The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Celebrity Worship and Idolatry

Who is most affected by the media and celebrity worship?  What is the underlying reason for us becoming hooked into this form of idolatry? Is it human nature or an illness?

Celebrity Worship Syndrome is an obsession, altering our perceptions and relationships with others. It affects 1/3 of the people here in the U.S.  Other countries where the film industry pulls as much of a draw also fall victim to this behavior.  Certainly not a new phenomenon, women and men alike have tried to follow examples of  those deemed superior all throughout history. It is, however, more prevalent than ever due to the abundance of mass media resources. All too often, tabloid news takes precedent over pertinent current events. Now, for instance, with all the unrest throughout the Mid East, world changing events unfolding before our eyes - Charlie Sheen's dilemma has been the main focus of many networks. Why? Because it sells.

We always hear about the negative effects of media on women. Unrealistic images, many Photoshopped, others representing the Creme de la Creme of those born with the "Cover Girl" genes or "the Look"  are constantly paraded before our eyes.

In its mildest forms, women will base their decisions for hairstyles and fashion wear on trends seen in Hollywood or on the the runways of Madison Avenue. Perhaps they may even enhance their looks with plastic surgery. Kept to a reasonable level there is nothing wrong with this. 

Women inherently want to create a good exterior package, and why not? Studies show men are most attracted to - visual content.

We may just want to increase our edge in a competitive world, where looks can play a big role in social and professional situations.

We may just want to feel our best, using them as a "model" of options to follow.

Others may go overboard, willing to go to any extent or cost to look like them. Cosmetic surgeons have catalogues of celebrity's photos to choose from so you can have their noses, their lips, even their breasts. There's even reality shows dedicated to being transformed into perfect carbon copies. Some may resort to unhealthy eating practices, endangering their health, in an endless battle to be thin (which for celebrities is usually below the normal range of BMI).

The media enjoys perpetuating stereotypes such as the "dumb blond". They show highly attractive women that lack any sign of intelligence, but are always able to attract men who don't take issue with all body, no brain.  This may hold true for some men during their younger, less mature years of dating; allowing for endless superficial, short lived relationships to proliferate.  However, once these same males grow up and seek marriage, their interests and priorities begin to change. Guided more by their heads and hearts and less by their hormones, they do tend to put more weight on a woman's personality, character and social abilities.

So is this syndrome unique to women? Not at all. It's just that guys tend to hide their insecurities and weaknesses more so than women out of fear of being unmanly. One look at Esquire, GQ, Men's Health, Ask Men and any bodybuilding magazine and you'll see how men can fall victim to the same brainwashing techniques as women. They are told that the successful men have a strong chiseled face and a six pack. They must wear stylish clothes and exude machismo in order to drive women wild.

Men fall prey, just as easily as women, to unhealthy practices including bulimia and anorexia, working out to excess, and taking steroids to live up to an image. They too will spend money to dress and look the part and even undergo massive amounts of plastic surgery. While some try to maintain a gentlemanly persona and simplicity, deep inside they may fear (thanks again to media hype), that women would perfer the "Bad Boy".

Throughout the history of film, the media has glorified the "Bad Boy". Whether Rhett Butler, James Dean or Humphrey Bogart; the Fonz, Harrison Ford or Russell Crowe; or Gerard Butler, Sean Penn and Robert Downy, Jr. women cannot help but be intrigued by the Alpha Male. This is the sort of guy you wouldn't want to bring home to meet your parents, unless you are in a rebellious mood.  No matter how much of a feminist stand we take, the "Bad Boys" and all their inappropriate behaviors make our pulses race and sexually arouse us. Again, maturity and the prospect of marriage changes our taste as we begin seeking a strong yet sensitive type, faithful and devoted with a great sense of humor instead.

