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August 29, 2019 by Bob Nikkel, MSW

System Change Webinars: Promoting Radical Change

During the past year, we have been working toward a series of Mad in America Continuing Education webinars on something we haven’t focused on enough.  That is the vital topic of how to make changes in real world programs that reflect the progressive reform agendas that reflect a “green” revolution in mental health care.

We have a series of monthly webinars starting on September 17 that we believe do this.  There are 10 topic areas with nationally and internationally recognized experts in promoting this kind of system change.  We will be discussing what’s worked and what we need to learn from what hasn’t worked. We believe that for anyone interested in radically improving mental health care, this is an essential course.

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August 15, 2019 by Sera Davidow and Cindy Marty Hadge

New Hearing Voices Online Family Support Group

Family and friends who truly love and want to help the voice hearer in their lives are often encouraged by the mental health system to hold beliefs and take actions that alienate and harm the very person they want to help. We are offering families a better way

It is widely believed that the only appropriate response to hearing voices and other unusual experiences is to deny and silence them by whatever means necessary.

In reality, hearing voices isn’t so unusual. Various studies agree that it is (at least) as common as left handedness (and much more so in certain cultures where it is more broadly accepted and even, in some cases, revered). ‘Hearing voices’ is considered an umbrella term, and also encompasses seeing visions, as well as smells, touch, tastes, and unusual beliefs that may not be common or shared.

The Hearing Voices approach offers a non-pathologizing, open way of understanding and supporting people through the experience of hearing voices. It is different from ‘care as usual’ in several ways.

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August 5, 2019 by Andrea Zwicknagl

What if…

What if...

Andrea Zwicknagl’s presentation at the kickoff meeting of HOPEnDialogue, a new Open Dialogue international research collaborative, in Rome, Italy, July 2, 2019. Read by Guiseppe Salamina in her absence.

To learn more and to support this project, please visit https://mental-health-excellence.networkforgood.com/projects/72234-open-dialogue-research-development

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July 12, 2019 by Bob Nikkel, MSW

System Change Toward a Green Movement in Mental Health

One morning a few weeks ago, I woke up thinking maybe we should begin to think of reforms in mental health systems as a kind of “green movement” with some striking similarities to the other greens: the green environment, a green economy, green energy, and so on.

The upcoming Mad in America Continuing Education series intends to use that as a framework for the ten webinars we will launch soon. More on that in a bit, but first, some quick background is in order.

An early leader of the Modern Green Movement was Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring (1962) laid out the dangers of detrimental effects to the environment caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides.

She made accusations against the chemical industry of spreading disinformation and public officials of accepting these claims. These accusations could just as easily be applied to the cozy relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and the major psychiatric organizations as documented in Robert Whitaker and Lisa Cosgrove’s Psychiatry Under the Influence (2015).

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March 14, 2019 by Bob Nikkel, MSW

Two Upcoming Webinars in Our Informed Consent Series

We have two outstanding webinars of great clinical relevance and interest coming up on the Mad in America Continuing Education Project.

Registrations are open at: education.madinamerica.com/p/what-would-real-informed-consent-on-drugs-look-like

On March 19, Dr. Sandy Steingard will talk about what informed consent can and should look like in a real life community mental health program. Dr. Steingard has been a leader in this country and is getting increasing attention elsewhere for her courageous and research-based approach to psychiatry. She is particularly well-prepared to discuss issues related to the use of psychiatric medications. You can see notice of her webinar here along with the learning objectives she will be addressing.

We are asking for a registration fee of $75 but it covers all 6 of the webinars in this series. You can contact me if you want to discuss an organizational rate or discuss a scholarship option.

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February 8, 2019 by Alita Kathryn Taylor, MA, LMFT

Love Is In the Air…

I am in love.  I’m in love with this way of working.  And I won’t stop.  Open Dialogue Washington began in 2018 upon my graduation/commencement from Jaakko Seikkula’s dialogic approaches to couple and family therapy trainer/supervisor training, in collaboration with Dialogic Partners and the University of Jyväskylä.

