Professional Snarky Behaviors

One morning, my colleague sent me an email and I could tell her blood was boiling. She was angry and hurt when she searched for her news article by using the word “therapy” in the Walton County Tribune and the first article below is what came up. Collectively, we took action and devised a response. This piece goes out to every person who has felt they could not speak or feel heard when their invisible wounds were bullied. My response will appear in the Sunday, September 29th Paper of the Walton County Tribune.

Michael Lynch Editorial From Walton County Tribune:
Disorders for Everyone, printed on July 20, 2013

My head hurts. Let me be clear, I mean this figuratively. I have to use this disclaimer in order to ensure that some new and exotic condition is not randomly assigned to me by an over-educated behavioral health specialist with little common sense.
Why do I say this?
Because of the following headline published this week: “Able-Bodied Woman Wants Surgery to Make Her Paraplegic.” That’s right — no typo here. A 58-year-old Colorado woman wants to have surgery so her legs will stop working. Why, you may ask? Because she has Body Integrity Identity Disorder.
I do not intend to demean mental illness, but it seems we have gotten to a point where any behavior or desire can be explained away by a new-found disorder. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that each new disorder justifies an expensive new drug to treat it?
Two of my favorites are Seasonal Affective Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder. With SAD it seems that some people are prone to experience less than optimal feelings during winter. Wait a minute — I think I may have SAD! Every winter I find myself wishing I were somewhere in the Caribbean and I thought those feelings were normal. Apparently I simply needed medication! Walgreen’s here I come.
The opinion on ADD or ADHD is a bit more contentious. I know parents who swear their child would be incapable of functioning without their ADHD medication. I remember a day not too long ago — let’s call it the 1970s — when the only medication needed was a healthy dose of the back of a parent’s hand. Amazing how little Johnny may be spastic one minute and a model child the next after a dose of “parental medication.”
As a secondary treatment for this disorder, my parents also engaged in a radical therapy known as “play.” During this therapy, they would send us outside to run around, get dirty, explore and expend energy. I don’t know if the World Health Organization has conducted any studies aimed at exploring why “play therapy” seems so effective in bringing down a child’s energy level. Perhaps they can obtain a grant to do so under the Affordable Health Care Act.
As previously stated, there should be no doubt that certain conditions exist. The problem arises when the conditions are applied haphazardly due to parents’ and clinicians’ ineptitude in diagnosing root causes for behavior. Does Sally have a pituitary problem? No, she has been consuming 42 Oreos each day for breakfast over the last two years!
Much like in other areas of our society, we are too eager to make excuses. We seem relieved when a fancy term can be applied to explain away what was normal behavior 30 years ago. Your homework for this week is to go to your parents or an older friend and ask them to smack you in the back of the head. Hard. Lord knows it can’t hurt.



A Response to Michael Lynch: Leave the Snarky Behavior to the REAL Professionals

My head hurts and I do not mean figuratively. I have to recognize that every time another person chooses to demean an educated behavioral health specialist, every human who has ever suffered from a real diagnosable mental health issue gets a smack to the head, causing me a mental headache. So here, a disclaimer should be noted that if you suffer from headaches and no other relatable symptoms, a neurologist and not myself, a mental health professional, would be the best fit. 

Why Do I Say this?
Because headaches are only one accompanying symptom in a small number of major mental health disorders and a headache sufferer may have a neurological disorder disabling the brain from thinking clearly. A headache alone is not in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM). I currently have clarity as to why my headache exists, but for many, professional advice from the correct medical provider may be warranted.

Sometimes our neurology can lead to unexplainable circumstances. A headline published in the Huffington Post on July 20, 2013, “Able-Bodied Woman Wants Surgery to Make Her Paraplegic.”
That’s right-no typo here. 58 year old Chloe Jennings, a chemist with a Ph.D, wants to have surgery so her legs will stop working. Why, you may ask? Because she has Body Integrity Identity Disorder. Oh But Wait, this is such a rare and unstudied condition, that it is ALSO not in the DSM. A mental health professional cannot diagnose this condition either. Okay, so another disclaimer: a mental health professional must practice including diagnoses within their area of competency. This diagnosis does not exist in the DSM. One reason may be that research that has been or currently are being conducted on this particular disorder has as few as 50 people, in comparison to thousands who have participated in studies about depression or anxiety disorders.

Anytime a person says that there is not intention to demean- the intention is out rightly demeaning. “I don’t mean to hurt your feelings…..but” (I am going to anyway). It seems we have allowed ourselves to continue to perpetuate verbal violence against what we cannot physically see, like depression and anxiety, and feel justified in emotionally preying upon people who may not have the ability or the motivation to let their voice be louder than compassion and understanding.

