Archive for March, 2013

Mar 31 2013

Keywords in New Health Care Law: PATIENT PROTECTION and Affordable Care Act

Although people like Senator Mitch McConnell distort the truth about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), this law will benefit many Americans, especially those who are under-insured or uninsured.

There is a story circulating now about the risk insurance premiums will rise based on a study by the Society of Actuaries. You can read summaries of the study here, but trust me, it requires a careful reading. Something, I do not believe Mitch McConnell has done.

Some of the criticisms of  the study are that it does not take into consideration the impact of state policy on insurance premium control and it highlights the potential

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Mar 28 2013

Chasing the Illusive Shadow: Reflections on Personal Growth Weekends

When you read the advertisements for personal growth programs, the concept of the shadow is a common theme.

If advertisements are to be believed, participants emerge from these programs smarter, more aware and even more mature as they have discovered, tamed and integrated the parts of themselves which heretofore they have hidden from themselves.


A University of Connecticut study of participants from the Landmark Forum, “Evaluating a Large Group Awareness Training: A Longitudinal Study of Psychosocial Effects”, found no long-term benefits.

This does not mean there are not many people who will report major benefits from their experiences in these programs. There is just no body of scientific research supporting the grandiose claims.

The Landmark Forum is an international program, commonly named a large group awareness training program or LGAT by social scientists. My wife actually did the initial Landmark Forum weekend and encouraged me to attend.

I was not impressed with the program, especially the overly simplistic psychological explanations of what happens at the weekend by a 20’s something volunteer.

Shadow weekends and similar programs have their origins in these large group awareness training programs, like Landmark Forum.

I was a leader of a psychodrama weekend and always had high evaluation marks from the participants right after the weekend was over. However, there was never a systematic attempt to evaluate these participants over time. This suggests that the enthusiasm during and right after the weekend might provide results that might skew more positive than they would over time.

Certainly, many participants benefited and spouses often report how such experiences “saved their marriages.” Pretty good, but anecdotal only, so limited in being able to generalize in some meaningful way.

Many adults involved in leading personal growth programs in the Chicago area have attended many of the programs and have been influenced in the work they do in their respective programs.

The Mankind Project’s (MKP) New Warrior Training Adventure has probably influenced most other personal growth programs across the country. As I have written before, MKP’s Warrior weekend does the best job in helping participants understand the difference between their persona (the image they hope to project in the world) and their shadow (the aspects of themselves that are hidden consciously and unconsciously).

Any program using the term “shadow” has probably been influenced greatly by their leaders’ participation in MKP’s programs.

As a co-leader in the Breakthrough weekend, I was greatly influenced by MKP leader’s training in psychodrama (they call it Guts Training).

I took what I learned at MKP, integrated it with my extensive family therapy training and experience, worked out some ideas with my leader partner and leadership team, then created a training program for that organization. To even the uncritical eye, the resemblence to the MKP psychodrama training would be very clear. I am transparent in giving MKP credit for teaching me a basic foundation in psychodrama.

It was also most helpful that Kurt Schultz and I did one of the trainings (I did several) together and were able to collaborate in the development of the psychodrama training for Victories, which remains a very successful program, even offering CEU credits to participants.

These training experiences led to the development of a new group of effective leaders for the first time in the history of the organization.

It’s safe to say the successful psychodrama program would not have been possible without MKP.

My extensive training, consultation and teaching (curriculum development) was helpful and the enthusiasm of the younger guys who wanted to learn made it all come together.

So, one might say, the older leaders were in denial of their fears of someone else doing better than them, so they left everyone in the dark about methods. It’s also possible they simply didn’t understand what they were doing and therefore couldn’t explain or teach it.

Carl Jung is the writer/teacher who popularized the concept of the shadow. For Jung, the shadow referred mostly to the unconscious. His theory was that people were most unaware of their negative characteristics and as a defense against these negatives, projected them onto others.

A glaring and disturbing example is Adolf Hitler. Hitler was a seriously disturbed person who projected his pathology onto Jews and other minority groups, rather than accept, explore and deal with his own pathology. The impact of Hitler’s projections include WWII and the murder of millions of innocent people.

While Hitler is an extreme example, Jung’s teaching of the shadow really calls upon therapists, other clinicians and developers of “shadow weekend programs to understand that this is a very complicated psychological process people may have a hard time learning about in an intensive weekend. In particular, this process involves important brain processes easily explained by readily available neuroscience research.

