Aug 28

Blogging Minding Therapy: 6 Years Later (Part I)

As my sixth year blogging “Minding Therapy” comes to a close, I offer additional thoughts and/or updates to 10 of the most frequently visited posts. 

I. “Shawshank Redemption: Hope and Other Themes (2013)

Did you know that the movie was based not on a book by Stephen King but his short story “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”?

An excerpt from the story‘s coverage by SparkNotes.com:

Hope, more than anything else, drives the inmates at Shawshank and gives them the will to live. Andy’s sheer determination to maintain his own sense of self-worth and escape keeps him from dying of frustration and anger in solitary confinement. Hope is an abstract, passive emotion, akin to the passive, immobile, and inert lives of the prisoners. Andy sets about making hope a reality in the form of the agonizing progress he makes each year tunneling his way through his concrete cell wall.

II. Therapy Office Design: Why and How to Provide the Right Setting (2012)

Since writing this post, there are additional resources online. Here are some I recently found:

III. “50/50”: Problems with the Therapist/Patient Boundaries (2011) and Therapist/Patient Boundaries in “50/50” (2011)

Psychologist Rachel Mallory, writing on the website of the British Columbia Psychological Association, hated the movie because the therapist violates ethics when she becomes romantically involved with her client—a dynamic that scarcely had worried film reviewers, she adds.

Some of her perceptions regarding the therapist’s actions:

…Abuse of power, exploitation of a vulnerable person, violation of basic ethical principles, grounds for being terminated from a graduate program, career-ending for the therapist and potentially devastating for the patient. All the trained therapists I talked to about this movie agreed, wholesale…
However, when I complained about this plot twist to non-therapists, they thought I was overreacting…
This disconnect between the dictates of the professional codes of conduct, and at least some of the public perception of sexual relationships between therapists and patients, is concerning to say the least…

IV. “What About Bob?”: The Need to Take Baby Steps (2012)

For $19.50 you can have a Baby Steps t-shirt. For less than a dollar more, there’s Dr. Leo Marvin’s BABY STEPS Counseling Center tee:

V. Forgiveness: Not Always Necessary, Often Helpful (2015)

In 2016 therapist Annie Wright addressed the problem of forgiveness shaming and blaming. An excerpt about forgiveness not always being necessary:

The reality is that forgiveness often requires a deep process of grieving and healing that looks and feels different for everyone. There is no prescribed timeframe, no generalized benchmark for the forgiveness process. It takes as long as it takes. And what’s more, some people may never get to the point where they feel like they can or want to forgive someone who has hurt them. And that’s okay, too.

Aug 25

“Ingrid Goes West”: Social Media Obsession to Extreme

The drama, directed by Matt Spicer, is the latest entry in the picturesque-mental-illness genre. Richard Brody, New Yorker, reviewing Ingrid Goes West

Ingrid Goes West as described on Rotten Tomatoes:

Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is an unhinged social media stalker with a history of confusing ‘likes’ for meaningful relationships. Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) is an Instagram-famous ‘influencer’ whose perfectly curated, boho-chic lifestyle becomes Ingrid’s latest obsession. When Ingrid moves to LA and manages to insinuate herself into the social media star’s life, their relationship quickly goes from #BFF to #WTF. Built around a brilliantly disarming performance from Aubrey Plaza, Ingrid Goes West (winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance) is a savagely hilarious dark comedy that satirizes the modern world of social media and proves that being #perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

In the trailer alone, Ingrid’s mental health is called into question several times:

More About Ingrid

Sheila O’Malley, rogerebert.com:

When we first meet Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), she is in the process of crashing a wedding and spraying Mace in the bride’s face as retaliation for not being invited. A little bit later we learn that the two women weren’t even friends. Ingrid was just obsessed with this woman’s Instagram feed, and felt they had a personal connection. A short time in a psych ward follows. Upon Ingrid’s release, she falls back into the old pattern. Life is not worth living without an object of desire.

Sandy Cohen, Associated Press

Plaza disappears into the unhinged Ingrid, a character exciting in her sheer unlikeability. She lies and steals to get what she wants. She exploits trust and kindness. But she brims with a deep human fear of inadequacy, one she hopes internet popularity might remedy. Plaza brings a vulnerability and desperation to Ingrid that makes her relatable. She’s obsessive and unstable, but she just wants to be liked, online or anywhere.

