New favorite website: psych central

Hi Everyone,

I just recently found a new great website for anything psychology related. It’s called Psych central.

The link is:

www.psychcentral.com

I don’t even remember how I found it. Probably from googling something since it’s pritty popular. They have everything. Quizzes, forums where you can connect with those with similar interests/ issues, nine pages of social groups to  joen, and a therapist directory. Although in my oppinion, psychology today has a better directory.

Still I’m very excited to have this site to play with when I want to meet new people online, (with caution of course) or when I’m bored. I encourage you to check it out.

Sam’s new computer!

Hi everyone,

I have great news! I  bought a new computer last night, thank you my Gramma. That was her graduation present to me, and it’s the best. It’s this toshiba laptop that’s really light weight, with lots of hard drive space to put all my programs. It even has a webcam (well I guess they all do now) and if I can learn to use it I can webcam people or   whatever it’s called.

I’m beyond excited to have a brand new computer, and to get it without having to wait ten years for the comission for the blind to decide whether  or not I deserve one.

Anyway, I’m not using it yet because my mom has to install all my programs. But the other good thing too is that I get to keep this laptop that I’ve been using from my Dad’s work as a back up computer. I’ve never had a backup and I’m so happy about it.

 

Today’s the day: my graduation from college!

Hi Everyone,

I’m very excited to let you all know that in just a couple hours I’ll be headed to my college graduation cerimony. I’m very very excited, as well as shocked at how time  has flown. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was graduating high school. I remember it so clearly, sitting out on the football field at my town high school with the kids horsing around blowing bubbles or batting  a beach ball around while the faculty were making speeches.  I imagine this will be a little different. It’s at a big pavilion, like where concerts take place. The good news is that there’s no limit  on the number of people who can come.

Then tomorrow I’m   gonna have a party at my house to celibrate graduation, and the fact that I’m moving in a couple weeks. That’ll be cool.

I don’t know where I’m going next. I don’t want to  go to grad school in counseling right away. Even though I love the field very much I want to make sure that I really want to be a therapist before taking this step. I’m hoping that the Chicago Lighthouse job development people will help guide me on my next steps. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up working with the blind or something. Goodness  knows there are  improvements that need to be made in services to that population, I should  know, since I’m blind. (another post for another day on that!)

I know I don’t regret studdying counseling. I’ve learned so  much about people and how they operate from my undergraduate studies. And I know the skills that I gained will be very useful in whatever job I end up with. Only time will tell I guess.

That’s all for now. Bye all!

Running for My Life book review

Hi Everyone,

Yesterday I finished reading a very good book for young adults that deals with the issue of mental illness in a family. Running for my Life by Anne   Gonzalez  centers  around  Andrea and her family. Andrea is mandated to recieve therapy after   an violent incident caused by her schizophrenic mother got child protective  services involved.  At first, Andrea resents having to see Samantha,  and spends the first two months of therapy almost completely silent. Little by little over the course of the books she grows more trusting of Samantha, and begins to open up about past trauma  in the relationship between she and her mother.

For her part, Samantha is a very supportive knowledgeable  therapist. She’s probably one of the best therapists in a fiction book I’ve seen in a  while. She gives Andrea space and respects her need to be silent at times. She sets boundaries with Andrea  at  times that it’s called for, such as making it clear that Andrea s should tell Samantha what’s upsetting her rather than   angrily  lashing out. She is very attentive to the changes in Andrea’s mood, when she is being overwhelmed or flooded by her emotions. She is consistent in helping Andrea calm down in these moments.

Towards the middle of the book, Samantha diagnoses Andrea with PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. Getting this diagnosis seemed to be a helpful thing for Andrea. Once she had a name for the disturbing feelings she had been having, she began to learn how to deal with it. I think Samantha gave a very good explanation of the disorder, made it clear that andrea wasn’t “crazy” and clearly told her the difference between what she was  suffering from and a psychotic disorder like her mother had. She also gave Andrea clear tools to deal with being triggered.