So what about the guys who grew up watching James Bond 007? What sort of message did this send? Well first off, an English accent helps;  swaggering, dashing good looks accompanied by hair that doesn't fall out of place in spite of fiery explosions and falling out of planes is a must;  driving fast cars, motorcycles and the occasional tank irresponsibly is a basic skill requirement;  taking risks in the name of danger shows his adventurous spirit;  womanizing - a love them and leave them attitude with your needs always coming first before hers shows manliness;  when drinking make sure it's shaken not stirred;  abusive, dominating behavior is desired and expected; getting into violent fights with not only men but a constant onslaught of strong and beautiful women proves you are up to any challenge;  arrogance and cockiness makes you all the more desired;  all out general disobedience and disregard for rules proves who is boss;  behaving like a loose cannon gets every one's attention;  and strutting
one's masculinity, charms in a seductive nature is the key to getting the women to wait in line to jump into bed with you. Oh, and occasionally saving the world from destruction makes you the hero.

There are guys will try to model themselves after this image, and we women fall for it -  most at least once in their life.  Let's face it, if you are looking for a good time do you date the "Bad Boy" or the "Geek"?  That's a no brainer. Although this character is demonized, we ladies fantasize about it and the media knows it is our weakness.

Pierce Brosnan made four James Bond 007 movies, but was replaced because he was considered to be too romantic, too sensitive, and perhaps not "bad" enough for the role. I personally liked him the best, but that's just my taste. I dated on too many "bad boys" in my time, so the softer touch was far more appealing.

It's no surprise that men try to be "Bad Boys", just like we women try to be "Cover Girls". The media does indeed affect the way we act, dress, try to look and what lengths we are willing to go to fill the shoes of a prepackaged "perfection", no matter how unrealistic our hopes may be. We are a nation that begs to drink at the fountain of youth, worshipping it as the Greeks worshipped Adonis. We measure ourselves like a common products, according to marketing trends, what's "IN" and what sells on the news stands or Internet. We want what we cannot or should not have.  Some allow the seduction of Tinsel Town to create delusions of special connections to people we don't really know and have little chance of meeting. Fortunately, for many it's just a passing phase, until we become comfortable in our own skins. For some it becomes a serious obsession; one that can do more harm than good for ourselves and others, potentially leading us to behave in dangerous ways.

Are we just shallow and vain or are there deeper problems that lead us astray from being ourselves?

Sadly, all too often, people lose track of the line between reality and the prepackaged, altered images intended to sell a product. They think beloved "characters" are real people; that models "always look that way". They make false assumptions that if they look like the "STAR" that magically their lives will change, bringing them the same success, with or without the benefit of talent. The surge of reality TV is symptomatic of this growing syndrome, exploiting people who are fundamentally troubled (this applies
to both sexes)

Can this be changed or is it just human nature? Do the Divas relax and begin to worry more about inward beauty instead of outward appearance? Yes, in some cases. However, is this seen as a good thing? Not really.  Letting yourself go can have negative consequences on your relationship as well as your own well being. Do the Bad Boys become Cuddly Bears. Yes. Until midlife crisis hits and they dust off the old image and take it out for a ride.  This is not to say this is true for everyone.

If we work harder on building our self esteem, finding comfort in being ourselves, finding satisfaction in living your own life there is less chance that you will have to borrow someone else's to fill in the blanks. Enjoying entertainment is one thing. Admiring one's talent is fine. Even getting a rise in pulse from one of the so called "beautiful people" is acceptable. But trying to become them? That's a whole different ball game.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


"The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA’s protections apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training. The ADEA permits employers to favor older workers based on age even when doing so adversely affects a younger worker who is 40 or older".

The ADEA would be an timely piece of legislation if it were possible to effectively enforce it. However, in spite of the alarming "surge" in age discrimination law-suits being filed in today's economy, few cases ever become formal complaints due to the costs of legal representation and difficulty bringing them to adjudication. All to often companies conceal their position by claiming they found someone "more suited for the position" (a point that is difficult to fight without direct knowledge about the competition's qualifications and age), or that they want someone with "less experience" or a "recent graduate" (both clearly indicating age bias).

In the case of layoffs, age bias is more blatant especially if cutbacks are made in an effort to "trim the budget by dispensing with higher paid individuals", thus older and more experienced workers. Often they are replaced by younger applicants. These cases can be far more easily proven to be acts of discrimination. Those aged 20-40 turn a cold shoulder to this issue, however, they fail to consider that in another 10-20 years it will be them being handed the pink slips, replaced by a new generation of younger and cheaper labor.

