine, depression seems to be a mess. Business, however, is extremely good. Between 1988, the year after Prozac was approved by the F.D.A., and 2000, adult use of antidepressants almost tripled. By 2005, one out of every ten Americans had a prescription for  an antidepressant. IMS Health, a company that gathers data on health care, reports that in the United States in 2008 a hundred and sixty-four million prescriptions were written for antidepressants, and sales totaled $9.6 billion.

Now that’s depressing. And it’s one reason why health-care costs are so high in the United States.

The rest of the article covers the pharma-centric treatment of psychiatric disorders in general and depression in particular and explores the dodgey role of the FDA. Along the way, the authors Menand reviews and the experts he interviews critique cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mention the “rapid collapse of Freudianism” and its implications, and report on the history of the DSM, much like that covered in the “This American Life” radio report “204: 81 Words.”

Whether it’s the impending update of the DSM or the current health-care reform debate, the over-definition of mental disorders and the role of drugs in their treatment is becoming more prominent in the news. Menand’s article provides a good overview.

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Ill Definition

February 27th, 2010 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Personal, Psychology

The way we define things and how we name them determine how we view the world and, as a result, how we act and treat one another. Modern neuroscience shows that human perceive not the thing itself but a copy, an illusion created by the human brain, a copy that is as created by mental beliefs and attitudes as much as it is generated by energies in the physical world. Things are not as they appear, and how things appear can change over time.

A story I heard today on the radio show “This American Life” illustrates how powerful definitions are and what it can take to change them. “204: 81 Words,” covers the history of how the American Psychiatric Association (APA) decided in 1973 that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness. It’s about both the power of a family story and a social label, artfully and informatively told by National Public Radio reporter Alix Spiegel.

The story’s professional theme shows how the 81 words in American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) that defined homosexuality as a disease were replace by 204 that say it is not. For years, psychiatrists treated it as a disease to be cured, and psychoanalysts probed patients to see where the causes lay in family history.

I assume that “This American Life” host Ira Glass and his crew decided to rebroadcast the show, originally aired in 2002, because the forthcoming fifth edition of the APA’s manual, DSM-5, to be published in 2013, is now available for public comment. Comments are due April 20, 2010.

The story’s family theme focuses on the power of family stories. The reporter, Spiegel, is the granddaughter of a man who played an important role in revising the DSM description of homosexuality. Her family’s family story was more or less single-handedly responsible for the change. The granddaughter, in telling the history, found that the true story was much more complex and her grandfather’s role much less central, though still important.

I am not sure how Spiegel and her family changed through her telling of the story and the consequent shattering of the myth of her grandfather. I’d like to, for family stories provide a powerful organizing device for a family and the perception of its members. A change in the narrative generally changes the characters in the future, but his is not in Spiegel’s scope.

My personal interest centers on how things become named–more properly how people use language to designate aspects of human experience with words that have meanings upon which people act. “80 Words” recalled how appalled I am at the number of psychological experiences have been labeled diseases that should be treated by drugs.

About two years ago, I got into a cab on the way home from Midway airport and had a conversation with an extremely articulate and bright cab driver about philosophy, politics, and, of all things, drugs. When I mentioned that the drug seller’s on the streets of the city were not necessarily the biggest causes of the country’s drug problems, and my driver took that bait.

“Oh yeah, the real pusherboys work for the big drug companies,” he said.

“Makes the guys on the street seem like rank amateurs,” I replied in agreement.

Turned out we had both read an article in The Chicago Reader that week (2/14/08) called, “How Shy Became Sick.” That article and the book it profiles, Christopher Lane’s Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness, provides a critical bit of history on the development of the psychological profession in recent years. It convinced me that if I had been in high school in the mid 90s rather than the mid 70s, I would have been on meds.

I would have been a very different person, and not for the better, though it occurs to me that I was on meds not sanctioned by the psychological profession. But that’s a different story.

“204: 81 Words” is well worth the hour it takes to play.