Jedi Counsel Episode 110 – Discussing Addiction with Dr. Ted Bender, CEO of Turning Point at Addiction Campuses

Note: This episode includes discussion of drug use, self-harm, and overdose deaths.

 

We invited Dr. Ted Bender, the CEO of Turning Point at Addiction Campuses, to talk to us about his expertise in the treatment of substance use disorders. The episode included an overview of the risk factors and consequences associated with addiction. We discussed the opioid epidemic and the types of actions necessary to fight it effectively. We also talked about topics that are regularly in the news, such as fentanyl (a pain medication with high risk for addiction), Narcan (a nasal spray that reverses opioid overdoses) and Suboxone (used for medication-assisted therapy in harm reduction treatment models). We discussed the challenges faced by people struggling with addiction and how treatment is individually-tailored for patients at Turning Point at Addiction Campuses. Dr. Bender concluded with a message of hope and encouragement to view addiction through a non-stigmatizing lens. If you like what you hear, please consider leaving a review on iTunes or telling a friend about us. Thank you so much for listening!

 

For more information about topics discussed in this episode:

 

You can follow Dr. Ted Bender on Twitter and learn more about Turning Point at Addiction Campuses here.

 

You can read the full obituary for Madelyn Linsenmeir here.

 

You can learn more about Dialectical Behavior Therapy here.

Rickistential Podcast 8 – Total Rickall, Get Schwifty, The Ricks Must Be Crazy, Big Trouble in Little Sanchez

Hi Rick and Morty/mental health fans! We discussed 4 Rick and Morty episodes from Season 2: Total Rickall, Get Schwifty, The Ricks Must Be Crazy, and Big Trouble in Little Sanchez. Listen in to find out whether we agree with Rick that earth therapy is like asking a horse to fix a merry-go-round (we don’t), how spirituality is/is not included in therapy, how accurate the couples therapy depiction is in the show, and the true meaning of Ice-T’s quote, “You do your thing, but I can’t afford to get my pride wrapped up in your shame.” Thanks so much for listening!

Links to topics mentioned in the show:

Robert Vore & Dr. Holly Oxhandler’s CXMH Podcast on Faith & Mental Health

Run the Jewels’ Rick and Morty Song “Oh Mama”

Elliott Smith’s Behind the Bars and Miss Misery

Jedi Counsel Podcast 109 – Asian Representation in Crazy Rich Asians & Hamilton with Dr. Gina Hiraoka

Dr. Gina Hiraoka is a clinical psychologist with expertise in mental health treatment for veterans.* In this episode, we discussed misconceptions about treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder (e.g., short-term vs. long-term decisions related to avoidance and exposure). Next, we talked about Crazy Rich Asians and Dr. Hiraoka’s experiences with (lack of) representation growing up. She told us about the term hapa (meaning part-Asian and/or Pacific Islander) and shared her thoughts on some of the controversy surrounding Henry Golding being cast in the film. We concluded with some discussion of Hamilton and Phillipa Soo being cast as Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. We learned a lot from Dr. Hiraoka and hope you enjoy this episode! Thanks so much for listening!

 

*All of Dr. Hiraoka’s opinions are her own and do not reflect those of her employer/the federal government.

 

You can follow Dr. Gina Hiraoka on Twitter: @QueenGina511

You can learn more about The Hapa Project by Kip Fulbeck here: https://kipfulbeck.com/the-hapa-project/

For more information about posttraumatic stress disorder and its treatment, check out this website: National Center for PTSD.

You can check out more Hamilton psychology stuff from us here:

Dueling Personalities: The Psychology of the Hamilton-Burr Conflict

10 Hamilton Quotes for Therapists

 

We are part of the Geek Therapy network. If you like our show, please consider rating and reviewing us on iTunes. Thank you!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 108 – Restorative Justice & the #MeToo Movement with Dr. Leonardo Bobadilla

Note: This episode includes discussion of sexual assault.

We invited Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist, Leonardo Bobadilla, back to talk about his expertise in restorative justice for cases of sexual violence. The episode included an overview of a blog post he wrote titled Restorative Justice and the #MeToo movement: The Kavanaugh hearings as a case study. We first discussed research related to the decision to report sexual assault. Next, we talked about a range of risk factors associated with committing sexual assault and how this knowledge can be used to prevent it. Dr. Bobadilla then described historical and current applications of restorative justice. We discussed the challenges faced by scientists and others who work in this field. Dr. Bobadilla concluded with thoughts about the dangers of viewing people as all good or all evil and the benefits of nuanced, individualized systemic responses to sexual violence. If you like what you hear, please consider leaving a review on iTunes or telling a friend about us. Thank you so much for listening!

Show Links:

More from Dr. Leonardo Bobadilla

Aggression Blog: Using Science to Reduce Violence

Jedi Counsel Podcast Episode on the Assessment & Treatment of Paraphilic Disorders

Resources for Sexual Assault Survivors

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network)

Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy

National Center for PTSD

Information on the Treatment and Prevention of Sexual Abuse

Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers

American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists

Information on Restorative Justice

Centre for Justice & Reconciliation

Information about the U.S. Criminal Justice System

Serial: Season 3

The Marshall Project

More Information about the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised

Can a Test Really Tell Us Who’s a Psychopath?

Creator of Psychopathy Test Worries About Its Use

 

Jedi Counsel Podcast 107 – The Science of Memory and the Kavanaugh Allegations with Dr. Jonathan Corbin

We invited Dr. Jonathan Corbin to talk to us about his expertise in memory research. We first asked Dr. Corbin’s thoughts on media claims about Dr. Ford’s allegations. He described current scientific knowledge about how memory works, including explanations of flashbulb memories, eyewitness testimony, false memories, repressed memories, and best practices for asking people about events that occurred long ago. Dr. Corbin also explained how the context for memory influences the way it is assessed (e.g., clinical vs. legal vs. everyday settings). We discussed depictions of memory in fiction (e.g., Memento) and then concluded with Dr. Corbin’s thoughts about the questioning of Dr. Ford by the Senate panel. You can learn more about Dr. Corbin’s work on his website: http://www.jonathancorbin.net/ and by following him on Twitter: @JonathanCorbin2.

 

For more information, here are links to topics mentioned in the episode:

How to Get the Kavanaugh Hearings Right by Dr. Anita Hill

Kavanaugh Bears the Burden of Proof by Benjamin Wittes

Memory researchers who were mentioned: Drs. Loftus, Simons, Brainerd

Resources for Sexual Assault Survivors

Jedi Counsel Podcast 106 – Giving Away Psychology with The Arkham Asylum Doc, Dr. Andrea Letamendi

We spoke to Dr. Andrea Letamendi, who is a clinical psychologist and the Associate Director of Mental Health for Residential Life at UCLA. In addition to her work helping college students with their mental health needs, she also admirably shares scientifically accurate mental health information with the public. She does this through co-hosting an amazing Batman podcast (The Arkham Sessions) and an awesome Star Wars podcast (Lattes with Leia), through her writing on Under the Mask and an inspiring TEDx talk, and through other public speaking appearances. We spoke to Dr. Letamendi about how she got interested in clinical psychology, what it’s been like sharing her personal experiences with imposter syndrome with the public, and how she embraces her identity as a geek in her work. Dr. Letamendi also told us about her experience consulting with Gail Simone on the New 52 Batgirl series and having a therapist comic book character named after her. We concluded with discussion of Dr. Letamendi’s future projects. We hope you enjoy listening to this episode – we had a lot of fun recording it!

 Check out more of Dr. Andrea Letamendi’s work at her website: http://www.underthemaskonline.com/ and on Twitter: @ArkhamAsylumDoc .

** due to some Skype connectivity issues, some of the sound quality varies a bit in the second half of the episode. Although the quality wavers, the content does not!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 105 – Suicide Prevention Awareness Month 2018

Hi folks! For suicide prevention month, we decided to take the week and chat just a bit about suicide. We started off by talking a bit about how we got involved in suicide prevention research and then talked about some of the causes of suicide and Dr. Thomas Joiner’s interpersonal theory of suicide. We finished up by responding to a question about how you can help a friend who you think might be suicidal that was submitted by friend of the pod Murray.

In this episode we discussed several important people working to help understand and prevent suicide including (in no particular order) Dr. Thomas Joiner, Dr. Michael Anestis. Dr. Joy Cox-Anestis, Dr. David Klonsky, Dr. Mathew Nock, Dr. Mitch Prinstein, Dese’Rae L. Stage, and Rudy Caseres. Please check out the work that these many wonderful people are doing for very worthwhile content.

For more information on suicide, please visit the American Psychological Association’s reference sheet here: http://www.apa.org/topics/suicide/index.aspx or the National Institute of Mental Health’s reference sheet here: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-faq/index.shtml. If you or someone you know is at risk for suicide, please call 1–800–273–TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Links to topics mentioned in the show:

Klonsky & May (2015)’s The Three-Step Theory (3ST): A New Theory of Suicide Rooted in the “Ideation-to-Action” Framework

Joiner’s Why People Die By Suicide

Joiner, Van Orden, Witte, & Rudd’s The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide: Guidance for Working with Suicidal Clients

Rudy Caseres’ No Restraints

Dese’Rae Stage’s Live Through This Project

Suicide Prevention Social Media

Van Orden et al. (2010)’s The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide

Jonathan Singer’s Social Work Podcast

Nock & Prinstein’s A Functional Approach to the Assessment of Self-Mutilative Behavior

Suicide Prevention Information & Resources

Mike Anestis’ work on Guns & Suicide

Jedi Counsel Podcast 104 – Mental Health Themes in Queer Eye

Hello, Jedi Counsel listeners! In this episode, we talked about some of our favorite moments from the Netflix series Queer Eye and how they map on to concepts in the field of psychology. We talked about advice given in the show that is consistent with principles of behavioral activation for depression, exposure for social anxiety, oppose-to-emotion action from dialectical behavior therapy, and acting “as if” and reframing unhelpful thoughts in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Overall, the show is sweet, heartwarming, and funny. We hope you enjoy our discussion of it – let us know what the show has meant to you!

PS – If you hear trickling water in the background, it is Brandon’s in-home hydroponic garden!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 103 – Geek Culture in Therapy with Dr. Patrick O’Connor

We spoke to Dr. Patrick O’Connor, who was a pioneer in the use of geek culture (e.g., comic books, science fiction movies, video games) in therapy! He is a professor who uses innovative teaching methods like gamification of learning to engage students in his psychology classes. Dr. O’Connor has published and presented on his use of superheroes in therapy and created a database of comic book stories categorized by therapeutic themes. It was fascinating to hear all about Dr. O’Connor’s work and his connections to Geek Therapy!

 

Check out more of Dr. O’Connor’s work at his website: http://www.comicspedia.net/ and on Twitter: @Comicspedia.

 

Thank you for listening! You can find us on TwitterFacebook, & Patreon!

Rickistential Podcast 7 – A Rickle in Time, Mortynight Run, & Auto Erotic Assimilation (S2, Eps 1-3)

In this episode, we continued to explore the pain that Rick is masking and discussed suicide themes in the show. We referenced a Jedi Counsel podcast episode with special guest Rudy Caseres about using restraints in mental health settings – you can listen to that here. We previously talked about Rick’s suicidal behavior with our friends at Suicide Prevention Social Media (#SPSM), and you can watch that here. Please check out our suicide prevention information and resources here.

Jedi Counsel Podcast Episode 102 – Sharing Psychology with the Public with Dr. Ali Mattu

We spoke to Dr. Ali Mattu, who is a licensed clinical psychologist in New York City. In addition to treating individuals with anxiety and related disorders, he also does an admirable job of sharing accurate mental health information with the public. He does this through his YouTube channel on The Psych Show, through his blog on the psychology of science fiction (Brain Knows Better), and through co-hosting a weekly podcast (GT Radio). We spoke to Ali about how he got interested in clinical psychology, what it’s been like sharing his personal mental health stories with the public, and how he embraces his identity as a geek in his work. Ali also talked to us about what The Simpsons character, Apu, meant to him growing up and about media representation. We concluded with discussion of Ali’s future projects. We hope you enjoy listening to this episode – we had a lot of fun recording it!

 

Check out more of Dr. Ali Mattu’s work at his website: http://alimattu.com/ and on Twitter@AliMattu.

 

Thank you for listening! You can find us on TwitterFacebook, & Patreon!

The Rickistential Podcast 6 – Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind & Ricksy Business (S1, E10 & E11)

In this episode, we talked about whether we think Rick is truly in emotional pain, what we think is Morty’s motivation for covering for Rick’s house party, and whether people with antisocial and narcissistic personality disorder traits truly experience emotional pain.

 

You can find us on TwitterFacebookour website, or Patreon. Thanks so much for listening!

The Rickistential Podcast 5 – Rixty Minutes & Something Ricked This Way Comes (S1, E8 & E9)

In this episode, we talked about the themes of regret, reality TV and social media (including the #PlaneBae story), meaning-making, and the nature of changes made in science from Pluto to the diagnostic system of mental disorders (Bring Back Pluto).

 

You can find us on TwitterFacebookour website, or Patreon. Thanks so much for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 101 – Science and Fiction with Dr. Aaron Hanlon

Dr. Aaron Hanlon is an Assistant Professor of English at Colby College and a visiting scholar in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. He is a literary historian with expertise in the Enlightenment, 18th century literature, epistemology and the organization of knowledge, and fictionality. He also writes articles on a variety of topics for national media outlets. We talked to Aaron about philosophy of science (including Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery), misconceptions about English professors and humanities disciplines, and his research on the ways that fiction and science influence each other.

You can learn more about Aaron and his work by going to his website: http://www.aaronrhanlon.com/ or by following him on Twitter: @AaronRHanlon.

Thank you for listening! You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, & Patreon!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 100 – Frasier Crane Day

It’s our 100th episode of the Jedi Counsel Podcast! We are grateful for all of our listeners, readers, and other people who we have connected with through Jedi Counsel! Frasier Crane celebrated 1000 radio episodes with Frasier Crane Day, so we decided to celebrate 100 podcast episodes with Frasier Crane Day as well. We talked about the difference between psychology and psychiatry, the ethical issues faced in Frasier, our favorite episodes/moments, and the mental health of the main characters. Thank you so much for listening!

In this episode, we talked about Daphne & Marris showing symptoms of eating disorders. For more information about eating disorders and their treatment, please see the Academy for Eating Disorders website. We also discussed potential obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms in Niles. Please see the International OCD Foundation for more information about OCD. Finally, Frasier showed signs of depression, which you can learn more about here.

You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, & Patreon!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 99 – Podcasting, Mental Health, & Humor with Aryeh Cohen-Wade

We spoke to Aryeh Cohen-Wade, who is the executive editor of bloggingheads.tv and meaningoflife.tv, the host of the podcast Culturally Determined, an excellent writer, and a funny tweeter. First, he provided us with some background on bloggingheads.tv and walked us through his podcasting process. Culturally Determined includes discussions of a broad range of controversial and interesting topics (e.g., cultural appropriation, the Rick & Morty fandombody positivity) with diverse guests (e.g., David LittOsita NwanevuNatalie Wynn of ContraPoints). Next, we discussed a particularly powerful Culturally Determined episode on long-term antidepressant use with Danielle Tcholokian. Aryeh told us what it was like to share some of his own experiences with depression on that episode. We concluded with a discussion about mental health and humor, and Aryeh recommended listening to The Hilarious World of Depression.

Check out more of Aryeh’s work and writing at his website: https://aryehcw.wordpress.com/ and on Twitter: @AryehCW.

Thank you for listening! You can find us on TwitterFacebook, & Patreon!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 98 – Ask Us Anything

In this episode, we responded to super-interesting questions that we received through Twitter and e-mail from you all! We opened up by responding to a letter that The Black Goat podcast received (you should totally check out their excellent podcast about psychological science: http://www.theblackgoatpodcast.com/!). The questions ranged from whether it is appropriate to have a podcast if you’re a clinical psychology graduate student to the psychology behind Harry Potter being willing to self-sacrifice to defeat Voldemort. We hope you enjoy this very informal discussion, and please feel free to send us questions and thoughts any time on Twitter (@Jedi_Counsel) or e-mail: jedicounselblog@gmail.com,. Thanks for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 97 – Reunite Families who were Separated at the Border

We are completely opposed to children being separated from their parents after crossing the border into the United States. The purpose of this episode is to 1) suggest resources with research and information on the long-lasting, damaging effects of parent-child separation and 2) suggest actions that you can take to fight this abhorrent policy. While an executive order may have ended the practice of separation, it’s still vitally important that families who have already been separated get reunited. We also discussed some of our suggestions for balancing your mental health needs in the face of this news. For more detailed information, please check out our blog post: https://jedi-counsel.com/2018/06/20/stop-the-separation-of-families-at-the-border/.

Reunite Families Separated at the Border

We are completely opposed to children being separated from their parents after crossing the border into the United States. The purpose of this post is to 1) link to research and information on the long-lasting, damaging effects of parent-child separation and 2) suggest actions that you can take to fight this abhorrent policy and insist that families are reunited.

Statements from Experts About the Harm of Separating Children from their Parents:

Circle of Willis Podcast: Children at the Border We strongly recommend listening to this episode. The host spoke to 5 developmental scientists about the likely impact of this policy.

Washington Post Article by Clinical Psychologist and Neuroscientist, Jim Coan

Letter to President Trump from the American Psychological Association

Statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics

Statement from the Association for Research in Personality

Statement from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

Statement of APA President Regarding the Executive Order Rescinding Immigrant Family Separation Policy

American Association of Suicidology’s Statement on the Detrimental Effects of the Administration’s Family Separation Policy

Statement from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies on Taking Children Away from their Parents

Ways to Take Action:

Call your representatives in Congress and tell them that you want them to pass legislation that stops this policy immediately.

Donate to RAICES (the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) to reunite families.

Vote in the midterm elections for candidates that oppose these types of policies.

Attend a Families Belong Together protest.

Get informed and spread the word to others.

Donate to candidates who are against family separation & in close November races:

– Small
– Eastman
– Slotkin
– Fletcher
– Heitkamp
– O’Rourke

family-mother-father-child (1)

 

Jedi Counsel Podcast 96 – Superhero Therapy with Dr. Janina Scarlet

We were profoundly moved after hearing about Dr. Janina Scarlet’s life story and her contributions to the mental health world. Dr. Scarlet was born in Ukraine and experienced radiation poisoning as a toddler due to the Chernobyl disaster. Then, she and her family experienced dangerous anti-Semitic threats until they were eventually granted refugee status. Once in the United States, Dr. Scarlet was targeted by bullies and experienced mental health struggles. Her connections to superhero stories helped her to cope and feel empowered in the face of hardships. Dr. Scarlet went on to become a psychologist and now she is helping others through Superhero Therapy, which places evidence-based mental health intervention techniques (e.g., acceptance and commitment therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy) in the context of popular culture and relatable stories. She now travels the world training mental health professionals and connecting with people about their experiences. We hope you enjoy this episode! It was an honor for us to interview Dr. Scarlet. You can check out all of her wonderful work at http://www.superhero-therapy.com/.

Suicide Prevention Information & Resources

This week involved a lot of heartbreaking suicide-related news. We tragically lost Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain to suicide. We also learned that U.S. suicide rates increased substantially over the past several years. If you want to learn and do more to prevent suicide, we want to help you out by linking to some good sources. We hope you find them useful.

Double-Rainbow.jpg

If you need help:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Trans Lifeline

The Trevor Project (for LGTBQ+ youth)

Veterans Crisis Line

Find a Therapist

Find a Support Group for People Who Have Lost Someone to Suicide

Listen to a Hopeful Music Playlist Made by College Students

Research-Supported Treatments for Adults

Research-Supported Treatments for Children

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns

How to help others:

Warning Signs

How to Help Someone Who is Suicidal

Take a Mental Health First Aid Training Course

Get involved:

Call Your Representatives and Tell Them to Prioritize Policies linked to Suicide Prevention (e.g., access to quality healthcare, funding for research)

Participate in an Out of Darkness Community Walk

For information:

Suicide Statistics

Suicide Prevention Social Media Chat

Live Through This Photo Project

Wil Wheaton Essay about Mental Health

Rudy Caseres, Mental Health Advocate

Robert Vore, Mental Health Advocate

It Gets Better Project

Why People Die by Suicide by Thomas Joiner

Myths about Suicide by Thomas Joiner

Guns and Suicide by Michael Anestis

Cracked Not Broken by Kevin Hines

Speaking of Suicide by Stacey Freedenthal

Jedi Counsel Podcast 95 – Suicide in the News

Hello, wonderful listeners. There was a lot of heartbreaking suicide-related news this week. We tragically lost Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain to suicide, and the CDC released a report showing that suicide rates have increased in the United States. This brief episode is about tending to your mental health needs, helping someone if they have suicidal thoughts, and pointing out some misconceptions about suicide. We hope for a future with the resources needed to effectively prevent suicide.

 

For additional information, please visit:

 

American Association of Suicidology

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Trans Lifeline

The Trevor Project

Veterans Crisis Line

Effective Child Therapy

Research-Supported Psychological Treatments

 

If you have any questions for us, please contact us on Twitter or e-mail us at jedicounselblog@gmail.com. Thank you for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 94 – Reactions to A Quiet Place, Blockers, Deadpool 2, & Solo

Hi, everyone! This week, we informally discussed our thoughts about four movies we’ve seen relatively recently. First, we talked about the scary movie A Quiet Place and tied it with some anxiety-related concepts. Next, we talked about the movie Blockers – how funny it was and the parent-child relationship depictions. Then, we went into more detail about Deadpool 2, including some discussion of suicidal desire. Lastly, we talked about Solo and our thoughts about motivations for various characters behavior. Let us know what you think by tweeting us at @Jedi_Counsel!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 93 – Talking Mental Health Advocacy & Lived Experience with Rudy Caseres

Hello, wonderful listeners! We had a special guest, Rudy Caseres, on this week’s episode, and we talked all about his incredible work as a mental health advocate! Rudy speaks and writes publicly about his experiences with bipolar disorder and surviving suicide. In addition to hosting a Facebook show (No Restraints) with a variety of interesting topics and guests, he’s given over 100 public talks, works with This is My Brave, was awarded NAMI California’s Outstanding Peer Award in 2017, and writes for The Mighty. He was named a Mighty Mental Health Hero in 2017 for being a social media superstar. We discussed his impactful work, his opinions on forced treatment, and his views on whether he wants his bipolar disorder to be cured. You can view some of Rudy’s talks on YouTube and find links to his other amazing work on his website, www.rudycaseres.com. Thank you so much for listening!

 

You can find us Twitter, Facebook, our website, and Patreon – we love hearing from you! If you like our show, please tell a friend and review us on iTunes – thank you!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 92 – Avengers: Infinity War Reaction Episode

Hey Avengers! This week we take a break and head to the cinema. Listen in as we record our reaction to Avengers: Infinity War! Tons of spoilers, so hold off until you see the film.

You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, our website, or Patreon. Thanks so much for listening!

The Rickistential Podcast 4 – Rick Potion #9 and Raising Gazropazorp (S1, E6 & E7)

Hello, Rickistentialists! This week we discussed “Rick Potion #9” and “Raising Gazropazorp.” First, we talked about fictional portrayals of romantic relationships and highlighted some healthy examples while also pointing out some unhealthy examples of fictional relationships. We chatted about how therapy might help individuals who have dating-related concerns. Then, we talked about parenting and the influences of nature and nurture on children.

You can find us on TwitterFacebookour website, or Patreon. Thanks so much for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 91 – Jessica Jones, Season 2 Part 2, Anger Management, Dissociation, & Substance Use

Hi, folks! In this episode, we talked about psychological themes throughout Season 2 of Jessica Jones (major spoilers in this episode). We discussed post-traumatic stress disorder, anger control problems, substance use disorders, and dissociation. We also checked in about the development of the main characters in this season and what we thought about the directions their characters went in.

You can find us on TwitterFacebookour website, or Patreon. Thanks so much for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 90 – Talking Social Justice, Psychology, and Black Panther with Dr Lamisha Hill and Dr Bedford Palmer from Naming It

Hello! This week, we talked to the co-hosts of one of our favorite podcasts, Naming It. Dr. LaMisha Hill and Dr. Bedford Palmer describe their podcast as a place “where we discuss pop culture, current events, and how they relate to the way we live our lives – all through the lens of two Black psychologists. Naming It is dedicated to acknowledging the elephant in the room—validating the lived experience of people of color.” We talked to them about the origins and purpose of their podcast, the geeky activities that they currently enjoy, and their thoughts about Black Panther. Thanks for listening!

You can find us on TwitterFacebookour website, or Patreon. Thanks so much for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 89 – Jessica Jones, PTSD, & Recovered Memories

Hello, Jedi Counsel listeners! After a recording hiatus (due to illness, travel, and general busy-ness), we’re back! In this episode, we discussed the first three episodes of Season 2 of Jessica Jones. First, we talked about the depiction of Jessica Jones as a person who is affected by posttraumatic stress disorder and alcohol use disorder. For more details, please check out our blog post and podcast episode about Season 1 of Jessica Jones. Secondly, we talked about the psychological science on hypnosis and recovered memories (this paper suggests that it’s harmful). For more about the science on memories, check out our episode on brain myths with cognitive psychologist, Dr. Rob Gordon. For more about Elizabeth Loftus’ work on memory, you can watch her TED Talk here. Finally, we concluded with our reactions to the phrase that The Whizzer says, “With great power comes great mental illness.”