Social Media Obsession Theme

Sheila O’Malley, rogerebert.com:

‘Ingrid Goes West’ is a biting expose on How We Live Now: sitting on our phones, rote scrolling through someone else’s online life, clicking ‘Hearts’ without even taking a moment to absorb the image. The film lampoons stuff that didn’t even exist 10 years ago but has now become such a part of our everyday lives that no one takes a second to consider the potential negative effects. If everything is public, then where is the Self? Is turning yourself into a ‘brand’ really a good idea? If you don’t take a picture of it and – crucially – share it with the world, did it really happen?

Selected Reviews

Jen Yamato, Los Angeles Times: “This is the real ‘Emoji Movie,’ a true horror story for our digital times. In the most acutely relatable ways and built around deft turns by Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, it skewers how we live and lurk these days in timelines fraught with angled sunlit selfies, artisanal avocado toasts and the FOMO-frothing torment of scrolling compulsively through other people’s bliss.”

Leslie Felperin, Hollywood Reporter: “…(E)ven though this feature debut for director Matt Spicer, who co-wrote the script with David Branson Smith, is sort of all over the place, it’s still often sharply amusing, crisply assembled and features game, broad-brushstroke performances from leads Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, vaguely recreating Single White Female for the smartphone generation.”

Leah Greenblatt, ew.com:

…The lemur-eyed Plaza vibrates with manic intensity, and Olsen is a brilliantly hollow foil. Though strangely, it’s the men who feel most real: Ingrid’s stoner landlord-cum-boyfriend (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Taylor’s shaggy husband (Wyatt Russell), and Billy Magnussen as the ruthless party-boy brother who sees right through his sister’s new BFF. It’s too bad that in the end West doesn’t fully trust its own ugly truths, settling instead for a postscript so glibly, brightly #blessed.

Aug 23

“Step”: Baltimore Girls Empowered Through Dance

Stories about young dancers hoping to make it in the world of dance are one thing. Stories about young dancers hoping to make it in the world, period, are something else. Step is a lively, heartfelt documentary of the second sort. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, reviewing Step

As described on Rotten Tomatoes, factual new film Step, directed by Amanda Lipitz, “documents the senior year of a girls’ high-school step dance team against the background of inner-city Baltimore. As each one tries to become the first in their families to attend college, the girls strive to make their dancing a success against the backdrop of social unrest in the troubled city.”

The turmoil surrounding Freddie Gray‘s death in 2015 serves as an intermittent backdrop. Peter Keough, Boston Globe: “Politics, though, is only part of what is being explored in ‘Step.’ Like ‘Hoop Dreams’ (1994), it tells the stories of young people from tough neighborhoods with a talent that might help them better their lives.”

What kind of school do the “Lethal Ladies” step team attend? Glenn Kenny, New York Times: “The Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women was founded in 2009 to help underserved girls, predominately African-Americans, prepare for college.” Walter V. Addiego, San Francisco Chronicle: “The idea is to provide opportunities for girls who’ve grown up amid poverty, substance abuse and violence to break out of the cycle and make a better life for themselves. Admission to the school is by lottery, and the vast majority of its students go on to college.”

Step focuses mainly on three seniors: Cori, the academic achiever with high hopes; Tayla, the only child of a single mom who’s a Lethal Ladies superfan; and Blessin, the team leader whose home life, including a mom who’s depressed and often unavailable, is perhaps the most challenging. If you’ve been watching the TV competition So You Think You Can Dance, you’ve already gotten acquainted with Blessin, as her audition was recently shown. Although she didn’t make the cut, she and the Lethal Ladies performed on the show at a later date.

Walter V. Addiego, San Francisco Chronicle, describes the essence of Step: “Lipitz alternates sequences of the girls’ school days and home lives, and plenty of footage of the team’s practices, all concluding in the teens’ performance at the big regional meet, on which a lot of pride — both the school’s and that of the girls and their families — is at stake.”

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter, elaborates

The film’s depiction of different types of mother-daughter relationships is filled with lovely moments, many of them colored by sadness. And the investment of the school staff in their students’ success provides another heartening element — among them the principal, Chevonne Hall; tough step mistress, Gari ‘Coach G’ McIntyre; and most of all, college advisor Paula Dofat, whose big-sisterly concern for Blessin is extremely touching.