Unfortunately, Federal and State governments have failed to protect the rights of those age 50 and up. In 2009, Clarence Thomas, a conservative justice on the Supreme Court, ruled in a 5 to 4 decision which disregarded legal precedent, that the burden of proof in such cases would be shifted completely onto the employee. This ruling benefited companies while making the prospect of older workers finding new employment more difficult.

Incentives to hire older people have not been established leaving a growing pool of Baby Boomers (age 50-60) without jobs. With the rising expense of unemployment claims and public assistance for those whose benefits have run out, it would only seem logical and fiscally responsible to pass legislation penalizing companies not showing a fair and equitable balance in hiring practices. Additionally, tax breaks should be made available to those who hire the unemployed or older worker instead of stealing already employed workers from competitors.

A Capitalistic government protects corporations without regard to the country's workforce or citizens. It encourages joblessness, by supporting buyouts, mergers and layoffs resulting from them. Those who support this system, sound the war cry that their taxes should not be used to support the jobless, however, they back the government policies responsible for causing this atrocity to fester. If you do not want higher taxes it's time to open your eyes and heart. Lend a hand to your fellow American and say, "If they will not help you - I WILL!

Our country has been divided into a nation of Have A Lots and a Disappearing Middle Class ravaged by poverty, willing to work striving merely to survive. This is NOT the Democracy our Forefathers promised us! Not even the one that made the American Dream a reality for so many. It closely resembles England of Charles Dickens' era. It has become a Plutocracy and you'll find Scrooge on Capitol Hill, sitting fat and happy eating the pork belly of Capitalism; enjoying a mighty fine income, health benefits and pension!

How proud can one be when:

Our universities are training a growing number of foreign students who seek quality education and then return to their countries of origin to COMPETE with our companies. When asked why he was returning to Jordan after completing his PhD, a student replied, the education may be better here, but at least at home I am guaranteed a secure, paying career!

Employment specialists advise older applicants: DO NOT put any indication of your age on a resume. This includes dates of graduation, any experience dating back more than 20 years or anything that would make your age obvious." Once company staff sees this, they must immediately toss or delete the resume so that the company cannot be accused of age discrimination by applicants."

Older workers are encouraged to, "dye your hair, get plastic surgery, dress youthful, post older photos of yourself on the Internet". This would be fine however, cosmetic surgery, hair plugs, salon services, and new wardrobes are out of reach for most of hose living on bare bones. Are we truly a nation so vain and superficial that youthful looks are valued above age, experience and wisdom?

Even these methods fail when the Internet exposes everything one could want to know about you including record of earlier jobs, accomplishments, previous addresses, education dating back to preschool, medical records, and "what you thought was private chats". Even if your records are pristine, your wife's membership in an Political Organization, your charity donations for Cancer Research, or a vote on a petition for Gay Rights can and will be held against you by companies making false assumptions based on too much information and too little discretion. They will even consider records of people who are unrelated, but bear the same last name. In a time when there are 5 qualified people for every job that opens, not to mention countless applicants, this allows for irreverent carpet bombing attacks against our own people.

Companies will not even give a break to an older worker who is willing to work for lower wages or a step backwards career wise just to secure permanent, steady employment for the sake of survival. Their analysts and actuaries view older workers as being "higher risk", while the opposite is true. Baby boomers are healthier and living longer than previous generations. However, higher risk behaviors are far more common for those age 20-40. Younger people are at higher risk for mental illness or more acute stages of various disorders. Type-2 diabetes and obesity is a growing concern among younger generations who have adapted unhealthy lifestyles. Employees with young families are more apt to miss work in order to tend to child care and marital issues. They simply are not as dependable.

Companies claim they are looking to cut costs. They claim they are looking for someone who "will stay around for the long haul." However, the fact that is most young workers stay about 5 years before changing jobs, finding better pay and incentives along with faster career growth. This seems to be ignored by the bean counters as they concentrate on the bottom line. With a higher turn over rate among those fresh out of college, there is a higher investment in training and time lost while bringing newcomers up to speed. Older workers are looking for job security to finish out their career and are far more flexible with their needs.