You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, our website, or Patreon. Thanks so much for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 88 – Discussing Faith and Mental Health with Robert Vore

Hello! We had a special guest on this week’s episode to talk about the intersection of faith and mental health. Robert Vore, the host of the CXMH podcast, joined us to talk about the exciting work he is doing to increase mental health awareness in Christian communities. In addition to hosting a podcast with a variety of fascinating topics and guests, Robert also shares his own mental health experiences with others to reduce stigma and start conversations. Recent writing includes a blog post titled Reflections on Bad Tweets about Faith and Mental Health and an article for The Mighty called What Happens to a Depressed Brain at Night. We concluded by talking about Robert’s favorite depictions of mental health in fiction, including BoJack Horseman and Rick and Morty. We hope you enjoy this episode and check out all of Robert’s great work! Contact us on Twitter if you have any specific topics you’d like us to talk about! Thanks for listening! We are grateful for your support!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 87 – Bladerunner, Diagnostic Tests, & Empathy with Dr. Ben Balas

Hello, human and replicant listeners! This week’s episode included special guest, Dr. Ben Balas, who has a Ph.D. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. We talked about the 1982 movie, Bladerunner, and Philip K. Dick’s Book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? We delved into the topics of assessment and testing in psychology through discussion of the Voigt-Kampff and Boneli Reflex Arc tests. We chatted about the complexities of diagnosis for low base rate phenomena and then talked about the fact that technological advances don’t always yield superior tools (e.g., in the case of lie detector tests). We also talked about a recent Atlantic article by Ed Yong on psychopathy. Dr. Balas spoke with us about the Turing Test and provided some history on its development, and then we spent time focused on the themes of empathy and uncertainty throughout the book and movie. We hope you enjoyed this episode – we had a lot of fun making it for you! Contact us on Twitter if you have any specific topics you’d like us to talk about! Thanks for listening! We are grateful for your support!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 86 – College Mental Health

Hello! This week, we started out with a bit of nerdy news before launching into our main topic: college mental health. We began with a brief history of mental health services on college campuses (which have been around for over 100 years!) and recommended reading this fascinating Kraft (2011) article. Next, we gave some suggestions for helping students with a variety of different concerns (e.g., seeking therapy referrals, exhibiting unusual behavior, requesting accommodations). We discussed student/professor boundaries and strategies for reducing mental health stigma in the classroom. We concluded by recommending an interesting article by Jesse Singal on The Myth of the Ever-More Fragile College Student. Contact us on Twitter if you have any specific topics you’d like us to talk about! Thanks for listening! We are so grateful for your support!

The Rickistential Podcast 3 – Meeseeks and Simulation (S1, E4 & E5)

This week, we continued our (unofficial) analysis of Rick and Morty by discussing “M. Night Shaym-Aliens!” and “MeSeeks and Destroy.” We spent some time talking about David Cross’ guest appearance, a cognitive-behavioral therapy conceptualization of self-worth and work, and how to treat a fear of public speaking. Then, we highlighted an interaction between Rick and Morty, where Rick claimed the world was chaotic. Morty replied by telling Rick that he was the chaotic one. We connected this to some of Rick’s personality disorder features. The show also focused on Beth as she struggled to recognize different aspects of her identity. We hope you enjoy this episode! Thanks SO much for listening!

What Can We Learn from Batman about Being a Therapist?

Hi everyone, Brandon here. Come on in, have a seat. I know what you’re thinking… “Hey Jedi Counsel, this is not one of the classic psychological evaluations about one of my favorite, beloved fictional characters that I’ve come to expect every month or so! What gives?” Well, let me tell you what gives, friend. This is my fifth year of graduate school and last semester at North Dakota State University. This summer I will begin the final year of my Ph.D., which will consist of a full time, yearlong clinical position at a non-profit community mental health clinic. I’m entering a time of pretty significant personal change. I started at NDSU during my undergraduate. The university and my status as a student have been a central part of my identity for a very long time. I’ve been reflecting a lot about the transition out of this role and into my new role as a full-time clinician. Because this, I started thinking a lot about my favorite fictional character and the lessons I can take from him to help guide me in my clinical work. To that end, I asked my ever-accommodating co-host/blogger if we could mix it up this month. Please get comfortable as I take you through a journey of the lessons I’ve learned from Batman that I believe could apply to being a good therapist.

Lesson 1: Do what is right, even if it is not always easy.

“It has nothing to do with easy. It’s about doing what’s right because it’s right. That’s the only reason you need.” – Batman

When Bruce Wayne was very young, he witnessed the murder of his parents. This was a life-altering event for Bruce that would dramatically change the trajectory of his life. In response to this, he made it his mission to do whatever he could to prevent other people from having the same experience that he had. Now, depending on the nature of the event, available social support, and the overall psychological make-up of an individual, people can respond to trauma in many ways. This is just the way Bruce Wayne responded (though it isn’t clear that he ever emotionally recovered from the loss of his parents, see here for more info). It’s clear this wasn’t easy for him, though. He could have had a perfectly relaxing life, relying on his fortunes to live comfortably and happily for all his days. He has a mansion and cars and even a butler. He had it made in the shade. Instead he chose to do what he felt was right and become Batman. Years of study and training (sound familiar?), self-sacrifice, and a rough road were the rewards Batman got. Nevertheless, he continued to move forward to help make the world a little bit better for the people in his city.

To me, this applies directly to clinical work. We simply have to do what is right. Specifically, we are expected to act in accordance to the ethical standards prescribed to us (click here to see the wiki that I helped to write that outlines the APA Ethics Code!). At times, these situations aren’t always easy. Mandated reporting is an example. You might have a strong therapeutic relationship with a client. You could feel like you’re really making progress. But if you learn about an incident or behavior that you’re required to report, it has to happen (note: the client would be informed of this during the informed consent for treatment). Other examples include avoiding, or if necessary, navigating dual-relationships, maintaining confidentiality, respecting client autonomy, identifying and practicing within your competency areas, maintaining thorough documentation, and sticking to evidenced-based treatments and assessments. These are just a few of the many examples where clinicians might face challenging situations. It’s important that we rely on our ethical codes to do what is right in the same way that Batman relies on his own personal moral code to do what is right in his war on crime.

Lesson 2: Stand up for those who might not be able to stand up for themselves.

“I’ll be standing where I belong. Between you and the people of Gotham.” – Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins (2005)

The center of Batman’s mission is doing all he can to prevent anyone from experiencing what he experienced as a child. This theme is consistent throughout the many stories of Batman across the various mediums. For example, in the recent Batman comic series authored by Tom King, Batman takes control of an airplane that is going to crash into Gotham City. He intends to divert the plan and crash with it. Another example is in Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2009), in the end Batman takes the blame for everything Harvey Dent did so that the people still have someone to look up to. In the 2015 video game, Arkham Knight, Batman sacrifices himself to save the city from Scarecrow’s chemical attack. It seems like almost every Batman story has an element of him taking to hit, pain, or blame so that someone else can be spared.

To me this translates to engaging in advocacy work. As a field, Clinical Psychology has not always done a good job advocating for those who may need it. Looking back at the history of how the LGBTQ+ communities were treated within our field is a good example of this (see our Jedi Counsel episode for a primer on this and a list of further resources). I believe that people should advocate for whatever social justice rights that lead to the betterment of others that they are comfortable with. Due to our clinical training, our expertise is in mental health. So one potential area of professional advocacy falls clearly in that realm. One example is challenging the claims that failures in our mental health systems are the cause of violence (see here for a brief fact-sheet outlining the research between mental health and violence). Another example might be disseminating mental health resources so individuals know where to get help (we just gave a talk related to this recently on campus!) Or it might be just doing what you can in your day to day life to reduce mental health stigma which can sometimes take the voice from others and keep them from getting help they might need. Batman makes it a point to stick up for people who might be going through tough times and may not have a voice or way of defending themselves. Through our expertise and clinical work, we have the opportunity to do the same.

Lesson 3: You don’t have to be a superhero to make a difference.

“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.” – Bruce Wayne, The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman tells Jim Gordon how he was a hero to him when he was younger and coping with the loss of his parents. We see this role reversed many times throughout several Batman stories. When many people think of Batman, they think of the rough and tough dude in a suit who punches the baddies and saves the day. However, for folks who have had the good fortune to dig deeper into the character through the various comic book series or animated depictions, we see a much softer side of Batman from time to time. A perfect example of this can see seen in the Justice League cartoon. Amanda Waller wants to destroy a young girl who has developed terrible powers. Instead of doing so, Batman goes and sits with the young girl on a swing set and holds her hand while she dies as a result of her powers. In Batman, we have a character who has no super-powers at all but still manages to go toe-to-toe with aliens, Amazons, and gods. Despite that, he never forgets what it means to be a hero for him.

For clinical work, it’s important for each of us to remember the impact that we can have. It is a fairly safe assumption to assume that most people go into mental health because they want to help others. However, between a lot of schooling, navigating licensure, tough hours, large caseloads, challenging clients, difficulties in insurance reimbursement, and the many, many other things involved in clinical work, it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of what your initial goal was. It can be helpful from time to time to reframe things and remind oneself what an honor it is that you have the opportunity to step into these peoples’ lives and help them get to a better place. Just by meeting with you, clients can learn new skills, get regular social interaction, learn more about what they are experiencing through psychoeducation, and receive validation through normalization that others are likely struggling with the same disorder or challenges that they are. Any one of those benefits alone can really mean something to someone who is struggling. For young Bruce Wayne, having Jim Gordon hang a coat on his shoulders was everything in the world for him. For your clients, you can serve the same role by simply being collaborative in providing an explanation for what they are experiencing, which alone can help them feel better and more hopeful (see here for a study on how careful diagnostic feedback leads to increases in positive emotions and hope).

Lesson 4: Be humble and know when to ask for help.

“The first truth of Batman… It had to be one I didn’t like to admit. The gunshots left me alone. For years I was alone in the echoing dark of that well. But something else defined the exact moment Batman was born. The First Truth of Batman… The saving grace. I was never alone. I had help.” – Bruce Wayne, The Return of Bruce Wayne

Another major theme of Batman is that despite his independent nature and desire to work alone, he always knows when he needs to ask for help. Whether it is having a side-kick, relying on Alfred, or calling in the Justice League, Batman knows when he needs back-up. Part of this is that he acknowledges his skills. For example; he can’t fly. In the Justice League animated series, there is a scene where he calls in for some air support (see here). Or in the newest Justice League (2017) film, Batman recognizes that something beyond him is coming to Earth. As such, he recruits Wonder Woman and others to join him in preventing an invasion.

For Batman, it all boils down to knowing his skills and knowing when he needs help. In clinical work, it is largely the same. We know that therapist competence is largely predictive of therapy outcomes (see here for a study related specifically to Cognitive Behavior Therapy for depression). As such, it is important to recognize when a client has a problem or requires a treatment that falls outside of your competence area. Additionally, it is important to seek support when you need it. This can be in the form of supervision when you are still developing or perhaps learning a new treatment. Another way of seeking support is through consultation. Consulting with a peer or other professional can help to illuminate problems or ideas you might have missed. Consultation can also help with treatment adherence. In fact, for Dialectical Behavior Therapy, consultation is required to ensure that all therapists are adhering to the treatment manual (see here for more details). The last way of seeking support is related to work-life balance. Take the time to recognize if you are feeling therapist burnout. It can happen. Managing work/life balance and seeking consultation and peer support or advice can help. In the end. Batman recognizes his expertise and when he needs help. In clinical work, we need to be doing the same thing.

Lesson 5: Trust the data.

“Maybe it is time we stopped trying to outsmart the truth, and let it have its day.” – Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The final lesson that we can learn from Batman is to trust the data. At his core, Batman is a detective. Many in the DC universe call him The World’s Greatest Detective. He has degrees in criminal science, forensics, computer science, chemistry, engineering, biology, physics, and advanced chemistry and technology. When he is solving a mystery, he knows to trust in the latest available science and data. Additionally, he follows the clues and data he collects along the way to figure out who is behind whatever heinous crime he is working on at that time. He tries to keep his own personal judgment or emotion out of the equation and trusts in what he can observe, quantify, and measure.

The same ideals should hold true in clinical work. When comparing clinical judgment to statistical judgment, we know that the stats are at least as good, and often times better, than our own clinical judgment (see here for a great reading on this). Looking further, there are many researchers working hard to determine what the most empirically-supported interventions and assessments are. There is a range in the level of evidence available for different treatments. We owe it to our clients to select the treatment with the greatest statistical likelihood of working for each given disorder. If no single treatment stands out statistically, or if an empirically-supported intervention is not working, then we can adopt a hypothesis testing approach to treatment. By selecting a treatment that we have reason to believe will work and testing whether it is through an appropriate outcome measure, we can continue to move forward in a data-driven manner. Just like Batman trusts the data and science before his own judgment or conclusions, we as clinicians ought to as well.

In Closing

            Are you still here? Amazing. Because that post got much longer than I ever expected. At the end of the day, Batman is a character with over 75 years of content in comics, movies, video games, television shows, and novels. He’s a character who can fit the needs we have as readers or viewers. Today, we just wanted to think about some of the ways in which Batman might help guide us in clinical work. There are a lot of amazing fictional and non-fictional individuals who can guide us in any profession or life in general. Who are some that you look up to?

Jedi Counsel Podcast 85 – The Big Lebowski, Part 2

Hi, Achievers! In this episode, we began by discussing some nerdy news (e.g., the truth about Groot, Batgirl the movie). Next, we expressed our thoughts on Walter Sobchak and his anger problems. We talked about intermittent explosive disorder and the types of treatment approaches people use to treat anger problems. Then, we talked about Maude Lebowski and evaluated whether her claim about nymphomania (satyriasis in men) was consistent with the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders formulation. Then, we closed the episode with some discussion of mindfulness. There were many fun tangents involved: some about Frasier and others about Kevin Smith! Contact us on Twitter if you have any specific topics you’d like us to talk about! Thanks for listening! We are grateful for your support!

Rickistential Podcast 2: Snuffles Takes Over & Pirates of The Pancreas (S1, E2 & E3)

In this episode, we talked about episodes 2 (Lawnmower Dog) and 3 (Anatomy Park) from Season 1! We talked about our favorite parts of the shows and discussed some of the psychological concepts that appeared in the episode, including: time-outs/grounding, mental health effects of social media use, whether dogs really dream 7 times faster than humans, learning how to chill, and informed consent in experimental scientific procedures. Thanks for listening!

You can find us on Facebook and Twitter. If you would like to support us, please consider leaving a review for us on iTunes, telling a friend about us, or becoming a Patreon patron. Thank you so much for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 84 – Black Panther Reaction Episode

Hi folks! This week’s episode is our reaction to seeing Black Panther! The episode contains major spoilers, so hold off until you see the film (which we highly recommend doing!) Thanks for being patient as we’ve been ill and unusually busy! We will be back on our regular schedule very soon! Tweet us and let us know what you thought of the movie!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 83 – The Big Lebowski

Hi, Achievers! It’s almost the 20th anniversary of the classic film, The Big Lebowski! This episode is the first in a series that will explore psychological elements of the colorful, charismatic characters in this film. We began with an overview of connections between the Coen Brothers and the city where we live (Fargo). Then, we geeked out about some of our favorite aspects of the movie. Next, we discussed whether The Dude is experiencing cannabis use disorder or not. For more details on The Dude’s mental health, read our full fictional evaluation of The Dude. Finally, we concluded by speculating about where Walter Sobchak and The Dude would fall on each of the Big 5 personality traits. There are more Lebowski episodes planned. Contact us on Twitter if you have any specific topics you’d like us to talk about! Thanks for listening! We are grateful for your support!

Rickistential Podcast Pilot – (S1, E1)

Welcome to our new podcast where we will have lively discussion about psychology, mental health, humor, and life lessons from the brilliant show Rick and Morty! This show was made possible by our wonderful Patreon patrons. We are so grateful for their support! The beautiful artwork for our podcast is by Murray. You can check out his other art on Twitter and Instagram at @TheMuzzMc. The title of our podcast was suggested by Jurisfiction Podcast. We opened the podcast by talking about recent news about Dan Harmon. Then, we launched into our analysis of the first episode of Rick and Morty. We discussed their family dynamics, psychological characteristics, and more!

You can find us on Facebook and Twitter. If you would like to support us, please consider leaving a review for us on iTunes, telling a friend about us, or becoming a Patreon patron. Thank you so much for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 82 – Discussing James Bond with Dr. Keith Donohue

Hi, loyal Jedi Counsel listeners! This podcast episode is dedicated to a Patreon patron, Dave. He is a Yoda-level patron, which comes with a podcast episode and blog post for the fictional character of your choice! Many thanks to Dave for suggesting such a great character! In this episode, we invited Dr. Keith Donohue to talk to us about the history of James Bond, the different versions of his character, and the psychology of his personality. We delved into changing depictions of women characters in Bond films and pondered the motivation for the modern versions of Bond. We mostly focused on Casino Royale. We also talked about psychopathy and reference this documentary called The Ice Man and the Psychiatrist, Cleckley’s book The Mask of Sanity, and Lykken’s book The Antisocial Personalities. We hope you enjoy this episode! Thank you for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 81 – Paraphilic Disorders, Part 2 with Dr. Leonardo Bobadilla

Content Warning: This episode includes discussion of paraphilic disorders (e.g., pedophilia), sexual abuse, and sexual harassment.

We invited clinical psychologist, Dr. Leonardo Bobadilla, to talk to us about his expertise in the assessment and treatment of individuals who have been accused of sexual violence. The episode included an overview of the biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors related to paraphilic disorders. We also discussed the state of the research on effective prevention and treatment for individuals who have committed acts of sexual violence. We concluded with Dr. Bobadilla’s thoughts on the courage it takes to report sexual abuse and harassment, as we’ve recently witnessed through the #MeToo movement.

For more in-depth information on the treatment and prevention of sexual abuse, please visit the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers website or the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists website. Resources for individuals who have survived sexual abuse are available at the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network.

If you would like to support us, please consider leaving a review for us on iTunes, telling a friend about us, or becoming a Patreon patron. Thank you so much for listening!

Things We Liked in 2017

Here’s an (incomplete) list of things we liked in 2017! Some of the things listed came out before this year but are included because of how much we enjoyed them in 2017.

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Interacting with You!

We are so grateful for our listeners and the people that we connected with via social media. We loved talking about mental health and our shared nerdy interests with you!  Thank you for a wonderful year! We’ll work hard to create lots of high quality content for you in 2018! Special thanks go out to our Patreon patrons, to anyone who rated and reviewed us on iTunes, and to anyone who shared our stuff with a friend!

Podcasts

We are part of the Geek Therapy Podcast Network, which celebrates mental health and geek culture! You can check out the other podcasts on our network here.

My Brother My Brother and Me (which we got to see recorded live!) and SModcast made us laugh a lot.

Naming It made us think about the intersection of social justice and psychology.

Trends Like These helped us examine current events and news in greater depth.

Stay Tuned with Preet gave us insightful, diverse interviews with people interested in justice.

The Black Goat Pod helped us to think critically about the science of psychology.

The Adventure Zone brought us into an amazing Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

S-Town told a compelling story of a man who struggled with mental health issues.

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Movies

This was a great year for movies! Some of our favorites include: Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Logan, Justice League, Thor: RagnarokGet Out, Spiderman: Homecoming, & The Big Sick.

Comics

2017 also brought us many fantastic comics! Some of the ones we particularly enjoyed were: DC Rebirth Wonder Woman, Batman/The Flash: The Button, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, a Yoga Hosers One Shot, DC Rebirth Batman, DC Rebirth Green Arrow, & DC Rebirth Batgirl and the Birds of Prey.

Games

Some of our favorite games this year were Stardew Valley and Dungeons & Dragons.

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Music

Katie loved new music from Dessa, and Brandon got really into Hamilton! We both enjoyed this song from My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend:

TV Shows

We loved some newer shows like Stranger Things, Wynonna Earp, and Rick & Morty, while rewatching older classics like Frasier and The Office.

Comedy

Katie really liked this stand-up comedy special: Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King.

Mental Health Folks on Social Media

The Suicide Prevention Social Media (SPSM) Chat crew is awesome, and you should check out the great stuff they do!

We wish you all a very happy & healthy 2018!

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Jedi Counsel Podcast 80 – Paraphilic Disorders, Part 1

Content Warning: This episode includes discussion of sexual abuse and harassment.

Hi, folks! In this episode, we discussed some ways that we felt the recent media coverage of sexual abuse and harassment allegations has left out or mischaracterized relevant mental health information about people who engage in sexual abuse or harassment. These behaviors are influenced by multiple factors (e.g., cultural, psychological). This episode limited its focus to paraphilic disorders that may be relevant for some of the allegations that have received recent media attention: exhibitionistic disorder, frotteuristic disorder, and pedophilic disorder. For more in-depth information on the treatment and prevention of sexual abuse, please visit the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers website or the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists website. Resources for individuals who have survived sexual abuse are available at the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. We will record a follow-up episode with an expert guest that goes into more details about this topic.

If you would like to support us, please consider leaving a review for us on iTunes, telling a friend about us, or becoming a Patreon patron. Thank you so much for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 79 – The Punisher and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Content Warning: This episode includes discussion of violence.

Hello, friends of Jedi Counsel! In this episode, we discussed the Marvel Netflix series The Punisher and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). First, we talked about the show’s theme of soldiers transitioning back to their roles as civilians. We mentioned an interview with the showrunner of The Punisher Netflix series and a TED talk by Adam Driver about the challenges that can accompany this transition. Then, we provided an overview of the diagnostic criteria for PTSD and named evidenced-based treatments for it. For more information on PTSD, check out our blog post and podcast episode on Jessica Jones.

If you would like to support us, please consider leaving a review for us on iTunes, telling a friend about us, or becoming a Patreon patron. Thank you so much for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 77 – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Borderline Personality Disorder, Part 2

CONTENT WARNING: This episode features some discussion of self-harm and suicidal behavior.

Hi, Jedi Counsel listeners! In this episode, we continued our discussion about borderline personality disorder and the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. This episode focuses on a treatment for borderline personality disorder called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). First, we talked about the founder of DBT, Marsha Linehan. Then, we provided an overview of the scientific support and framework for DBT. We also recommended checking out the Suicide Prevention Social Media Chat (#SPSM) and Learned from Gaming. Thank you for listening! Happy holidays!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 76 – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Borderline Personality Disorder, Part 1

CONTENT WARNING: This episode discusses suicidal behavior, including details of a suicide attempt featured on the show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Hi, friends! In this episode, we talked about the depiction of borderline personality disorder in the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. We were impressed by the realistic ways that they portrayed the lead character’s feelings about her diagnosis and how it reflected research on diagnostic feedback and some of our clinical experiences. After discussing the show, we described the diagnostic criteria for borderline personality disorder, the prevalence rates, and some of the associated features. Tune in next week to hear about a research-based treatment for borderline personality disorder called Dialectical Behavior Therapy!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 75 – Stranger Things 2 Series, Part 3

Hello, friends of Jedi Counsel! In this episode, we first thanked a new Patreon patron and then mentioned a podcast that we enjoy called Naming It. Next, we talked about episodes 7-9 of Stranger Things. We geeked out about the Dungeons and Dragons references in the series and also discussed many psychology-related topics: multifinality, equifinality, empathy, Billy’s antisocial behavior, Hopper’s cognitive distortion about being a “black hole,” Eleven’s need to belong, and more. Thanks for listening! Please join us next week for more chatting about mental health and general nerdom!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 74 – Reactions to Justice League

In this episode, we talked about our impressions of Justice League. This is a reaction episode, so it’s kind of like just tuning in to hear us have an unstructured conversation about a movie we liked. We touched on psychological concepts that we observed in Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Aquaman, Superman, and The Flash. Let us know what you thought of the movie by tweeting us at @Jedi_Counsel!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 73 – Stranger Things 2 Series, Part 2

Happy Friday, Jedi Counsel listeners! In this episode, we continue our discussion of Stranger Things 2, focusing primarily on episodes 4-6. Again, tons of spoilers! This week we focus on the depiction of psychological topics related to: punishment as a behavior modification strategy, providing appropriate and helpful diagnostic feedback, the importance and influence of having a name, the impact of trauma on hippocampal volume, dating advice and asking for consent, and active listening. Join us next week as we conclude our mini-series on the psychological science depicted in Strange Things 2!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 72 – Stranger Things 2 Series, Part 1

Hello, loyal Jedi Counsel listeners! In this episode, we first sent out some supportive thoughts to anyone who needs it. We also mentioned our mental health resources page. Next, we expressed gratitude for all of our wonderful Patreon patrons! Then, we talked about episodes 1-3 of Stranger Things. WARNING: THERE ARE A BUNCH OF SPOILERS IN THIS EPISODE!!! We talked about the following psychological concepts in Stranger Things: trauma, “the anniversary effect,” Phineas Gage, and therapy for nightmares. Join us next week for more geeking-out about Stranger Things and psychological science!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 71 – Thor: Ragnarok Review

Hail and well met, Asgardians! This week the Jedi Counsel takes off our psychologist hats, and dons our Asgardian armor as we dive into Thor: Ragnarok. Tune in to hear our impressions of the film. This episode has heavy Thor: Ragnarok spoilers, so please don’t tune in until you’ve seen the film! Thanks for listening! Also, let us know what you think of the new intro theme music!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 70 – The Psychology of Behavior Change, Part 2

Hi, Jedi Counsel listeners! This episode continues with a discussion of the psychological science underlying behavioral modification (i.e., behavioral change). We talk about applying reinforcement principles, behavior tracking, and planning to self-change efforts. We share some of the apps and methods that we have personally found helpful. We mention the following in the episode: HabitBullSuperBetter, and Level Up Your Life (to our knowledge none have been scientifically-tested, but we have personally found them useful). We wish you a wonderful week with good mental health!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 69 – Psychology of Behavior Change, Part 1

Hello! This episode starts off with a brief discussion of the #MeToo social media movement that arose following the news coverage about Harvey Weinstein and those affected by his harmful behavior. For more information about #MeToo, please look here. If it it’s helpful, please check out RAINN. It is an anti-sexual violence organization with a website that contains resources, information, and a hotline (800-656-4673). Next, we begin an introduction to the psychological science underlying behavioral modification (i.e., behavioral change). We talk about reinforcement, punishment, and other aspects of behavior. Our next episode will discuss how you can use these principles to change your own behaviors and habits. Thanks for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 68 – Trends Like These Tribute Episode: Beyond the Psychology Headlines

Hello, loyal Jedi Counsel listeners! Trends Like These by Brent Black and Travis McElroy is one of our FAVORITE podcasts! As a fan tribute to them, we designed this episode with their podcast structure in mind (e.g., rhyming headlines, Bevs Like These, news stories, and Wi-Fives). While our podcast usually explores mental health in fictional characters, this episode is all about discussing recent psychology-related new stories.