The Trailer

Selected Reviews

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: “Not for nothing did ‘Step’ win a Special Jury Award for Inspirational Filmmaking at Sundance. Heartening and unashamedly emotional, it’s a certified crowd pleaser that doesn’t care who knows it.”

 Robert Abele, The Wrap

‘Step’ looks like a dance film, but it’s really a rollercoaster ride about expectations, drive, and achievement. The weight in each rhythmic stomp produced by the young women featured in this movie isn’t just to produce a sound in glorious sync, but to signal a togetherness in an often-brutal world…
Start figuring out now how to clap and dab away tears at the same time; it’s that kind of experience.

Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times: “Like them, the film is inspiring and funny and lovely, and you may find the words of one of the girls lingering: ‘If you come together with a group of powerful women, the impact will be immense’.”

Aug 21

Suicidal Despair: A Total Eclipse of the Sun

I turned back to the sun. It was going. The sun was going, and the world was wrong. Annie Dillard, “Total Eclipse” (from Teaching a Stone to Talk)

The words above are three simple sentences from Annie Dillard‘s widely praised essay, published in 1982, that describes in detail her experience of witnessing a total eclipse of the sun. You can read a recent reprint in The Atlantic.

As GoodReads reviewer “Jenny” writes:

On the surface, it seems like an innocent enough story, a recollection of a journey to see an eclipse, but the act of witnessing the eclipse awakens the writer into the realities of life. Through the stages of the eclipse, she travels through time and space, witnessing and experiencing lives that are not hers but are shared by all who partake in the human experience. At one point, she hears someone refer to the eclipse as looking like a life saver (the candy) and translates it to literally be a life saver because it pulls her back to reality.

The sun was going, and the world was wrong. This could also serve as a metaphor for the symptoms of despair and hopelessness that lead some people toward suicidal desperation.

A new suicide prevention video movingly and powerfully captures the essence of a gay teen’s inability to find acceptance and the utter devastation that brings. But it turns out that it’s not too late for him. In the end, things will be okay. Better than okay.

The song is rapper Logic‘s “1-800-273-8255,” the actual number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Included in the video’s story are singers Alessia Cara and Khalid and actors Coy Stewart (the boy in question), Nolan Gould (the object of his affection), and Don Cheadle and Matthew Modine as their dads.

Add yourself to the seven-million-plus viewers who’ve watched this in the few days since its release. You can also scroll down below for all the lyrics, courtesy of Genius.com:

[Pre-Chorus: Logic]
I’ve been on the low
I been taking my time
I feel like I’m out of my mind
It feel like my life ain’t mine
Who can relate?
I’ve been on the low
I been taking my time
I feel like I’m out of my mind
It feel like my life ain’t mine

[Chorus: Logic]
I don’t wanna be alive
I don’t wanna be alive
I just wanna die today
I just wanna die
I don’t wanna be alive
I don’t wanna be alive
I just wanna die
And let me tell you why

[Verse 1: Logic]
All this other shit I’m talkin’ ’bout they think they know it
I’ve been praying for somebody to save me, no one’s heroic
And my life don’t even matter
I know it I know it I know I’m hurting deep down but can’t show it
I never had a place to call my own
I never had a home
Ain’t nobody callin’ my phone
Where you been? Where you at? What’s on your mind?
They say every life precious but nobody care about mine

[Pre-Chorus: Logic]
I’ve been on the low
I been taking my time
I feel like I’m out of my mind
It feel like my life ain’t mine
Who can relate?
I’ve been on the low
I been taking my time
I feel like I’m out of my mind
It feel like my life ain’t mine

[Chorus: Logic]
I want you to be alive
I want you to be alive
You don’t gotta die today
You don’t gotta die
I want you to be alive
I want you to be alive
You don’t gotta die
Now lemme tell you why

[Verse 2: Alessia Cara]
It’s the very first breath
When your head’s been drowning underwater
And it’s the lightness in the air
When you’re there
Chest to chest with a lover
It’s holding on, though the road’s long
And seeing light in the darkest things
And when you stare at your reflection
Finally knowing who it is
I know that you’ll thank God you did

[Verse 3: Logic]
I know where you been, where you are, where you goin’
I know you’re the reason I believe in life
What’s the day without a little night?
I’m just tryna shed a little light
It can be hard
It can be so hard
But you gotta live right now
You got everything to give right now