Older workers are more mature, tend to remain calm under pressure, are devoted and more motivated. They have a higher degree of competence, can think outside the box, are more focused and better at problem solving, are more adaptable. They know the ins and outs of career building and have usually had prior experience in mentoring or training others. They have more flexibility due to fewer family obligations, are quick to learn and can start off running, and the list goes on and on and on. Unlike newcomers, they have an established work history with stronger references to ensure that the company is not making a mistake by gambling on a unknown quantity. All in all - it is simple logic. An older worker gives a company more bang for the buck!

So why are companies less willing to consider the experienced worker? Ignorance, misconceptions and short term and short sighted financial goals. What's sadder is it's the older workers who are securely employed that are guilty of making these biased decisions to quickly save the company money and line their own pockets, while setting it up for failure in the future. These men are not concerned with the consequences down the road as they prepare for retirement.

So think about it whether you are a CEO, CFO, Manager, HR Professional or Department Head. Do your math and invest intelligently when hiring.Give the older worker a chance.

For all others, write to your Govenors, Representatives, Senetors and Congressmen. Take a firm stand. Protect your future, your family's and the security of your parents (otherwise guess who's coming to dinner and staying for the rest of their lives).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

DR. PATCH ADAMS - A Hard Act to Follow

Dr. Patch Adams brought laughter, humor, and compassion into medicine, where it belongs and is sorely missing. There was once a time, not so long ago in history (at least in smaller towns and cities), when your physician was also a friend of the family. You shared both the good times and the bad times and helped each other out. Who better to face bad news and loss with than someone who truly cares?

Medical schools today, teach future doctors to keep arms length at all times; plant firm boundaries between them and the patient; regard clients as helpless dependent children and to be professional and analytical keeping emotions in check. Why, they are so brainwashed they can deliver news such as “you have two weeks to live and there is nothing we can do” without batting an eye. I tend to think this cold, steely approach is nothing more than a coping mechanism designed to help “the doctor” rather than “the patient”. It’s often not until they themselves or a loved becomes a patient, that the negative impact of the physician lacking in compassion is understood.

I was hospitalized recently at a teaching hospital. Although I didn’t mind, I felt like a guinea pig used for interns to practice on. There’s one doctor though I will never forget. She stood out above the rest. A female neurologist came in with her group and introduced herself with a smile. While going over my case, she reached down and held my hand. Such a simple gesture, yet it made a world of difference. Such a caring demeanor is a rare find. Give it a try. You may be surprised at the reactions you receive. It in itself has healing powers.

Now we’ve all heard the phase, “Laughter is the best medicine” and indeed, it is. Doctors who employ humor into their practice can boost patient’s immune systems; raise energy levels while reducing pain. It's a powerful antidepressant without any of the nasty side effects besides the occasional wetting of one's pants.

Patch Adams told of a mother who was tenderly and patiently dealing with the endless screams of her child who was dying from myeloma, among the most excruciating pains one can experience. He walked into the room in his silly clown clothes, a red rubber nose, cheek spreaders, fork earring, and fake snot hanging from his nose and the child looked up and smiled for the first time in ages. He sat with the mother and talked, while clowning with the child. A full hour went by without a single tear. If that’s not a compelling story, what is?

Patch has helped countless people with mild to severe mental illness without the use of Big Pharma’s bounty of magic pills, many of which that they still don’t know how or why they work (among many that don’t). These patients have no where else to turn. They have no money, no insurance, and they do not live in areas that offer free clinics. He indeed takes risks inviting these people into his hospital, which up until recently, was his home. Although there were a couple of tragedies experienced along the way, there were thousands that were helped, able to resume their lives and be functional, even happy. As he points out, much of what we call depression is not a chemical disorder. It’s is the loss of hope, loneliness, troubles that given the proper care can be resolved.

The best doctors I ever encountered had wonderful personalities. One moment they could hit you with an uncomfortable concept, and next leave you chuckling. They were straight shooters, yet never left you feeling angry or abused. It was in this beautifully intertwined approach that you could face painful realities and turn around laughing at the obsurity in them. Like Mary Poppins would say, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down in a most delightful way.”

