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December 12, 2019 by Christopher Gordon, MD

Open Dialogue at Advocates

 

Open Dialogue is alive and well in Massachusetts.  Since 2011, when Advocates was the first recipient of funding support from the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care, Advocates has been providing Open Dialogue services in two programs based in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Advocates is a full-service, not for profit provider of services and supports to people with psychiatric conditions, developmental and other cognitive disabilities, substance use conditions, and other life challenges, offering residential supports, outpatient and emergency services, among other supports, all dedicated to the idea that everyone, regardless of diagnosis or disability, can live a full, challenging and rewarding life of their own design, given the right supports.

With the initial support from the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care, and with additional support, particularly from the Department of Mental Health, Advocates was able to train 35 staff members at the preeminent training site for Open Dialogue in the US, the Institute for Dialogic Practice under the direction of Dr. Mary Olson, currently affiliated with Yale University.

We then launched two programs – one for young people experiencing early episode psychosis, called The Collaborative Pathway; the other for people receiving services from the Department of Mental Health, whose difficulties had become or were at risk for becoming more chronic, called  Open Dialogue in Behavioral Health Services.  With support from the Cummings Foundation, and ongoing support from the Department of Mental Health, both programs have been delivering Open Dialogue Services for nearly ten years.

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December 2, 2019 by Lauren Spiro

The Darker the Night the Brighter the Light: Five Lessons Learned This Month

One month ago I suddenly found myself in a very dark place where I felt vulnerable, raw, naked, humble, confused yet seeking to understand the social interaction dynamics that had triggered this journey into a seemingly bottomless pit. It’s been well over 10 years since I’ve been in such a solitary space, feeling alone, unsupported, disconnected from myself and from others.

I slowly began to emerge from the darkness 10 days ago and now I am completely out.

Going into the darkness, I remember telling people I am going through a big shift in my life. It was clear that something significant, transformational was happening. I came back with deeper feelings of connection, and a deeper sense of belonging to something much bigger than myself and a more profound sense of meaning and purpose. One lesson was about a deeper understanding of who I am separate from ego, that is, the identity I was taught and the social conditioning that has so brainwashed my thinking. And I might add the thinking of everyone around me. It’s grip on me is looser.

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November 20, 2019 by Sandra Steingard, MD

Anthropologists Contemplate the Future Role of Psychiatry

Anthropologists who study the psychiatric field recently had papers published in two highly influential journals. The New England Journal of Medicine featured a commentary by Gardner and Kleinman, “Medicine and the Mind — The Consequences of Psychiatry’s Identity Crisis” while “Merging Intensive Peer Support and Dialogic Practice: Implementation Lessons From Parachute NYC” by Hopper and colleagues was in Psychiatric Services.

Arthur Kleinman and Kim Hopper are leaders in their field. For this reason alone, these papers are worthy of review. While they both call for or describe reform initiatives, they point us in different directions with regard to the future role of psychiatrists.

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November 19, 2019 by David Healy, MD

Spotlight on the Suicides: The Politicians

This Continues the Spotlight on the Suicides series.  Astonished by the conclusion of Stephen O’Neill’s inquest, I wrote to Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, copied to the Ministers of Health in Ireland, Simon Harris, in Wales Vaughan Gething, and in England Matt Hancock, along with the Danish MEP, Margrete Auken, the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly and Martina Anderson, a Northern Irish MEP.

Michelle O’Neill MLA
Deputy First Minister
Coalisland Sinn Fein Office
Co Tyrone BT71 4LN

Dear Michelle O’Neill

Re: Stephen O’Neill

I testified recently at Stephen O’Neill’s inquest. Concerned about the conclusion, I have since liaised with several lawyers, one of them a coroner, to explore what might be done to prevent an unfortunate inquest compounding an unnecessary death.

The options available to anyone unhappy with an inquest, primarily review whether there has been a breach of legal process.  It is clear to the O’Neill family, and to me, there hasn’t been a breach of legal process, and even a judicial review at this point would be unlikely to contribute to the public safety in the manner the family had hoped for from an inquest.

