Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mental and Emotional Health on The Decline

Is Mental and Emotional Health Improving?  I think not.  Judging by the explosive growth of the use of pharmaceuticals in treating mental health and emotional issues, reports from College campus counseling centers, the reported drain on services of Community Mental Health Centers and the rising numbers of severe mental health issues found in our incarceration facilities mental and emotional health is more than likely decreasing.

Given that as a society we are even more connected and more tuned in electronically, how could this be happening?  I believe the answer lies in some basic concepts and understandings gleaned generally from Behavioral Psychology and Clinical Behavioral Analysis in particular.

Lets start with a basic understanding of a few terms or principles.  The first is ratio strain (RS).  RS is a term that comes from researchers in the field of experimental analysis of behavior and refers to a phenomenon discovered while researching schedules of reinforcement.  In essence it was found that when animals were asked to produce too much behavior for too little reward, emotional responding appeared where the animals were observed to apparently be frustrated and angry based upon their levels of acting out and aggressive behavior.  The definition of ratio strain is now the “Disruption of operant responding when a ratio schedule is increased rapidly.”  Take my word for it, too much behavior being asked for in a context of too little reward.  Something you may have recognized in your life at some point?  A normal thought you may have had during that moment was that the people around you were taking you for granted; that you were doing more and being noticed for it less.

The second term important to understand is Behavioral Activation (BA).  BA refers to a third generation behavior therapy where the goal is to increase the amount of reward or reinforcement a person receives in their environment while simultaneously reducing the punishment they currently receive.  In other words the idea of BA is to help people get more of the things they want, desire or appreciate and to also reduce the amount of pain, struggle, stress, or frustration they experience.

Given an understanding of these two terms one can easily see how our current lifestyles, and the speed at which we live them, could naturally result in an over-all decrease in our mental and emotional health.  For those fortunate enough to benefit from the speed and who report a great deal of reward, good for you.  No one should begrudge anyone for having a fulfilling and rewarding life; that is something we all strive for. 

For those not so fortunate, morning eventually arrives and the struggle continues.  At some point many make successful choices and the context of their lives change for the better.  For others, over time, things pile up and mental and emotional health decreases even more.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lesbian Identity Development

One of the most prolific area's written about in the popular press today is sexual identity, sexual orientation and sexual preference. When a women identifies herself as female with a sexual preference for other females she embarks on a journey of self discovery that often results, if successful, in acceptance of a Lesbian Identity or role. Due to a myriad of public and family ridicule, the journey is often confusing and tumultuous. While the exact mechanism involved in choosing ones sexual preferences has yet to be fully explained, there is no doubt among professionals that it is not a choice in the standard sense of the term. One is either attracted to members of the opposite gender or the same gender. A few are attracted to both and a very few to neither. The purpose of this post is to outline the development of lesbian identity and the various phases women often go through on their way to successfully attaining a healthy identity as lesbian.

McCarn and Fassinger (1996) developed a four stage model of lesbian identity development that is currently regarded as the strongest prevailing explanation of this journey of self discovery.  This theory incorporates both stages in the individual journey as well as speaking to the issues involved in being part of a marginalized minority group.  Stages as used here refer to a sequential developmental trajectory that a women may move both forward and backwards through time; it best reflects a lifelong journey affected by social and political contexts over time.

"Awareness" is the first stage and is generally regarded as a time of feeling different.  An awareness develops that there are variety of sexual orientations possible and one is not limited by a heterosexual orientation.  There is no indication of an age range for this stage and it is possible that awareness can and does occur at any age.

The second stage is termed "Exploration" and involves an individuals consideration of their relationship, both emotional and physical, with other lesbians.  This includes attraction to other females as well as ones possible membership in the lesbian and larger gay community.  Self questioning might include issues related to both emotional and physical intimacy with other women as well as the social meaning of identification with the LGBT community on the whole.  Exploring social opportunities within the lesbian community or experimentation with a lesbian partner may begin here.

A "Deepening/Commitment" phase can then follow as the third stage.  Here, as the name implies, a greater appreciation and understanding begins to develop and pride emerges as a women begins to fulfill who she feels she was meant to be.  Anger is also possible related to the natural despair that can follow with the realization that prejudice and discrimination can come with such identity.  For many women, especially those with a valued public identity to lose, important questions regarding "coming out of the closet" now get scrutiny.  Many are now forced to accept an underground identity wavering between the relief of fulfillment and the fear of public discovery.

The final stage is termed "Internalization/Synthesis" and it is here that a deeper identification is formed with ones sexual orientation and other aspects of ones life and identity.  The direction of visualization changes from a person looking inward towards a new orientation and fulfillment as a lesbian towards a outward view of a full fledged member of the lesbian community looking at a society not yet fully ready to accept her with the same tolerance as if she was heterosexual.

Keep in mind that a women moves through these stages within her own time frame which is also sensitive to the opportunities of lesbian social contact in her environment and the quality of the emotional and physical relationships she develops; the same as if she was heterosexual and learning to navigate the trials and tribulations of that world.  In essence some of these stages may be mastered within a short time frame while others may take years.  And stepping back, to a previous developmental stage, is always possible.  For some, development may arrest at stage three while others may halt their development at stage two or even stage one.

Anywhere along this developmental trajectory, informed and competent psychological help and support can be beneficial.

Online Therapy

ONLINE THERAPY; We recognize that actually getting to an office for face to face therapy is often a hardship in today's world.For years psychological research had suggested that in person, face to face therapy was the only viable option for competent psychological assessment and treatment. With the advent of faster computer processing speed, more reliable internet connections and better webcam technology all that has changed; eTherapy is now a reality. You can speak with your Psychologist in real-time, enjoying all the normal visual cues of a positive relationship while remaining at your home or office. Online Therapy or Mental Health Therapy via Webcam or Online Mental Heath Therapy, whichever phrase your prefer, is quickly becoming mainstream.

For years numerous groups of individuals have been denied access to competent psychological care simply because they could not travel to an office setting or did not have licensed psychological care in their area. All that has changed. Contact Dr. Conlin today to find out how you can fully participate in Real-Time Mental Health Counseling Via Online Counseling from your location. Dr. Conlin's services are reimbursable by many of the largest insurance carriers in the USA. Email him to find out more and get the help you need starting today.

To learn more;