MKP actually does a pretty good job in the simple way they approach teaching the shadow. First, they help participants identify their ideal selves and then later identify how their less aware or non-conscious selves sabotage their ability to live fully in their ideal version of themselves.  I think this is one of the strengths of this experience and kudos for the simple way they teach this. It works and diligent participants leave the weekend with an action plan they can follow.

The other shadow program I am am familiar with is the shadow weekend offered by the Victories for men program, formerly Victories of the Heart and the Men’s Room. The creators of this program were men who loved the Warrior weekend and other intense personal growth experiences. The earliest Shadow program they designed was similar to the Warrior program in some ways, but not as effective or impactful. If someone were to do one or the other, I always suggested they do the Warrior weekend as it was a better overall experience.

Over time, these originators of this shadow program benefited from the secrecy about program methods. They could experiment with what they thought might work and not worry about being held accountable for any poor choices they made. It also helped that I and others like me idolized these men, perhaps more so than the founders of the Victories program. These shadow leaders exhibited an energy of power, vulnerability and compassion in their work which made them extremely popular, but also placed them in competition with the founders.

The four original leaders were all imbued with qualities which led us “guys” to think of them as sort of wizards or gurus with magical healing powers. No doubt these men thought of themselves as at the heart of the healing power in their work. They believed in themselves and never fully acknowledged the influence of their Warrior experiences. How could it not change them and how could they not admit this to the larger community. These men did not write much, Mark and Portugal more than Kachoris and Fitzpatrick. What is written is about their own special powers, not any recognition of the Warrior program or other men who may have really made a contribution.

Believing or pretending you are the wizard, of course, is the historical trick of shamans and the original leader teams for Victories played this role very well.

Bob Mark, PhD. even wrote a book about spirituality which is essentially a series of personal and professional revelations where he would like us to believe he could read palms, make predictions by throwing stones, and communicate with dolphins miles away through meditation. My review of Dr. Marks’s book can be read here.

It’s true that imitation is a type of flattery and the original shadow weekends developed by Victories leaders resembled the Warrior weekend but had very little of the Warrior weekend’s value. I have had some threats of legal action through my requests for transparency in this program and my critical writing about elements of the program I believed were harmful in the original weekend I helped to staff.

I had previously kept secret the most harmful experience I had at this program to protect the leaders of the program from rebuke. On the Thursday night before the weekend was to begin, the leaders took me to an already built campfire where they told me, and I quote, “…we’re going to smoke pot and then kill a pet rat we bought at a pet store.”

It was outlandish and shocking, but I knew they were deadly serious. This was not a joke, nor some shadow crazy check in. This was a plan set in motion well before I arrived as a volunteer to help these leaders.

I told them I would not do so and if they insisted on doing this themselves, I would leave the weekend and inform the Board of directors. They agreed they would not follow through. I never saw the rat and I am not sure we discussed this matter again during the weekend. While biased by this pot/rat incident, I did not like this program from start to finish. I thought it was terrible.

At the end of the weekend, I informed these two men I would no longer volunteer with them on their weekends for various reasons. about a week after the experience, I received an unrequested check for $500.

I remember coming back from this experience and telling a close friend, my wife, and 10 years later, a prominent Board person. It was easy to dismiss this inappropriate behavior as a mistake or the crazy things men do at men’s weekends.

However, after I began to get treatment for brain issues in 2007-08, including medication, I began to see and understand my relationships more clearly. I had been easily manipulated for a long time and grossly misjudged the closeness in my relationships with Victories leaders. No doubt I felt used, used up and thrown away when I began to openly file complaints against the four original leaders.

Their response? They stonewalled me, refused to meet with me to address any of my legitimate concerns and further degraded me personally and my complaints by accusing me of having an emotional breakdown. In one of the most authentic efforts to address and resolve some of my concerns, one member of this foursome wrote me a lengthy email confiding in me he tried to defend me, but the others blew off my concerns, falsely claiming I was having an emotional breakdown.

These men felt criticized by me and were probably surprised I was so insistent there be some type of professional mediation. They had a pejorative style, as I mentioned and an “ad hominem” (degrade the person making a complaint) attack was their pattern. They had done the same thing, all four of them, before when they blamed the former administrator of causing problems in about 2003-2004. The consultants who reviewed this matter stated clearly they believed there was something dysfunctional in the system not the personality of the person being blamed.