Andrea doesn’t have only her therapist for support as she deals with sorting out her past relationship with her mother, and with her mother’s hospitalization and discharge. She has her best friend Margie  as another support.  Margie convinces Andrea to join  her in starting running, in order  that they might impress  a couple of boys that they’re both interested in who are on the track team. At first Andrea is dead set against it, but then she finds that she loves running. Running seems to calm the otherwise  almost constant emotional overwhelm in a way that nothing else can.

 

 Between Margie,  Sean, and Mathew, (they did  end up hooking up with their  crushes), Samantha, and her Dad, Andrea has  all the support she needs to navigate the challenges of her  inner world as well as what’s going on elsewhere. The heavier subject of Andrea’s therapy and mentall illness, is tempered by lighthearted teenage stuff like going on dates and hanging out.

 

 I highly  recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with a mental illness, or their friends or family. In particular, I think that anyone who has PTSD and reads this  book will know that they’re not alone. The feelings and thoughts  that Andrea has about her mother’s unpredictability due to psychosis can be applied to any disorder that makes a family member   unpredictable (and therefore untrustworthy at times) such as alcoholism, or bipolar disorder.  Enjoy this book, and let me know your thoughts!

observations of voice recital

This past Friday I visited the local music school where I used to take voice lessons. They were having their last voice recital of the year. As I’m moving in a few weeks, I know that this would be the last time I’d  see this community for a while.

This voice recital was very different from others I’ve been to.  All the voice teachers who are usually there weren’t. In the end, I decided it was because this was  such a short recital. There was one new  teacher running the recital. He seemed  like he wanted to rush things. Normally the other teachers would take a little time before each song to say something about it. Sometimes this went on too long, but other times it was nice tohear about each song or the composer or whatever it was the teachers  felt like saying. 

The students too seemed to rush through their songs, though how much of that was due to nervousness I don’t know. I remember how tense I felt before and during my performances. In my oppinion, so much time was devoted in lessons to technique and performance skills, and not enough to the emotional aspects of singing in front of others, like how to  relax and let go and really connect with the song.

Several people sang musical songs. None of them seemed very connected to what it was they were singing, a situation I know very  well. Still it was sad. There’s something energizing about a good emotionally alive performance.

One girl  sang “Shy” from once Upon a Matriss, a song about a young woman who is not shy  indeed! It’s  meant, I believe to  be sung with a combination of pretending to be shy, and being awfully bold and outgoing. This girl kind of mumbled it, not really going in  either of these directions.

Then came the french and italian songs. This was something I could never really understand, why voice teachers insist that students sing this particular style. I mean I understand that  Italian in particular is good to teach singing because of  its pure vowels, but that doesn’t mean the person has to perform it if they don’t want to. I don’t think  that anyone who was singing in other languages really knew what they were singing about.

One surprise, that I’ve seen in recitals over the past couple years, was that there were several pop songs performed.  Taylor Swift, and Adel were among some of the composers. This style showed the most promising  performances of the night.  One  young girl sang “Don’t Say Yes” by Taylor  Swift, and drew me right in from the beginning. I’m not normally that interested  at all in that  type of music, but I could tell from the start that this person was invested in what she was singing. She sang clearly and confidently, with a range of emotional expression. Through the song I could clearly feel the character’s happiness as she indulges in the fantasy of crashing her  ex boyfriend’s wedding. It was  funny, but  sad at the same time, as you knew she  couldn’t possibly have done that in real life.

Similarly,  during the second half of the recital, another girl sang “someone like you” by adel, with a powerful resonant voice and lots of emotion. This song speaks of a girl’s inner strength after finding out that a boy she loved has someone else. She proclaims with increasing conviction each time that she’ll find someone else  like him. I think she’ll be on american idol one day!

I think these songs worked best for the students because they were obveously very familiar  to them and they’ve probably heard them often.  These songs meant something to them, unlike the foriegn language stuff, or even themusical  theater. This strong emotional connection brought out the best in them as singers.

All and all I enjoyed the recital very much. It’s always good to see people singing and expressing themselves with their voice no matter how the performance turns out.

 

Damaged book review

Hi Everyone,

In contrast to the book I last reviewed about the foster care system, Damaged by Cathy Glass, is a refreshing change. Cathy Glass, (not her real name,) is a foster carer in England. She’s written many books, both works  of fiction, and   many true life stories about her experience fostering. 

