The Tree of Life: Does Terrence Malick's New Film Bear Artistic or Philosophical Fruit?

The Tree of Life: Does Terrence Malick's New Film Bear Artistic or Philosophical Fruit?

The Tree of Life (2011), American filmmaker Terrence Malick's fifth movie in his forty-year-long career is, to me, a massive failure on almost every level: as entertainment, philosophy, theology, psychology or art.

O.J. Revisited: Will the Casey Anthony Jury Acquit If They Can't Make It Fit?

"Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." For criminal prosecutors, one of the biggest lessons from the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial back in 1995 should have been that, especially in circumstantial cases, psychology plays at least as powerful a part in jurors' decisions as so-called scientific evidence.
Did Casey Kill Caylee? How Forensic Psychology Can Help Humanize Evil Deeds

Did Casey Kill Caylee? How Forensic Psychology Can Help Humanize Evil Deeds

Forensic psychology and psychiatry can offer explanations--if not necessarily excuses--for destructive or evil behavior. Will it be introduced during Casey Anthony's murder trial?
Did Casey Kill Caylee? A Clinical and Forensic Psychologist Comments on the Case (Again)

Did Casey Kill Caylee? A Clinical and Forensic Psychologist Comments on the Case (Again)

Casey Anthony is charged with having allegedly killed her two-year-old daughter Caylee. When it comes to sensationalistic trials like this, the public seems equally repulsed and fascinated. Such disturbing cases beg the psychological questions: If guilty, what makes a mother murder her only child? Is she evil? Mentally ill? Or both? Who commits filicide? And why?

On the "Feminization" of Psychotherapy: Does Your Therapist's Gender Really Matter?

A recent New York Times article by Benedict Carey (May 21, 2011) titled "Need Therapy? A Good Man Is Hard to Find," highlights the fact that men have been abandoning the psychotherapy field in droves for decades. What's happening to the psychotherapy profession? Why have men deserted the field? And does sex really matter in psychotherapists?
On the Violent Life and Death of Osama bin Laden: A Psychological Post-Mortem

On the Violent Life and Death of Osama bin Laden: A Psychological Post-Mortem

Tonight the world learned from President Obama that notorious Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces during a firefight in northwest Pakistan. Bin Laden wanted to die as a martyr. In this sense, his wish has been obliged. But does his death make him even more dangerous?
What Is Courage? Lessons From the Cowardly Lion

What Is Courage? Lessons From the Cowardly Lion

Courage is an indispensable yet--even in psychotherapy--surprisingly underrated commodity. Life requires courage. Yet we tend to lose sight of its vital meaning, power and importance.
Staring at Sixty: Some Musings About Mortality and the Bucket List

Staring at Sixty: Some Musings About Mortality and the Bucket List

In the 2007 film "The Bucket List", Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play two terminally ill, mid-sixty-ish men who meet in the hospital, receive prognoses of having a year or less to live, and decide to literally list and then actively pursue certain life experiences that had eluded them to that point before "kicking the bucket" (dying).
Clinical Despair: Science, Psychotherapy and Spirituality in the Treatment of Depression

Clinical Despair: Science, Psychotherapy and Spirituality in the Treatment of Depression

The patient suffering from clinical despair is deeply discouraged about the world and their ability to create the kind of life they desire. They have all but given up. Overcoming clinical despair requires encouraging the patient to continue to choose to move forward in life even while allowing themselves to fully experience the depths of their despair.
Reading The Red Book: How C.G. Jung Salvaged His Soul

Reading The Red Book: How C.G. Jung Salvaged His Soul

The Red Book is a very personal record of psychiatrist C.G. Jung's complicated, tortuous and lengthy quest to salvage his soul, and a first-hand description of a process that would later fundamentally inform Jung's unique approach to psychotherapy.
Exorcism as Psychotherapy: A Clinical Psychologist Examines So-Called Demonic Possession

Exorcism as Psychotherapy: A Clinical Psychologist Examines So-Called Demonic Possession

The Catholic Church is careful today to rule out malingering or demonstrable mental illness when considering candidates for exorcism, using medical doctors and mental health professionals to help distinguish between so-called genuine possession and pseudo-possession. But can such a distinction truly be drawn? And, if so, on what basis?

What Is Existential Psychotherapy?