Body Integrity Identity Disorder has been studied since at least the 1980’s so there is no “new-found disorder.” So despite just learning about it while internet surfing, I doubt that any drug company will bother marketing new drugs that affect such a small population that has been studied long before the internet could sensationalize anything.

Two favorite mental health diagnoses that people like to demean are people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). These are mental health disorders that people actually suffer from that can be found in the DSM. With SAD, people are prone to experience: a general malaise or lack of motivation, hopelessness, anxiety, socially withdraw from friends and family, oversleep regularly (also called hyper-somnia), loss of interest in activities, appetite changes with weight gain and difficulty concentrating. But wait, to have this diagnosis these symptoms (and I quote): have to significantly affect the persons ability to function on a daily basis.

Every fall and winter a person with SAD wishes they were no where but in their bed hiding out from the world. They wish the thoughts of just wanting to disappear would go away so they could have normal feelings again. For some, medication to help augment their disappearing happy neurotransmitters are necessary. A behavioral health professional would always say medication is never enough and therapy to create lasting healing and change are necessary. If a therapist believes medication is warranted a referral out to a psychiatrist would be appropriate here as only a physician can prescribe medications.

The opinion on ADD or Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD) is a bit more complicated. First, each is a different disorder with different types of symptoms. A child or adult with ADD struggles with attention, focus and a level of distraction that affects their ability to cope and function on a daily basis. ADHD has these symptoms as well as the added component of hyperactivity. Children with this diagnosis cannot focus and lack impulse control beyond what a typical child (dependent upon age) may do. A child with these diagnoses have difficulty learning, they are labeled as the class clown and a trouble maker in school. They often are inappropriate, will hit, bite, scream and when the executive functioning of their brain feels overwhelmed can even self harm in an attempt to quell the excruciating pain they experience desperate to not act out in anger. There is no doubt this diagnosis and medication is over used, however, the over use of the “parental medication” of hitting a child’s head, as far back as the 70’s possibly, has what led us today to an entire government run department of family and children services. Children can now be removed from their parents care when the ongoing and inappropriate use of physical force leads to concussions and trauma as a result of a loved one mistreating their child. I know parents, teachers, physicians and extended family who know their child would be incapable of functioning without medication. If parents of unmedicated ADD or ADHD children were completely honest, they would have to admit they may unintentionally physically harm their child in an attempt to stop their children from participating in ongoing egregious behaviors.

A primary, not secondary treatment for ADD and ADHD is play therapy. Medication prescribed by a psychiatrist should again, augment the process, not be the cure. The main organization that studies this type of therapy is the Association of Play Therapy (APT). This world wide organization has been studying play therapy for the treatment of many types of disorders since its founding in the 1920’s. The primary goal of the affordable health care act is to provide health care, including mental health care to more people in the United States. Grant money is likely not available to the APT. As well, the primary goal of the World Health Organization is to examine how unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity increases chronic diseases. ADD or ADHD is not a disease and this organization does not recognize ADD or ADHD as a disease so would not be suitable in studying play therapy.

It is clearly being stated here, there are no doubts that real mental health disorders exist. The problem arises when the conditions are applied haphazardly by people who are not educated on the real facts of mental health. Let’s leave these diagnoses that are intended to communicate useful information to real experts. A parent knows when their child is suffering beyond the “normal” and clinicians can be present to guide parents, families and individuals towards genuine emotional health and stability.

If Sally does have a pituitary problem she should seek medical support from an endocrinologist, not a behavioral health specialist. If she has been consuming 42 Oreos every breakfast for the past two years and came for counseling, most therapists would want Sally to have a consult with a specialist like an endocrinologist before pursuing possible major mental health issues. Final disclaimer: in order to receive a mental health disorder, not only does a person have to meet a specified amount of criteria, but they must also safely rule out many other possibilities.

The use of mental health terminology in our daily life has led people to believe that they too can look up information on the internet and appropriately diagnose with fancy terms to make us all “crazy” or worse, that everyone else in society is the problem and we are the only people that behave normally.

Your homework this week….hell, your homework in this life: Choose to Learn Instead of Fear. I have the privilege in this moment to share the knowledge I have gained over the last 13 years as a therapist. No smack to the head is going to jar knowledge into it. Take the time to understand how we can use our gifts to encourage growth and change. I feel certain that Chloe Jennings and every human who has ever suffered would appreciate our understanding rather than our judgment.


Why Corporal Punishment Should Be Banned From Schools

Interesting Documentary: Difficult Images, watch with care.

Geek Alabama


My post about why dodgeball should be banned in schools has been very popular on Geek Alabama with many people not agreeing with me, I mean that is fine.  But I don’t think students should be throwing something to hit other students.  If you have not seen that post, click the link!