These are the 4 stories we discussed:

1 MENSA Offers to Host IQ Test for Trump and Tillerson

    For more on IQs, check out this article and this link. Learn more about Rosa’s Law here. For research showing how environments are related to various outcomes, look here and here.

2 Why Adults are Obsessed with Teen Dramas, According to Psychology

3 Pete Davidson Addresses Borderline Personality Disorder on Saturday Night Live

    For more about borderline personality disorder and its treatment, check out this link and this one.

4 Billion-Tweet Study Proves We Write Happier Messages When the Weather is Good

We concluded the episode by thanking Brent and Travis for their tweets on #WorldMentalHealthDay. They each shared their experiences with mental health issues to reduce stigma, and we think that is inspiring and awesome! We hope you all enjoy this non-fiction episode! Next week, we’ll be back to fiction!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 67 – Taking Care of Your Mental Health

Hi, wonderful folks! We’ve had a lot on our minds this week after hearing about the tragic loss of lives in Las Vegas, Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and much more. We created this episode to open a dialogue about the importance of managing mental health in the face of stressful news. People directly affected by these events particularly need resources, but those of us who are indirectly affected can also be impacted. We share some of the ways that we have found helpful in balancing the importance of awareness of world events with the importance of maintaining wellness. What mental health maintenance strategies do you find helpful? If you Tweet or message them to us, we’ll share them. Let’s work together and support each other.

In the episode, we mention that one strategy for coping is to find ways to help. This can include calling your government representatives to express your opinions on an issue, reaching out to people affected, and/or donating to related charities. If you are in the U.S., you can find the contact information for your representatives in Congress here: https://whoismyrepresentative.com/.

Jedi Counsel Podcast 66 – Exploring Language in Science Fiction with Dr. Erin Conwell

Hello, Jedi Counsel listeners! This episode features Dr. Erin Conwell, a special guest with expertise in language. Listen in to hear Dr. Conwell discuss the depiction of dialects in movies such as Good Will Hunting and Wonder Woman. Dr. Conwell also shared fascinating information about the fictional languages in Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and more! We learned so many fun facts making this episode, and we hope you enjoy it!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 65: When Does Collecting Become Hoarding?

Hello, everyone! This episode was inspired by a question sent to us through Twitter. One super-fun aspect of nerd culture is that we get to collect the things we love! When does collecting comic books, action figures, or anything else cross the line and become a problem? In this episode, we talk about the diagnostic criteria for hoarding disorder, provide some facts about how common it is, talk about what puts people at risk for it, and describe how mental health practitioners treat it. For more information on hoarding, please visit https://hoarding.iocdf.org/.

Jedi Counsel Podcast 64 – Stress, Pregnancy, & Wynonna Earp with Dr. Clayton Hilmert

Hi there, Jedi Counsel listeners! This week was a fun and busy one for us! We were guests on DoxCast (a podcast hosted by our favorite comic book store) and #SPSM (a youtube show hosted by experts in suicide prevention). We were also very pleased to have a special guest on our show. Dr. Clayton Hilmert is a health psychologist with expertise in the impact of stress on the body (e.g., how it can lead to cardiovascular problems). We recommend checking out his fascinating TEDx talk! In this episode, Dr. Hilmert first talked to us about his important research on stress during pregnancy and how it can lead to adverse birth outcomes (e.g., low birth weight, infant mortality), racial disparities in birth outcomes, and how social connections can help to lessen the negative effects of stress. Next, we discussed how his research findings connect to the TV series, Wynonna Earp. We talked about how Wynonna’s pregnancy was represented in the show and discussed the implications of the stressors she experienced. Finally, we concluded with Dr. Hilmert telling us about his favorite fictional character. Thank you for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 63 – Rick and Morty Series Part 3: Toxic Rick and Motivational Interviewing

Hey fans from Dimension C-137! This week we conclude our series by picking up with Motivational Interviewing. We give a brief primer of what this treatment looks like and discuss whether or not it might be an effective treatment option for Rick. After that, we briefly discuss the episode called Rest and Ricklaxation, in which we see what qualities Rick perceives to be toxic. Lastly (well actually early on, but still), we announce our potential plans to start a brand new Rick and Morty podcast geared toward breaking down the psychology in each and every episode! If you have liked this mini-series,  you can support the funding for the new podcast at our Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/Jedi_Counsel. Thank you!! 

Jedi Counsel Podcast 62 – Rick & Morty Series, Part 2: The Psychology of Rick Sanchez

Hello, Rick and Morty fans! This week, we continue our series with a focus on Rick’s mental health (after 15 minutes of talking about unrelated stuff first, like Frasier). We discuss whether Rick exhibits symptoms of antisocial or narcissistic personality disorder, psychopathy, or an alcohol use disorder. For more details on these topics, check out our full blog post about Rick’s mental health or the video of our Psychology of the Dark Side talk. Finally, we mention a wonderful video featuring Dr. Andrea Letamendi at the beginning of the episode. You can watch it here. We hope you enjoy this episode! If you do, please do us a favor and leave us a review on iTunes! Thank you so much!

The Psychology of Rick Sanchez

“Wubba lubba dub dub!” – Rick Sanchez

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name:  Rick Sanchez (Dimension C-137)
Current Age: 60
Ethnicity/Race: Human
Education: Unknown (on the intake forms, Rick wrote “School is a waste of time and is NOT for smart people.”)
Employment: Scientist and Inventor
Date of Initial Interview: August 6, 2017
Date of Report: September 5, 2017
Therapists: Brandon T. Saxton, M.S., Katie Gordon, Ph.D.

Presenting Problem
Rick Sanchez was referred to us by Dr. Wong, a family therapist. Dr. Wong saw Rick and his family for a session following incidents involving his grandchildren, Summer and Morty, at school. Dr. Wong referred Rick for a diagnostic assessment to provide diagnostic clarity and assist in treatment planning for Rick. She believes that Rick has some challenges to overcome in individual therapy before any effective progress can be made in their family therapy sessions.

Dr. Wong suggested that Rick has many interpersonal problems and negative views of authority, emotion, and those who he deems as less intelligent than himself. Additionally, Dr. Wong reported concern with Rick’s alcohol use.

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Family History
Rick is the father of Beth Smith, and grandfather to her two children, Summer and Morty Smith. Rick’s son-in-law is named Jerry Smith, and he is currently separated from Beth. Rick seemed hesitant to speak much about his wife, Mrs. Sanchez. It was not clear to the interviewer whether she was currently alive or deceased, though either way, Rick reported having left her when he returned to live with his daughter and grandchildren, after having been away for twenty years.

Rick reported that, “of course he likes his daughter and grandchildren” (though he stated he has proven, mathematically, that they are both pieces of sh*t). Rick seems to have a hard time balancing his love for his daughter and grandchildren and his need for independence and avoidance of emotion and connection. Although to their faces he appears distant and acts hurtful, on more than one occasion he has shown his deep affection for them (e.g., complimenting Beth’s cooking in the pilot episode, hiding the truth about the Purgenol in the candy bar Morty ate in Look Who’s Purging Now, or beating up the Devil who hurt Summer in Something Ricked This Way Comes).

One area that Rick was clear about was not liking his son-in-law, Jerry Smith. Rick stated that he does not believe that Jerry deserves to be with his daughter. Additionally, and frighteningly, Rick stated that he manipulated Beth into kicking Jerry out of their house because Jerry crossed him by suggesting the family turn Rick in to the Federation (end of Season 2, beginning of Season 3).

Educational/Employment History
Rick declined to report whether or not he had any formal education. In a previous conversation with his son-in-law, Jerry, Rick stated “I’ll tell you how I feel about school, Jerry: it’s a waste of time. Bunch of people runnin’ around bumpin’ into each other, got a guy up front says, ‘2 + 2,’ and the people in the back say, ‘4.’ Then the bell rings and they give you a carton of milk and a piece of paper that says you can go take a dump or somethin’. I mean, it’s not a place for smart people, Jerry. I know that’s not a popular opinion, but that’s my two cents on the issue.”

Rick did report, however, that he uses his natural intelligence in a variety of business ventures. One example includes his creating weapons for his associate, Krombopulos Michael, an intergalactic assassin. Another example is when the Devil opened a store in town selling cursed antiques. Rick opened another store, next door, that removed the curses and allowed the items to be kept with no risk to their owner. Rick seemed particularly proud of this endeavor – not because he saved people from the curses, but because he outsmarted the Devil himself.

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Psychiatric/Medical History
Rick denied any major medical procedures. He reported that he believes he is smart enough to handle any potential medical operations that he might need and would never let a “doctor” near his body (note: the quotes around doctor are included to represent the air quotes that Rick used when saying the word).

Rick also denied any previous psychiatric treatment, other than his session with Dr. Wong, stating that he does not respect therapy or therapists.

Diagnostic Impressions
All assessment material was collected by viewing the hit television series, Rick and Morty. Rick’s view and style of engagement with himself, the people around him, and the world around him suggests that he may be experiencing a personality disorder. The two most likely personality disorders that Rick is exhibiting are Antisocial Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Rick also appears to be experiencing impairment related to his alcohol use.

Beginning with Antisocial Personality Disorder, the individual must exhibit a pattern of disregarding the rights of others since the age of 15. However, it is not clear whether this is the case with Rick, given the information available. To meet the diagnostic criteria, three or more of seven potential criteria must be met. First, “Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors, as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.” Rick does this fairly consistently throughout the show. As mentioned earlier, he builds and sells weapons to the assassin, Krombopulos Michael. The second criteria that Rick meets is “Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.” In The Rickshank Redemption, Rick admits to lying and manipulating Beth to have Jerry removed from the home so he could be the undisputed patriarch and a hero. “Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults” is met with Rick assaulting several individuals throughout the series. Rick meets “Reckless disregard for safety or self or others” by putting himself and Morty in harm’s way on almost every adventure that they go on. And lastly, “Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.” In the pilot episode, Rick tells Morty to shoot the soldiers chasing them, as they are just robots. When Morty realizes they are definitely not robots, Rick says: “It’s a figure of speech, Morty. They’re bureaucrats. I don’t respect them. Just keep shooting, Morty. You have no idea what prison is like here!” As such, with the information we have, and some speculation about Young Rick, Rick does appear to meet the diagnostic criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Rick also potentially meets the diagnostic criteria for a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A Narcissistic Personality Disorder consists of “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood…” When assessing for this disorder, the constellation of symptoms seems to not fit perfectly. For example, when assessing the first criteria, “Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements,” we can start to see already this does not fit Rick. It is well established that, although Rick thinks highly of himself, he is actually the smartest individual in the universe. Rick does not appear to be “preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.” Although he believes he is uniquely intelligent, this does not appear to translate to feelings that Rick is “special and unique and can only be understood, or should associate with, other special people.” He has friends from all walks of life and, although he insults and hurts them, he does love his family. Rick does, however, “require excessive admiration” (see Noob Noob from The Vindicators 3 episode.) He is clearly “interpersonally exploitative.” He does “lack empathy.” He is seen as “believing others are envious of him.” And he is depicted as “showing arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes,” So, technically, Rick does meet for the five required criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

However, when consulting the Differential Diagnosis section of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, we can try to differentiate some of the overlap between Antisocial Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The DSM-5 points out: “However, narcissistic personality disorder does not necessarily include characteristics of impulsivity, aggression, and deceit. In addition, individuals with antisocial personality disorder may not be as needy of the admiration and envy of others…” Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder present with self-esteem that is “almost invariably very fragile” often taking the form of a “need for constant attention and admiration.” Although Rick does meet for the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, his overall constellation of symptoms is much better captured by the Antisocial Personality Disorder, at least based on what has been depicted in the show so far. Sometimes when certain disorders have overlapping diagnostic criteria and presentations, we have to dig a bit deeper into how the disorders are conceptualized to really understand the underlying problem.

 Additionally, Rick seems to experience impairment due to his alcohol use. As such, he was assessed for an Alcohol Use Disorder. To meet the diagnostic criteria, two of the ten potential types of impairment or distress must be present within a 12-month period. The first diagnostic criteria that Rick meets is “Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts of over a longer period than was intended.” An example of this is depicted in Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender. Throughout the trials that The Vindicators face, Rick is seen as becoming more and more intoxicated. At one point, he is too intoxicated to devise a trial for the Vindicators to face, and simply asks them to shoot basketball hoops “or something.” The next diagnostic criteria that Rick meets is “Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol. There have been multiple times that Rick has threatened Morty, either directly or indirectly through his actions (e.g., Rick threatens Morty with a knife while he is intoxicated in M. Night Shamy-Aliens). Despite this, and other examples, Rick continues to drink even though it creates conflict with his family. The next diagnostic criteria that Rick meets is “Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is likely to be physically hazardous.” An example of this is in the pilot episode when Rick drunkenly takes Morty into this home-made spaceship to set off a neutrino bomb in order to get a fresh start. It should be noted that other diagnostic criteria may be met even if not reported. Additionally, some diagnostic criteria require recurrent instances of behavior. However, because we only see a snapshot of time in Rick’s life throughout the show, certain inferences are made about the recurrence of behavior and certain diagnostic criteria may be missed. One piece of collateral information that is relevant to Rick’s alcohol use comes from the episode Ricksy Business. Bird Person tells Morty that Rick is in great pain and uses alcohol to numb himself, explaining that Rick’s catchphrase “wubba lubba dub dub” actually means “I am in great pain. Please help me.”

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 Treatment Recommendations
In sum, Rick’s constellation of symptoms seems to be best captured by an Antisocial Personality Disorder and a comorbid Alcohol Use Disorder. It is worth noting that although Rick appears to meet for an Antisocial Personality Disorder, he does not appear to fall within the subset of those individuals who exhibits psychopathy. Specifically, despite his treatment of his family, Rick does appear to have genuine concern and affection for them and, for them alone, feel concern about how his behaviors might impact them. This is important to consider in treatment planning as there is some evidence to suggest that individuals experiencing psychopathy might actually become worse due to therapy.

Currently, we do not have any treatments for Antisocial Personality Disorder that have received strong empirical support. However, if we could have identified these behaviors in Rick as an adolescent, family-focused, multicomponent treatment would have been an option to target and hopefully change these types of behaviors. We do, however, have research suggesting that multiple types of treatment (including Motivational Enhancement Therapy, designed to strengthen desire and ability to decrease substance use) are effective for treating Alcohol Use Disorder.

Status at Termination
Rick never came to therapy again.

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
Although the situations in which Rick is depicted are sometimes preposterous, the specific symptoms that he is depicted as experiencing do appear to be accurate. Rick is a very complex, multidimensional character and we are looking forward to seeing how he evolves and what we learn about him as the show goes on.

Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
Rick and Morty does portray Rick with a sense of compassion. Although the show is masked with crude humor and adventure, the underlying story is about a man who is in a lot of pain and does not know how to cope with it all. In a lot of ways, the show is a metaphor for Rick himself. Under the goofs and antics, there is a really sad story waiting to be told.

Overall rating:
On a scale from “wubba lubba dub dub” to “Hit the sack, Jack!” we rate Rick and Morty as “BURGERTIME!” That is, to say, we really, really like this show. It does not set out with the intention of depicting mental health, and it is REALLY crude, but the show just works. It is a lot of fun and hits you with blasts of seriousness and emotion that all come together in a really great overall show. We definitely recommend it.

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Jedi Counsel Podcast 61 – Rick & Morty Series, Part 1: Pickle Rick & Family Therapy

Hello, super-awesome listeners! This week, we begin our series on Rick & Morty by discussing the Pickle Rick episode in detail. We closely analyze the family dynamics as they meet with their therapist, Dr. Wong. We weigh in with our interpretations and thoughts on Dr. Wong’s interpretations and thoughts. This episode was totally inspired by listener suggestions and came to be through popular demand– so thank you all very much! This one’s especially for all of you who kindly recommended it to us! We hope you enjoy it!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 60 – Iron Fist and Mental Health Facilities

Hello, Jedi Counsel listeners! This week, we discuss episode 2 of Marvel’s Iron Fist series on Netflix. We evaluate the mental health care that Danny Rand receives in light of current standards for respect, dignity, and up-to-date practice methods for clients. Specifically, we focus on how the mental health staff approach diagnosing and treating Danny within the context of the show. We briefly mention two relatively recent articles on the use of restraints in hospitals. For more information, please check them out here and here. Thank you so much for listening! We hope you have a wonderful week!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 59 – Tobias Funke, Dr. Spaceman, & Psychologists’ Code of Conduct

Hello, wonderful folks! We often talk about how good and realistic depictions of mental health are in fictional works. We thought we’d take an opportunity to talk about some of what goes into our formulation by giving a brief overview of the Code of Conduct that psychologists follow. We elaborate on some of these principles by giving examples of misconduct by two fictional health professionals (Dr. Tobias Funke of Arrested Development and Dr. Spaceman of 30 Rock) who have some, shall we say….problematic (but funny in a comedic context!) conduct.

Jedi Counsel Podcast 58 – To the Bone and Anorexia Nervosa, Part 2

Content Warning: This episode includes discussion of suicide and eating disorders.

 

Hi, super-cool listeners! This episode is a continued discussion of the Netflix movie, To The Bone. We respond to more listener-submitted questions about eating disorders and treatment. Next, we discuss our opinions about the benefits and risks associated with depictions of mental health problems in social media, movies, and shows. We conclude with one of Brandon’s beloved pearls of wisdom. Thanks for tuning in!! For more information on eating disorders, check out the Academy for Eating Disorders and the Clinical Psychology section of the American Psychological Association website. You can find more information about the two studies that we discuss here & here

Jedi Counsel Podcast 57 – To the Bone and Anorexia Nervosa, Part 1

Hello, wonderful listeners! This episode focuses on the Netflix movie To The Bone. First, we talk about the symptoms of anorexia nervosa and the differences between anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Then, we give our overall impressions of the movie, evaluate the depictions of eating disorders and therapy in it, and address questions that people submitted (thank you, question-submitters!). We conclude with a bit of a tangential discussion of Frasier and decide that we’ll need a second episode to talk more about the movie and treatment for anorexia nervosa. If you’d like to learn more about Maudsley (which was briefly mentioned in the movie), this is an outstanding resource. Thank you so much for tuning in!!!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 56 – Mr. Monk and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Part 2

Welcome, new listeners! Welcome back, loyal listeners! This episode is the sequel to our previous episode on obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). We begin with a discussion of the symptoms and diagnostic criteria. Next, we talk about an evidence-based treatment for OCD (exposure and response prevention). We conclude with our analysis of fictional characters who are depicted with some OCD-like symptoms (e.g., Adrian Monk, Sheldon Cooper) and identify resources for more information about OCD here, here, and here.

Analyzing Anya’s Bunny Phobia

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Aud AKA Anyanka AKA Patron Saint of The Women Scorned AKA Anya Emerson AKA Anya Christina Emanuella Jenkins
Year of Birth: 806
Year of Interview: 2002
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Brandon Saxton

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Presenting Problem
Anya’s employer, Rupert Giles, referred her for a psychological evaluation because her fear of bunnies was affecting her ability to work effectively as a cashier at The Magic Box. While the store primarily provided witchcraft-related supplies such as crystals and ingredients needed for spells (e.g., raven’s feathers, rat’s eyes), some customers would enter looking for magic trick supplies. Occasionally, aspiring magicians would request rabbits for pulling-out-of-hat purposes, and Anya would scream at the customer, “Get the HELL out of the store and never come back!” Those customers would then spread the word about what had happened, and there would be a notable decrease in sales. Giles had tolerated Anya’s, shall we say, “brusque” interpersonal style, but this particular problem led him to fire Anya. She said she loved money and business (as evidenced by her attempt to sell her children for money while playing the board game, Life, and her performance of The Dance of Capitalist Superiority as she closed the cash register) and begged Giles to let her stay at the store. He allowed her to continue with the contingency that she must seek treatment to reduce her rabbit fears.

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History
Anya was born as Aud in Sweden in the 9th century and actually bred and raised rabbits during that time period. After a boyfriend cheated on her, she used magic to punish him (e.g., turning him into a troll). Anya’s spiteful acts drew attention from a demon who specialized in vengeance. He granted her immortality and gave her a powerful amulet that allowed her to fulfill wishes of scorned women. For centuries, as Anyanka, she executed these wishes all over the world.

In 1998, a Sunnydale High School student named Cordelia was brokenhearted that her boyfriend, Xander, had cheated on her with his best friend, Willow. Disguised as a student named Anya Emerson, Anyanka befriended Cordelia and persuaded her to wish for revenge on Xander. Cordelia linked her romance problems to Buffy’s arrival and wished that Buffy had never moved to Sunnydale. Once Giles discovered this, he destroyed Anyanka’s amulet, which took away her powers and immortality.

After some significant time had passed, she started dating Xander and ultimately proved herself helpful to his friends (who called themselves The Scooby Gang) as they fought the vampires, demons, and other Big Bads in Sunnydale. Anya had proven that she was reformed into a trustworthy person….so much so, that Giles hired her at The Magic Box.

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Diagnostic & Assessment Information
All assessment information was obtained through watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and by consulting this amazingly detailed Buffyverse wiki. Due to the nature of Giles’ expressed concerns, Anya was evaluated for Specific Phobia, Animal Type. According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, an individual has a specific phobia when they exhibit a “marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation” that lasts a minimum of six months and “the fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

We asked Anya to give us some examples that would help us better understand her relationship with bunnies, and she named the following events:

  1. On Halloween, Xander asked her to dress as something scary and she showed up in an adorable & funny bunny costume. While this shows a certain ability to not avoid all bunny-related stimuli, it also indicates the presence of a marked fear.

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2. She was doing a spell that accidentally made a bunny appear, and she had an exaggerated response, jumping back in fear.

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3. She sees a cute, little stuffed rabbit and, startled, she says, “Who would put this here? Is this some kind of sick joke?”

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4. When Sunnydale was overtaken by a musical spell, the Scoobies went around guessing who was responsible for it, and Anya proclaimed that bunnies were responsible through the following lyrics, “Bunnies aren’t just cute like everyone supposes. They got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses, and what’s with all the carrots!? What do they need such good eyesight for anyway!? Bunnies, bunnies, it must be bunnies!!”

5. Xander suggested that it might be nice if they were up against a cult who was bunny-worshipping some time instead of the usual evil-worshippers. Anya replied, “Thank you very much for those nightmares.”

Treatment Recommendations
In summary, Anya appeared to meet diagnostic criteria for Specific Phobia, Animal Type, and it caused significant impairment in her place of employment. Currently, there is strong scientific research supporting exposure therapy as the frontline treatment for phobias. There are a variety of approaches to exposure therapy, with the commonality that each involves the individual habituating to the feared stimuli through facing, rather than avoiding, it. Please click here for more details on exposure and/or watch this excellent, informative video by Dr. Ali Mattu:

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?

Mostly, Anya’s phobia is used as a type of comic relief in the series. While phobias and their associated distress and impairment are not funny, the humor often comes through highlighting the irrational part of phobia-related fears. At times, Anya displays typically phobic behaviors (e.g., nightmares, exaggerated fear responses, avoidance). However, her anger toward the phobic object is not quite as typical. Overall, Anya is an awesome character, and her portrayal shows that someone who has bravely faced many awful things is not immune to a specific phobia of a benign stimuli.

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2. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?

Compassion for Anya is generally demonstrated throughout the show (e.g., people tend to forgive her abrasive interpersonal ways and accept her feelings about bunnies), but as mentioned above, her fear of bunnies is mostly treated as another quirky, funny aspect of Anya. She was literally a demon for over 1000 years, and yet, bunnies frighten her. In real life, phobias can cause substantial distress and problems for people who are afflicted by them. Fortunately, as mentioned above, they tend to be highly responsive to exposure therapy.

Overall rating
On a scale of Energizer to Bugs, we rate this depiction as Thumper!

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The Psychology of Peter Parker (AKA The Spider-Man)

“I’m gonna lie close to the ground and continue being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Keep helping the little guy.”          ―Peter Parker

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Peter Benjamin Parker
Date of Birth:  March 10
Education: Some high school, still enrolled
Employment: Stark Internship (former)
Date of Initial Interview: 7/7/2017
Date of Report: 7/24/2017
Therapists: Brandon Saxton, M.S., Katie Gordon, Ph.D.

Presenting Problems
Peter Parker was referred for services by his aunt, May Parker. May reported having concerns because he was struggling at school, missing class, quitting extra-curricular activities, sneaking out at night, and losing his belongings. He was also fired from his internship and was being bullied at school. May claimed that she was worried that the combination of typical stress involved in being an adolescent, the loss of her husband and Peter’s other guardian, Ben Parker, and the loss of his Tony Stark internship were taking a toll on Peter.

Individuals Present
Peter felt that he did not need to come in for discuss his challenges today. May reported that she felt Peter was probably nervous, and suggested he bring along his best friend Ned Leeds who might be able to support Peter and help shed some light on what has been going on at school. May was in the session for the beginning of the interview. The remainder of the interview was conducted with Peter and Ned.