So, the unaddressed dynamics in the organization repeated themselves and no one felt powerful enough to hold the four leaders accountable, even though I had 30 minutes of what I considered offensive voicemails from one of them and ample evidence of each of these men ignoring and deviating from the 2004 Strategic plan.

The leaders held in esteem and experts in “shadow work” and the unconscious aspects of male development were unable to find any reason to hear, process and address valid complaints I had about the organizational dysfunction I wrote to them about or hold another leader accountable privately to explore why he would choose to offend someone as cooperative, positive and supportive of each of them and the organization as me. The person I refer to was a principal leader and he died a short time after this crisis. I wrote that I wanted him to agree to some type of therapy, as I understood what he did to be both a pattern (it happened at least 3 other times) and worrisome about him and his own mental/physical health.

The fact he died was significant to me. All the men who judged me to be inappropriate by confronting him before it was known he was sick will have to live with the fact they neglected him and his welfare. Would he be alive now? I’m not sure, but as I understand he died of a stroke and stroke’s can be avoided with timely healthcare. Portugal’s friends, associates and clients did not help him by allowing him to avoid his responsibility to be accountable to me and the organization.

As a result, the non-scientific methods of leaders and their role as experts, seemed to be reinforced. Related to shadow work, I was most concerned about the prior nudity, inappropriate sweat lodge which did not conform to the spiritual experience of Native people (men were encouraged to yell out obscenities at other men in the sweat lodge), and the use of knives, handcuffs as shadow objects. I assumed there would be no more smoking pot and killing pet rats at weekends, but then again, I was naive and vulnerable.


It’s really questionable whether these so called shadow programs are helpful and at a deeper level even safe for participants, especially trauma survivors who can be easily re-traumatized.

The deep shame and guilt work that might arise at such weekends should be left for the privacy and safety of individual therapy in my opinion, not for the consumption of curious strangers in a group context.


Certainly, it’s debatable if these types of experiences have any longer term benefits. For example, if  shadow weekend really was effective, there would be a body of research and evaluations from the experience to help these organizations market such programs.


It sounds good on paper and when the leaders are charismatic enough and supported by other sources of legitimacy, like other programs and/or claims that programs are completely supported by scientific research, participants can be easily recruited and possibly injured.


The key problem with these programs is they fail to understand the complex way the human brain stores memory, especially traumatic memory.

People who attend these programs are often dealing with traumatic lives filled with depression and a lack of understanding as to why they feel the way they do.

Scientific research has proven that a percentage of all trauma survivors never remember their trauma experience. This significant memory problem makes them especially vulnerable to pseudo-scientific programs led by ‘wanna-be gurus” who take them on memory stimulating and potentially retraumatizing exercises.

The potential participants of Shadow programs are warned to look before you leap.

Or maybe, the name Shadow program really refers to the leaders themselves.

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Mar 21 2013

Scheflin, A. W., & Brown, D. Repressed memory or dissociative amnesia: What the science says.

This is part of my research, but I thought anyone following my blog may be interested in this.
Scheflin, A. W., & Brown, D. Repressed memory or dissociative amnesia: What the science says.

Abstract: “Legal actions of alleged abuse victims based on recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) have been challenged arguing that the concept of repressed memories does not meet a generally accepted standard of science. A recent review of the scientific literature on amnesia for CSA concluded that the evidence was insufficient. The issues revolve around: (1) the existence of amnesia for CSA, and (2) the accuracy of recovered memories. A total of 25 studies on amnesia for CSA now exist, all of which demonstrate amnesia in a subpopulation; no study failed to find it, including recent studies with design improvements such as random sampling and prospective designs that address weaknesses in earlier studies. A reasonable conclusion is that amnesia for CSA is a robust finding across studies using very different samples and methods of assessment. Studies addressing the accuracy of memories show that recovered memories are no more or no less accurate than continuous memories for abuse. Excerpts: “Even more significantly, no study has surfaced that refutes the dissociative amnesia hypothesis by failing to get reports of inability to voluntarily recall repeated childhood abuse (pp.145-146).
“Most scientific studies can be criticized for methodological weaknesses, but such design limitations should not obscure the fact that the data reported across every one of the 25 studies demonstrate that either partial or full abuse-specific amnesia, either for single incidents of childhood sexual abuse or across multiple incidents of childhood sexual abuse, is a robust finding. Partial or full amnesia was found across studies regardless of whether the sample was clinical, nonclinical, random or non-random, or whether the study was retrospective or prospective. Every known study has found amnesia for childhood sexual abuse in at least a portion of the sampled individuals (pp.178-179, italics in original).
“These studies, when placed together, meet the test of science – namely, that the finding holds up across quite a number of independent experiments, each with different samples, each assessing the target variables in a variety of different ways, and each arriving at a similar conclusion. When multiple samples and multiple sampling methods are used, the error rate across studies is reduced. Even where a small portion of these cases of reported amnesia may be associated with abuse that may not have occurred or at least could not be substantiated, the great preponderance of the evidence strongly suggests that at least some subpopulation of sexually abused survivors experiences a period of full or partial amnesia for the abuse. Moreover, a significant portion of these amnestic subjects, at least in some of the studies, later acquired some form of corroboration of the abuse (p.179).

