Week 2 Response

Here are this week’s blog prompts.

I’m going to cheat a little bit and write about a theorist we didn’t talk about in class. I’m choosing her because she is a great example of how one’s personal life can influence the professional life, I want a chance to talk about her in Gen Psych, and I make the rules so I grant myself an exception.

The theorist I’m going to discuss is Dr. Marsha Linehan. As you can see from Dr. Linehan’s CV on her website, she is a prolific scholar with numerous professional accolades and accomplishments. I’m going to focus on her development of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which is currently the treatment of choice for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Prior to Dr. Linehan’s efforts, effective treatments for BPD were severely lacking, and many considered the disorder untreatable. Her theory of treatment grew out of her work with clients who had ongoing issues with suicidal ideation and self-harming behaviors. Dr. Linehan practiced Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy CBT, which has strong research support, but she found this population was not responding well to the interventions. To help her clients, Dr. Linehan incorporated other ideas into CBT and packaged them together to form DBT. The primary addition was a focus on acceptance of the present while still seeking to change the future, which may seem contradictory at first, but that’s where dialectics comes into play. Dialectics involves embracing both aspects of seemingly contradictory concepts, and helps people become more flexible in coping with their environment. 

That this theory intersects with Dr. Linehan’s personal life was not apparent until she revealed in 2011 that she herself had been diagnosed with BPD. Here is a New York Times story detailing her history and her decision to come out. Struggling through multiple hospitalizations and suicide attempts, Dr. Linehan was only able to turn her life around when she began to accept herself, and she wanted to see if others could use the same strategy to begin the long path to healing. She incorporated other aspects she found personally useful (like Zen philosophy and meditation), and wove together a treatment that has been shown to be effective in 10 randomized controlled trials

Not every theorist has such a dramatic connection to the topic she or he studies, but Dr. Linehan is a fantastic example of how our lives influence our intellectual inquiries. Psychology Today ran a story in 2008 with other examples of what has been termed “mesearch.”

How will your life influence what you study, your career, and your legacy?

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Introductory Blog Post

The prompt for the week is available here.

As the instructor for the course, this initial prompt is a little difficult for me to answer in the same way as my students, but I’ll give it a shot. The reason I’m in the course is because I’m teaching it, obviously. The reason I teach General Psychology, however, is because I truly enjoy being able to expose students to the field of psychology. I remember hearing about all the cool things psychologists have learned about the ways humans think, feel, and behave, so I consider it a privilege to be the one who provides the same service for others. Also, on a selfish note, it helps me stay connected to developments outside my specific discipline of counseling psychology and see new ways to think about the material as students bring their unique perspectives.

It’s really tough for me to pick the three topics that I’m most excited for this semester. If forced to choose, I suppose I’d select Sleep, Coping with Stress, and Experimental Design. I’m not going to elaborate too much, since I don’t want to give away what we’ll be doing yet, but these classes are very applied and it’s my hope that students can take what they learn and put it to immediate use in their own lives.

It’s impossible for me to pick 3 classes I’m least excited for; since I picked the topics I think they’re all great! There really is so much ground to cover in this class that I’ve had to cut a number of fascinating topics I’d love to include. Maybe I should talk to my department about making this a 2 semester class…Well, I probably don’t need to do that, since we have a great list of 200-level courses to provide introductions to specific sub-fields, but I get greedy sometimes. Again, since I don’t want to post a cop-out answer, I guess I’ll list the topics I feel challenged to cover. Perhaps this will be a surprise to you, but the mental health-related topics are sometimes the most difficult for me in General Psychology because I want to cover so much (it is my specialty!) and I’ve had to learn not to jam too much into those sessions.

The question I want to be able to answer by the end of the semester is how can I improve this class? I look forward to your feedback throughout the semester and through the formal evaluations at the end.

I look forward to reading why you took this class and get a glimpse into your expectations for the semester!