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History of Presenting Problem
Peter denied any history of struggling in school or missing class. He reported that he has traditionally done well in school and his extra-curricular activities, but that recently he has had less time to keep up. Peter had been involved as an intern for Tony Stark (local entrepreneur, owner of Stark Industries, and Iron Man). Peter said that he had done his best, but it was not good enough, and he was consequently fired. Peter reports that this has impacted his mood and behavior, but prior to the internship, these behaviors were not present. Regarding the bully, Peter and Ned both reported that their fellow student, Flash Thompson, has always bullied them. Peter denied that it bothered him much.

Family History
Peter’s parents passed away when he was younger; his Aunt May and Uncle Ben were his guardians growing up. Peter then lost his Uncle Ben. Peter said he felt very close to his Aunt and that she is a wonderful role model for him. Peter describes his aunt as doing the best she can for him and he regrets causing her any additional stress with what he has been going through.

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Educational/Employment History
Peter is still enrolled in high school at the Midtown School of Science and Technology and does not know what he wants to do after high scho… OH WAIT! Peter’s friend Ned just reported that Mr. Parker is the SPIDER-MAN and his plan is to someday join THE AVENGERS (videos of the Spider-Man are present on YouTube). Note: We just reminded Mr. Parker about the rules of the office (no hitting, he attempted to hit Mr. Leeds after reporting that he is the Spider-Man) and the rules of confidentiality. After doing so, Mr. Parker confirmed that he is, in fact, the vigilante known as the Spider-Man. In fact, the Stark Internship was him being Spider-Man!

Psychiatric/Medical History
Peter denied any past emotional struggles aside from the expected grief he experienced following the death of his parents as well as his Uncle Ben. Beyond that, Peter stated that the only significant medical event in his life was a spider bite. The symptoms of the bite, which remain, include an almost spider-like physiology. This includes Peter being able to walk on walls, move very quickly, and be physically stronger and more durable than other people. He also possesses enhanced senses including keener eye sight and faster reflexes. And, irrelevant of the spider bite symptoms, Peter is also a gifted person. He is intelligent, quick-thinking, trilingual, and thoughtful.

Diagnostic Impressions
Although Peter is experiencing some social and school impairment, the cause is not related to any mental health concerns. However, we recommend that Peter is monitored to ensure that these kinds of symptoms to not develop in response to the experiences he will have as a superhero.

Treatment Recommendations
We strongly encouraged Peter against a life of vigilantism (even though we think superheroes are awesome, we can’t advocate an adolescent fighting crime illegally!) However, he insisted that he would continue. We used the remainder of the session brainstorming ideas ghat Peter could try to reduce the risk of being hurt or hurting others, falling behind on home, social, and school obligations while still maintaining his role as Spider-Man. We also insisted that Peter return for occasional check-up sessions to monitor the impact of crime-fighting stress.

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Status at Termination
At the end of the session, Peter seemed to understand the importance of balancing his life as Peter Parker and his life as Spider-Man. He also agreed to return to we could monitor he mental health and process any difficult experiences he faces as the Spider-Man. Ned seems like a good source of social support. In addition, Peter feels confident that he would have the support of Tony Stark if he truly needed it. This case will be updated as needed (i.e., check back after Infinity War!)

 THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
There was very little, if any, mental illness portrayed in Spider-Man: Homecoming. One character, at one point, uses the term “psychopath” to describe The Vulture. The character is not a therapist and is not using the term in the psychological sense.

Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?As stated above, as the movie does not portray any specific mental illness, but we feel that Peter is generally depicted with compassion. He is a resilient and good-hearted adolescent trying his best to make the world more positive.

Overall rating:
As the film does not portray any mental illness, we are instead going to simply rate it in terms of enjoyment. On a scale of Andrew Garfield (our least favorite) to Tom Holland (our most favorite), we rate this depiction of Spider-Man as Tom Holland! That is, we loved it! The film truly is a lot of fun. It is light-hearted, does not get bogged down in the details of an origin, and overall is just a solid action-comedy. We can’t recommend it enough!!

 

Jedi Counsel Podcast 55 – BONUS EPISODE Spider-Man: Homecoming

Hey, Spidey-Fans! This week we decided to leave the metaphorical therapist office where we analyze these fictional characters and check out Spider-Man: Homecoming! Listen in for our impressions! Also, fair warning, this episode is just packed full of Spidey-Spoilers! Thanks for listening and let us know what you’d like to hear us talk about next!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 54 – Mr. Monk and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Part 1

Hail and well met, fine listeners! Today’s episode is the start of a two-part (probably…) series on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. We start things off this week with a short and sweet discussion of the disorder, including how it differentiates from Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, the difference between obsessions and compulsions, and some of the risk factors and prevalence rates. Next week we will continue on by diving into some depictions of OCD in popular culture based on some of the great characters that you all tweeted to us! If any more come to mind, feel free to send them our way! As always, thanks for listening!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 53 – Get Out, Part 2: A Discussion of Racism and Mental Health

*This episode includes Get Out spoilers.*

 Hi there, awesome listeners! Today’s episode continues the discussion of the critically-acclaimed horror film, Get Out. First, we talk about race-related themes in the movie and their connections to psychology and mental health. Next, we discuss the approaches that mental health professionals take to provide effective services for diverse clients. Finally, we offer concluding thoughts and one of Brandon’s famous pearls of wisdom.

For more detailed information on these topics, please check out the following:

Get Out: Jordan Peele, a podcast episode on the Q&A Podcast

A blog post by Katie that summarizes and links to information about racial discrimination

American Psychological Association resources on psychology & racism

Naming It, a podcast co-hosted by two psychologists who “explore the intersections of social justice, psychology, and Blackness”

Hidden Brain, a podcast that recently did a series of episodes on topics related to psychology & racism

-5 mental health podcasts by therapists of color

Jedi Counsel Podcast 52 – Get Out, Part 1: Hypnosis, Mental Health Representation, & Treatment for Smoking

*This episode includes Get Out spoilers.*

Hello, loyal or new listeners! Today’s episode includes a discussion of the critically-acclaimed horror film, Get Out. First, we talk about our overall impressions of the movie. Next, we take a look at the mental health professional depicted in the movie, including her use of hypnosis. We conclude by talking very briefly about evidence-based treatments for quitting smoking.

For more detailed information on these topics, please check out the following:

How Hypnosis Works, a podcast episode by How Stuff Works

Get Out: Jordan Peele, a podcast episode on the Q&A Podcast

-For more information about quitting smoking, check out these resources from the American Lung Association.

Jedi Counsel Podcast 51 – Pride Month & the Love is Love Comic Anthology

Content Warning: This episode includes discussion of the Pulse nightclub shooting and discussion of discrimination toward LGBTQ+ individuals.
Disclaimer: This episode is for informational purposes only and should not be used in place of advice from a mental health or medical professional. If you are struggling with mental health issues, please seek professional help.
Episode Summary: It has been one year since the tragic loss of lives at Pulse nightclub. We begin this episode by discussing the Love is Love comic anthology that was created in remembrance of those affected. Next, we provide a brief overview of LGBTQ+ history within the field of psychology and discuss how discrimination negatively impacts mental health. Finally, we discuss some ways that mental health professionals can work toward reducing discrimination toward LGBTQ+ people. This episode does not go into depth, and instead provides an overview/introduction of these topics. For more detailed information and additional resources, please check out the following:

The APA Office on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity
APA blog post on a study by the CDC on health risks faced by LGB Youth
The Trevor Project
Trans Lifeline
JAMA paper on same-sex marriage legislation and adolescent suicide attempt rates
This American Life episode about how “homosexuality” was removed from the DSM
Sawbones episode on Conversion Therapy
Information on the LGBT PRIDE Act
Love Is Love comic anthology
APA document on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation

Also, check out Geek Therapy’s episode on Love is Love here!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 50 – Myths, Part 5: Substance Use-Related Myths with Dr. Keith Donohue

Hey folks! This week, we conclude our mini-series on myths with a focus on substance use-related misconceptions. Our guest expert, Dr. Keith Donohue, discusses topics related to the nature, treatment, and fictional depictions of substance use problems.  Some fictional characters we discuss include Jessica Jones, Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad, Dr. House, and Logan. If you are interested in additional information on this topic, you can find it here and here.

The Psychology of Wonder Woman & Hippolyta

SPOILER WARNING: This post is mostly based on the movie, Wonder Woman, and it contains lots of spoilers.

Part I

Name: Diana
Age: 6ish
Occupation: Princess of Themiscyra (Paradise Island)
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Ph.D., Brandon Saxton, M.S.

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Presenting Concern:
Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, sought therapy for her daughter, Princess Diana. She was concerned that Diana was disobeying her wishes. As an immortal goddess, she was unaccustomed to having her authority defied. Yet, she often caught Diana watching the Amazons’ warrior training and asking her aunt, Antiope, to begin secretly training her in the arts of war. Hippolyta’s goal in seeking therapy was to learn effective parenting strategies to protect her daughter from the harm she feared would befall her if she began training as a fighter. She also wanted Diana evaluated for oppositional defiant disorder.

History:
Diana reported that her mother wanted a child more than anything, so she made her out of clay.  Zeus then brought her to life. Hippolyta motioned to us that she wanted to speak to us without Diana. We brought Diana out to the waiting room and returned to speaking with Hippolyta, who explained that Diana was actually Zeus’ child and given to the Amazons to protect them from Ares, the god of war. Hippolyta explained that she did not tell Diana the real story because she feared it would put her in more danger.

Hippolyta’s love for Diana was so strong that she couldn’t fathom the possibility of Ares taking her away. She said she would never recover from that kind of pain. She believed that sheltering Diana would keep her safe.

Assessment & Diagnostic Impressions
After interviewing Hippolyta alone, it became clear that Diana did not have oppositional defiant disorder. Her behavior was not causing her any distress, impairment, and was typical for her age. To the contrary, she was already highly educated (though her behavior did appear to lead to some of her teachers resigning) and fluent in numerous languages, and full of energy, bravery, and kindness. It was our impression that Hippolyta was a loving, concerned mother acting out of protection for her child and her fear of losing her.

Treatment Recommendations:
Hippolyta’s worries were founded in the reality of her situation and Diana’s destiny. We did not find that she or Diana met diagnostic criteria for any clinically significant mental health problems. However, we offered Hippolyta support with her concerns. In addition, we recommended strategies for increasing openness and reducing secrecy between she and Diana (e.g., by displaying acceptance and listening, even if her impulse was to shut down any conversations about warrior training). We provided feedback that it was evident that their mother-daughter bond had a strong foundation. They enjoyed many activities together (Diana listed bedtime stories and exploring the island as personal favorites). We encouraged Hippolyta to continue building on that relationship and that therapy was available if she wanted extra support as she navigated the healthy balance of protecting her daughter while accepting her autonomy.

Part II

Name: Princess Diana of Themiscyra (via Hippolyta)
Age: 20s-ish
Occupation: It is her sacred duty to defend the world.
Therapists: The Jedi Counsel again

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Presenting Concern:
Hippolyta returned to us to ask for guidance with Diana. A pilot’s plane crash-landed into the ocean near Themiscyra, and Diana saved his life. The pilot, Steve Trevor, explained that he was a soldier in the fight to end “the war to end all wars.” Diana told her mom that she wished to leave the island with Steve and stop the war by killing Ares and his poisonous influence on man.

History:
Hippolyta explained that, since our last appointment, she had decided to allow Diana to begin openly training with Antiope in the arts of war (rather than continuing to push her to secrecy). Hippolyta continued to protect her child, but recognized the limits of her control. She decided to prioritize trust and a close relationship by supporting Diana’s independence at a developmentally-appropriate level. Hippolyta found that talking through concerns with her sister, Antiope, helped her to clarify the line between being overprotective and protective. As a result, her relationship with her daughter had grown stronger than ever….which is why Hippolyta felt so distressed at the thought of Diana leaving Paradise Island to fight with Steve (though Hippolyta did note that he seemed like an egalitarian, intelligent man pursuing a noble mission well-suited for Diana’s abilities).

Session Notes:
Hippolyta came to us with her own wisdom about how to best handle the difficult situation. She knew that she could not control Diana, who had already decided to join Steve and help all those suffering due to the war. She recognized that her choice was to try to stop Diana, which would ultimately be unsuccessful, or to support her and have an opportunity to say good-bye. We listened to Hippolyta as she processed her feelings and thoughts about the situation and came to her own conclusion about the right decision for her family and herself.

Follow-Up:
Hippolyta reported that she was able to say good-bye to Diana, “You have been my greatest love. Today, you are my greatest sorrow.” She knew she had taken the right course of action and was grateful for the time she had with her child. We told Hippolyta that she was welcome to come back and meet with us if she wanted any support from us as she dealt with her separation from Diana. We encouraged her to seek support from others, to take good care of herself, and to feel pride in the wonderful daughter she raised with love, empathy, a commitment to peace, education, understanding, and undeniably badass warrior skills.

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Part III

Name: Princess Diana AKA Diana Prince AKA Wonder Woman
Age: 20s-ish
Occupation: Superhero
Therapists: Same ones, in our Man’s World office location

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Presenting Concern:
Diana’s friend, Etta Candy, referred her to meet with us to discuss her transition from Princess of Paradise Island to Superhero in Man’s World and the recent loss of the person she was in love with, Steve Trevor. Etta felt that her friend might benefit from speaking to professionals while coping with these drastic changes and significant stressors.

Session Notes:
Diana presented as open and willing to meet with us. She became tearful as she described losing Steve, but said that their love remained powerful. She recognized that his death meant preventing others’ suffering and that it was his way of doing his part to defend the world. She would remember him fondly and draw inspiration from the honor he exhibited. It was that type of goodness that helped her to cope with the realization that humans could sometimes do terrible, evil acts, even when they were not directly under the influence of Ares.

She described missing her mother, loved ones, and the beauty of Themiscyra. However, Diana said that she had made the right decision to leave and fulfill her sacred duty. She would not have felt okay with herself if she didn’t try to stop the war. Having recently learned that she was a goddess, Diana also contemplated what it would mean to be immortal while those around her age and die. Fortunately, in the context of her strong relationship with her mother, they had many discussions about how Hippolyta had coped with the blessings and curses of immortality. Diana felt she could draw on her mother’s wisdom as she navigated the associated privileges and pains.

Diana expressed frustration and bewilderment at the societal status of women and people of color in Man’s World. From clothes that constrain optimal battle movement to expectations to be in subordinate positions to rules about women not speaking up or being in leadership positions, Diana said she intended to fight alongside all those with a mission of equality until it was achieved. She also expressed zero intent to conform to unjust societal norms that would have her reduce her strength, powers, or peace efforts. That alone would empower countless people to follow her lead and embrace their true selves. Amazons wore their bracelets as a reminder of their past subjugation, and as a symbol to resist any return to that state. Diana also wore them to connect her to her home and Themiscyran values (they handily deflect bullets and wield energy too).

In conclusion, Diana did not feel she needed ongoing therapy to cope with her various concerns at the time. However, after having a positive experience with therapy at an earlier age, she said that she would not hesitate to return for help as-needed and left us with the wisdom that “only love could truly save the world.”

Follow-Up:
100 years later, Wonder Woman was working at the Louvre, saving people from suffering, and teaming up with Batman and Superman to defeat evil. She remains a symbol of courage, knowledge, acceptance, justice, compassion, and overall awesomeness. We look forward to seeing more of her when she teams up with the Justice League in November!

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The Gordon/Saxton Test

Was the portrayal of mental health accurate?
Wonder Woman and Hippolyta were not portrayed as exhibiting mental health issues. Despite the fictional world the characters were set in, the authenticity of their relationship and related issues was moving and made it relatable to nonfictional people too.

Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
Wonder Woman is the epitome of compassion. You see it throughout the movie as a primary motivation for her actions, and that is one of many things that makes Wonder Woman so incredibly special and inspirational. Hippolyta is also portrayed in a way that elicits compassion.

Overall Rating: On a scale of Ares, god of war to Athena, goddess of wisdom, we Aphrodite, goddess of LOVED this movie!

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So many thanks to the creator of Wonder Woman, psychologist William Moulton Marston!

Also thanks to the many amazing artists, comic writers, letterers, colorists, actresses, actors, and others who have contributed to Wonder Woman’s story. Some of our favorites include Gail Simone, Renae De Liz, Ray Dillon, Susan Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins, Chris Pine, Nikola Scott, Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, and Laura Martin!

Check out our podcast episode on our initial reactions to the movie here!

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Jedi Counsel Podcast 49 – BONUS EPISODE – Wonder Woman, First Impressions and Initial Reactions (SPOILERS)

Hey folks! This bonus episode is all about Wonder Woman! We turned on the mic about ten minutes after finishing the midnight release of the film. As such, prepare for two very tired podcasters nerding out big time about an excellent film. Let us know what you think on Twitter at @jedi_counsel! PS – SPOILERS!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 48 – Myths, Part 4: Forensic Psychology-Related Myths & Silence of the Lambs

Hey folks! This week, we continue our mini-series on myths with a focus on forensic psychology-related misconceptions. Using Lilienfeld et al.’s book as a primary resource, we debunk the following myths 1) The polygraph (“Lie Detector”) test is an accurate means of detecting dishonesty (it’s not, BUT tune in to hear how it has a cool connection with Wonder Woman!), 2) Most people with mental illnesses are violent (they’re not!), 3) Criminal profiling is helpful in solving cases (not as helpful as we’d like), and more!  We also discuss Silence of the Lambs and speculate about what made Clarice Starling such a compelling character that she inspired many people to want to have similar career paths.

Jedi Counsel Podcast 47 – Myths, Part 3 Mental Health Myths

Hey folks! This week, we continue our mini-series on myths by addressing mental health-related misconceptions that people asked us about via Twitter or Facebook! In honor of mental health awareness month, we first talk about our training in clinical psychology and mention a few myths we’ve heard about our field. We refer to this link that goes into more detail about the differences between some different types of mental health professional training. Next, we address several more myths, such as: 1) suicides occur at higher rates during the winter holidays (they don’t), 2) all “talk therapy” is the same (it’s not), and more! DISCLAIMER: We are NOT trained medical professionals and you should not seek any advice for your personal situations from this podcast. You should speak directly to a medical or mental health professional about any concerns. We mention some general findings in the research for educational purposes, but it should not be used as advice.

Jedi Counsel Podcast 46 – BONUS EPISODE Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 & the Psychology of Family Connections

Hey folks! Tune in this week to hear us geek out about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2! WARNING: This episode contains tons of SPOILERS. We talk about aspects of the movie that we love, with a focus on family-related themes. We explore the plot and characters through a psychological lens and connect concepts with some of the therapeutic work we’ve done.

Jedi Counsel Podcast 45 – Myths, Part 2, Bullying Myths with Dr. Wendy Troop-Gordon

Hey folks! This week we continue our mini-series on myths with the fantastic Dr. Wendy Troop-Gordon, a developmental psychologist. Listen in as she takes us into the world of bullying research. What exactly is bullying? What do we know about it? What can we do about it? Listen in to find out all of this and more! 

You can check out the other great Geek Therapy Podcast Network shows here!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 44 – Myths, Part 1: Brain Myths with Dr. Robert Gordon

Hey folks! This week we begin our mini-series on myths. We start things off with special guest, Dr Robert Gordon, a cognitive psychologist. Listen in as we cover such myths including: do we use only 10% of our brain? Is our memory similar to a tape (or video) recorder? And is it possible to subliminally influence other people? For other great myths of psychology, check out this book that Dr. Gordon references here: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-EHEP002362.html

You can check out the other great Geek Therapy Podcast Network shows here!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 43 – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (revisited) and Bereavement

Hey folks! This week we decided to just come full circle and revisit the topic that started it all, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice! We dive in deciding whether or not the film holds up and then talk about Bruce Wayne’s response to the loss of his parents. We talking about responding to grief, different styles of grief, and how the relationship between bereavement and depression recently changed

You can check out the other great Geek Therapy Podcast Network shows here!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 42 – The Jedi Counsel and One Year of Podcasting

Hey folks, this week we decided to hit the brakes and reflect on one year of podcasting. What do we like, what have we learned, where are we going, and who do we have to thank. Listen in for all that and more. And, sincerely, thank you for tuning into the Jedi Counsel Podcast. 

You can check out the other great Geek Therapy Podcast Network shows here!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 41 – The Depiction of Suicide in 13 Reasons Why, Part 3

Content Warning: We include discussion of aspects of the series that include rape, stalking, photo sharing without consent, and suicidal behavior.

 This week, we conclude with our third episode in our mini-series on 13 Reasons Why. We continue to discuss the areas of accuracy, places in need of improvement, and what we know based on the research. This episode contains spoilers and information through the end of the series.

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, help is available – please reach out at 1-800-273-TALK or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

 For more information about sexual assault, look here. If you or someone you know is concerned about this issue, you can call 1-800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

 Learn the warning signs for suicide here: http://www.suicidology.org/resources/warning-signs and risk factors here: https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/.

 For more information on the articles discussed in this episode about suicide contagion, look here and here. For media guidelines for discussing suicide, look here.

 You can check out the other great Geek Therapy Podcast Network shows here!

13 Thoughts on 13 Reasons Why

**WARNING: SPOILERS APPEAR IN THIS POST.**

I watched the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why (based on a book with the same title). This post sums up my reactions, and I am also in the process of recording detailed Jedi Counsel podcast episodes on the series with my co-host. Some people say this is art and entertainment, and therefore, exempt from social responsibility. Nonetheless, many people will watch this series, and that makes it important to view it critically and to consider its implications. My thoughts aren’t fully formed yet, but I wanted to post something as the series came out without waiting until I had it all sorted out. My feelings and opinions may develop more as I process the material for a longer period of time. I’m open and curious about other perspectives.

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  1. The series is set up as a mystery that quickly pulled me into the story. I finished the whole series within a few days. The framework for the series is that an adolescent, Hannah Baker, has died by suicide and left behind audio tapes detailing every component that she believes led up to her death. In addition, she has a methodical plan for the specific people who should listen to the tapes, how they should be listened to, and the order in which people hear them. While this is a compelling way to reveal a mystery, I believe that it contributes to stigma by painting the picture of a woman who ended her life for the purposes of getting attention from the individuals she believed ruined her life. The tone of her delivery is blaming and feels vengeful. I worry this perpetuates the myth that suicide is typically driven by desire for attention, selfishness, or revenge…which it most certainly is not.
  2. There is a scene that is explicitly blaming of one of the few kind (though not perfect) people in the series (Hannah’s friend and love interest, Clay). Hannah’s friend, Tony, tells Clay that Hannah would have been alive if he had acted differently. He later softens his tone, saying it is not Clay’s fault and Hannah is responsible for the choice that she made. Still, the blame message is there in a scene where Hannah tells Clay repeatedly to leave her alone. He reluctantly leaves the room. The show then depicts a parallel universe where the “right” things happened: Clay insists on staying despite Hannah clearly asking him to leave her alone, he turns the conversation around through persistence, Hannah feels loved, and suicide is prevented. In light of the violations of consent elsewhere in the series (including two rape scenes), I was bothered by Clay being painted as having done the wrong thing when he honored Hannah’s wishes to leave her alone.
  3.  Hannah decides, as her last attempt at help-seeking, to reach out to her school counselor about her suicidal thoughts and being the victim of rape. The counselor, insensitively and against best practice guidelines, implies she may be partially to blame (e.g., asking if she verbally said no to the perpetrator, asking if she had been drinking) and jumps right into telling her that her only choices are to: 1) report the assault or 2) to move on. She leaves the office, and he doesn’t follow-up with her in any way. He doesn’t ask for more details or conduct a suicide risk assessment, and he does not try to reach out to her parents to prevent her from harming herself. Of course, there are some counselors out there who might act in this irresponsible way. However, the vast majority would not. In a show that is viewed by a lot of young people, the depiction of the counselor matters a lot. People are already reluctant to reach out to mental health professionals. I worry people would feel even more discouraged from seeking help after seeing this terrible, judgmental, unethical interaction.
  4. The series accurately portrays some of the risk factors for suicide: social isolation, loneliness, and disconnection from others (including in the painful forms of bullying), perceiving herself as a burden (e.g., she describes herself as a “problem” for her parents and especially feels burdensome after accidentally losing some of their money), family conflict (her parents argue about issues including finances), witnessing and then being a victim of sexual assault, and hopelessness about her future (e.g., with regard to college and other plans).
  5. I appreciated the series emphasizing how crucial social connections are for health and talking about different types of loneliness – including individuals truly isolated and those who feel “lonely in a crowd.” It seemed to make the point that even apparently popular people (like Zack) can feel lonely. I believe this sends the message that anyone is vulnerable to loneliness, and we shouldn’t assume people are doing well just because they appear that way on the outside.
  6. One of the themes of the series is that – at any point – one person listening, reaching out, or doing something differently could have prevented Hannah’s suicide. Ultimately, this is a positive message. Unfortunately, I think it’s lost and distorted because it is used to blame people for their failures to save Hannah rather than demonstrating that one person could have made a difference and changed the story to a hopeful one. If the counselor or one of her parents had connected with Hannah and supported her in seeking help for her struggles, this point would have been much more persuasive. Instead, the story feels more demoralizing than inspiring to me.
  7. Hannah’s death scene is a graphic depiction of her cutting her wrists with razorblades in a bathtub. In a documentary-type episode made about the series, they said that it was to show the painful and hard-to-look-at nature of suicide. To me, it feels like a choice to make a dramatic, visually startling conclusion to the story rather than to deliver a lesson. It makes sense – this is a series meant to be watched and to get people glued to their screens- not a PSA. It’s possible that an individual who feels suicidal might see that and be afraid; however, it’s also quite plausible that an individual feeling suicidal might mistakenly view it as an end to all of Hannah’s emotional pain and problems. Anecdotally, there are cases of suicidal individuals watching scenes of suicide building up to taking their own life.
  8. There are warnings in the beginnings of episodes where there are graphic scenes (e.g., sexual assault, suicidal behavior). It would have been helpful if the episodes had information about resources, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, embedded in them too. It would be a simple way to reach a lot of people. Again, the series created a separate short documentary-like episode with mental health professionals and resources in it. However, it appears completely separately from the series (rather than as the 14th episode, for example). It would reach more people if it was connected to the full series.
  9. The pain Hannah’s parents experience after her death is excruciating. I feel this is one of the most realistic aspects of the series. It shows their horror, their confusion, their regret, and their desire to prevent other suicides from occurring. In the documentary afterwards, they suggest that this might show individuals who feel suicidal about the pain that others would experience if they died. I think this may be the case for some, but for certain individuals, tragically, they might imagine that people wouldn’t feel the same way about their death. That’s the cruelty of perceiving oneself as a burden – people struggling with mental health problems may not see how the world is better with them in it.
  10. Related to the second point, several characters clearly violate Hannah. Marcus and Bruce grab her, Tyler and Justin take and share revealing pictures without permission, and Bryce rapes her. When Hannah and Clay are starting to kiss, Clay asks, “Is this okay?” I really liked this scene because it shows how asking about consent is natural and enhances, rather than ruins, the moment. It also shows a welcome contrast in that Clay genuinely respects and cares about her feelings and perspective. Sadly, this positive point gets diminished when the scene turns into Hannah yelling for him to “get the hell out” and the suggestion that if he had only ignored her wishes, he would have saved her life (as described above).
  11. From one perspective, it seems like a point of the series is to teach bullies that their actions can lead to someone dying by suicide. However, most people who are bullied do not die by suicide – people are often remarkably resilent in the face of great adversity. It’s important that people who are on the receiving end of bullying know that. Secondly, most of the people on Hannah’s tapes are more concerned about protecting their own secrets (e.g., that Courtney is attracted to women, that Justin allowed Bryce to rape Jessica, that Ryan published Hannah’s poem without her permission) than how they hurt Hannah. If the message is supposed to be an anti-bullying one, I don’t think it really connects with bullying people in the audience. I guess that it would resonate more with people on the receiving end of bullying who feel a sense of hopelessness about the bullies having any potential for empathy and a sense that there is no help available to them.
  12. On two occasions, two adults (the counselor and the communications teacher) state that the warning signs for suicide include withdrawing from friends and family, changes in appearance, and trouble in group projects. This was a great opportunity to share the real warning signs for suicide, but unfortunately, only the first one really maps onto the list.
  13. A lighthearted, sweet aspect of the series is that Clay is different from his peers in that he cares relatively less about what other people think of him. He still cares what people, including Hannah, think of him to some extent, but he doesn’t try as hard as his peers to be something he’s not. He feels nervous around Hannah, but doesn’t ever really pretend to be someone else. He doesn’t let other people’s opinions make him feel bad about himself. Again, Clay’s not perfect (he says some mean things to Hannah and looks at a revealing picture that Tyler took without consent). But, overall, he’s smart, sensitive, caring, a good student, interested in the world beyond the walls of his school, helps others, takes reasonable caution in his decision-making, and likes geek stuff like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. During one exchange, Hannah says to Clay, “Wow. You’re an actual nerd. There’s courage in that.” Most of the other characters in the series view themselves and their worth in terms of what their peers think of them. This generally rings true with regard to this developmental period in adolescence. It’s refreshing to see someone who has some self-acceptance and a sense of what’s right in the midst of all of the tragedy.