 Damaged, is a bestseller in the U.S. as well as in England. It’s the story of  Jodie, an abused 8 year old girl who went through five homes in four months before coming to Cathy.  This is  almost  unheard of  in england. Unlike in the U.S., when a child is placed in care it is with the hope that they’ll be there with one carer  until the  court decides what’s best for them. This could take up  to a year or more. Then they’re either placed back with their family,  put in long-term care (again, with one carer until they’re 18) or adopted.

 

From the start, Jodie was an angry challenging child to care for. She had  tantrums daily, physically attacked Cathy’s other children, smeared fecies, and was generally functioning at the level of a child half her age. She had a tutor come to Cathy’s home,  because she was unable to attend school.

Cathy had dealt with many of these behaviors before, and was considered an  experienced carer fully able to take on Jodie’s level of  needs. She had a time-tested formula of caring for these children that  involved a good mix of compassion and firm  boundaries, a clear daily routene   and expectations for good  behavior laid out. This in time usually worked to greatly improve  the behavior of most children in her care.

 However, no matter how many times Jodie was told not to hit bite or push she seemed unable to stop.  Worse still, she seemed indifferent to praise or being  punished.

 Over time, small changes for the better  do appear and Jodie gains Cathy’s  trust. As this happens, she begins to reveal the shocking sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her parents.  Rather than these disclosures freeing her, Jodie is sent tumbling into a world of nightmares, and her sense of  self starts to fragment.

 At the young age of 8  she starts exhibiting  symptoms of DID or disosiative Identity Disorder.  This makes things even more difficult for Cathy as she has to deal with three radically different alters constantly coming in and out.

 Through all this Cathy gives her all to caring for Jodie. In the end, Jodie withdraws so much so that even Cathy can’t reacher her. The decision is  made that she can not stay with Cathy any longer and she is placed in a residential treatment home.

 This story is  disturbing at times, but  also heartwarming when you see the strength of Cathy  and her family’s love and   dedication towards this hurting little girl. Many readers have commented on Cathy’s website about the book. Those  in care have read it and deeply resonate with Jodie’s expereince. They say it has either helped their carers understand them better, or  has given them the  very important feeling that they’re not alone. I would highly recommend this book  to anyone.

 

Damaged book review

Hi Everyone,

In contrast to the book I last reviewed about the foster care system, Damaged by Cathy Glass, is a refreshing change. Cathy Glass, (not her real name,) is a foster carer in England. She’s written many books, both works  of fiction, and   many true life stories about her experience fostering. 

 Damaged, is a bestseller in the U.S. as well as in England. It’s the story of  Jodie, an abused 8 year old girl who went through five homes in four months before coming to Cathy.  This is  almost  unheard of  in england. Unlike in the U.S., when a child is placed in care it is with the hope that they’ll be there with one carer  until the  court decides what’s best for them. This could take up  to a year or more. Then they’re either placed back with their family,  put in long-term care (again, with one carer until they’re 18) or adopted.

 

From the start, Jodie was an angry challenging child to care for. She had  tantrums daily, physically attacked Cathy’s other children, smeared fecies, and was generally functioning at the level of a child half her age. She had a tutor come to Cathy’s home,  because she was unable to attend school.

Cathy had dealt with many of these behaviors before, and was considered an  experienced carer fully able to take on Jodie’s level of  needs. She had a time-tested formula of caring for these children that  involved a good mix of compassion and firm  boundaries, a clear daily routene   and expectations for good  behavior laid out. This in time usually worked to greatly improve  the behavior of most children in her care.

 However, no matter how many times Jodie was told not to hit bite or push she seemed unable to stop.  Worse still, she seemed indifferent to praise or being  punished.

 Over time, small changes for the better  do appear and Jodie gains Cathy’s  trust. As this happens, she begins to reveal the shocking sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her parents.  Rather than these disclosures freeing her, Jodie is sent tumbling into a world of nightmares, and her sense of  self starts to fragment.

 At the young age of 8  she starts exhibiting  symptoms of DID or disosiative Identity Disorder.  This makes things even more difficult for Cathy as she has to deal with three radically different alters constantly coming in and out.