If you think banning dodgeball is controversial, wait until I talk about the next thing I want banned from schools, it’s corporal punishment.  Let the controversies begin!

Corporal Punishment is banned in mental institutions, prisons, and in the US Military.  But somehow, this abusive form of punishment is still allowed in schools in 19 states that are mostly Republican led.  The reasons why I think spanking should be banned is simple, no other adult should have permission to touch another student in the private parts, that includes the buttocks.  There are plenty of videos on YouTube of…

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She’s Wild, Deeply Wild


She’s wild, deeply wild. A feral and hot restlessness inside of her; she’s driven and strong. She can do things that others cannot. She feels near-constant yearning mixed with frustration. She gets things done and well. But, things move too slow for her. When she wants something, she wants it now. She wants it fast and lasting. She wants to feel it in every cell, every sinew, every pore and plane. She wants to carry experience inside of her and hold it forever.


What she really wants is pure freedom, peace, a life of contemplation, a life of feeling, but she doesn’t get to experience very much of this. She can’t have what she really wants because, well, it would ruin the current state of things. She would have to turn her back on the predictable, known present and head into the cool, silent, and mossy unknown of a different…

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It can be a lonely journey being a therapist. You are often a wealth of others wonder, joy and sorrow. But, you cannot and will not share it in conversation. Sometimes, you hunger for a clinical confidant just to relieve the pressure of being emotionally stuffed with story after story. 


I sometimes imagine what it would be like to walk into a room full or every client I have ever been in relationship with. In my mind, its like a formal family reunion. Everyone stands around casually talking amongst themselves, holding ordevorves and drinks in hand.  I am well dressed (of course) in a perfectly fitted black dress, heels and a smashing color of red lipstick. I am a little terrified and excited because some would be excited to see me; we would embrace warmly with bright smiles. Others might smile but hang back, as I am a reminder of their open wounds. A handful would be angry at my presence and continue to project that into my direction with hollow glares. Still, others may not even recognize me and certainly, I may not as well. I imagine that I would feel an extreme sense of overwhelming emotions; crushing moments of joy and fear. 



Of course, what I would want to know, more than anything, is to hear the rest of each person’s story, especially those that remain angry and hurting. However, this is just a wish. For so many, my relationship with a client or family is just a blip on their journey. I have the privilege to join them on their paths for only a moment and I will not be a part of so much of their life after. So, I used to say, “My job in the world is to plant seeds.” I thought these were carefully chosen words that accurately reflected my role as a therapist. I rarely get to know the fullness of emotional growth that has become of my people.  These words would fall out of me in casual conversation when others reflected kind words about their impression of what kind of therapist I must be. I thought my words about seeds were fair, not owning the process, until one day, I had to change my mind about my words. 


One wet autumn, I had a transformative experience on the Mountain. At the edge of Georgia, in the North Carolina mountains, I attended my first Unitarian Universalist Leadership Experience. Eighty people read and sat with systems theory for an entire weekend, something that as a clinician who has spent her career excavating the lives of other people using these concepts, made my heart sing! We ended a moment where the entire group came together to share ideas related too a set of provided scenarios. I had the privilege of sharing the systemic concepts that the group understood and it was joyous as the facilitator openly stated that some of the ideas about the system had not even been considered by herself. We later trailed off into our separate more intimate groups and once again, a participant noted what she perceived were the quality of my skills. I blurted out my standard perfunctory seed response and walked away. But this time, it was all wrong…….I was bewildered for hours. I was preoccupied with my need to take back what I said, say something else! But what? 

I am not the farmer in a clients life. I have no business deciding what is planted. I have no place in laying down what will later become the crop. I am something else entirely. I am not the soil either, that is already there, aching to be fertile. Instead, I am the left over food rind, worm and fly larvae all mushed together. I am smelly and dark. I am a living organism unto myself, but I can share of myself to prepare a harvest for another when they are ripe and ready. I AM THE COMPOST. If you give me the privilege of being in therapeutic communion with you, the possibilities to make whole what you see as unholy, are endless, like a well cultivated garden. 


Stop The Whine of More Gun Control

Following in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, there appears to be an incredibly high level of reporting and therefore extreme fear of our children master minding deadly attacks at school. Recently, a woman expressed fear in her daughter becoming a school counselor, reporting that she felt it was “too unsafe”. I ALWAYS want to return to another conversation and I invite you to consider the same………….


Nothing is more frustrating than the wave of political and religious statements made after an unexplainable tragedy occurs. In the immediate days and hours following the recent shootings of young children and educators in Connecticut, we have watched a flood of news information followed by words of sympathy and suggestions that we remember to love one another. Quickly it dissipates into diatribes about what needs to change. We make decisions to talk about how we lack discipline or religion and even the need for more gun laws. Although I will never personally own a gun, it hurts to see how quickly we as a nation move to wanting the same thing we always do; a quick fix to relieve ourselves of the anxiety that we experience every time a tragedy occurs.

