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Rally, the Excellence blog, gives voice to issues, ideas and news in mental health recovery

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July 18, 2014 by Kathy Brous

Dan Siegel on Explicit Memory

Dr. Daniel J. Siegel uses his “hand model” of the brain to show school kids, and the rest of us, how we need all three of the brain’s main parts to be working, and to work together.  Say the wrist is the spinal cord.  Then the palm represents the reptilian brain stem, the thumb is the emotional limbic brain, and the fingers are the thinking frontal cortex.

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July 11, 2014 by Kathy Brous

Dan Siegel on Re-Membering

Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, MD (far left) introduced me to brain science, and I write about brain scientists like him ‘cos they saved my life. Without them, I’d still be a successful, all-head talk technical writer for Pentagon sales.  I’d be unaware of my childhood attachment trauma, unable to feel my past, dissociated, and miserable with anxiety.  My cholesterol would still be over 240, my kidneys headed for failure.

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July 4, 2014 by Sandra Steingard, MD

Why I Became a Critical Psychiatrist

Sandra_Steingard_MDI was asked to give a talk to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of the University of Vermont. This is a program that offers courses and programs for adult learners – mostly people who are retired. I decided to title my presentation, “Why I Became a Critical Psychiatrist,” thinking that the kind of Vermonter who would attend something like this was intelligent and well-educated but not necessarily familiar with psychiatry. I imagined that this might be a person who believes in science and modern medicine and assumes that the advances in my profession that are often widely promoted in the media were sound.

The talk explains my own evolution as a psychiatrist and addresses the development of the Critical Psychiatry Network. I focus on three main areas: psychiatric diagnosis, the influence of the commercial forces of the pharmaceutical industry on medicine in general and psychiatry in particular, and the evolution of the use of neuroleptic drugs (in that order). It is a long talk (~ 90 minutes), so if you are only interested in some of these topics you can skip around to find them.

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June 27, 2014 by Kathy Brous

Allan Schore: What is the “Self”?

Allan Schore 2

In March 2013, I was standing unknown in a crowd of professors and therapists at a UCLA conference and noticed a quiet gentleman on my right.  I’d seen his photo online.  “Dr. Schore?” I asked.  “Yes,” said Allan Schore, turning calm eyes on me.

“I’m so grateful for all you’ve done to show that babies can’t control emotions, that’s the mother’s job to model, and emotions are ok,” I blurted,  suddenly in tears. “I’m writing a book on what it feels like on the inside, when we don’t get that as an infant.”

Dr. Schore didn’t flinch; his eyes grew wide with empathy. He got it.  He got a total stranger, right by the conference stage, got that I had walked through a hell of emotional pain to study this. He got that I was feeling love for him because he’s shown there’s a scientific reason for the pain.  He got that “emotions are ok” and only emotions from a caring other can heal this, so he gave me emotions: presence and compassion. On the spot. “We see it every day,” he said.

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June 20, 2014 by Kathy Brous

Readers Defend Van der Kolk

Bessel van der Kolk pic Trauma CenterI had the most comments ever last week, as readers spoke up to defend Dr. Bessel van der Kolk (left) and his ideas about somatic (body) healing for trauma, after the sideswipes against science by the New York Times May 22.  But the comments section got buried under all the footnotes I had to put in my letter to the Times to document their ignorance, so I’m posting the comments here where they’re easy to find.

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June 13, 2014 by Kathy Brous

What Trauma-Informed Care Means to Me

IMAG3258 James, kid, bike“Rider for Change” James Encinas arrived by mountain bike at San Diego’s Cherokee Point Elementary May 2 to the delight of some hundred students, and visitors from around southern California. James, a career LA school teacher, is riding 3,000 miles from Sacramento to Philadelphia. He’ll take the southern route through Texas and Louisiana, then follow the Underground Railway by which African Americans escaping slavery crossed north to freedom.

James is riding to draw national attention to the need for “trauma-informed schools,” key to the movement for “Trauma-Informed Care (TIC)” in education, health, and all public systems. But what is Trauma-Informed Care, and what’s a trauma-informed school?  (Hint: all the pix in this blog are from Cherokee Point).