 Through all this Cathy gives her all to caring for Jodie. In the end, Jodie withdraws so much so that even Cathy can’t reacher her. The decision is  made that she can not stay with Cathy any longer and she is placed in a residential treatment home.

 This story is  disturbing at times, but  also heartwarming when you see the strength of Cathy  and her family’s love and   dedication towards this hurting little girl. Many readers have commented on Cathy’s website about the book. Those  in care have read it and deeply resonate with Jodie’s expereince. They say it has either helped their carers understand them better, or  has given them the  very important feeling that they’re not alone. I would highly recommend this book  to anyone.

 

Finding Katie book review

Hi Everyone,

I read a really strange book yesterday. Finding Katie by Beatrice  Sparks is supposedly a diary of an anonomous  teenager’s journey through the foster care system. I say “supposedly” because from reading her other books, that are also said to be diaries I find it interesting that almost everyone has the same writing voice and  style. I also read an article several years ago thatvarifies my suspicion that perhaps  MS. Sparks is  writing all these books herself. 

Anyway, this book is the weirdest thing. It starts out with Katie living in  this really awesome house with her  wealthy but extremely troubled parents, and  cook, van driver, ETC. They have their own pool and tenis court and everything. She talks about how she often overhears arguments between her parents and her father sometimes physically abuses their mother. It comes out later in the book that both of them have drug and drinking problems. The father has a pattern of relating to Katie  that envolves gift giving, compliments, and behavior that at first just borders on the sexually  inapropriate and then gets  far worse, to pushing her away being distant and wanting nothing to do with her. This often leaves her feeling confused and hurt, and doubting that the  disturbing incidents even happened. The mother, for her part, is almost totally absent, drugged  out in her bedroom.

The book takes a  strange and totally unexpected turn, after Katie comes home from having sneaked out to go to a boy’s party. Her father tells her to put some clothes on and come outside because he wants to talk to her. In the  middle of the night? He gives her some “candy” that she loves. Next time we hear from her she’s been dumped off in the  ghetos of Los angelios, her father having called her a whore and other horrible names and just left her there. Katie suspects that the “candy” he gave her might have actually been drugs.

She is picked up by a kind soul from the salvation army, and from there transported to her first foster home. Oddly enough no social workers were involved. Through the rest of the book she is shuffled from one horrible home to the next. In each home she tries to remain relentlessly upbeat, taking the role of mother and super fixer of these children. She  makes it her mission to educate them and “bring out the best” in them. All good intentions, it just seemed that throughout the book she had this attitude like she was above them or something because of her  wealthy background. The emphasis in this book seems to be how horrible  foster homes are, with lots of examples both that Katie witnesses, and that she hears about from other kids, of how abusive things are there. I’m sure many homes are like this, however, I would worry about anyone in care, or going into care reading this book. It might just traumatize them.

It’s odd to me that throughout the book the foster parents and teachers at school treat Katie  as kind of an equal to them. For example, a teacher at one of the schools Katie went to admitted once that she “couldn’t teach”  without Katie. If she can’t teach without a fourteen year old’s help I think she needs to not be teaching! It’s like Katie was treated like another adult, rather than a child. It’s good that the adults around her were working with her strengths such as her wanting so much to help others and share what she knows. Hoever, I think they all lost sight until the very end of the book, of the fact that she’s also just like the other kids in that she’s been abused and may need help. Throughout the time she is in care, she struggles  to forget her past. I kept reading at times, just waiting for her to get a therapist, or go to a support group for foster kids or something! It never happened, sadly.

I won’t give away the ending, in case someone actually wants to read this book. But let me just say it’s as weird as the rest of it. Random and doesn’t make sense. Too abrupt and “happy” with no resolution or even a clue as to how Katie gets help for her past trauma. Again, I would worry about those in the system reading this. It makes it look like the kids are just on their own with really no help from social  workers, counselors or anyone, and then one day they’re just magically adopted by the “perfect” family. Ooops, I gave it away! Oh well. Also, I find it odd that the   original parents, the wealthy crazy ones from the beginning of the book, are never heard from again. I know this is unrealistic as in social services every attempt is made to reunite a child with their family.

All and all, I wouldn’t recommend this book, unless you want to read something  really random. I know there are better books on this subject out there.