One doctor wrote on his blog that he attempted to engage in humor and told a joke at the beginning of a session to "break the ice". The patient was indignant. He stopped doing this as a result. WHY?!?  Just because one patient broke his funny bone and like a screcrow has a rod stuck up his pants, doesn't mean he should stop trying. There are many types of humor, just as there are many forms of therapy. You can't please eveyone with the same joke. Also, it takes time to warm people up, especially when they've come to expect distance.

When I was at the hospital I turned the tables on the staff.  I was the witty one. At first they were not quite sure how to respond. But quickly, they sighed a breath of relief and began to laugh, commenting that it's not often they have a patient with such a good outlook on life. If you have a patient who takes life too seriously or is depressed, reccommend for them to take Laughing Yoga or to join a Laughing circle. Even the utterance of a feigned laugh can lead to a good case of the giggles. It's healing. And if you have a problem with laughing inappropriately, just tell people you have to for medicial reasons.

His hospital is a community of people from all walks of life, no different than society functioned just 100 years ago. Everyone contributes something, whether farming, cooking, cleaning, repairing, babysitting or building. It is NOT required, nor is it barter. It is merely a sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself, being productive, accomplishing things, connecting with others, helping your fellow man. Is this model outdated? Maybe, but note there was not the scourge of mental afflictions back then as there is today.

He takes time to know his patients, spending up to four hours with each newcomer on their first day. They talk about everything, not just their chief complaint. They become “friends”. This isn’t to say he doesn’t ask the hard questions, but he does so in an air of compassion and empathy. People relax and feel free to open up and be themselves.

Yoga, chiropractic, acupuncture, meditation, play, theatre, arts, nature, education, and social service are all incorporated into treatment and TREATMENT IS FREE. The whole hierarchy created by the business model of medicine, creating a debt between patient and practitioner is removed. Everyone is equal. The interplay of healing is emphasized. Doctors also benefit from positive interactions and can learn from those they treat. If you really think about it – each patient offers free continuing education to a doctor. Who is he to charge for this service? Yet, in modern medicine, bureaucracy and capitalism rules; and money is the name of the game.

Patients are trained to help themselves. Unlike modern psychiatry whose motive is to use a band-aid effect, numb you up with often toxic drugs, addict you so you have to keep coming back for more and more and then dissuade you from seeking complimentary alternative healing. It’s all a sham pulled over our eyes, to support profits. Note: There are some who suffer from severe or acute conditions, where this approach is necessary because time is of the essence. Once under control though, alternative methods should be employed.

Agreed, being that our world no longer functions in a community setting; it is no longer one for all and all for one. Now it’s a system where everyone has to look out for themselves. Doctors, like any other professional, have to make a living. The economy has forced even the most compassionate doctors to resort to the 7 ½ minute visit, processing patients as if on an assembly line. Laws, malpractice, insurance regulations, 3rd party payers have turned this once honored practice into a system without a heart or soul. Yes, we are grateful it’s there. Some believe the U.S. model is the best in the world. Many disagree.

While it would not be practical or in most cases, possible to adopt Patch Adam’s model for healing, some of his methodology and philosophy can easily be incorporated into any practice. Break down the walls of hierarchy, smile, hold a patient’s hand, give them a hug if they need it, learn to use humor, and clown around once in while. Compassion is beginning to be taught in schools here in the U.S., something that was always taught in Europe. It’s time to put the egos to bed and behave as what you are without the diploma hanging on the wall – an average, everyday American; hopefully one with humanity, humility and the ability to laugh.

DR. PATCH ADAMS - Dealing with Suffering

All you have to do is read the news. There is some sort of major disaster and tragedy taking place at any given moment. You may feel uncomfortable and wish to side step it. The easiest way to cope with bad news is to turn a blind eye. So you don't make eye contact with the homeless or those suffering. Don't turn on the TV when reports of natural disasters hit. Don't read about war, violence, and riots. Don't spend any more time at hospitals or nursing homes than the occasional obligatory visit to a loved one.