What is existential psychotherapy? Formal clinical training in existential therapy theory and practice for graduate students and mental health professionals can enhance and expand their treatment skills.
 Dangerous Extremes: Introversion, Dreams and the Madness of Mass Murder

Dangerous Extremes: Introversion, Dreams and the Madness of Mass Murder

Some recent stories regarding alleged mass murderer Jared Lee Loughner's state of mind leading up to last Saturday's massacre in an Arizona Safeway store suggest he was "obsessed" with dreams, and with so-called "lucid dreaming" in particular. According to a friend, he kept a dream journal, and apparently preferred his dream world over his "real" life.
Deja Vu? : A Wicked Rage for Recognition

Deja Vu? : A Wicked Rage for Recognition

In the tragic wake of Saturday's shooting at a Tucson, Arizona political rally allegedly perpetrated by yet another reportedly deeply disturbed and probably angry young man, twenty-two-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, I decided to re-post this hopefully relevant 2008 article for those PT readers who might have missed its initial appearance.

Evil Deeds and Dangerous States of Mind: Commenting on Television Commentary

For my first series of posts in the New Year, I want to continue commenting as both a forensic and clinical psychologist on some of the high-profile criminal cases covered and the sometimes dubious psychological commentary dished up on popular cable television shows like The Nancy Grace Show and Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell. 
Holiday Self-Help : Do Introverts Need More Sleep than Extraverts?

Holiday Self-Help : Do Introverts Need More Sleep than Extraverts?

Sure, this festive time of year is an extravert's dream: constant socializing, parties, travel, etc. But even extraverts can get too much of a good thing. Whatever type you happen to tend toward (no one is 100% introverted or extraverted), the secret to surviving the holiday season intact--and maybe even coming out more whole than before--is balance.
Essential Secrets of Psychotherapy: Why We Worry (and what we can do about it)

Essential Secrets of Psychotherapy: Why We Worry (and what we can do about it)

We all worry at times. Occasionally for good reason. But worrying can get way out of hand. Worrying and anxiety are intimately related. Anxiety can manifest in many ways, including persistent, excessive worrying. Why do we worry as much as we do? What exactly is it we worry about? And how can we worry a little less? 
 UFO's, Close Encounters, and the Cry for Meaning

UFO's, Close Encounters, and the Cry for Meaning

In 1958, the year Swiss psychiatrist and depth psychologist C.G. Jung celebrated his 83rd birthday three years before his death, he published a highly controversial work about UFO's, at that time popularly referred to as "flying saucers." Later titled Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky (Princeton University Press, 1979), Jung's concern was less whether or not these UFO's objectively, physically or materially exist than with their subjective, phenomenological inner reality, psychological meaning and spiritual significance. 
A Response to "My LIfe in Therapy": Daphne Merkin's Long and Difficult "Education in Disillusioned Realism"

A Response to "My LIfe in Therapy": Daphne Merkin's Long and Difficult "Education in Disillusioned Realism"

Recently there has been a renewed firestorm raging about psychotherapy--specifically psychoanalysis, psychodynamic therapy or depth psychology --since the August 4, 2010 publication in The New York Times of chronic psychotherapy consumer and professional journalist/essayist/novelist Daphne Merkin's memoir. Though I may be a bit late to take up psychodynamic psychotherapy's defense, noting that several of my PT colleagues have already commented on her controversial article, I want to offer my own response to Ms. Merkin, readers of her piece, psychotherapy patients, and all those considering psychotherapy. 

Giving the Devil His Due: Exorcism, Psychotherapy, and the Possession Syndrome

 As summer starts to slowly fade, the new movie The Last Exorcism (directed by Daniel Stamm) opens in theaters today to the delight of horror fans. I haven't yet seen it, and probably won't till it comes to DVD. But I thought we might revisit some of my previous comments about possession and exorcism from one of my earliest postings here at Psychology Today more than two years ago.
INCEPTION: Art, Dream and Reality

INCEPTION: Art, Dream and Reality

This summer's mega-hit movie Inception, is a welcome, albeit excessively frenetic, confusing, manic meditation on the elusive nature of reality. While its premise is ostensibly about the main character's uncanny ability to enter into and lucidly influence the dream world of others, what it fundamentally asks is whether the inner world of dreams is any less real or inhabitable than the outer world we typically call "reality."
Who Are We Really? : C.G. Jung's "Split Personality"

Who Are We Really? : C.G. Jung's "Split Personality"

Who are we really? This is the fundamental question many wrestle with in psychotherapy. And also in spiritual practices such as Buddhism. According to Jungian psychology, since we each possess a persona and a conflicting unconscious shadow, we all suffer to some extent  from "split personality."
Intermittent Explosive Disorder: No, this is NOT All About Mel "Mad Max" Gibson!