“In medicine, a patient is sent to hospice when all medical procedures have failed, and they’re going to die. That says: we give care and comfort only when nothing else works,” notes Dr. Christopher Germer, psychology prof at Harvard Medical School and co-editor of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy.  Pretty crazy right there, if you consider. Been in a hospital lately? Often you’re a widget; they take your clothes away, don’t tell you what’s happening, and so on.1

IMAG3250 James, Dana Mom w. FoodBut when treating the real human being, “Care Equals Cure,” says Dr. Germer. If a therapist doesn’t care, he’s not going to cure his client. But it’s also true in any dealings with humans. “Care IS the practice of non-resistance to suffering which dismantles emotional suffering,” says Germer. “It means opening to emotional pain more fully, instead of trying to bypass it. Compassion opens the heart, reveals inner suffering, and makes the suffering available for transformation.” (Above: James and activists carry food donated for kids.)

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June 6, 2014 by Kathy Brous

In Defense of Dr. Bessel van der Kolk

Bessel van der Kolk portrait by Matthew Woodson

Bessel van der Kolk illustration by Matthew Woodson for the New York Times.

The New York Times May 22 spotlighted Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD, and his idea that to change the way we heal a traumatized mind, start with the body. [] (Dr. van der Kolk portrait by Matthew Woodson for the Times.)

But the Times, as usual, had its own slant, some of it not cricket. So here’s the letter I wrote to the Times about the gnarly innuendos they also threw in against Dr. van der Kolk. These are in fact innuendos against the science of how the human organism deals with trauma and how widespread trauma is these days.

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May 30, 2014 by Kathy Brous

Heal traumatized minds? Start with the body


“Bessel van der Kolk wants to change the way we heal a traumatized mind — by starting with the body,” reports Jeneen Interlandi in the New York Times Magazine May 22. It’s an unusually long feature on Dr. van der Kolk’s new approaches to healing trauma by group therapy, yoga, meditation, EMDR, and “rhythmic regulation” – like those I’ve been reporting. See  and

“Trauma has nothing whatsoever to do with cognition,” van der Kolk says. “It has to do with your body being reset to interpret the world as a dangerous place.” That reset begins in the deep recesses of the brain with its most primitive structures (brain stem), regions that, he says, no cognitive therapy (frontal cortex) can access.

“It’s not something you can talk yourself out of.”

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May 23, 2014 by Kathy Brous

Dr. Bruce Perry, MD, “Born for Love: Why Empathy is Endangered – and Essential”

Address to National Council for Behavioral Health, Washington, DC, May 4, 2014

“Empathy is what makes us human,” says brain scientist Dr. Bruce Perry, MD  –  but this has not sunk in for Americans.  If simple kindness isn’t enough, what about the minor fact that it’s brain science?  Or that by ignoring this basic fact, we’re violating biology, so we’re dying as a species?

To let Dr. Perry make his point, today I’ve just got a few quotes from his May 4 Washington DC address, to provoke you to watch the video kindly posted by the National Council for Behavioral Health.

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May 16, 2014 by Kathy Brous

Developmental Trauma: What You Can’t See…

Bessel van der Kolk
What you can’t see, can hurt you.

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD (left) and leaders in brain science and attachment are calling for a serious look at developmental trauma.  Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) was identified by Dr. van der Kolk in 2005 — but the psychiatric Powers That Be still deny it exists.1

“Clearly our field would like to ignore social realities,” Dr. van der Kolk said recently, “and study genes…”

I call it “since the sperm hit the egg” trauma.

Developmental trauma starts in utero when there’s not much more than a brain stem, and goes on during the pre-conscious years. It usually continues until 36 months when the thinking brain (frontal cortex) comes on line.  It’s 45 months ranging from general anxiety to non-stop terror — before age 3.  A very long time to an infant.

DTD occurs as a continual process, not discrete incidents, while a baby has not developed a thinking brain able to recall incidents.  Frequently, it occurs before there are any discrete incidents.

“No one can see it” means “it never happened.”  As I’ve said, “No one beat me or raped me. What’s wrong with me?”  Try getting that treated.

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