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Mar 21 2013

The Book of Gommorrah, By Peter Damien and History of Clergy Sex Abuse in the Early Days of the Catholic Church: Recovered Memory Series:

As someone raised in the Catholic Church in the 1950’s and 1960’s, I am especially sensitive the extensive damage done to innocent children, adolescents and adults by Catholic clergy.

The myth defenders of the Catholic church like to spread is the sex abuse by its clergy is a modern and recent phenomenon caused mainly by homosexual priests influenced by the societal upheaval of the so called sexual revolution of the 1960’s.

Nothing can be further from the truth.
The Book of Gomorrah by Peter Damian, completed in 1051, offers clear and definitive evidence that Catholic clergy routinely were involved in the sexual abuse of children, adolescents and adults.
In his “A Very Short History Of Clergy Sexual ABuse in the Catholic Church,  Rev. Thomas Doyle, J.C.D., C.A.D.C. provides an excellent summary of historical evidence the Catholic church knew about the sexual abuse of children and others over a thousand years ago

The most dramatic and explicit condemnation of forbidden clergy sexual activity was the Book of Gomorrah of St. Peter Damian, completed in 1051.   The author had been a Benedictine monk and was appointed archbishop and later cardinal by the reigning pope.  Peter Damian was also a dedicated Church reformer who lived in a society wherein clerical decadence was not only widespread and publicly known, but generally accepted as the norm.   His work, the circumstances that prompted it and the reaction of the reigning pope (Leo IX) are a prophetic reflection of the contemporary situation. He begins by singling out superiors who, prompted by excessive and misplaced piety, fail to exclude sodomites (chap. 2).  He asserts that those given to “unclean acts” not be ordained or, if they are already ordained, be dismissed from Holy Orders (chap. 3).  He holds special contempt for those who defile men or boys who come to them for confession (chap. 6).  Likewise he condemns clerics who administer the sacrament of penance (confession) to their victims (chap. 7).  The author also provides a refutation of the canonical sources used by offending clerics to justify their proclivities (chap. 11, 12).  He also provides chapters which assess the damage done to the church by offending clerics (chap. 19, 20, 21).  His final chapter is an appeal to the reigning pope (Leo IX) to take action.

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Mar 21 2013

History of Sexual Abuse By Catholic Clergy Has Been Tacitly Condoned Since The Earliest History of the Church: Recovered Memory Series

Despite the efforts to portray the sexual abuse scandals of the last few decades as a modern phenomenon only, the abuse of children, adolescents and adults dates back to  the early history of the Catholic church.

In his essay, “A Very Short History of Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church”, Reverend Thomas Doyle states:

“The most dramatic and explicit condemnation of forbidden clergy sexual activity was the Book of Gomorrah of St. Peter Damian, completed in 1051.  The author had been a Benedictine monk and was appointed archbishop and later cardinal by the reigning pope.  Peter Damian was also a dedicated Church reformer who lived in a society wherein clerical decadence was not only widespread and publicly known, but generally accepted as the norm.   His work, the circumstances that prompted it and the reaction of the reigning pope (Leo IX) are a prophetic reflection of the contemporary situation. He begins by singling out superiors who, prompted by excessive and misplaced piety, fail to exclude sodomites (chap. 2).  He asserts that those given to “unclean acts” not be ordained or, if they are already ordained, be dismissed from Holy Orders (chap. 3).  He holds special contempt for those who defile men or boys who come to them for confession (chap. 6).  Likewise he condemns clerics who administer the sacrament of penance (confession) to their victims (chap. 7).  The author also provides a refutation of the canonical sources used by offending clerics to justify their proclivities (chap. 11, 12).  He also provides chapters which assess the damage done to the church by offending clerics (chap. 19, 20, 21).  His final chapter is an appeal to the reigning pope (Leo IX) to take action.”