You can check out our first podcast episode on this series here and our second episode here.

If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out. There is hope and help is available here.

Analyzing Oliver Queen (Arrow, Season 1)

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Oliver Jonas Queen
Date of Birth: May 16, 1985
Ethnicity/Race: White
Occupation: Billionaire
Date of Initial Interview: October 10, 2012
Date of Report: April 4, 2017
Therapists: Brandon Saxton, M.S., Katie Gordon, Ph.D.

Presenting Problem:
Oliver was referred by his mother, Moira Queen, for a diagnostic assessment following his return from a deserted island. Oliver was previously presumed dead. In actuality, he was the sole survivor of the sinking of his family yacht, The Queen’s Gambit. He reported living alone on the island for five years before being rescued.

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Family History:
Oliver has one remaining parent and one sister. His father, Robert Queen, was on the yacht when it sunk. Oliver reported that he did not see his father die, but solemnly stated that he, Oliver, had to have been the only one to survive. His mother, Moira, took over the operations of Queen Consolidated after his father passed away. Oliver reported that he is very close to his sister, Thea (or Speedy, as he likes to call her). He reported having some regrets about the type of role model he was to her before the island and wanted to do better for her now.

Educational/Employment History:
Oliver reported never having a job, instead relying on his family’s fortune to make his way. He attended some college. He said that he only went because he was expected to. Beyond that, he reported that his primary goal had been making friends and partying to the extent that the only book he read during all of college was The Odyssey. It was not clear whether he actually completed his studies and received a degree.

Psychiatric/Medical History:
Oliver has no documented psychiatric or serious medical history. However, it should be noted that medical reports indicate that his body is covered with scar tissue following his return from the island. At this time, it is unclear how this scar tissue was obtained. Oliver’s primary care physician indicated that Oliver claimed the injuries happened while attempting to survive. However, the report indicates the injuries are more consistent with weapon or combat trauma. Further assessment may reveal further events that happened on the island.

Assessment & Diagnostic Impressions
All assessment and diagnostic information was collected with Oliver one month after his return from the island (i.e., at the beginning of season one of Arrow). It should be noted that we felt Mr. Queen was not being completely forthright with us during the diagnostic interview. We offer this assessment based on the information we have. As treatment continues, we suspect that what Oliver is willing to report about his time on the island may change (What we are subtly saying is, if you like this post, let us know! We will turn it into a series covering each season!).

Treatment Recommendations
In light of the limited information revealed by Oliver Queen, it is difficulty to conclusively identify the source of his problems. Further assessment should be conducted in order to understand the impact that his time on the island and loss of his father had on him. We recommend that a patient approach is taken, such that the therapists can build a sense of trust and rapport with Oliver over time. Perhaps once Oliver feels more trust in the therapists, we can gain a more precise understanding of the issues he is facing and plan treatment accordingly.

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THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST


1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
At this point, there is not enough information to determine whether there is a mental illness, accurate or not.

2. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
Oliver Queen is an intriguing character because he is depicted as pretty despicable prior to his time on the island. However, when he returns, he has changed so significantly that it’s hard to not feel compassion for the struggles he’s suffered through.
We are also thrilled that the actor who plays Oliver Queen, Stephen Amell, has raised funds and awareness for mental health issues.

Overall rating:
On a scale of what’s a quiver? to master archer, we rate this depiction as……to be determined as the evaluation of Oliver Queen continues in future seasons!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 40 – The Depiction of Suicide in 13 Reasons Why, Part 2

Hey Folks! This week we continue our second episode in our mini-series on 13 Reasons Why. We continue to discuss the areas of accuracy, places in need of improvement, and what we know based on the research. This episode contains spoilers and information through episode seven.

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, help is available – please reach out at 1-800-273-TALK or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. Learn the warning signs for suicide here: http://www.suicidology.org/resources/warning-signs and risk factors here: https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/.

You can check out the other great Geek Therapy Podcast Network shows here!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 39 – The Depiction of Suicide in 13 Reasons Why, Part 1

Hey folks! This week, we start our first of a series of episodes on the new Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. We talk about areas of accuracy, as well as myths about suicide that are presented in the show. We discuss whether people should make memorials for people who die by suicide, warning signs, reasons for suicide, and how people respond following someone’s death by suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, help is available – please reach out at 1-800-273-TALK or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. Learn the warning signs for suicide here: http://www.suicidology.org/resources/warning-signs and risk factors here: https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/.

You can check out the other great Geek Therapy Podcast Network shows here!
The survey link mentioned in the episode is here!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 38 – Major Depressive Disorder and Batgirl, Part 2

Hey folks! This week we continue our discussion on major depressive disorder. We spend some time covering Aaron Beck‘s Cognitive Model of Depression as well as describe how Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (one of the empirically-supported interventions) works. Then we take what we learned and apply it to none other than Barbara Gordon, the Batgirl!

You can check out the other great Geek Therapy Podcast Network shows here!
The survey link mentioned in the episode is here!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 37 – Major Depressive Disorder and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Part 1

Hey folks! This week we cover major depressive disorder! We start by going through some of the symptoms and prevalence rates. Then we tie it all back into none other than Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Tune in next week for the epic conclusion where we will cover some of the theories and treatments for major depressive disorder.

Jedi Counsel Podcast 35 – Suicidal Ideation and Logan

***THIS EPISODE CONTAINS LOGAN SPOILERS*** 

Hey folks! This week we finally get to talk about Logan. We start with our overall impressions and then dive into some of the suicidal thoughts Logan is experiencing throughout the film. For more information related to suicide; click here for statistics, here for warning signs, and here for what you can do if you are concerned about a friend or loved one.

You can find Thomas Joiner‘s book about the interpersonal theory of suicide here. Katie’s lab’s study examining the stigma of suicide is available here.

You can check out the other great Geek Therapy Podcast Network shows here. You can check out our new Jedi Counsel merchandise here!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 34 – Internet Gaming Disorder and The Guild

Hey folks! This week, with some inspiration from MPR, we decided to talk about Internet Gaming Disorder. After talking a bit about the disorder, we cover one of the most accurate and compassionate depictions of mental illness in popular culture; The Guild with Felicia Day! Thanks for listening!

You can check out the other great Geek Therapy Podcast Network shows here!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 33 – Eating Disorder Awareness Week and Body Depiction in Comics

After two weeks off the air, we nearly forgot how to make podcasts! Just kidding… listen in as we dive into eating disorders. We start by covering the specific disorders, then talk a bit about body shape in comic books, and finish up by briefly touching upon treatments.
Click here for more information about eating disorders.
Click here for more information about treatments for eating disorders. 
Click here for the Atlantic article on the comic book character Faith Herbert.
Click here for the article on Renae De Liz on drawing women in comics. 

Dueling Personalities: The Psychology of the Hamilton-Burr Conflict

Note: Most of the words in this post are direct or slightly modified excerpts from the brilliant lyrics written by Lin-Manuel Miranda for the musical, Hamilton. This analysis is based on the portrayals of Burr and Hamilton in the musical.

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PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Names: Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton
Ages: 48 (Burr), 47 (Hamilton)
Education: Bachelor’s degree from College of New Jersey/Princeton; theological, military, and legal training (Burr), Bachelor’s degree from King’s College/Columbia; military & legal training (Hamilton)
Date of Session: July 10, 1804
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Ph.D., Brandon Saxton, M.S.

Presenting Problem
Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, grew concerned when he said that he “had an early meeting out of town.” Hamilton’s disagreement with his long-time frenemy, Aaron Burr, had recently escalated, and she was suspicious that this meeting might actually be a duel. She insisted that Hamilton and Burr attend a therapy session to resolve their conflict peacefully. Eliza told him that she felt helpless after losing their son in a duel and that he owed it to her after burning her with the whole Reynolds Pamphlet ordeal. Hamilton couldn’t say no to this.

We started the session by walking up to the two men in the waiting room and asking one of them, “Pardon me, are you Aaron Burr, sir?” To which he responded, “Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton.” After getting clarity on who was who, we introduced ourselves and invited them back to our office to further assess the problem. During the interview, we did not find Burr to be forthcoming on any particular stance. He’d glance off, obfuscate, and dance. Meanwhile, Hamilton did not equivocate on his opinion; he wore it on his sleeve.

Apparently, the heart of the conflict was that Burr wanted desperately to be in “the room where it happens” and blamed Hamilton for his losses in the Presidential election of 1800 and the New York Governor election in 1804. Specifically, Burr believed that Hamilton’s public attacks on his character swayed these elections. Hamilton’s criticisms of Burr included saying that he had no principles and acted in an opportunistic, self-interested fashion. He called him “amoral” and a “dangerous disgrace.”

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History
Burr’s grandfather was a fire and brimstone preacher; his mother was a genius; his father commanded respect. Tragically, both of his parents died when he was a young boy. When asked how he managed without them, he replied, “I’m a trust fund baby, you can trust me.” He was raised by relatives and reaped the benefits of their wealth, including access to an excellent education and connections with powerful people. After graduating in two years from college, he fought in the Revolutionary War. He was romantically involved with a married woman named Theodosia, whose husband was fighting on the British side in Georgia. Ultimately, he and Theodosia married (after her husband died) and had a daughter, who he referred to as “Dear Theodosia.” Burr practiced law and was active in politics as a Senator and Attorney General. The highest office he held was the Vice President of the United States from 1801-1805. The fact that Burr was born into financial and societal privilege may have influenced his life philosophy to wait patiently for opportunities to arise before acting on them. By working hard and avoiding huge public errors, he believed he could maintain the status and wealth he was born into and use them as a foundation to achieve even greater political power.

Hamilton presented as a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence impoverished and squalor who grew up to be a hero and a scholar. When he was 10, his father split, full of it, debt-ridden; two years later, he and his mother were bed-ridden, half-dead sittin’ in their own sick, the scent thick. Hamilton got better but his mother went quick. He moved in with a cousin, who died by suicide. Left to fend for himself, he got a job for his late mother’s landlord trading sugar cane and rum and all the things he couldn’t afford. By 14, he was in charge of a Trading Charter. Then, a hurricane came, and devastation reigned. He wrote a letter describing the hurricane’s impact, and it was so beautifully stated, that the people in his town took up a collection to send him to the mainland to get an education and nurture his talents. Like Burr, Hamilton graduated from college, fought in the Revolutionary War (Hamilton served as Washington’s right-hand man), practiced law, and was active in politics as the first Secretary of Treasury for the United States. He married Eliza Schuyler, after meeting her at a winter’s ball, and they had eight children together. Their oldest son, Philip, died at a young age in a duel. The fact that Hamilton was born into a stigmatized position at the time (i.e., being born out of wedlock) and into poverty may have influenced his life philosophy to persistently pursue his dreams without inhibition. By fervently seeking out chances to ascend in society and working non-stop, he believed he could attain status, wealth, and political power only by working a lot harder than others, by being a lot smarter than others, and by being more of a self-starter than others.

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Diagnostic Impressions
After an evaluation, we concluded that while Burr and Hamilton share many qualities, the areas where they differ led them to the point where they were considering a duel. An analysis of these overlapping and divergent qualities are depicted in the Venn diagram below:

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Treatment Recommendations
To our knowledge, there are not any evidence-based strategies for duel prevention. However, we intervened by explaining to Burr and Hamilton that participating in a duel would negatively impact them and interfere with their personal goals. We told Burr that killing Hamilton would hinder his ability to be in the room where it happens. We hoped that this would motivate him to find an alternative approach to handling the conflict. Similarly, we told Hamilton that duel participation would increase the likelihood that he would actually “run out of time” before establishing the legacy he desired, and we reminded him, “history has its eyes on you.”

We experienced resistance from Burr, who argued that he looked back on where he failed, and in every place he checked, the only common thread was Hamilton’s disrespect. His overwhelming blame of Hamilton for all of his thwarted plans formed a significant obstacle to duel dissuasion.

Similarly, Hamilton wasn’t willing to decline the duel invitation. Hamilton’s personality rarely involved backing down from positions or challenges. Indeed, when Burr asked him for an apology, Hamilton responded with, “Burr, your grievance is legitimate. I stand by what I said, every bit of it. You stand only for yourself. It’s what you do. I can’t apologize because it’s true.”

To this, Burr replied, “Then stand, Alexander. Weehawken. Dawn. Guns drawn.”

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Status at Follow-up
Burr shot Hamilton in a duel the day following our session, and Hamilton died the day after that. Hamilton’s legacy was planting seeds in a garden he’d never get to see. and he is remembered as a ten-dollar founding father, hero, and a scholar. Meanwhile, Burr became the villain in your history books. When Burr was asked if he had any regrets, he said that he now understood that “the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.” We would have strongly preferred that Burr had that revelation before killing Hamilton.

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

  1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?

Lin-Manuel Miranda was not portraying characters with mental disorders. However, his depictions of Burr and Hamilton appear both psychologically and mostly historically accurate. Miranda went to great lengths to examine historical records and consult with historical experts when he created Hamilton. He took some artistic liberty for the sake of storytelling and this approach resulted in fascinating, relatable characters.

  1. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?

Miranda depicted his characters with great compassion. Burr is generally remembered as a villain and Hamilton as a hero, but Miranda went beyond that simple dichotomy of good versus evil and presented two realistic characters with both redeeming and irritating qualities.

Overall rating: On a scale of Darwin Award to EGOT, we rate the Hamilton depictions of Burr and Hamilton as EGOT!

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The Room Where It’s Happening is an awesome Hamilton fan podcast! You can check it out here.

If you’d like to read 10 Hamilton Quotes for Therapists, you can click here.

Jedi Counsel Podcast 32 – Dissociative Identity Disorder, Part 3: Split Review

Hey folks! This week we conclude our series on dissociative identity disorder by reviewing the 2016 film Split. Fresh from seeing it the night prior, we offer a quick plot summary, our reactions, whether it is an accurate representation, and whether it is a compassionate depiction. See here for the referenced article from The Guardian, sent in via Zach McGough. Thanks, Zach! 

PS- This episode has SPOILERS galore! Do not listen until you have seen the film!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 31 – Dissociative Identity Disorder, Part 2

Hey folks! We start this week off with some current events, including the new MBMBAM tv trailer. After that, we continue our discussion of dissociative identity disorder. We start by covering a study by Spanos and with a discussion of the Hillside Strangler. Then we jump into some fictional examples, including Two-Face, of Batman fame, and Tara from The United States of Tara. Thanks for listening in!

Ridin’ along with “Mad” Max Rockatansky

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: “Mad” Max Rockatansky
Date of Birth: Pre-nuclear apocalypse
Occupation: MFP Pursuit Officer (former)
Road Warrior (current)
Date of Initial Interview: 05/5/2015
Date of Report: 02/01/2017
Therapists: Brandon Saxton, M.S., Katie Gordon, Ph.D.

NOTE: Some information in this report contains chronological gaps and inconsistencies. This information was collected via diagnostic interview (i.e., watching the films, playing the game, and reading the graphic novel) while roaring through the wasteland in Max’s V8 Interceptor: Pursuit Special being pursued by raiders from Gastown. This made for a difficult intake session…

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Presenting Problem:
Max was self-referred to therapy with the goal of reducing his distress levels. After the loss of his family and some other traumatic experiences, Max reported having intrusive thoughts and flashbacks that interfered with his everyday functioning.

Family History:
Max did not disclose much about about his childhood. He mostly responded with grunts when asked about it. In his previous position as a police officer, Max was a highly-skilled driver who often engaged criminals in high-speed chases on the open road. Realizing that he was losing himself in his work, Max retired and moved to the country with his family. Unfortunately, his past followed him. A gang leader took revenge on Max by killing his wife and son in front of him, and he was reduced to a shell of his former self. As a result, he left his life completely behind and became a road warrior in the wasteland.

Occupational History:
Max commandeered the V8 Interceptor: Pursuit Special and his old police gear. He was able to locate and take revenge on each of the gang members who took his family from him. For three years after, Max traveled the wasteland with a dog aptly named Dog. Max moved into his car, which was heavily modified for long distance travel. While scavenging, Max was nearly ambushed by a gyrocopter pilot. Turning the ambush around, Max forced the pilot to bring him to a nearby compound where he could obtain fuel.

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Once there, Max saved people who were under attack with the hope of being rewarded with fuel. Instead, they detained Max and his car. Eventually, Max made a deal with their leader, offering to retrieve a vehicle that they could use to transport gasoline away from the compound in exchange for his car and fuel. After delivering on his end of the deal, Max left the compound. However, he did not make it very far before being run down by Lord Humongous’s gang. Fortunately, he was saved by the gyrocopter pilot. After being nursed back to health, Max agreed to help the people in the compound escape with gasoline. He lead the escape in the tanker. It was then that Max learned that the tanker was filled with sand, and that it was all a ruse to get the hidden fuel away in smaller vehicles.

Many years later, Max was still wandering the wasteland and found his way to Bartertown. Max was forced into entering the Thunderdome, Bartertown’s gladiatorial arena, where he was pitted against Master Blaster. Max was could not bring himself to kill his opponent, who was an innocent man with a disability.

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Because he did not kill Master, Max had to “face the Wheel.” With the Wheel of Fortune deciding his fate, Max was sent into the wasteland to die. Max was saved by a tribe of young children who believed he was their hero of prophecy. Max returned to Bartertown to find Master,  who he believed could help the children. He fled Bartertown with Master in tow, which lead to a terrible road war. Eventually, Master and the tribe of children escaped.

Some time following these events, Max was again run off the road and taken captive. This time, Immortan Joe and his war boys took Max to use him as a “blood bag.” Finding his blood being drained while strapped to the front of a car racing across the dessert, Max was able to escape while the war boys pursued Furiosa, one of Immortan Joe’s Imperators.

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Max joined with Furiosa who was fleeing the warlord dictator, Immortan Joe, with his Wives. Max and Furiosa were ultimately able to escape with the Wives and find Furiosa’s old clan. Furiosa learned that The Green Place that she had been seeking was no longer there. Furiosa decided to take everyone and flee across the wasteland instead. Max, with his own supplies, went in the opposite direction.

Then, Max experienced a flashback of a young girl. This prompted him to go back to Furiosa and her group. He believed that their best bet for a safe home was to take the Citadel from Immortan Joe while his forces were out pursuing them. After yet another destructive road war, Max, Furiosa, and the rest were able to defeat Immortan Joe and his army. They returned to the Citadel as heroes and liberators. However, Max left them behind to continue his life alone.

Psychiatric/Medical History:
Max denied any history of psychiatric treatment. With regard to medical history, Max suffered an injury after being shot in the leg and subsequently wore a leg brace.

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Assessment & Diagnostic Impressions
Max’s symptoms appear to be best captured by a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th Edition.

As detailed previously, Max has experienced a variety of traumatic events (defined by the DSM-5 as exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence). Max’s symptoms primarily seem to be related to the people he has been unable to save throughout his life. For example, Max appears to experience multiple intrusive symptoms in Mad Max: Fury Road. These flashbacks consist of a young girl asking Max for help. They appear to be very distressing. Beyond that, Max also appears to engage in avoidance of situations that remind him of the traumatic events. Specifically, after losing his family, Max is seen refusing to get close to others again and again. This is particularly worth mentioning as solitude in the wasteland almost always means death. Additionally, following the loss of his family, Max appears to have negative changes to his thoughts and moods. He goes from being a light-hearted, family man to a dark killer. His life goal becomes revenge. Additionally, Max appears to have suffered from changes in his arousal and reactivity (e.g., irritable mood, angry outbursts, etc.). Max is always on alert for danger. He rarely falls into a trap (such as the one set by the gyrocopter pilot) and is usually on edge.

Treatment Recommendations
In summary, Max appears to meet full diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Fortunately, evidence-based treatments are available. Such treatments include therapist-guided processing of traumas (e.g., Cognitive Processing Therapy, Prolonged Exposure) and decreasing unhealthy behavioral patterns without focusing directly on the trauma (e.g., Present-Centered Therapy).

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

  1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
    The changes that Max undergoes after losing his family do appear to be within the realm of possibility for someone experiencing such trauma. Max loses his sense of his former self, exhibits extreme negative affect, avoids getting close to others, and experiences many reminders of those he has lost.
  2. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
    Overall, Max was not written specifically to depict mental health issues. That being said, he does appear to be a character who, despite intense trauma, is able to rise above and help those in need. Additionally, Max refuses to harm Blaster, of Master Blaster, while battling in the Thunderdome, as Blaster appears to have a developmental disability. So, not only is Max depicted with some compassion, he also displays some. Nice work, George Miller.

Overall rating:
Overall, we rate Mad Max as SHINY AND CHROME! That is, totally awesome. Max is a complex character. He is continually seen trying to shun connections with others, often acting as if he only cares about his own safety and survival. Despite this, he always ends up being guided by his moral compass. Time and time again, we see Max come to the aid of those in need, never able to completely turn away.

We joined The Geek Therapy Podcast Network!

We have exciting news! We joined The Geek Therapy Podcast Network, which hosts 4 other shows: Geek Therapy (about the potential benefits of comics, games, TV shows, and movies), PsychTech (exploring the human side of technology), Headshots (about psychology and gaming), and Rolling for Change (about the educational and therapeutic side of gaming). We highly recommend all of these shows. They’re high quality, thoughtful, and super-fun to listen to! gtc

 

Jedi Counsel Podcast 30 – Dissociative Identity Disorder, Part 1

Hey folks! Big news! We are officially part of the Geek Therapy Podcast Network! Check out all of the great shows this wonderful network has available! After we nerd out about that, listen in as we begin our discussion of disassociative identity disorder. We start things off by talking about what the disorder is, what the symptoms are, and how it is treated! Next week we will dive in on how the disorder is portrayed in popular media!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 29 – Rogue One, Hope, and Representation

Hey folks! Today we finally got to talk about Rogue One. Sorry it took so long! Listen in as we talk about our general thoughts about the film and then get into some of the benefits of hope and representation. As always, thanks for listening in!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 28 – Bipolar Disorder and a Tribute to Carrie Fisher

Hey folks! Today we decided to talk a bit about Princess Leia Organa, Carrie Fisher, and Bipolar Disorder. Carrie Fisher did so much to advocate for for mental illness and deserved some attention. We also dive into Bipolar Disorder. We cover some myths/facts, the symptoms, and available treatments. Thanks for listening in!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 26 – Kevin Smith

Happy New Year, everyone! To bring in the new year, we decided to talk about one of our favorite people ever, Kevin Smith! Listen in as we talk about why we like him and how he inspired us and this project! Plus, this week’s episode features two, you read that right, two pearls of wisdom!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 25 – The McElroy Brothers, Humor, and Mental Health

Hi folks! During this episode we discussed the McElroy brothers! You might know them from My Brother, My Brother, and Me, The Adventure Zone, or any of their other great projects. You can find them all here! Listen in as we talk about why we like these good, good brothers, how humor and mental health might be related, and then we finish up by answering some questions Yahoo! Answers related to psychology!