Walk into any public place and you are bound to run into a problem of one sort or another playing out before your eyes. Parents fighting with unruly kids; customers complaining about one thing or another; people getting into fights and brawls. Just driving somewhere, it's impossible to avoid road rage. Turning away and tuning out may give you a moment of solace, but it doesn't erase the truth. It may temporarily shelter you from negativity allowing you to languish in your own narrow sense of positivism. However, how can you really feel pride and self confidence when you are contributing to the problem rather than stepping in to lend a hand?

Everyone makes excuses! We've all heard them echoed time and time again. "I've got my own problems to contend with!" "That's their country's problem! Let them tend to their own!" "They deserved it!" "You can't solve the world's problems over night!"  "It's not my business to interfere!" "It all media hype." "Damned bleeding heart liberals!" "I'm just one person. What can I do?" "What is it you want of me?" "I'll be dead by then so what does it matter?!?" Go ahead.  Don't you let other's suffering ruin your good day.

Conflict. Pain. Anger. Hostility. Suffering. Crime. War. Victimization, and yes... Hatred. There is too much of it! Doesn't that make you mad? Of course it does if you have an ounce of humanity in you! But how many of you have actually stepped up to the plate to make a difference? Huh?

Last night I sat in on a lecture by a truly amazing man. Dr. Hunter Doherty Patch Adams. He is the man who brought laughter, humor, and compassion into the field of medicine. He has worked for 40 years as a Family Practitioner and has never charged so much as a dime for his services. He has never bedded up with Big Pharma, the Insurance Industry, Government Propaganda or Capitalism. He doesn't buy into the system and that is what makes him so incredible. He's not wealthy. He lives in a commune. But he's probably the richest man in the world! He has a wealth of goodwill and happiness.

He knows how laughter, a simple smile, clowning can bring light into the darkest places. He has visited hospitals, prisons, orphanages, referee camps, nursing homes, mental institutions, prisons, long term care facilities, and war zones worldwide. He responds to the calls of the neediest. He enters the most horrible nightmarish settings of monumental suffering where all hope is lost and has brought a ray of sunshine. He doesn't accept being put up in nice hotels, being fed anything better than the people he offers his own unique brand of support to and all money earned from speaking engagements goes to his foundation - the Gesundheit Institute, a hospital offering free care and natural therapies.

He explained how although holding a child who has never been loved or held brings tears to his eyes, it also offers him rewards that money could never buy. He is not a religious man so to say, but he prays with families of every background and culture, with love and respect shown towards their traditions. From Atheist to Zoroastrianism, his heart is open to spirituality of any sort, and for that moment he is one and the same with the suffering and those facing immeasurable pain and loss. He'll tell you - "Faith works!" He combines a deep reverence for all mankind with clowning to lighten the hearts of those in pain, and it works. He spreads love, the most important resource in this world, and yet as he says, "We can go from preschool to our post doc and beyond, and not once do we learn anything about its powers." The college students at Northeastern University agreed it's the one area of life they feel least prepared for.

So how do we learn to walk in his shoes when for most of us, they are far too big to fill? First of all we must change our perspective. Don't say I'd like to change; I could change; I should change; I'll try to change. Say I WILL CHANGE!!! It's a decision! Make it and stick to it!

Start small. It's in the slightest actions that we can begin to make changes that affect the lives of others in the most profound ways. Try holding a door for someone; smile at a stranger; laugh at loud for no reason at all (even if it's feigned) and watch genuine smiles come over the faces of those standing near by; clown around with a child who's crying and screaming and watch a smile come over their face. Don't be so serious, uptight and professional - dare to be goofy! Let the child in you come out and shine. Prehaps be a little bit naughty. Laughter is far more infectious than the common cold. It connects people on the spot, forming intimacy. Best of all it's FREE and easy to do!