My friend Elaine alerted me to an article using a report on clergy abuse in the Catholic Church by the John Jay Report claiming the victims of rape and abuse were homosexual young men who often were consenting partners.


The article goes on to claim the sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church were a result of the societal upheavals of the 1960’s, notably the so called sexual revolution.

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Mar 21 2013

Inquisition: Ongoing Documentation of Sexual Abuse, Including Seduction in the Confessional by Catholic Priests: Recovered Memory Series IX

Here is a question for you, especially if you were raised Catholic. What is the origin of the confessional?

I hope you are sitting down. The confessional was created in the year 1565 as a way to protect the penitent from the sexual abuse of the priest.

Pope Pius IV authorize the use of the Inquisition to identify and punish priests for “seducing women during the sacrament of confession

Around 1565, the confessional booth is invented in Milan by St. Charles Borromeo, as a screen between two chairs. The idea is to prevent sexual contact between priests and penitents. Within half a century, the Vatican would order them installed in every church in the world.
The more one researches this issue, the more upsetting it becomes. I was shocked to learn one of the most common forms of sexual abuse by priests was the seduction of penitents during confession.

After the act of confession became a requirement for Catholic laity in the 6th Century, the seduction of penitents during confession by clergy became a widespread problem.

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Mar 14 2013

Google Keyword Tool, Keywords and Internet Marketing

Marketing helps us bring our ideas, products and services to the right people. We don’t want to market to the world, only the people who may need what we offer.

In internet marketing, keywords may be the most important concept to understand.
Keywords can be understood by simply separating the two words used to construct the concept: key and words.

Keywords are the words we use over and over to attract people to our website logs or blogs. Whether you are selling products or services, there are descriptive words you and the world use.

If the words you use are different from the rest of the world, you are wasting your time writing on your blog.

The google “keyword tool” is a great way to determine what words are being used to search for whatever it is you sell or want people to know about.

Click here to go to the keyword tool, follow the simple instructions, and you will see if the keywords you think are “really cool” are helping you at all. I just used the tool for a friend who I am helping improve his internet marketing and found his keywords are not helping at all.

We often think our own ideas are great, but if we want others to find us, we have to find the best KEYwords to use.

Also, we have to use these keywords in a website log or blog, so that the search engines will find us when they go searching for those keywords people are using to search for products, ideas or services.

To understand why website logs or blogs are better than traditional websites for marketing, click here.

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Mar 10 2013

Can Brain Imaging Predict Political Persausions?

Yes. Scientists at the University College London devised a research study which provided evidence that the development of certain parts of the brain can predict whether a person has more left or right leaning political views.

Specifically, they found that in people with more a developed anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) were more left leaning, while those with a more developed amygdala were more right leaning.

The ACC is associated with detecting error and resolving data conflicts. The amygdala is the part of the brain involved with the fight or flight response and general emotional reactivity.

Read more details about the study here.

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Mar 09 2013

Telephone Therapy: Is it ever a good idea?

Telephone/email therapy and other types of non-office communication with clients raises many ethical and legal questions.

The questions include

· the ability to accurately assess and diagnose

· formulate and implement an appropriate treatment plan

· respond to urgent needs, intervene when someone may be severely depressed and suicidal

· ensure confidentiality (do you really know if someone isn’t listening on another phone?)

When the telephone therapist has never met the client who lives 3000 miles away, does not really know the setting in which the client is using telephone or email systems, it might be nearly impossible to adequately guarantee the telephone therapy appropriately meets the client’s needs.

I had a personal experience with this when I first created my website several years ago. I advertised on google and mistakenly advertised to the entire country. I began getting phone calls and emails from concerned and prospective clients across the country.

I quickly contacted them and told them I would help them get connected with therapists in their zipcode. I did this while making it clear I was not able to help them via telephone or electronic media.

Of course, I changed my advertising to local and have since stopped advertising on the internet altogether, so it has not been a problem.

While telephone and email therapy is an emerging issue, using existing ethical quidelines will help any therapist considering practice in this area.

Here is a link to an excerpt in a book on ethics which addresses this specific issue:

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Mar 03 2013

Scientists Report on the Apparant Cure of a Baby Born With HIV

This is a story worth reading. HIV has ravaged many parts of the developing world, mainly hitting poor people and people of color. Read about it here.

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