In 2016, I embarked to partake in the best training course I had ever experienced as a family therapist.  The embodiment I experienced working with my Open Dialogue colleagues felt like the missing key in psychiatry and psychotherapy.  Something intangible, yet what I knew all along.  Something ineffable, yet also a shared language.  Something deeply and autonomically human, yet unrepeatable and fleeting.   It led me onto a moment-by-moment path where everything I learned in my 27-year long career about systemic family therapy and emergency psychiatric protocols ebbed, and the present moment of love flowed, neither the ebbing knowledge nor the cresting wisdom having any lesser value than the other.  The complete work we do in mental health care is this ocean of love.

We are in constant change when we are in crisis.   Timelessness sets in.  Growth is happening.  We don’t exactly know what we need.  That is what mental health work is, sitting with this human happening.  In the in-between space something happens, and we don’t know what will.  This is the paradox.  We are navigating the ebb and flow of incoming knowledge we have from research and the ebb and flow in each patient and family’s difficulties (the meanings they make of them.)

“It cannot be taught, but it needs a teacher.”

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November 20, 2018 by Bob Nikkel, MSW

What Would Real Informed Consent on Psychiatric Drugs Look Like? New Webinar Series Begins January 22

I’m excited to announce a new series of Mad in America Continuing Education webinars for 2019. They focus on what I believe is a central issue—what does a true informed consent process look like for the prescription of psychiatric drugs? This is a leverage point for changing the paradigm of care by starting with how people are informed about what psychiatric drugs do.

I believe that righting this ship is largely going to be up to non-medical mental health professionals and persons with experience in having been through a system that fails miserably to provide real informed consent. Since we are a continuing education program, our courses are designed primarily for the first group: psychologists, social workers, nurses, licensed professional counselors, and marriage/family therapists. We will continue to apply for continuing education credits (CEs) and at some point recruit more interest from physicians so it would be worthwhile to apply for the more expensive continuing medical education credits (CMEs).

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August 29, 2018 by Kermit Cole

When Rain Comes, Words Are Unnecessary: Our Search for a Better Way

Living in New Mexico means hoping for rain. The state is in drought, with most areas officially in either “extreme” or “exceptional” drought. The soil is full of life waiting for a chance to express itself, but the rare rain forecasts usually promise only “scattered showers nearby,” with the outcome being either clear blue skies or the sight of rain falling elsewhere. New Mexico is also one of the poorest states in the U.S., with more than one in five New Mexicans, and one in four children, living in poverty. We are second in the nation for the prevalence of youth living without connection to work, school, or family. New Mexico ranks high (#7) for people living with serious mental and emotional challenges.

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July 28, 2018 by Shannon Hughes, PhD

Fort Collins Research Collaborative Recruiting for Second Test Group of Novel Program

The Fort Collins-based Learning and Self-development Collaborative grant project is midway through supporting its first group of young adults experiencing mood-related distress. It is also actively recruiting for the second group, scheduled to start in late August.

Nearly three-quarters of the young adults in the first group have prior mood disorder diagnoses and have tried psychiatric medications like antidepressants. However, the ineffectiveness and intolerable side effects of the drugs had left them searching for an alternative way forward when they decided to enroll in the Learning and Self-development Collaborative. These young adults are currently medication-free and their outcomes on mood distress, social connectedness, empowerment, and quality of life at six months will be compared to other young adults receiving usual care and daily psychiatric medications in the community.

An initial focus group with participants revealed a number of themes related to young adults’ past experiences with seeking help. Participants discussed feeling frustrated by one-size-fits-all solutions, such as drugs and mindfulness techniques, and invalidated by counselors who failed to connect with their experiences.  Lack of information about prescribed drugs was frequently brought up by participants who also shared various stories of “chemical imbalance” and drugs “re-training the brain to relax” told to them by doctors and therapists.

Findings from pre-program focus groups are being used to help inform the content and delivery of educational material in the Learning and Self-development Collaborative.

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December 11, 2017 by Bob Nikkel, MSW

How Would We Know If We Really Reformed the Mental Health System?

This post updated 12/28/2017

I have been wondering for some time how we would know if the mental health systems in the United States were really reformed.  It is true that there are “a thousand points of light,” many great new and older programs and initiatives out there with tremendous advocacy and efforts at radical change.  But when a system leaves so many without recovery-oriented supports, it is like swimming upstream against a powerful current.  Here are 25 indicators that if fully implemented would represent a complete system reform.

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