Wicked Smart Will Hunting

Name: Will Hunting
Age: 20
Education: Some high school
Occupation: Between jobs
Date of Report: December 5, 1997
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Ph.D., Brandon T. Saxton, M.S.

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Presenting Problem
Will was punching a man who had bullied him in kindergarten when three police officers showed up and tried to stop him. As they pulled Will away, he responded by kicking one of them. After Will appeared in court for this incident, the judge ordered a psychological evaluation. When Will arrived at our office, he made it clear that he was disinterested in meeting with us. He told us that he had read our website and listened to our podcast before coming in, and he was not impressed. He then lit a cigarette and told us to “go #$%&” ourselves. After being reminded that his timely release from jail was dependent on his cooperation with our evaluation, he said, “I’m pumped. Let the healing begin!”

Family/Social History
Will did not want to share his history with us, but we were able to obtain information from medical and court records. We learned that Will was an only child whose parents died when he was a young boy. He was then placed in the foster care system and was removed from three homes due to severe physical abuse (e.g., being stabbed with a knife and burned with cigarettes). Tragically, these early childhood experiences disrupted Will’s ability to form healthy attachments and trust people. He also developed a persistent fear that people would abandon him once they knew the truth about his past.

According to one of Will’s previous therapist’s notes, Will tended to act in an arrogant, cocky manner to push people away and protect himself from getting hurt. There were some exceptions to this pattern, however. Will had a close group of friends (including his best friend, Chucky) that he grew up with in South Boston (“Southie”). They spent time together driving around, watching local little league games, and hanging out at bars. He described them as “good guys” and “loyal.”

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Educational/Employment History
Will dropped out of high school due to disinterest, but actively pursued self-education through reading materials on a wide range of topics including history, chemistry, art, physics, and literature. He also chose to work as a janitor at MIT in order to gain more exposure to advanced mathematics. Based on Will’s verbalization and impressive knowledge, he appeared to have superior intellectual functioning. After explaining his educational history to us, Will stood up and looked at the diplomas and degrees on our walls and said, “You wasted $150,000 on an education you could’ve got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library.” He then made his way to our bookshelf, eyed a history book, and said, “If you want to read a real history book, read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. That book will #$%&ing knock you on your #$%.” We thanked him for the advice and turned to his employment history, which consisted of working a string of different jobs including custodial work and construction.

Legal History
Will’s criminal records revealed the following charges: Assault (June, 1993; September, 1993), Grand Theft Auto*(February, 1994), Impersonating a Police Officer (January, 1995), Mayhem, Theft, and Resisting Arrest (dates unknown).

*He had this charge dropped by arguing that it fit within Free Property Rights of Horse and Carriage from 1798.

Diagnostic Impressions & Treatment Recommendations
Based on his presentation and behavior in Good Will Hunting (available on Netflix!), we decided to evaluate Will for antisocial personality disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While he exhibited some PTSD symptoms in response to severe childhood abuse (e.g., persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs about oneself, others, or the world), he did not appear to meet full diagnostic criteria for the disorder (e.g., he did not appear to exhibit signs of recurrent, intrusive memories of the trauma).

According to the DSM-5, antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, occurring since age 15. Will clearly met at least 4 of the 7 criteria (3 are required for this diagnosis): 1) failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors, as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest (see legal history section), 2) deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure (e.g., lied about having 12 older brothers: Marky, Ricky, Danny, Terry, Mikey, Davey, Timmy, Joey, Robby, Johnny, and Brian; had Chucky pretend to be him during a job interview), 3) irritability or aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults (see presenting problem and legal history sections), and 4) consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations (he quit at least two jobs without providing notice to his employers). While we can’t be completely certain that some of these behaviors were present by age 15, it seems reasonable to suspect that in light of his criminal record dating back to age 16.

A subset of individuals with antisocial personality disorder also exhibit psychopathic traits, including extreme callousness with regard to other people’s feelings. While Will displayed antisocial patterns, including criminal behavior, he did not appear to lack in conscience or concern for others. He experienced genuine and deep feelings for Skylar (a woman he dated) and his friends from Southie. Therefore, Will did not appear to be psychopathic. That is important for treatment planning, because there is evidence that individuals with psychopathy do not tend to improve or actually become worse with therapeutic intervention. Treatment research on antisocial personality disorder has not clearly identified effective treatments for this disorder. Most effective treatments for these types of behaviors target adolescents in family-focused, multicomponent treatments, which draws attention to the importance of early intervention for antisocial behavior.

Though he did not appear to meet criteria for PTSD, many of Will’s problems likely stem from, or were exacerbated by, tragic and traumatic childhood events. Therefore, he may benefit from a therapeutic approach that addresses the negative impact of these experiences while teaching him healthy emotional coping and behavioral strategies. Because this particular approach has not been scientifically-tested, his therapist should regularly monitor Will to ensure that he is receiving benefit from it. If he is not improving or becoming worse, this approach should be discontinued. Will has a number of strengths including his insight, knowledge, and desire for interpersonal connections – all which suggest that he may benefit from therapy, if he is willing to participate in it.

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Status at Follow-up
We contacted Will’s therapist, Sean Maguire, to follow-up on his status. Sean informed us that their therapy had a rough start, but they ultimately formed a strong, meaningful rapport and made substantial progress. Sean said that he last heard from Will through a letter that said he “had to see about a girl,” meaning that he had finally left his comfort zone in Southie and went to California so that he could continue his relationship with Skylar. We viewed this as a hopeful sign of progress for Will.

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THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

  1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?

Some aspects of antisocial personality disorder were accurate, as specified above. Will’s intellect is atypically high, and that fact is recognized with the fictional world of the movie.

  1. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?

Yes, Will was written and portrayed as a nuanced and sympathetic character who effectively evoked compassion.

Overall rating:
On a scale of not liking them apples to very much liking them apples, we love them apples.

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Jedi Counsel Podcast 21 – Wonder Woman

This week is all Wonder Woman! We were inspired by the newly dropped trailer and the character herself! Listen in as we cover our perspective of Diana Prince, the Wonder Woman. (Also, please pardon the audio issues! We updated our recording set up and need to fine tune the process again! Thank you!)

Killing Time with Kelly Kapoor

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Kelly R. Kapoor
Date of Birth: February 5, 1980
Education: High school diploma
Employment: Customer Service Representative, Dunder Mifflin, Scranton (current)
Date of Initial Interview: March 24, 2010
Date of Report: May 16, 2013
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Ph.D., Brandon Saxton, M.S.

Presenting Problem
Kelly Kapoor presented as a 30-year-old woman who was referred for treatment by her on-again/off-again romantic partner, Ryan Howard. Ryan was not very friendly or clear about why he was dropping Kelly off at our office. He kind of just ushered her in, while she was speaking to him rapidly about the latest pop culture drama, and then quickly left the building.

History
Listen; to whoever reads this report, we’ll be honest. It was very hard for us to get any relevant history from Kelly during this interview…we learned that she has three living sisters and one who passed away. She also mentioned that she spent a year in a juvenile detention center for stealing her ex-boyfriend’s father’s boat.

The rest of the interview covered an incredible range of information on various celebrities’ lives. At one point, after asking more about her life, she explained that she had so much to tell us about and then proceeded to report that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had a baby that they named Shiloh. We reiterated our question asking for more information about her life, and she replied that she had just told us more. This example is representative of what the entire interview was like.

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Diagnostic Impressions
All assessment information was gleaned from behavioral observations (i.e., watching The Office more times than one would think is humanly possible – like, probably thousands of times between the two of us). It appeared that Kelly’s presenting problem was best captured by a diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder, which is “a pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention-seeking.” Specifically, she met criteria for 5 of 8 symptoms of histrionic personality disorder: 1) is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention (e.g., Kelly’s new year’s resolution was “to get more attention by any means necessary”); 2) interaction with others is often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior (e.g., she asked a co-worker if she should seduce her new boss, Charles Miner, shortly after meeting him; she started a musical duo with co-worker, Erin, that is ironically called Subtle Sexuality); 3) shows self-dramatization, theatricality, and exaggerated expression of emotion (e.g., in an effort to get her ex-boyfriend and boss, Ryan, to pay attention to her, she asks him, “How dare you?” in the middle of a work meeting that he is conducting and also faked a pregnancy, when deciding between getting back together with Ryan and staying with her boyfriend Ravi, she said, “Ravi makes me incredibly happy. And Ryan puts me through so much drama. So, I guess I just have to decide which of those is more important to me”); 4) is suggestible (i.e., is easily influenced by others or circumstances; e.g., Dwight convinces Kelly to apply for an executive training program to suit his own needs, describing her as a “malleable simpleton who can be bought for a few fashion magazines”); and 5) considers relationships to be more intimate than they actually are (she overestimates the strength of her romantic relationships with Ryan and Darryl, as well as the strength of her friendship with Pam – e.g., she asks Pam if she can be her bridesmaid).

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Treatment Recommendations
Currently, there are not any well-established treatments for histrionic personality disorder that have been tested in large randomized clinical trials. Approaches that have been used effectively include cognitive therapy focused on thoughts and behaviors that emphasize assertiveness and sharing attention with others over theatricality and self-centeredness in interpersonal interactions.

Status at Termination
The last we saw of Kelly was at Dwight and Angela’s wedding. Ryan intentionally induced an allergic reaction in his child, so that Kelly’s husband, Ravi (a pediatrician), would focus on the child’s medical needs, while Kelly and Ryan ran off together. Needless to say, this does not reflect a ton of therapeutic progress or serve as a great prognostic sign for things to come.

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THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

  1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?

Though it is unlikely that Kelly was purposely designed as a character with histrionic personality disorder, the depiction nonetheless portrays some of the symptoms accurately. However, the symptoms are exaggerated, at times, for comedic effect.

  1. Was the character with mental health issues depicted with compassion?

Kelly was not particularly characterized in a way that elicits compassion. She typically appears to be viewed as annoying and shallow by her co-workers.

Overall ratingIf this depiction of histrionic personality disorder in Kelly Kapoor were to receive a Dundie, it would be the Jenna Maroney-of-30-Rockish Dundie.

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Jedi Counsel Podcast 20 – Halloween Scare-tacular! Fear, Anxiety, and Phobias

This week we took a listener suggestion and decided to talk about fear! We start the conversation with Dr. Crane, the Scarecrow and talk a bit about Brandon’s research on fear. Then we move into the clinical realm with a discussion about fear, anxiety, and phobias. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 18 – Superheroes and Coping Styles

In this episode we decided to talk about coping styles! Coping styles are the negative or positive ways in which we handle stress and negative emotions. After that we speak about the ways in which we find inspiration and motivation in superheroes, using them as a coping skill. How do superheroes help to inspire or motivate you?

AKA Jessica Jones & PTSD

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Jessica Jones
Date of Birth into Comics: November, 2001
Education: High school diploma
Date of Initial Interview: 11/20/2015
Date of Report: 10/01/2016
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Ph.D., Brandon T. Saxton, M.S.

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Presenting Problems:
Jessica Jones was referred for a psychological evaluation by her sister, Patricia “Trish” Walker. Trish was concerned that Jessica was experiencing negative effects from the multiple traumatic events that had occurred throughout her life, including developing a drinking problem to cope with trauma-related stress. Trish expressed a belief that Jessica’s life would be much better if she received treatment, despite Jessica denying experiencing any problems at all. Jessica presented as very resistant for this interview, calling us “a#$holes” and maintaining that she would not waste her time whining to therapists.

Family/Social History:
Jessica Jones was the only daughter of Brian and Alisa Jones. She grew up with her parents and younger brother, Philip. Jessica was not a very social young woman, preferring to spend time alone and often expressing annoyance at others. Tragically, Jessica’s family was killed in a car accident. Jessica recalled that the accident was caused by her father’s distraction as she and her brother were fighting. It was clear that Jessica still blamed herself for this event.

After the death of her family, Jessica was adopted by Dorothy Walker, a talent agent. According to Jessica, Dorothy only adopted her as a publicity stunt to promote her daughter’s television show. Jessica’s new family and home life came with turmoil. Jessica would often overhear the Walkers fighting over Trish’s television show. Jessica stated that Dorothy put the show’s success above all else. She recalled seeing bruises on her sister’s neck, which she suspected were inflicted by Dorothy.

At one point, Jessica found Dorothy forcing Trish to vomit into a toilet in an attempt to make her lose weight. Jessica used her incredible strength to throw Dorothy across the room. Dorothy fled in terror, and this sparked the beginning of a closer friendship between the sisters.

Later in Jessica’s life, while toying with the idea of becoming a superhero, she met a man named Kevin Thompson, better known as Kilgrave. Kilgrave was experimented on as a child by his parents. They were hoping to treat his neurodegenerative disease but ended up giving him the ability to control people’s minds. He met and became fascinated with Jessica when he witnessed her overpowering some criminals to prevent a mugging.

Jessica spent the next few months under Kilgrave’s mind control. They stayed together in a motel room, and he commanded her to tell Trish that everything was fine whenever she would check on Jessica. Kilgrave felt that they were in an actual relationship, but Jessica identified the traumatic time as his forcing her to be with him with his power of controlling people. At one point, when Jessica had a few moments of free will, she contemplated jumping off of a building. Kilgrave found her and ordered her to step down from the ledge.

Later on, Kilgrave was trying to obtain a flash drive that contained evidence of his parents trying to treat his neurogenerative disease through experimental and painful methods. Kilgrave discovered that a woman had buried the flash drive under concrete. He commanded Jessica to dig it up, which took hours. Then, Kilgrave commanded Jessica to kill the woman. She punched her so hard in the chest that her heart stopped. Jessica stated that, after killing the woman, she was so distraught, she actually walked away from Kilgrave. While walking away, Kilgrave was screaming for her to come back, and he was hit by a bus. This ended his control over her. Jessica believed he was dead.

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Educational/Employment History:
Following high school, Jessica worked a few different jobs. The first was in an office. Jessica hated the position, stating that “This job was sucking my brains out through the air vent.” After a few weeks there, Jessica used her investigation skills to blackmail her boss. He was committing fraud, and Jessica leveraged this information into a six-month severance package in addition to a letter of recommendation.

Jessica’s next job was working at a sandwich shop. She wore a sandwich costume, handed out fliers, and hated the job. While passing out fliers on the street, Jessica saw a young girl run into the road. Springing into action, Jessica was able to use her powers to save the girl from being hit by a taxi. Hearing the gratitude in the girl’s voice, in addition to the urging of her sister, Jessica actually considered using her powers to become a superhero.

Ultimately, after the events involving Kilgrave, Jessica gave up on the notion of becoming a hero. Instead, she opened a private investigation firm called Alias Investigations. Jessica’s work at Alias often involved being hired by people who thought their romantic partners were having affairs, and she also helped locate missing people.

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Psychiatric/Medical History:
Jessica reported experiencing some prior psychiatric treatment from a therapist who taught her to recite her childhood neighborhood street names when experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. She had a negative view of mental health services, reporting that her previous therapist was a “quack,” saying that she did not want to join a “group of whiners,” and “screw therapy.” Jessica also once had a physician prescribe her antipsychotic medications, claiming that she was paranoid. Another person stated that Jessica was “coming across as distinctly paranoid,” to which she responded, “Everyone keeps saying that. It’s like a conspiracy.” However, the physician and other person were incorrect in their assumptions about her being paranoid, because Jessica was, in fact, being stalked by Kilgrave. Beyond obtaining super-strength, near invulnerability, and remarkable jumping ability while hospitalized following her family’s car accident, Jessica denied any other significant medical history.

Assessment & Diagnostic Impressions:
All assessment information was gathered through behavioral observations (i.e., watching Jessica Jones on Netflix). Jessica’s symptoms were best captured by two diagnoses featured in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5th Edition (DSM-5): PTSD and alcohol use disorder.

As mentioned above, Jessica directly experienced multiple traumatic events (defined by the DSM-5 as exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence). Jessica’s PTSD symptoms mostly related to her traumatic experiences with Kilgrave, which included rape, emotional abuse, and being subject to extremely controlling and manipulative behavior. For example, Jessica appeared to experience multiple intrusive symptoms, such as nightmares (e.g., she woke up crying after dreaming that Kilgrave licked her face) and flashbacks (e.g., she felt as if Kilgrave was talking to her, which led her to burst into tears). Jessica also exhibited avoidance of situations that reminded her of the traumatic events (e.g., veered away from talking or thinking about what happened, consumed large quantities of alcohol to cope with trauma-related thoughts). When a friend suggested that she talk about her traumatic experiences, Jessica responded, “I prefer repression.” The friend added, “And self-medication,” referring to her frequent alcohol use. Additionally, she appeared to have negative changes to her thoughts and moods including distorted beliefs about herself and others (e.g., isolated herself from people due to self-blame for what she did under Kilgrave’s control). For example, a neighbor commented that she used sarcasm to distance herself from people and another neighbor stated that Jessica picked apart other people’s happiness because she was all alone (to which Jessica responded, “You are a very perceptive asshole!”). Jessica also told her sister, “I’m life-threatening, Trish. Stay clear of me.” Consistent with this pattern, Jessica tried to push Luke Cage away early in their budding romantic relationship. Finally, Jessica suffered changes in her arousal and reactivity (e.g., irritable mood, angry outbursts, reckless behavior including drinking alcohol to the point of being kicked out of a bar). A lawyer who she worked with described Jessica as “erratic” and “volatile.” When the same lawyer suggested that Kilgrave’s powers might be used for good, Jessica reacted by shattering glass with her fist. Jessica’s response to someone suggesting that she get a massage for stress reduction was, “Massages make me tense,” which is an atypical reaction to massages and may potentially be related to altered reactivity following her traumatic experiences (though this is speculative).

The DSM-5 defines alcohol use disorder as “a problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two” of eleven symptoms. Jessica appeared to experience the following symptoms of alcohol use disorder: spending a significant amount of time using and recovering from alcohol (Jessica is shown drinking frequently throughout the day) and cravings to use alcohol (this was especially apparent when Jessica experienced elevated stress levels). It is difficult to assess the presence of some of the other alcohol use disorder symptoms based on the series, but it seemed possible that Jessica also developed some tolerance due to her frequent drinking and may have used alcohol in situations where it was dangerous to do so. Moreover, multiple people commented on her excessive drinking. Trish stated that she had alcoholism, and Kilgrave asked if she thought she drank too much (to which she replied, “It’s the only way I get through my day after how you treated me.”

Treatment Recommendations:
In summary, Jessica appeared to meet full diagnostic criteria for PTSD and alcohol use disorder. Well-established treatments exist for both disorders. Evidence-based treatments for PTSD include therapist-guided processing of traumas (e.g., Cognitive Processing Therapy, Prolonged Exposure) and decreasing unhealthy behavioral patterns without focusing directly on the traumas (e.g., Present-Centered Therapy). With regard to alcohol use disorder, research suggests that multiple types of treatment (e.g., Motivational Enhancement Therapy, which aims to strengthen desire and ability to decrease substance use) are most effective. Finally, Seeking Safety may be an appropriate choice for Jessica, because it is a research-supported treatment specifically designed for individuals struggling with comorbid PTSD and substance use problems. Seeking Safety includes teaching healthy coping strategies and skills to clients, so that they find safety in their relationships, feelings, and thoughts.

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THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?

The portrayal of mental health problems in Jessica Jones was among the most accurate depictions we’ve seen. It’s rare for works of fiction to clearly identify mental disorders, and PTSD was specifically named as Jessica’s primary mental health problem in the series. Moreover, Jessica exhibited multiple DSM-5 PTSD symptoms, as well as associated distress and impairment, realistically across episodes. Finally, individuals with PTSD are at elevated risk for substance use disorders, and the series realistically displayed Jessica excessively using alcohol in an attempt to reduce the emotional pain she was experiencing.

2. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?

The series reveals the events leading up to Jessica’s mental health problems in a manner that compels viewers to sympathize with her struggles. The writing and storytelling are superb, and Krysten Ritter is a phenomenal actress. Her portrayal of Jessica reflected a nuanced and complex understanding of PTSD. We believe that the series has the potential to help raise awareness about PTSD to broad audiences, which will hopefully lead to greater empathy for those suffering from it.

Overall rating:
On a scale of be-cool-and-just-watch-one-episode-per-day to RESISTANCE-IS-FUTILE-JUST-SURRENDER-TO-THE-BINGE-WATCH, we rate the depiction of mental health issues in Jessica Jones as RESISTANCE-IS-FUTILE-JUST-SURRENDER-TO-THE-BINGE-WATCH!

For more information on PTSD, please visit the National Center for PTSD website by clicking here.

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Jedi Counsel Podcast 16 – Star Wars, Part 2 – The Dark Side

Today we continued our conversation on Star Wars by delving into the dark side of the Force. Check out this discussion by Dr. Andrea Letamendi who inspired this week’s topic. We talk about our favorite Star Wars villains and what might lead someone to falling to the dark side. 

Jedi Counsel Podcast 15 – Star Wars and (some) Psychology, Part 1

Today we decided to talk about Star Wars and largely forgot about mental health until the very end. Listen in as we talk about the Star Wars series and who our favorite characters are. We decided if there can be three Star Wars trilogies in the film world, our podcast can have its own Star Wars trilogy. Tune in as we continue the conversation about Star Wars and how it relates to mental health over the following two episodes.

Jedi Counsel Podcast 14 – The Science of Clinical Psychology

Today we decided to dive into the science of clinical psychology. Listen in as we describe how clinical scientists choose treatments as well as how those treatments undergo empirical investigation. For more information on the debate between therapy as a science vs an art, click here and here! You can find more information about empirically supported interventions here, and for children, here! And click here to learn more about treatments that harm! And for a great blog resource on empirically supported interventions, click here!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 13 – Jessica Jones and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Today we talk about Marvel’s hit Netflix series, Jessica Jones! Listen in as we talk about our thoughts about the show in general, as well as the portrayal or mental health. Here is a closer look at some of the empirically-supported interventions. Here you can find some further resources for PTSD via the VA system.

Jedi Counsel Podcast 12 – Controversy over Diagnosing Donald Trump

Today we dive into some of the controversy over diagnosing Donald Trump. It’s popped up throughout the media and social networks, but is it ethical? Listen in to learn more about this example, others, and the ethical standards surrounding this controversial topic!

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 11 – Psychology and the Suicide Squad

Today we start by discussing our thoughts on the newest Rogue One trailer, which you can see here! After that, we dive into Suicide Squad! Listen in as we talk about some of our thoughts, as well as some specific psychology related to some of the characters.

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 10 – Richard Early from Paradox Comics-N-Cards

Today we stopped over to our favorite comic book store, Paradox! Listen in as we discuss some of the psychology behind comic books and table top gaming with the owner, Richard Early. 

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 9 – A Simple Case

We start with a quick recap of some related comic book news. After that, we dive into Batman #44, by Scott Snyder, in which he address multiple relevant social issues related to racial disparities. 

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 8 – The Killing Joke

We start things off with our new current events section. Hear our thoughts about the recent Wonder Woman and Justice League trailers. After that, we discuss both the graphic novel as well as the recent film adaptation of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. Hear our thoughts about how they portray the character of Batgirl as well as mental health. 

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 7 – Pokemon GO and Dark Night

We discuss the wildly popular Pokemon Go! game. What are some of the pros and cons that you have noticed? After that we talk about one of our new favorite graphic novels, Dark Night: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini. 

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 6 – Why does everyone hate Kylo Ren!?

We discuss the character Kylo Ren. Everyone seems to dislike him. We really enjoyed him! Listen along as we discuss some of the common criticisms and then respond directly to comments that we found on the World Wide Web!

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 5 – Comics & Psychology

We discuss how we became interested in comics, what we like so much about Buffy and Batman, DC Rebirth, and potential applications of comics in mental health settings. We get most of our comics at Paradox Comics-N-Cards. We especially like DC Comics & Dark Horse Comics. Many excellent psychologists have utilized comics in their work – we have posted links to their websites here.

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 4 – Dungeons and Dragons

We provide some description and history on Dungeons and Dragons, 5th Edition and discuss some of the ways in which the fantasy genre (games and other media) are viewed negatively as well as the ways D&D has experienced a resurgence and has been implemented in a therapeutic setting.

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 3 – Diversity Day

We provide commentary for one of our favorite episodes of The Office (Diversity Day) and discuss culturally-sensitive mental health services.

 

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Jedi Counsel Podcast 2 – Harley Quinn and The Joker

We discuss our views about Harley Quinn, The Joker, and their relationship from a psychological perspective.

NOTE: This early episode suffers from lower sound quality, as we were just learning about podcasting. Feel free to jump to Episode 13 for a dramatic increase in sound quality. Thanks!

Diagnostics with Dwight

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Dwight Kurt Schrute III
Date of Birth: January 20, 1968
Ethnicity/Race: Caucasian
Education: High school diploma
Employment:  Assistant to the Regional Manager, Dunder Mifflin, Scranton (past)
Paper Salesman, Staples (past)
Beet Farmer, Schrute Farms (current)
Regional Manager, Dunder Mifflin, Scranton (current)
Date of Initial Interview: 09/23/2010
Date of Report: 05/16/2013
Therapists: Brandon Saxton, M.S., Katie Gordon, Ph.D.