Now I understand that as a mental health practitioner, it may be easy to discount what I have to say, but I am above all, passionate about people. My desire for every person to lead a life of genuine peace and happiness does NOT require us to seek out therapy. However, I will always remain clear that what we need more than anything else in this life, is clarity around our ability to understand ourselves as emotional human beings. When emphasis is not placed on teaching us about emotions, just like we learn how to read and write, then we are often doomed. When we have little understanding of ourselves in relationship with others, we cannot cope during times of difficulty.

It appears that the rants about gun control and bad parenting become the easy target because we do not want to take a good look at the real issues. If we focus on something like changing a law, then it gives us the option to forego looking at ourselves. And Why Not? Who wants to do the difficult and vulnerable work that it takes? Instead, we talk about how guns are the problem, or the bad parent is the problem. Worse yet, we make another troubled person ‘evil’ or ‘crazy’, all in an effort to not be honest about our lack of understanding or willingness to be honest with ourselves about our own human struggle. If we do not make changes where it genuinely counts, it does not matter if we make hundreds of new laws around guns.

What is going to make a difference, is our own willingness to be honest about what we are breeding like a virus in a petri dish in this country. Why can’t we talk about our emotional struggle? Why can’t we be honest with ourselves and one another about how we feel about ANYTHING? The most common reason people seek out mental health care is not when it is has been one death and loss, but instead many. People wait until the trauma they have experienced cripples their ability to function. What is worse is that the shame that we experience grows because we are have made ourselves believe that we are to be both perfect and capable of taking care of our problems all alone. It is heart wrenching to watch and I am tired of having these two ideas shoved down my throat on a daily basis. So I ask you to listen to your heart and consider carefully what genuinely matters to you and how are you going to make changes that reflect an honest and vulnerable life. Here are just a few ways that allow us to move away from the pretend of perfection and grow towards the kind of life where we value each breath we take and remember that our relationships are meaningful when we genuinely connect on a deep emotional level.

  • What is left unsaid in your life? Can you lay your head on your pillow each night and know that every person that you genuinely love knows it. Each encounter that requires your open and honest discussion with the issue has occurred.
  • You remember that you are the only person who can take good care of you. Others will not know what you can tolerate in this life if you are not verbally clear, which will often require your emotional honesty. For example, “I am sorry, but I cannot do that. I am emotionally drained and need a break.”
  • You chose to make clear what your limits and boundaries are. You do not set aside your own needs in an attempt to appear like the good self sacrifice.
  • When you feel emotionally whole, you are genuinely present and ask the tough questions that maybe others will not. For example, “You seem to be struggling, are you feeling down?”

I wonder (IF it is true) how many times Adam’s mother may have needed someone to ask her the right questions about her son? If we do not turn away and hide from our own emotions, maybe, just maybe, this family would have felt empowered to seek out the emotional support they all needed. I will never tout that this choice of journey is easy, but I will say that no matter how many flaws I have, and God knows there are many, I AM ENOUGH- and so are YOU. Just the way you are in this moment; you are Good Enough. Until we move away from a perfection seeking society, one that requires us to hide our emotional and vulnerable humanity, we will not make a world of Good-Enoughs.

It does not matter how many traumas and losses you have experienced, how many times you have tried to stop something that you knew was detrimental to you. It does not matter how many mistakes you have made. We all have the capacity to change. As researcher-storyteller, Brene’ Brown stated, ‘Open the door and walk into the stadium of your worst fears. Inevitably, it is always you that is staring back.’ I, too, had to make a choice and choose another way. Until I sought out therapy for myself, I believed the same as many. I believed that needing to be perfect was a possible destination and I just wasn’t trying hard enough.

Now, I realize that when I sew my lovely spouse’s pants backwards or I yell at my daughter when I am tired and grumpy, it sets me free from the constraint of perfectionism. No gun law will ever set us free. No amount of blame or anger will ever lead us towards that need to feel that we belong; that we belong, just the way we are, flawed, just like everyone else.

Here is the whole truth. If we made the decision to educate and grow insight into our emotional selves, eventually, I would be without a vocation. If you feel there is a struggle to get started on this path, educate yourself honestly about what mental health care is. I wish for once I could stop being called “a shrink” or a person that only “sick” or “crazy people go to” and instead be recognized as a the place in which a person can discover and grow into a whole, healthy, emotionally well human being. If I could loose my vocation due to this reality, I would gladly close shop with a smile on my face. No amount of gun laws will ever change the human heart. Only our genuine human connection can do that.