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Psychology, Today

Presents Nicholas Charney's magazine 'Psychology Today.' How 'Psychology Today' was produced; Reasons for the magazine's vitality; Lessons learned from the magazine; Views on various psychiatrists.

Nearly 30 years ago today, a man armed only with a Ph.D., boundlessconfidence, and high-octane curiosity, started a magazine called PSYCHOLOGY TODAY. Nicholas Charney's governing premise: the issues of psychology were the most vital, raw, and riveting issues of the day, from violence to humanism, feminism, homosexuality, murder, presidential character, and the secrets of that ultimate mystery--the brain.

PT soon developed a kind of lock on the voice of the time. Out of the mainstream but at the heart of what's really American, the fabled magazine was produced on the beaches of Delmar in California--and became a cult hit and a commercial success. But then the magazine was sold, and resold, and each of its new, powerful owners tried in vain to recapture the early magic that Charney and his gang had achieved, seemingly with so little effort and so much fun. Finally, PT--with a little help from its friends--crashed and burned.

And, as you know, rose out of the ashes five years ago. Inarguably, we're here. If the resilience of this magazine has taught us anything, it's about the importance of this subject. There's not a whole lot that's more interesting than what makes people tick. Yet there's another, more substantive reason for PT's vitality--and that's the revolutionary nature of psychology itself, which continues to amaze us with its newness.

The current issue--where we present landmark research into moods, mental disorders, and how to achieve optimal mental health--could not have been written, or even conceived, five years ago, even one year ago. New knowledge about the biology of the brain and the medications we can use to treat mental illness has transformed our sense of self. There's an unparalleled openness about psychological disorders today, so that a nationally known psychiatrist like Ned Hallowell (who writes in these pages about attention deficit disorder) admits quite freely that he has ADD--and tells how that discovery was the most liberating moment of his life. In turn, as UCLA psychiatrist Peter Whybrow points out, our deepening grasp of severe mental disorders can offer us astonishing information about our own everyday moods. His approach encompasses both drugs and therapy, an indication of the new comfort we feel with a wide range of treatments. With our increasing precision, psychiatrist John Ratey tells us, we can effectively treat the "shadow syndromes," the milder ups and downs that derail us all from time to time. It's profoundly encouraging to know that the totally `normal' personality simply does not exist.

If ever there was a perennial issue, it's the war between the sexes--check out editor at large Hara Marano's interview with John Gray, Ph.D., the bestselling popular psychologist of our time, and decide for yourself whether it's a civilized duel or an all-out fight. And since more and more "new age" books are being shelved and sold as psychology these days, essayist Michael Ventura gives us his mordant, deeply skeptical view of packaged soul--and his own experience of that ineffable word. Finally, if you take our premise that mind, body, and spirit are united, then the impact of nutrition on well-being is clearly psychology's turf. So to that end, we're launching a new column with a renowned holistic physician.

Charney's manifesto was summed up in the phrase: "Let the air in." And, modestly, that's what we're striving to do here.

Psychology Today. The magic is back. Thank you, Nick.