Presenting Problem
Dwight Schrute presented as a 42-year-old male who was referred by his boss, Michael Scott, via the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Michael had some concerns that Dwight was “kind of weird” and seemed to “not get along with others.” We’re not sure of the scientific validity of that assessment, so we decided to continue with an assessment of our own. Behavioral symptoms seem to include a variety of interpersonal conflicts that have influenced Dwight socially and vocationally.

Social/Family History
Dwight comes from a large and eccentric family. He recalls his own birth, stating specifically that his father, Cody Schrute, removed him from the womb and his mother bit off the umbilical cord. Dwight has one brother and one sister. Beyond that, he stated that he also had a twin in the womb, but he “reabsorbed” his twin giving him “the strength of a grown man and a little baby.” Dwight was born weighing 13 pounds and five ounces and performed his own circumcision. Growing up, Dwight reports that, as per family tradition, the youngest child raised the other children.

Dwight did not seem to want to spend much time describing his childhood. He did mention that he was shunned by his family from approximately age four through age six after he failed to save the extra oil from a can of tuna. He also reported losing an elementary school spelling bee by misspelling the word “failure.” This writer wonders whether these negative events created an avoidance in Dwight when it came to discussing his childhood. At any rate, Dwight was quick to begin describing his life as an adult and time working at Dunder Mifflin.

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Currently Dwight lives in a nine-bedroom, one-bathroom home located on a 60 acre beet farm that he inherited from his family. Dwight currently lives with his cousin Mose. Beyond growing beets on their farm, they also operate a small bed and breakfast and host events including weddings and garden parties. Currently, Dwight is employed as Assistant Regional Manager (it should be noted that his boss, Michael Scott, clarified that Dwight’s actual title is Assistant to the Regional Manager) at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Dwight has been employed with Dunder Mifflin for several years and is considered one of the top sales staff in the company.

Interpersonally, Dwight seems to have a higher than average amount of conflict with his coworkers. This information was primarily obtained through collateral sources (i.e., Dwight’s coworkers and his personnel file). When asked about some, or most, of these incidents, Dwight seemed to not understand why his coworkers reacted the way that they did. A select list of these conflicts follows (for a more thorough review of these conflicts, please consult the large, surprisingly full, manila folder next to Dwight’s medical file). In one instance, Dwight attempted to test his coworkers’ emergency preparedness by locking them all in the office, simulating a fire, and yelling commands to them through a microphone. His coworker, Stanley, had a heart attack. During a subsequent CPR training, Dwight cut the face off the CPR dummy and wore it a la Silence of the Lambs.

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In another instance, Dwight tricked his coworker Phyllis into coming with him on a sales call. He actually drove her to a bad part of town, took her phone and wallet, and left her to walk home. He did this to help his branch win a corporate weight loss competition by forcing her to exercise. A final example included Dwight asking his coworker, Stanley, to join him on a sales call. Stanley declined. As such, Dwight shot Stanley with a bull tranquilizer, wrapped him in bubble wrap, slid him down the stairs, and loaded him into the car. Dwight then took Stanley, unconscious, with him on the sales call. These three examples are a fairly representative example of the types of behaviors in which Dwight engages at his workplace.

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Psychiatric/Medical History
Dwight has not received any formal psychological assessment or treatment. Despite this, there is some indication that he may have suffered from mental health symptoms in the past. For example, in episode 6.12, “Secret Santa,” Dwight says “… I’m just tired. The days are short. I don’t know. Maybe I’m depressed.” In addition, in episode 9.5, “Here Comes Treble,” Dwight says “You don’t think I have anxiety? I have anxiety all the time. Every waking moment of my life is sheer torture.” Taken together, these quotes suggest that Dwight may have previously struggled with an undiagnosed mood or anxiety disorder.

Diagnostic Impressions
All diagnostic assessment information was obtained through an interview with Dwight, his manager, and his workers. Beyond that, we reviewed his HR personnel file (i.e., we watched every episode of The Office. Multiple times). Based on the client’s history and presenting problems, diagnoses related to Cluster B and Cluster C personality disorders were considered. Diagnoses related to depressive and anxiety disorders were not further considered, as the symptoms related to each appeared very brief and not distressing.

A diagnosis related to Cluster B personality disorders, specifically a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, was considered. Dwight only meets the requirement for two of the five or more symptoms required to make the diagnosis. Dwight does exhibit a “grand sense of self-importance.” One example of this behavior in the way in which Dwight persists in calling himself Assistant Regional Manager as opposed to Assistant to the Regional Manager (much to the chagrin of his boss). Dwight also exhibits “arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.” This seems to occur quite often, with Dwight often commenting on how he is a better salesman than his coworkers.

When fully considered, the symptoms that Dwight Schrute is experiencing are best captured by an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. He exhibits 1) an excessive devotion to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (Dwight once comments on a sale that he never takes vacations, sick days, nor celebrates any major holidays – a pattern of behavior that is reinforced when he is named Northeastern Pennsylvania Salesman of the Year), 2) is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (Dwight allows himself to be fired to respect his girlfriend, Angela’s, prioritization of privacy in the office; he instigates a formal investigation, including drug testing of every employee of the office, after finding a small amount of marijuana in the parking lot; he goes to excessive lengths to act consistently with his highest personal value, which is respect for authority and hierarchical systems), 3) is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his way of doing thinks (do we need to explain this one?? If you’ve watched the show, you’ve seen this!), 4) shows rigidity and stubbornness (Dwight trying to impress a manager for a promotion despite experiencing acute appendicitis and consistently refuses any flexibility in his actions despite extremely reasonable requests from his coworkers).

 Treatment Recommendations
Currently, there are not any well-established treatments for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder that have been tested in large randomized clinical trials (the gold-standard for testing what treatments work best!) It is worth noting that obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is different from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is a disorder that does have clear evidence-based treatment for it. Approaches that have been used effectively include cognitive therapy, which focuses on challenging maladaptive thoughts related to the disorder. It’s possible that Dwight developed his personality characteristics as a consequence of being raised according the Schrute Family Rules (as Dwight reports, “Schrute boys must learn 40 rules before the age of five. They are told that if they don’t learn their rules, they will be eaten in their sleep.”) Dwight would likely benefit from therapy focused on flexibility and balance to decrease his rigidity with this rule-set.

Status at Termination (last episode)
Sometime later, Dwight returned to our office for a booster session, although this writer wonders whether the session was necessary. It seemed, perhaps, that Dwight more so wanted to share with us his new station in life. He reported having finally achieved the position of Regional Manager at the Dunder Mifflin Scranton office. Dwight reported that he is currently happily married to Angela. The two of them, and their son, Philip, live at Schrute Farms. In addition, Dwight reported that his relationships with this subordinates (yes, he did use that term) had improved dramatically. He said he now considered them all friends (despite firing Kevin Malone). All in all, it seemed that Dwight had experienced significant symptom reduction and was operating and feeling much happier in life.

The Office - Season 9

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
Full disclosure: some of Dwight’s behaviors are exaggerated. And we’re thankful for it. He is easily one of our favorite fictional characters for this very reason. Despite this exaggeration, some of the behaviors that Dwight exhibits are not entirely out of the question. Oftentimes individuals who grow up in strict, rigid homes develop these characteristics themselves. This does not always lead to the formation of a mental health disorder, but in Dwight’s more extreme case, it certainly seemed to.

Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
Overall, we do find the portrayal of Dwight to be a compassionate one. Yes, sometimes he is a nuisance to his coworkers. One could even argue that, at times, he is a danger to them! But overall, as the series progresses we see Dwight develop and evolve into a really caring individual and a capable leader. This is the kind of progression that we hope to see with clients in therapy, so seeing it in one of our favorite fictional characters just seems right.

Overall rating:
Overall, from a rating scale from Toby (yuck) to Dwight (oh, yeah!), we would rate the portrayal of Dwight as Dwight K. Schrute, Manager! The Office is one of our favorite shows and Dwight is a main reason for that. He starts off as a rough-around-the-edges kind of person. Throughout the nine seasons, we see him experience a lot and grow into a really lovable character. By the end, Dwight gets along well with his coworkers, has a family, and finally leads the branch!

Diagnosing The Dude

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Client Name: Jeffrey Lebowski, AKA The Dude, His Dudeness, Duder, or El Duderino (if                                         you’re not into the whole brevity thing)
Education: College
Occupation: Currently unemployed
Date of Birth: December 4, 1942
Date of Interview: March 6, 1998
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Brandon Saxton

Presenting Problem
Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski was referred for a psychological evaluation by his special lady friend, Maude Lebowski, who told him that we were good people “and thorough.” Once described as “quite possibly the laziest in Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the running for laziest worldwide,” The Dude presented as a 47-year-old man who was dressed casually in a lavender t-shirt, patterned pants, and jelly sandals. Right away, the mental status exam raised clinical concerns, as The Dude did not seem fully oriented to time, person, and place. When asked the date, The Dude responded with, “Is this a…what day is this?” and then asked, “Mind if I do a J?” When asked what his chief complaint was, The Dude explained that his rug had recently been destroyed by people who broke into his house. He appeared very distressed by this, and when asked why it was so bothersome to him, he replied that, “it really tied the room together.”

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History
Gathering a comprehensive history was challenging with The Dude. He reportedly attended college and spent most of his time there “occupying various administration buildings…smoking a lot of Thai stick…breaking into the ROTC…and bowling.” When asked about the type of degree he was pursuing, The Dude stated, “To tell you the truth, I don’t remember most of it.” In response to a question about the kind of work he did, The Dude said, “a little of this, a little of that.” He recalled being a roadie briefly for Metallica on the Speed of Sound tour. He remarked that they were “a bunch of assholes,” and also reported hating “the <expletive> Eagles, man.” Earlier in his life, The Dude engaged in some social activism, reporting that he was one of the Seattle Seven and contributed to the first draft of the Port Huron Statement. Lately, his career had reportedly “slowed down a bit,” such that he spent the majority of his time bowling, driving around, and having an “occasional acid flashback.” The Dude stated that he had friends who he spent time with, and in particular, someone named Walter who played in his bowling league (except on Shabbos). When asked about his marital status, The Dude replied, “Do you see a wedding ring on my finger? Does it look like I’m <expletive> married?”

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Diagnostic Impressions
All assessment information was obtained through observing The Dude in The Big Lebowski. In general, The Dude presented as a laidback, go-with-the-flow kind of guy who seemed generally happy with his life. Thus, we approached our diagnostic examination with an effort to not over-pathologize his eccentricities and stuck to exploring potential areas of distress and impairment. The Dude’s areas of distress included the loss of his rug and tense interactions with his friend, Walter (e.g., when Walter pulled a gun out during a bowling league game). Meanwhile, The Dude exhibited impairment in managing some of his responsibilities (e.g., failing to pay his rent on time, driving unsafely). For example, The Dude attempted to throw a joint out of a closed car window while driving, and it fell in his lap and burned him. He then poured the liquor he was drinking on it and crashed his car.

The possibility of adjustment disorder following the loss of The Dude’s rug was investigated. While The Dude’s emotional and behavioral reactions to the stressor (e.g., going to the real Jeffrey Lebowski’s house to demand a new rug) were a bit out of the norm, they did not cross the threshold into a pattern of clinically significant emotional problems that caused substantial impairment in important areas of functioning. Therefore, adjustment disorder was ultimately ruled out.

The full extent and range of The Dude’s alcohol and other substance use at the time of assessment was not totally clear, but he did mention at least some previous LSD use and tell Maude that he was “adhering to a pretty strict drug regimen to keep my (his) mind limber.” He appeared to, at a minimum, regularly smoke marijuana and drink White Russians. Due to the limited available information, we could not conclusively determine whether he met full criteria for alcohol use disorder. However, he likely met criteria for cannabis use disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)cannabis use disorder is defined as “a problematic pattern of cannabis use leading to significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two” of eleven specified symptoms (e.g., tolerance, repeated failed attempts to quit using). He appeared to exhibit the following: 1) a great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to use cannabis 2) recurrent cannabis use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving), and 3) craving, or a strong desire or urge to use cannabis.

Treatment Recommendations
Overall, this is a very complicated case with a lot of ins, a lot of outs, and a lot of what-have-yous. However, the probable diagnosis for The Dude is cannabis use disorder. If The Dude decided to pursue treatment, there are several well-established treatments for substance use disorders that have been tested in rigorous scientific studies. These evidence-based approaches include strategies focused on enhancing motivation for change (motivational interviewingmotivational enhancement therapy), identifying and changing thoughts and behaviors that contribute to the substance use problem (motivational enhancement therapy plus cognitive-behavioral therapy), and participation in a behavioral program that reinforces drug abstinence (prize-based contingency management).

Status at Follow-Up 
The Dude abides.

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
The Dude’s primary purpose as a fictional character is comedic in nature. Nonetheless, he does exhibit some symptoms that are realistically consistent with cannabis use disorder (as outlined above). Remarkably, his character was based on a real person who has striking similarities to the fictional Dude. Check out this video about the real Dude (Jeff Dowd), who views his fictional counterpart affectionately as a holy fool, which he defines as “one who subverts conformity in order to point to the truth in a funny way.”

Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
Even though The Dude is fairly irresponsible during the time period depicted in the film, people seem to really like him, want to emulate aspects of his approach to life (e.g., some view it as consistent with Zen philosophy), and feel sympathy for the loss of his rug. Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that he is portrayed with some compassion…but, that’s just like our opinion, man.

Overall rating: On a scale of very Dude to very un-Dude, we rate this portrayal as calmer than you are!

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Addams Family Therapy

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Wednesday Friday Addams
Ethnicity: Ghoulish human
Age: 13
Date of Initial Interview: November 19, 1993
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Brandon Saxton

Christina Ricci in Addams Family Values

Presenting Problem
Wednesday’s teacher, Susan Furkins, referred her for treatment after she turned in an assignment about a person who she loved and admired. While Wednesday’s classmates selected people such as Barbara Bush, the New Kids on the Block, and Jane Pauly, she brought in a picture of her Great-Aunt Calpurnia, who was burned as a witch in 1706 after dancing naked in the town square and enslaving a minister. When Ms. Furkins told Wednesday’s mother about it, Morticia responded, “Don’t worry. We’ve told Wednesday that she has to go to college first.” Because Morticia and Gomez (Wednesday’s father), did not see any problems with their daughter’s behavior at the time, they initially ignored the referral. In addition, they felt reassured by Ms. Furkins’ comment that Wednesday was generally an excellent student. However, when their youngest son was born two years later, they grew concerned about Wednesday’s aggressive behavior and decided to schedule a psychological evaluation.

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Family Background & History
Wednesday was born into a ghoulish, yet close family. In her younger days, Wednesday was described as intelligent and by her father as “a child of woe is wan and delicate….sensitive and on the quiet side, she loves the picnics and outings to the underground caverns…a solemn child, prim in dress and, on the whole, pretty lost…secretive and imaginative, poetic, seems underprivileged and given to occasional tantrums…has six toes on one foot.” At the time of intake, she resided with her mother and father, who had a loving and passionate marriage, her younger brothers (Pugsley and Pubert), her Uncle Fester, her grandmother, their butler (Lurch), and Thing. Wednesday reported that their family credo was, “Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc,” which is fake Latin for, “We gladly feast on those who would subdue us.” In general, the Addams family bonded over their macabre interests, which included pain and the grimmer aspects of life. Therefore, when Wednesday exhibited behavior that would be considered unusual by typical families (e.g., burning her dolls with a blowtorch, rarely smiling), it did not particularly distress them. However, they grew concerned after Wednesday attempted to kill Pubert three times shortly following his birth.

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Diagnostic Impressions
All assessment information was obtained through watching The Addams Family and Addams Family Values. Due to the nature of her parents’ concerns, Wednesday was evaluated for disruptive behavior problems and was found to meet diagnostic criteria for conduct disorder. According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disordersconduct disorder is defined as “a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated, as manifested by the presence of a minimum of 3 criteria in the past 12 months, with at least 1 criterion present in the past 6 months.” Examples of behavior for each criterion that Wednesday met are listed below.

1) Often bullies, threatens, or intimidates others

She regularly harmed her brother, Pugsley (e.g., tried to electrocute him), intimidated a nanny by saying she would clean her room in exchange for the nanny’s soul, and told another nanny to, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” After a girl scout asked Wednesday if the lemonade at her lemonade stand was made from real lemons, Wednesday responded in an intimidating manner, “Are your cookies made of real girl scouts?” Finally, Wednesday also attempted to scare a boy who had a crush on her to death.

2) Has used a weapon that can cause serious physical harm to others (e.g., a bat, brick, broken bottle, knife, gun) 

Wednesday frequently used a crossbow and has used other dangerous weapons (e.g., a guillotine) that can cause harm to others.

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3) Has been physically cruel to people

She helped to bury two people alive after they had wronged her family and also tied up a peer at summer camp. Wednesday also attempted to kill her infant brother by dropping him off the roof, throwing him down a stairwell, and putting him in a guillotine.

4) Has been physically cruel to animals               

Wednesday buried a live cat with her grandmother and brother.

5) Has deliberately engaged in fire setting with the intention of causing serious damage

A nanny was telling Wednesday and Pugsley that she would teach them to prevent forest fires, and Wednesday responded by lighting a match and asking quizzically, “Prevent them?” In addition, she led a group of children to destroy (including through the use of fire) their summer camp while performing a play.

Treatment Recommendations
In summary, Wednesday appeared to meet full diagnostic criteria for conduct disorder, and it caused significant impairment in her social interactions with peers and family members, as well as physical and emotional harm to property, people, and at least one animal. Currently, there are evidence-based treatments for conduct disorder in adolescents that have been tested in rigorous scientific studies. These evidence-based approaches include strategies focused on intervening in multiple areas for behavioral change (e.g., parent and family, peers, school, community via multisystemic therapy). Treatments that have been shown to potentially exacerbate conduct disorder problems for some individuals, and therefore should not be used for Wednesday, include boot camp and Scared Straight programs.

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?

Some of the symptoms that Wednesday Addams exhibited were consistent with some true manifestations of conduct disorder (e.g., animal cruelty, fire setting). However, her main purpose as a character is to deliver dark humor in a comedic film. Therefore, aspects of her behavior are extremely exaggerated and entertaining, but not typical of real cases of conduct disorder.

2. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?

Wednesday hurts others and destroys property yet remains a fan-favorite, so there must be something about her depiction that evokes a level of compassion. Perhaps viewers place Wednesday’s behavior in the context of her family and home life and see her conduct problems as a product of her environment, which often applies in nonfiction cases of conduct disorder as well.

Overall rating
On a scale of frolicking with unicorns to writhing in agony, we rate this portrayal as staring into the abyss!

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Nerd Nite Talk Video

We discussed how the scientific process is used in diagnosing and treating mental health problems at a local Nerd Nite event. Batman and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are presented as case examples. It was a lot of fun, and we’re grateful to all of the people who came out to the talk!

Gaming Disorder in The Guild

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Cyd Sherman AKA Codex
Employment: Violinist through ~2006, Unemployed ~2007-2012, Vice-President of Community Creative Consultancy, The Game ~2012-present
Date of Initial Interview: July 27, 2007
Date of Report: January 8, 2013
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Brandon Saxton

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Presenting Problem
Cyd Sherman presented as a single, casually-dressed woman in her twenties. She walked in, lied down on the couch, and explained that she had been dealing with symptoms of depression and anxiety. She also reluctantly admitted that the significant amount of time that she devoted to playing a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) could be contributing to some of her problems (e.g., not seeking out new employment, having few social contacts IRL). Recently, her life had taken a turn for the worse when her therapist, Dr. Hammond, “broke up” with her. When asked to elaborate, Cyd explained that Dr. Hammond “fired” her saying, “You can’t grow if you are still immersed in an imaginary social environment.” Cyd then asked if it was “even medically legal” for her therapist to discontinue treatment.

History
Cyd disclosed that her father “made her” see a therapist due to his concerns about her being depressed. When she started seeing Dr. Hammond for treatment, she was employed in an orchestra, “I’m a violinist. You know, former child prodigy…now I’m old,” and she was dating a man named Trevor. Life started to go downhill when Trevor manipulated Cyd into writing his band’s songs without giving her any credit and generally treating her poorly. The last straw was when she caught him cheating on her with the first chair oboist, Günther. In response, she burned pages of Trevor’s band’s songs and inadvertently created a fire that destroyed his $100,000 cello. Consequently, she was fired from the orchestra because of concerns about her burning a musical instrument. Cyd actually felt better initially because her unemployment allowed her more time to spend with her gaming guild playing the MMORG (The Game). However, she ultimately chose to seek help for her gaming because of financial concerns related to unemployment (e.g., maxing out credit cards, subsisting on Ramen), as well as distress related to feeling rejected by her last therapist.

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Diagnostic Impressions
All assessment information was obtained through reading The Guild comics, watching the web series (available on youtube and Netflix!), and music videos. First, due to the nature of referral, Cyd was evaluated for disorders related to her internet gaming. According to the Conditions for Further Study section in the appendix of the DSM-5 (reserved for disorders requiring additional research and not yet considered officially included), internet gaming disorder is defined as “persistent and recurrent use of the internet to engage in games, often with other players, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress as indicated by 5 (or more) symptoms in a 12-month period.” Cyd clearly exhibited at least 6 of the 9 symptoms:

1) Preoccupation with internet games

Cyd characterized her time spent playing The Game as taking “5…8…9 hours a day.” When she decided to meet up with her fellow guild members in person, they struggled to talk about anything other than The Game. At one point, there was a threat of The Game being sold to a new owner and Cyd responded with, “This game is my life,” and “My life is empty. What will I do without the game?” Her preoccupation was also apparent when she introduced herself to her neighbor as Codex (her avatar’s name).

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2) Withdrawal symptoms when internet gaming is taken away

When The Game was shut down for four hours for a server update, Cyd and her fellow guildies treated it as a crisis situation. Cyd also panicked another time when her computer stopped working. She hit a fellow guild member (Bladezz), started crying, and said, “I’m so stressed right now. I need to have a computer for The Game…for living.” In desperation, she took a job without pay at Cheesybeard’s (a restaurant) simply so that she would have access to a computer and the internet.

3) Unsuccessful attempts to control the participation in internet games

This is a post-it note on Cyd’s computer:

post-it4) Has deceived family members, therapists, or others regarding the amount of internet gaming

Cyd told her therapist, “I’m setting parameters. Kind of,” when she was failing to keep to agreed-upon limits. Cyd could not even stop playing The Game while talking to Dr. Hammond on the phone about her excessive gaming problem. She told her therapist, “You’re killing me…literally,” in reference to action in the game.

5) Use of internet games to escape or relieve a negative mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety)

While upset about her ex-boyfriend cheating on her, Cyd decided to go on a “video-game bender.” She stocked up on energy drinks and played The Game from 7:42pm one night until she fell asleep at 11:14am the next morning. She also said, “I guess I can’t cope well with anything. In the game, at the end of the day, you can just log off. You can’t log off of your own life.”

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6) Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational career opportunity because of participation in internet games

After being fired from the orchestra, Cyd reported that she was “still jobless, yay” and hadn’t left the house in a week. In fact, the first job she pursued was the aforementioned unpaid job at Cheesybeard’s. Her ex-boyfriend, Trevor, also claimed that he cheated on her with Günther because they “drifted apart” due to her use of video games. At a later point, when a romantic interest didn’t work out, she reacted with, “At least I don’t have to make room for dating around my gaming schedule.”

In addition to internet gaming disorder symptoms, Cyd reported a variety of different anxiety symptoms. For example, Cyd said that she felt squeamish, faint, and tended to vomit at the sight of “raw chicken liver, really bad acne, and people’s toe hair,” which may be indicative of an overactive anxiety response. Other examples of this tendency include having an “anxiety attack” while trying to convince a former guild member to come back to their guild (The Knights of Good) and a “panic attack” when trying to convince a man (Fawkes) to go out with her again. She also referred to herself as generally “neurotic” and provided examples: 1) “I always get everywhere a half hour early and spend a lot of time sitting in the car,” 2) she planned to keep her guild from finding out that she had a one night stand with a rival guild member from the Axis of Anarchy by “all night…obsessively” thinking about it, and 3) purposely having her character die while reading ‘choose your own adventure’ books because she couldn’t handle the stress of uncertainty.

Cyd also displayed significant social anxiety (or potentially avoidant personality disorder) symptoms. With regard to her youth, she said, “I was never the teacher’s pet. I specifically underperformed so that the teacher wouldn’t pay any attention to me whatsoever.” She also described feeling awkward and uncomfortable at parties and meeting strangers, and having significant anxiety when trying to contact a friend through a internet chat channel filled with people she didn’t know. Cyd showed insight about the incident saying, “Meta-social anxiety….that’s sad.” Perhaps in relation to her social anxiety, Cyd also struggled with assertiveness. For example, she had a hard time asking her Guild-mate, Zaboo, to leave her house when he showed up uninvited and moved in and also recalled, “One time I got caught holding the door open after an orchestra concert for 25 minutes, so I’m not really the best measure of assertiveness.”

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Finally, Cyd also appeared to be experiencing symptoms of depression. She pondered being rejected by the neighbor that she was romantically interested in, “What’s the worst that could happen? I would just cry a lot – which I’d do anyway,” and reported feeling depressed “always.”

Treatment Recommendations
In summary, Cyd appeared to meet full diagnostic criteria for internet gaming disorder. While not enough information was available to specifically determine if she met criteria for a current major depressive episode or which specific anxiety disorder(s) she would meet criteria for, it was clear that these symptoms negatively impacted her. Moreover, her anxiety and depression symptoms likely played a role in her internet gaming disorder. Therefore, it was recommended that she receive treatment for anxiety and depression along with specifically targeting her internet gaming disorder symptoms.

Currently, there are several well-established treatments for anxiety and depression that have been tested in rigorous scientific studies. These evidence-based approaches include strategies focused on changing thoughts and behaviors and increasing positive interpersonal interactions (e.g., via cognitive-behavioral therapy), as well as other treatment modalities.