Intermittent Explosive Disorder: No, this is NOT All About Mel "Mad Max" Gibson!

Do domestic batterers and other violent offenders (and their victims) suffer from some type of anger disorder? This posting is not about talented movie actor and gifted director Mel Gibson, the alleged notorious telephone tapes and lurid (as yet unproven) charges leveled against him by former girlfriend and mother of their eight-month-old daughter Oksana Grigorieva. Nor is it about the curious connection between creativity and evil. (See my previous post regarding Roman Polanski.) It is really about our runaway rage epidemic ( a subject I've been writing on for thirty years) and what we can do to manage this menacing mental health crisis. 

Polanski, Evil and Creativity: Does Talent Trump Bad Behavior?

 In light of today's surprise release and refusal by Switzerland to extradite him to the United States for trial, the case of Oscar-winning film director and international fugitive Roman Polanski raises some fundamental questions regarding the relationship between creativity and evil. Does talent ever redeem bad behavior? Can creativity excuse evil deeds?
What is Existential Psychotherapy? And Why it Matters Today.

What is Existential Psychotherapy? And Why it Matters Today.

As consumers are increasingly confronted with the very real limitations of what managed mental health care, ever-briefer therapy and ubiquitous psychopharmacology can provide, existential psychotherapy is enjoying some resurgence. Existential psychotherapy strives to empower and place the person--and his or her existential choices--back at the center of the therapeutic process. To cite Sartre on this subject: "We are our choices."

Is Joran van der Sloot Setting Up His Psychiatric Defense?

When you have a pissed-off five or ten-year-old in a big, strong body, with the freedom to do just as they please--drive a car, drink, gamble, travel, have sex, do drugs, exploit, intimidate and bully others and generally get their own way--you have an extraordinarily dangerous person capable of the most evil deeds.

Dr. Diamond Discusses the Joran van der Sloot Case on A&E Special

PT blogger ("Evil Deeds") clinical and forensic psychologist Dr. Stephen Diamond comments on the Joran van der Sloot case for the recent A&E T.V. special "Who Is the Real Joran van der Sloot?", and on radio KFNX AM Phoenix. Listen on the internet!

Was Natalee Holloway the Victim of a Vicious Serial Killer?

While, as a forensic psychologist, I cannot diagnose this (or any) defendant without first evaluating him, nor presume his guilt, the question comes down to this: Is Joran van der Sloot, as his defense attorneys will likely argue, simply the unluckiest young man in the world, finding himself once again innocently in the wrong place at the wrong time? With a dead girl's body in his hotel room? On the fifth anniversary of Natalee Holloway's likely death in his presence? And then bullied by police into falsely confessing to this despicable evil deed? If so, perhaps poker isn't really his game.

Extreme Embitterment: The Anger Epidemic Rages Eastward

There have been six vicious attacks on school children in China over the past sixty days. Evidently, the epidemic violence so prevalent here in the United States and more recently slowly spreading eastward into Europe is now clearly raising its ugly head in countries like China, where such crimes were at one time almost totally unheard of.

Drug Wars: The Siren Call of Prescription Privilege

How do clinical psychologists competently and effectively treat patients in this era so heavily dominated by psychopharmacology? Traditionally, psychologists could only work closely and cooperatively with psychiatrists and other prescribing physicians to ensure their patients received appropriate phamacotherapy as needed. But in recent years, there is a growing momentum afoot to train and license clinical psychologists as psychopharmacologists. Fierce debates about this controversial movement are raging. (See, for example, PT blogger psychiatrist Steven Schlozman's legitimate medical concerns.) While it may seem strange to some readers, I (along with many of my colleagues) am not a big supporter of clinical psychologists obtaining prescription privileges. And here is why. 

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