This leaves the family in a situation resembling that of the relatives of those who died on the recent Boeing 737 Max flights. Had these deaths not been so public, a coroner would likely have concluded they were an unavoidable accident and his/her brief was just to record a death by plane crash. This verdict would have been supported on judicial review.

I am writing to you because there have been thousands of deaths like Stephen O’Neill’s and almost certainly will be thousands more – hundreds of Boeings – and, if a decent coroner like Mr McGurgan cannot see a way to make a difference, no-one will do anything to forestall these further deaths. The situation calls for a political rather than a judicial response.

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November 19, 2019 by Keris Jän Myrick, MBA, MS, PhDc | KerisWithaK.com

Freedom, Humanity and Relationships

One of the first things I do when returning home from a trip away is to stop by my local coffee shop and get my favorite iced tea. Do I go for the tea… well no, not really. No matter where I live, I have been doing this for years because it is not really about the beverage, it is about the people. The folks that work at my local coffee shop, whether it was when I lived in Pasadena, California, Rockville, Maryland or now in Hollywood, California, make the day just a bit brighter.

london and keris

Black Girl Magic – London and Keris

This story isn’t about the iconic and ubiquitous coffee shop, coffee or tea. It is about “Connection”. Away for a week in Trieste, Italy, I return to my local coffee shop to be greeted by London – there we are – Black Girl Magic! She knows my name, I know hers.

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October 31, 2019 by Leah Harris

Could Your Gut Influence Fear Responses in PTSD? New Study Suggests the ‘Gut-Brain Axis’ May Provide Clues for Trauma Recovery

For many years, mental disorders were simplistically understood as imbalances or deficits in the neurotransmitters in the brain. Recent research has debunked the “chemical imbalance” theory, and has given rise to more complex understandings around how the various systems of the body interact to influence physical and mental health. For example, many people are unaware that 95% of the “feel-good” neurotransmitter serotonin in the body is produced in the intestinal tract.

In recent years, scientists have begun to study what is known as the “gut-brain axis,” or the system of communication between the brain and the gut. Scientists have discovered what could be called “a second brain,” located in the walls of the digestive system. This “second brain” is referred to in scientific literature as the enteric nervous system (ENS), made up of two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells that line the gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. Increasingly, science is coming to understand that the ENS interacts in complex and significant ways with the central nervous system (CNS) via the vagus nerve and what is known as the “adaptive immune system.”

The recognition of the complex and delicate interactions between different systems in the body has given rise to a new field called “psychoneuroimmunology.”

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September 28, 2019 by Jacek (Jack) Haciak, Psy.D.

Who am I – Us or Them?

As several authorities* over time have researched, documented, and reported, there is no “mental illness.”  It is not an “illness”, as practitioners of psychiatry using the medical model, have long conjectured without evidence. There are no “them” with mental illness and “us” without.  How we interact with the world does not conform to the construct of illness in physical health, nor can it be treated using that construct to intervene when life challenges arise.

Instead, as I have experienced personally, with family members, and with those I have served, there appears to be a continuum of emotional vulnerability in play daily for all of us, with each of us experiencing fluctuating manifestations of those vulnerabilities in our unique and individual ways.  For example, some individuals can be seriously “thrown off” by a sequence of personal financial challenges; others by their spouses suddenly being inexplicably absent in the evenings from the home; or adolescents being bullied on social media, etc. 

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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 25, 2019 by Andrea Zwicknagl

Open Dialogue and Research from the point of view of someone with lived experience

Talk by Andrea Zwicknagl for the HOPEnDialogue Kickoff Workshop 2nd July 2019, Rome

I am standing here today because – like perhaps many of you – there is a question about Open Dialogue that has been with me for a long time:

WHAT IF?  – What if we had had Open Dialogue?

I would like to share a little of my WHAT IF with you.

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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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