Don't turn a blind eye to pain. It will always be there and someday, it may be you on the receiving end. Roll up you sleeves (or in Patches case, he rolls up the legs of his oversized clown pants and pulls the waist up under his arms). Be a clown and make them laugh. We WILL make a difference. We CAN make this a better world. WE ALL HAVE THE POWER TO HEAL!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Therapy, psychiatric or psychological, is a priceless tool for those seeking to heal from mental illness, adversity, trauma and so forth. It's value weighs on the knowledge, experience and professionalism of the counselor as well as the patient's willingness to work, open up and learn both in and outside the office. It would be nice to think that as long as you are properly motivated, the first part - finding the appropriate doctor should be simple. However, that is not always the case. 

I've written in earlier blogs about choosing and working with therapists; how the relationship between doctor and patient is no different than any other.  While some doctors take a stance that hatred towards the therapist is inevitable and that the lack of it proves weakness and poor standards of practice on the part of the therapist, I'm sure there are countless success stories of full recovery without this negative dynamic. Like any other good relationship there should be honesty, trust, comfort, empathy, respect, compassion and good communication. Otherwise, stress and further trauma will impede progress. The idea is to aid a person through difficult, sometimes painful realizations, helping them find new perspectives and a more positive outlook and not to bully, dominate and demean someone who is already troubled.

There are warning signs that you have met "DOCTOR NO".  In this blog I wish to address things to keep in mind to prevent becoming a victim of "bad medicine".

1) Make sure the doctor is indeed experienced, especially with your particular issue.

Although it may seem a bit discriminating, bear in mind senior doctors (age 65+) may be very set in their ways. They may not be as on top of newest research and techniques. You know they've been in practice too long if they fall asleep during a session. Trust me, I've been there. On the other hand, they have seen far more patients, which in itself is continuing education.

The young doctor may be up on the latest developments, however, they tend to be green. This is when they make the most mistakes. Starting out anew involves a steep learning curve. As much as you may want to give them a fair shake, weigh out how much you want to be their guinea pig as they "practice" medicine.

A middle age doctor offers the best of both worlds. This is not to say that there are not those who stand out and shine on either end of the spectrum. These are just things to take into consideration. Your personal preferances should be the desiding factor.

Make sure the doctor you seek specializes in the condition or situation you are facing. Just as with medical doctors, you would not go to a dermatologist for a tumor, make sure the practitionor you pick has experience in your specific needs.

2)  Use the preliminary appointments to get to know them. Ask questions, work out mutually agreeable boundaries, and set goals.

If they resist this, allow the red flag to go up. I have read blogs where therapists state that sessions are to be strictly client centered and therefore they refuse to engage in conversation, remaining strictly analytical. Some see the simple act of inquiry as a sign of resistance or refusal to cooperate on the part of the patient. This is more commonly found in rookies and those with an arrogant streak.

There are those who view any attempt on the patient's part to engage in self-help, even in as little as researching their condition on the Internet or reading a book, as a threat to their therapy. Now, you may want to advise them of your interest in doing this to make sure your sources are legitimate and can prove advantageous to your situation. A professional should gladly offer recommendations, home-work (so to say) and encourage self-education.

Then there are the control freaks who view and treat their patients like mindless children. They may take an authoritative stance, a "wait and see" attitude,  refuse to set specific goals, enforce rules without input or discussion, and refuse to discuss your progress or diagnosis. Remember, by law, you may have access to your records at any time.

3) Listen to you instincts. They will not usually steer you wrong.

If you feel truly uncomfortable (unless the whole idea of therapy is upsetting in general) chances are something is wrong. Perhaps the proper  "chemistry" is not there. Some personalities simply do not work out well together. It's not you and it might not be him or her either. It may be underlying social factors, personal history, personality and temperament,  or bias. All these are natural occurrences and sometimes barriers between people, professional or otherwise.

Maybe you feel the doctor is dispassionate and doesn't listen. Years ago I encountered a therapist who sat there checking his watch, taking calls, and responding with little more than "Uh huh. I see. Go on." A bit disconcerting to say the least. You want someone who is just as interested in helping you as you are in getting better.