[Pre-Chorus: Logic]
I’ve been on the low
I been taking my time
I feel like I’m out of my mind
It feel like my life ain’t mine
Who can relate?
I’ve been on the low
I been taking my time
I feel like I’m out of my mind
It feel like my life ain’t mine

[Chorus: Logic]
I finally wanna be alive
I finally wanna be alive
I don’t wanna die today
I don’t wanna die
I finally wanna be alive
I finally wanna be alive
I don’t wanna die
I don’t wanna die

[Outro: Khalid]
Pain don’t hurt the same, I know
The lane I travel feels alone
But I’m moving ’til my legs give out
And I see my tears melt in the snow
But I don’t wanna cry
I don’t wanna cry anymore
I wanna feel alive
I don’t even wanna die anymore
Oh I don’t wanna
I don’t wanna
I don’t even wanna die anymore

Aug 18

Bullying, Hate, Etc.: Up to Date Mental Health News

Bullying and hate have been frequent topics in the news these days. Also Trumpism, white supremacists, etc. See a thread?

I. He Ruins Everything: Trump Is Having a Negative Effect on the Workplace. Kali Holloway, Salon

Nearly 46 percent of Americans believe that ‘the brutish 2016 election campaigns negatively impacted the workplace,’ according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. In an abstract subtitled ‘Trump Toxicity,’ the organization notes that as a candidate, Trump ‘modeled bullying and [gave] license for others to forego norms of interpersonal civility and kindness.’ The trickledown effect is leading to increasingly inhospitable workplaces and an increase in inappropriate behavior.

II. How to Survive a Jerk at Work. Robert Sutton, Wall Street Journal

Author of the upcoming The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt, Dr. Sutton offers the following tips. Refer to the article for elaboration on each point.

  • Keep your distance.
  • Slow down. “…(R)espond as slowly and infrequently to the jerk as possible, and when you do respond, stay as calm and composed as you can…”
  • Early-warning systems. “In many workplaces, people spread warnings when powerful jerks are in vile moods (and it is best to avoid them) or are ‘incoming’.”
  • Look at it another way. “…entails ‘reframing’ the jerk’s behavior in a more positive and less threatening light.”
  • From enemy to friend. “As psychologist Robert Cialdini documents in his classic book ‘Influence,’ flattery, smiles and other signs of appreciation (even if not entirely sincere) can win over strangers, critics and enemies.”

III. Democrats in Congress Explore Creating An Expert Panel On Trump’s Mental Health. Sharon Begley, Scientific American

A closed meeting is scheduled for September in which mental health professionals will offer opinions to interested legislators, some of whom have also “co-sponsored a bill to establish ‘a commission on presidential capacity’,” which relates to the 25th Amendment.

IV. The Psychology of Hate Groups: What Drives Someone to Join One? Elizabeth Chuck, NBC News

A significant factor is “implicit permission” enabled by such activities as “watching a hate group rally or reading members’ comments online,” reports this article. Since Trump’s candidacy, moreover, we’ve had a rise in hate group formation and activity. Read more for details.

V. How White Supremacists Use Victimhood to Recruit. Olga Khazan, The Atlantic

Sociologist Mitch Berbrier, reporting on his research in 2000, found the following about the beliefs of those who affiliate with white supremacist groups:

  • that whites are victims of discrimination
  • that their rights are being abrogated
  • that they are stigmatized if they express “pride”
  • that they are being psychologically affected through the loss of self-esteem
  • that the end product of all of this is the elimination of “the white race”

VI. The Dark MInds of the Alt-Right. Olga Khazan, The Atlantic

“A psychology paper put out just last week by Patrick Forscher of the University of Arkansas and Nour Kteily of Northwestern University.” states Khazan, “seeks to answer the question of just what, exactly, it is that the alt-right believes. What differentiates them from the average American?”

It’s not about the economic anxiety. But it is, apparently, about a belief in a particular hierarchy of social groups.

The alt-right participants were more likely to think men, whites, Republicans, and the alt-right themselves were discriminated against, while minorities and women were not. This is in line with past research showing that white supremacists have a victimhood mentality, in which they consider whites to be the real oppressed people of American society.

Another interesting finding breaks the alt-right itself into groups:

Some were ‘populists,’ who were concerned about government corruption and were less extremist. The more extreme and racist among them, meanwhile, were the ‘supremacists.’ The authors speculate that people who start out as populists might become radicalized into the supremacist camp as they meet more alt-righters.