Possibly their particular form of therapy is wrong for you. There are countless schools of thought, approaches and methods. It is not one size fits all. When my husband and I first were married 30 years ago, we sought couples counseling for baggage we had brought into the relationship. His approach to helping us was seeing us separately, and claiming the other partner was fully to blame; demanding that we not discuss our sessions with each other. We were not ones to harbor secrets. Needless to say this caused quite a bit of discord. We finally confronted him and he confessed to his "unorthodox approach". He then dismissed us as clients claiming we were to blame for the failure. While he certainly did not help us with our issues, he did get us fighting for our marriage rather than our differences.

If therapy has been going on long term without improvement,  it's either time for a second opinion of a sign you should switch doctors.  Early on in life I found myself in a situation where I felt intimidated into answering questions the way the doctor wanted to hear, according to his prompts and arguments. This is a clear sign of a toxic situation.  First you should never feel afraid of the therapist, nor should you be afraid to be anything but yourself. Say it as you mean it. There may be times that they help you to take a new perspective, however, you should not be lying about your feelings to accommodate their expectations.

4) Remember, a diploma and even certification does not guarantee that doctors do not suffer from their own issues, that they are stable or competent.

During our lives we have had three medical doctors who committed suicide, several that went through painful and messy divorces while we were under their care, a few that had malpractice suits brought against them. Of course, these days, it is much easier to research credentials and disciplinary actions taken against a professional through the Freedom of Information Act. Reviews and comments by former or current patients can be found on sites such as and others. Recommendations from your PC is also helpful since personal matters may be known among colleagues.

One would think that being "normal" is a basic requirement of any health worker. The truth is, a diploma only proves one went to school and graduated. You do not have to pass a psychiatric exam to practice medicine. When you take into account that mental health workers represent a microcosm of the general population, and that half of all Americans face mental health issues, addiction to drugs and/or alcohol (treated or untreated) during a lifetime; that means half of mental health workers are also vulnerable. In fact, the rates of suicide, drug addiction (due to access), burnout, depression, as well as the normal incidence of mental illness are of great concern among this population.  It is not uncommon for those seeking help with their own lives to enter this field. How can one help others if the very mechanisms that prevent patients from self realization may afflict them? This is not meant to place a stigma upon the medical field, but rather open patient's eyes so that they don't place these people on a pedestal over any other person with higher education in a professional field. If you are sitting there thinking, "This doctor has more problems than me", you might be right.

A good doctor listens and is interactive. He or she will ask you what you think is wrong, knowing most people know themselves better than them. They respond, ask questions, give suggestions, and share stories about themselves. If you feel like the two of you make a good team against your issues, you on the right track. However, if your input is arrogantly dismissed as wrong or you are quickly written off as a malcontent, resistant or a hypochondriac, find someone who has a little less ego and more people skills.

You should not be subjected to a verbal lashing, degradation or humiliation. This lousy bedside manner may work for "Dr. House", but there again, he is a fictional character (not to mention a Narcissistic Addict with sociopathic tendencies). Some doctors may fancy modeling themselves after this character. No matter how gifted the doctor is, there is no excuse for this behavior.

Certainly doctors are not always going to tell you things you want to hear. Let's face it. If you are obese, they may say you need to lose weight. If you smoke they should tell you to stop. A good therapist or doctor can challenge you in a friendly sort of banter or wry humor and still get the message across without lowering himself to attack.

5) You are the patient - not the doctor.

If you find a doctor using your time to moan and groan about insurance companies, the medical system, or financial struggles; if they cannot remain neutral if you express opinions or ideals that go against their personal beliefs or bias without recusing themselves; if they talk about their problems in any way other than to show empathy or to teach from their mistakes; they should be paying you and not the other way around.

6) Among the "angels" there are bound to be a few "devils".

If you ever feel endangered, threatened sexually or physically, verbally or mentally abused - get up,  walk out and file a complaint with the your state medical or licensing board. Although certainly not common by any means, there are doctors who overstep the boundaries of ethics, morals and the law. They are after all - human. Boundaries should not be crossed from either side of the room, and that includes the patient being responsible and behaving appropriately.

There are countless wonderful doctors out there, most of which have entered this field out of compassion and the yearning to help others. With proper referrals and recommendations from other doctors, friends, and aquaintences you can enter a rewarding relationship where two minds come to meet.  Just make sure you end up with DOCTOR YES and not DOCTOR NO.