With regard to Cyd’s internet gaming disorder, there is substantially less research on the condition and its treatment in light of its current status in the DSM as a disorder in need of further study. A recent review on available research on the topic found very few clinical trials available to guide treatment planning. Thus, a behavioral approach identifying and addressing the functions and situational triggers that maintain excessive internet gaming was recommended. In light of Cyd’s ambivalence about change (i.e., she both loves playing The Game and simultaneously is concerned about her excessive use), an approach focused on enhancing her motivation might also be appropriate. However, because these are not scientifically-tested and established approaches for internet gaming disorder (due to the recency of the proposed disorder), it would be particularly important for the therapist to closely monitor and assess the impact of the interventions and adjust them as needed (e.g., ceasing this approach if it causes harm).

Follow-Up Assessment
At follow up, Cyd exhibited significant improvement with regard to her depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as a reduction in distress and impairment related to internet gaming disorder. The most powerful component of this change was Cyd’s development of meaningful in-person friendships with her fellow guild members. Through her interactions with them, she faced and overcame her anxiety in pursuit of shared goals, which helped to strengthen her confidence and assertiveness, while decreasing her avoidant coping tendencies. In addition, she was able to gain employment and channel her passion for The Game through taking a paid position in their company.

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

  1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?

Felicia Day is the creator, writer, and actress who portrayed Cyd in The Guild. She based Cyd’s anxiety, depression, and internet gaming disorder symptoms on her own experiences struggling with these issues and playing World of Warcraft. Overall, The Guild provided an accurate presentation of ways that these mental health issues can manifest.

    2. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?

Yes, Cyd was portrayed as a sympathetic, humorous character. In addition, Felicia Day has helped to raise awareness and reduce stigma associated with these mental health issues by writing, in detail, about her experiences in her memoir You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost).

Overall rating
On a scale of n00b to MLG, we rate this depiction MLG!

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Silent Bob’s Psyche

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Client Name: Silent Bob
Date and Location of Birth: 1970s-ish in New Jersey
Date of Initial Interview: January 19, 2006
Date of Report: July 21, 2006
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Brandon Saxton

Presenting Problem
Silent Bob presented as a man in his early 30s who was dressed in a backwards hat, long coat, and jeans. After we greeted him in the waiting room, he used charade-like behavior to ask if we would hold the session outside so that he could smoke cigarettes. After going to an outside area, he leaned against a wall, and continued to communicate mostly through emphatic facial expressions and gestures rather than speaking.

A review of Silent Bob’s paperwork indicated that he was court-ordered to treatment following charges of possession of marijuana with intent to sell. The police report stated that he and his friend, Jay, were driving around with a deployed airbag when a police officer pulled them over for “suspicion of mischief.” The police officer then searched their car and found two pounds of “Jamaican Landswolf” marijuana. The prosecutor wanted Jay and Silent Bob to be sentenced to prison for ten years, but the judge ordered them to complete drug rehabilitation instead.

Educational/Employment History
Silent Bob completed a minimum of eighth grade (when he won the science fair) and likely continued beyond that. However, details could not be confidently discerned from Silent Bob’s gestures. After completing school, he became a self-employed drug dealer with his best friend, Jay. He and Jay particularly enjoyed selling marijuana in front of a Quick Stop convenience store in New Jersey. Another source of income for Silent Bob was from a movie (Bluntman and Chronic) that was developed from a comic book starring a character based on him.

Psychosocial History
Little is known about Silent Bob’s family history and not much could be gleaned from his nonverbal behavior on this topic either. There was one mention of his mother, in that he won that eighth grade science fair by turning one of her personal belongings into a CD player through the use of chicken wire. For this accomplishment, his friend Jay referred to him as an “electrical genius” and “better than MacGyver.” He also reportedly had a cousin named Olaf from Moscow, Russia who was a metal singer.

In terms of significant romantic relationships, Silent Bob was in a relationship with a woman named Amy approximately ten years prior to the initial interview. In a rare moment of speech, he described them as “inseparable” and “big time in love.” Due to feelings of insecurity about her romantic past, he ended their relationship and deeply regretted it, saying that he “spent every day since then Chasing Amy…so to speak.”

With regard to friendships, Silent Bob spent most of his time with his best friend, Jay, ever since they met as young babies in strollers outside of the Quick Stop. Together, they spent the vast majority of their time loitering, smoking and selling marijuana, and beating up people who were critical of Bluntman and Chronic on the internet. True to his name, Bob was often silent while Jay regaled him and others with crass, colorful stories and commentary. They also enjoyed listening to music together and dancing while loitering. In fact, during one of the rare times when Silent Bob spoke, he revealed that he “always wanted to be a dancer in Vegas.” It should be noted that, as occasions arose to help others, Jay and Silent Bob often stepped up to the challenge. For example, they once helped their friends T.S. and Brodie reunite with their ex-girlfriends and, another time, they liberated animals from a testing facility. Remarkably, they also played important roles in preventing two fallen angels (Bartleby and Loki) from ending all of existence.

Diagnostic Impressions
All assessment information was obtained through behavioral observations and record review (i.e., watching, reading, and listening to ALL the Kevin Smith movies, books, and podcasts). First, due to the nature of the court-ordered referral, Silent Bob was evaluated for disorders related to his marijuana use. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), cannabis use disorder is defined as “a problematic pattern of cannabis use leading to significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two” of eleven specified symptoms (e.g., tolerance, withdrawal, repeated use in dangerous situations such as driving, repeated failed attempts to cease marijuana use). Due to the limited communication from Silent Bob during the assessment, we could not conclusively determine whether he met full criteria for this disorder. However, we speculated that he was likely to have met criteria for cannabis use disorder as evidenced by the following symptoms: 1) substantial time devoted to obtaining and using cannabis and 2) the presence of intense cravings to use cannabis. Moreover, he appeared to be experiencing associated impairment in light of his legal troubles.

Secondly, Silent Bob also appeared to meet criteria for a second disorder: selective mutism. He exhibited all of the DSM-5 criteria for selective mutism: 1) repeated failure to speak in social situations where one is expected to speak, despite speaking in other situations, 2) the disturbance interferes with social communication, 3) the duration is at least one month, 4) the failure to speak is not attributable to lack of knowledge of spoken language.

Treatment Recommendations
In summary, probable diagnoses for Silent Bob include cannabis use disorder and selective mutism. Currently, there are several well-established treatments for substance use disorders that have been tested in rigorous scientific studies. These evidence-based approaches include strategies focused on enhancing motivation for change (motivational interviewing, motivational enhancement therapy), identifying and changing thoughts and behaviors that contribute to the substance use problem (motivational enhancement therapy plus cognitive-behavioral therapy), and participation in a behavioral program that reinforces drug abstinence (prize-based contingency management).

With regard to Silent Bob’s selective mutism, existing scientific evidence points to cognitive-behavioral approaches as effective. These approaches teach individuals with the disorder skills for adaptively coping with and reducing the obstacles to their verbal communication, while behaviorally reinforcing them for communicating through spoken language.

Status at Follow-Up (Clerks II)
At a follow-up session six months and two days later, Silent Bob denied the presence of any cannabis use disorder symptoms. Through a series of questions that Silent Bob responded to with head nods, head shakes, gestures, and occasionally drawing pictures, we determined that he had maintained sobriety since our initial meeting. He attributed his marijuana abstinence to his enrollment in a six-month rehabilitation program that utilized the 12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous. While Silent Bob should be commended for his dramatic behavioral change, there were several risk factors for relapse that were identified. First, his beloved Quick Stop convenience store had burned down. He was reportedly coping with this stressor by loitering in front of a fast-food restaurant (Mooby’s) instead. Secondly, though Jay was also sober, they both continued to sell marijuana. When asked how he would resist smoking marijuana while selling it, he pulled a bible out of his coat. Silent Bob had been raised Catholic and reconnected with Christianity during rehabilitation, which led him to feel that his spiritual connection would prevent a relapse. Nonetheless, it was strongly recommended that Silent Bob explore other occupations in order to reduce his chances of relapsing.

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?

Silent Bob is a comedic character that Kevin Smith created mainly so that the character, Jay, had someone on the receiving end of all of his funny behavior. Still, he does exhibit symptoms that are realistically consistent with cannabis use disorder, as outlined above. With regard to selective mutism, Silent Bob exhibits many of the actual symptoms of the disorder. However, it is worth noting that the disorder is extremely rare in adults and tends to occur in children. Moreover, it is likely that Silent Bob would speak more frequently to Jay in the context of their close friendship. In children with selective mutism, they often speak with their family members and sometimes close friends, but are silent in other settings (e.g., in school, with strangers).

2. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?

As mentioned above, Kevin Smith was not specifically aiming to have Silent Bob represent a person suffering from mental health issues. However, Silent Bob is certainly a likable character. Furthermore, it is very clear from reading Kevin Smith’s books and listening to his podcasts that he has great compassion for his friends who have struggled with substance use and other mental health issues. He is openly supportive and helpful to his friends in real life, and in this way, he helps to reduce stigma surrounding these mental health issues.

Overall rating: On a scale of snoogans to snootchie bootchies, we rate this portrayal as snootch to the nootch!

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The Remarkable Resilience of Princess Leia

Psychological Report

Name: Leia Organa
Date and Location of Birth: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….
Ethnicity/Race: Force-sensitive human
Date of Initial Interview: December 18, 2015
Date of Report: May the 4th, 2016
Therapists: Brandon Saxton, M.S., Katie Gordon, Ph.D.

Presenting Problem
General Leia Organa presented for treatment as a strong, witty, and compassionate woman in her 50s who was referred for treatment by a concerned friend, Chewbacca, for “uuhgguughhhghghghhhgh wuuh raaaaahhgh uugggh aguhwgggghhh raaaaaahhgh huuguughhg.” Translated from Shyriiwook, that meant that she recently suffered the traumatic loss of her ex-husband (Han Solo) at the hands of her son (Ben Solo, aka Kylo Ren, aka Matt the Radar Technician). 

History
Leia reported viewing the timeline of her life as clustering into a series of events that felt like distinct episodes. When asked to elaborate, she provided details about five of these so-called episodes.

Episode III
Leia and her twin brother, Luke Skywalker, were born 19 years before the Battle of Yavin on Polis Massa to their biological mother, Padme Amidala. Tragically, Padme died immediately following childbirth. Meanwhile, their biological father, Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) had turned to the dark side and would not have been a suitable parent. A family friend and mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, took great care to place Luke and Leia in loving homes. The twins were reared apart: Luke was raised on Tattooine by his step-aunt and step-uncle, while Leia was adopted by Senator Bail and Queen Breha Organa and raised on Alderaan.

Episode IV
The Organas were a royal family, and Leia was a princess on Alderaan. By age 19, she was a member of the Imperial Senate like her father before her. She also worked with the Rebel Alliance, a group fighting the evil Empire. After the Rebels stole the plans for the Empire’s massive weapon (the Death Star), they were given to Leia, a testament to the high regard in which she was held. Darth Vader captured Leia, tortured her, and utilized a mind probe in order to learn the location of the Rebel base. However, none of these strategies were effective on Leia, who exhibited exceptional fortitude and refused to reveal the base location. In response, the Empire tragically destroyed her home planet, killing her entire family. She was ultimately freed from capture by a smuggler named Han Solo, Chewbacca (Han’s co-captain), Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Luke (who she did not know was her brother at the time), and re-emerged as a major player in the ultimately successful mission to destroy the Death Star.

Episode V
Leia continued in a leadership role against the Empire, which attacked the Rebel Alliance’s base on the planet Hoth. She organized the evacuation of the base and then escaped with Han and Chewbacca on their ship, the Millenium Falcon. During their challenging voyage from Hoth to Cloud City to seek ship repairs, Han and Leia fell in love. When they arrived at Cloud City, Darth Vader captured them. He froze Han in carbonite and gave him to a bounty hunter (Boba Fett), who was hired by a gangster named Jabba the Hutt. Eventually, Leia and Chewy escaped Darth Vader with the assistance of Han’s friend, Lando Calrissian, and reunited with Luke. 

Episode VI
Leia courageously developed a plan to disguise herself and rescued Han from Jabba. Unfortunately, she was later captured and enslaved by Jabba. Leia’s bravery, resourcefulness, and strong interpersonal connections helped her to break free (with the help of Lando). She and her friends then went to Endor to continue fighting with the Rebels against the Empire’s second Death Star. With some help from the Ewoks, they successfully defeated the Imperial forces. This episode was particularly significant because Leia learned that Luke was her twin brother and that Darth Vader (now deceased) was her father, and she reaffirmed her love for Han. Leia recalled this period as the beginning of one of the happiest times in her life.

Episode VII
For a while, Han and Leia had a wonderful life together, got married, and had children. The happiness did not last, however. One of their sons, Ben, was training as a young Jedi with Luke and turned to the dark side. Ben took the name Kylo Ren and began working as a commander for the evil First Order. This absolutely devastated Han, Leia, and Luke. Feeling helpless and heartbroken, Han and Leia separated and turned to their old lines of work for solace and distraction while Luke disappeared. Han returned to smuggling with Chewbacca and Leia became the General of the Resistance, leading the fight against the First Order. Circumstances brought Leia and Han together again to fight the First Order, and it was clear that they still shared a deep love and respect for one another. As Han left to disable the First Order’s weapon (Starkiller Base), Leia pled with him to bring their son home, saying, “There is still light in him. I know it.” He tried his best to bring Ben back home, but tragically, Kylo Ren killed Han.

Diagnostic Impressions
All diagnostic assessment information was gathered through behavioral observations (i.e., watching Star Wars movies). Based on the losses and traumatic events Leia went through, it was hypothesized that the most likely disorder that Leia might be experiencing, or be at risk for, was post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When considering the diagnostic criteria for PTSD offered in the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5), Leia certainly faced traumatic events (e.g., loss of her home planet, loss of her father, loss of her husband, and the loss of her son to the dark side of the Force). However, Leia did not exhibit any of the other diagnostic features (e.g., re-experiencing of the traumatic event, avoidance of related objects or environments, or hyperarousal) associated with PTSD. Beyond that, Leia did not seem to exhibit any other symptoms related to mental disorders. Her emotional response appeared to be an expected amount of grief and emotional pain in light of the circumstances.

Treatment Recommendations
In summary, Leia does not currently meet the diagnostic criteria for any specific mental disorder. Overall, she appeared to be displaying an appropriate amount of grief given the tremendous amount of loss she had experienced. It is recommended that Leia return for a follow-up session to assess her mental health once some more time has passed to determine whether Leia experiences a normal grieving process. In situations like this, even in the absence of a specific disorder, it is possible for complicated grief to develop. Complicated grief is when an individual engages in avoidant coping strategies while never actually processing through their emotions. Oftentimes, this leads to increased risk for psychological disorders.

In the meantime, Leia should continue to engage in good self-care, embrace social support, and return to therapy if needed. Supportive counseling or bereavement support groups are also options for Leia, should she decide to seek additional help.

Follow-up Appointment: Scheduled for December 15, 2017

GORDON/SAXTON TEST

Was the portrayal of mental health concerns accurate?

It seems unlikely that Princess Leia was written with the goal of portraying any specific mental disorders, particularly given that she isn’t shown to be experiencing any significant symptoms. That being said, the manner in which she handles challenges and losses is certainly within the realm of realism for someone with her resources and personality characteristics. Moreover, while many people develop PTSD in the face of trauma, the majority of people do not. Therefore, the depiction is accurate in that sense as well.

Was the person with mental health concerns depicted with compassion?

As depicted so far, Leia is not experiencing any mental health symptoms; however, we do feel that she is depicted compassionately. The reality is that all individuals face loss, challenges, and adversity in different ways. Leia is seemingly able to navigate these tremendous hurdles with strength and grace. Not only is she able to maintain her personal values and continue pursuing her own goals, she also often provides emotional support and guidance to others.

Overall rating:

On a rating scale from Star Wars: The Holiday Special (it really is terrible) to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (probably our favorite in the series), we give Princess Leia the rating of…. Empire Strikes Back! Princess Leia is a role model for all of us. She is brave, caring, intelligent, and does her best to help others even at great personal risk. Everyone around her looks to her for strength and leadership.

Finally, it is also worth noting that Carrie Fisher, the actress who plays Leia Organa, has been open about her own struggles with mental health issues including bipolar disorder and addiction. She fights stigma and has been a real-life hero to many people.

Diagnosing Dunder Mifflin’s Finest

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Michael Gary Scott
Date of Birth: March 15, 1964
Ethnicity/Race: Part English, Irish, German, and Scottish, 2/15 Native American Indian
Education: High school diploma
Employment: Regional Manager, Dunder Mifflin Scranton (past), CEO, Michael Scott Paper Company (past), Director of Paper Distribution, Department of Natural Resources (current)
Date of Initial Interview: 09/23/2010
Date of Report: 05/16/2013
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Ph.D., Brandon Saxton, B.S.

Presenting Problem
Michael Scott presented as a 46-year-old man who was referred, interestingly, by all of his employees and supervisors at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Michael was referred primarily due to problems related to a consistent pattern of interpersonal conflicts. The behavioral symptoms Michael was exhibiting have resulted in financial, vocational, and social impairment.

History of Presenting Problem
Behavioral observations were gathered to determine the extent and severity of Michael’s presenting problem. We selected a few of the more diagnostic moments to outline in further detail. An exhaustive outline can be gleaned through watching The Office.

Some of the specific examples that we observed included:

  • Experiencing emotions that are unstable, intense, and/or out of proportion with the given circumstances
    1. When Michael asks Carol (his realtor and, at the time, short-term significant other) to marry him spontaneously at a Diwali celebration
    2. When Michael photoshops himself into a picture of Carol and her children by putting his face over the face of her ex-husband and uses it as a Christmas card
    3. When Michael locks all of his co-workers in the office after they joke that jail seemed better than the office
    4. When a pizza delivery boy does not accept Michael’s coupons and he won’t let him leave the building
    5. Demanding one of his gift baskets back when potential customers won’t give Dunder Mifflin their business
  • Attention-seeking in ways that antagonize others
    1. Getting an iPod for the office Secret Santa exchange instead of sticking to the $20 limit
    2. Buying himself a World’s Best Boss mug
    3. Taking over the corporate-mandated diversity training and making his own “diversity training”
    4. Calling meetings others have to attend, often times for personal reasons
    5. Insisting on being in Phyllis’ wedding party and giving an uninvited toast
  • Behaving irresponsibly, impulsively, and engaging in dangerous risk taking
    1. Quitting his job to start his own paper company on a whim
    2. Reconciling with his ex-girlfriend Jan because she gets breast implants
    3. Promising economically disadvantaged children that he will pay for their college tuition if they graduate from high school when he does not have the resources
    4. Playing with the baler in the warehouse despite how unsafe it is and being explicitly told not to
    5. Planning to jump off a building onto a bounce house

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Family History
Michael was born in Scranton, PA. He reportedly came from a single-parent home (though his mother eventually did remarry) and described his childhood as lonely. Michael stated that he has an older brother as well as a half-sister with whom he had a tumultuous relationship. However, the two did eventually reconcile leading to Michael hiring his nephew Luke as an intern. Michael does not talk much about his childhood but does offer a few memories that seem to stand out to him. For example, Michael was once featured on an episode of the television show Fundle Bundle. On the episode, when asked what he would like to do when he grows up, Michael replies,“I wanna be married and have 100 kids so I can have 100 friends. And no one can say no to being my friend.” Another childhood memory Michael has is attending a baseball game with Jeff, who he identifies as his “mother’s boyfriend, who she married.” Michael went on to say that during the game he “… felt really bad, because the pitcher wasn’t able to play with his friends anymore. But Jeff said that the manager was making a really good move, by taking the pitcher out. He really respected the manager.”

Educational/Employment History
Michael graduated high school on time in Scranton, PA. He was not able to attend college though, as he lost his tuition money in a pyramid scheme. Michael seemed to hold a variety of jobs during/after high school, including a position as a greeter at Men’s Warehouse. He reported receiving his position at Dunder Mifflin after following an attractive women to the office park, where the Scranton office is located. Michael started with the company as a salesman, a position in which he excelled. After becoming the best salesman in the company, evidenced by his winning consecutive awards for best salesman, Michael was promoted to a regional manager position. Unfortunately, it seemed that the qualities that made Michael great at sales did not translate to the managerial position.

Psychiatric/Medical History
After Michael physically reprimanded his nephew, Luke, for being insubordinate, the corporate office mandated that he attend six hours of counseling with Toby Flenderson from the Human Resources department of the Scranton branch. Due to Michael’s strong dislike of Toby, he refused to engage in the counseling process. Michael began the session by refusing to speak and then reporting fictional stories as his own life. Over time though, Michael began to inadvertently share details from his life with Toby. Once he realized this, Michael got angry and refused to participate. Toby eventually gave up on the entire process and allowed Michael to fill out the counseling report himself. The records indicated that Michael was severely depressed and homicidal. We have chosen not to include these results further in this assessment as we question their validity.

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Diagnostic Impressions
As mentioned above, information about the presenting problem was obtained through behavioral observations (i.e., viewing The Office repeatedly) and by filling out a self-report personality questionnaire as we imagined Michael Scott would (this is not a valid method and should not be used in real life).

Because Michael exhibited a persistent pattern of interpersonal problems, it was hypothesized that he might meet criteria for a personality disorder. While Michael had substantial distress and impairment from issues associated with his personality characteristics, he did not meet diagnostic criteria for any of the ten personality disorders that are specified in the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Rather, his symptoms were best captured by a category that is used when there are significant personality issues that do not fit within the other categories: other specified personality disorder.

A diagnosis of other specified personality disorder does not provide nuanced details about Michael’s specific presentation, so we utilized the alternative model for personality disorders in the appendix of DSM-5 to further explore his presentation. This model moves away from the traditional categorical models of personality disorder (i.e., you either have a personality disorder or do not, with no in-between) through its focus on dimensional measures of 1) personality functioning impairment in four domains and 2) five research-derived pathological personality traits.

We rated personality functioning impairment on the DSM-5 scale from 0 (little or no impairment) to 4 (extreme impairment) based on the match between our behavioral observations and one or more of the descriptions at each level. The results are presented and described below:

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  • Identity (moderate impairment): “Has vulnerable self-esteem controlled by exaggerated concern about external evaluation, with a wish for approval” and “Emotional regulation depends on positive external appraisal. Threats to self-esteem may engender strong emotions such as rage or shame”
  • Self-Direction (some impairment): “May have an unrealistic or socially inappropriate set of personal standards, limiting some aspects of fulfillment”
  • Empathy (severe impairment): “Ability to consider and understand the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of other people is significantly limited” and “is confused about or unaware of impact of own actions on others”
  • Intimacy (severe impairment): “Relationships are based on a strong belief in the absolute need for intimate others”

Pathological personality trait scores were derived from the self-report questionnaire that we filled out as we thought Michael would (again, you should not do this in real life ever). Scores ranged from a minimum of 0 (reflecting low levels of a trait) and a maximum of 3 (reflecting high levels of a trait) and were believed to underlie the functional impairment described above. The results are presented and facets that fit Michael are listed:

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  • Negative Affect: “instability of emotional experiences and mood; emotions that are easily aroused, intense, and/or out of proportion to events and circumstances”
  • Detachment: This refers to a tendency to generally avoid interpersonal experiences and does not apply to Michael.
  • Antagonism: “engaging in behavior designed to attract notice and to make oneself the focus of others’ attention and admiration”
  • Disinhibition: irresponsibility, impulsivity, distractibility, dangerous risk-taking
  • Psychoticism: This reflects odd or bizarre thought processes and behavior and does not apply to Michael.

Treatment Recommendations
In summary, the most appropriate categorical diagnosis for Michael Scott was other specified personality disorder. His significant distress and impairment appeared to be most related to his persistent pattern of speaking and behaving impulsively (reflecting his high levels of disinhibition), paired with an intense need to be liked. When he believed that someone disapproved of him or his behavior (often because he had offended them with his impulsive behavior due to impaired perspective-taking), he tended to spiral into a dysregulated, negative emotional state (consistent with his elevated level of negative affect). He then coped with this painful emotional state by engaging in attention-seeking (reflected in his elevated level of antagonism), and sometimes vengeful, behavior which usually exacerbated the problem.

While there is not a specific scientifically-tested and supported treatment for other specified personality disorder, there are therapeutic strategies designed to specifically strengthen impulse control, increase interpersonal skills, and build adaptive emotional coping. Michael would likely experience improvement in his symptoms if he worked with a therapist in these areas, while capitalizing on his strengths: being a fun-loving person who cares a lot about his relationships with others.

Status at Termination (last episode)
At follow-up, Michael exhibited substantial improvement in his personality functioning. While he retained his unique (and sometimes inappropriate) sense of humor and life perspective, he appeared to become more skilled at navigating interpersonal relationships and formed meaningful relationships with his co-workers. Their affection for Michael was evident as they said good-bye to him when he moved to Colorado to be with his wife, Holly, and their excitement at seeing him a few years later at Dwight & Angela’s wedding. He reported that he and Holly had a fun and mutually supportive marriage and that he enjoyed being a father very much.

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THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST
Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
Michael Scott was created as a comedic character who repeatedly offends people by speaking and acting in incredibly inappropriate ways. While the creators of the show were likely aiming to make a character who would make people laugh because of his unusual personality, it is highly doubtful that they had a personality disorder in mind. Thus, by design, Michael Scott is not a realistic representation of someone suffering from a mental disorder. That being said, some of the aspects of his personality that lead to problems (excessive and intense need for others’ approval, disinhibited behavior, marked emotional fluctuation) do represent realistic components of some mental disorders. However, these pathological personality traits do not typically present in the extreme and silly manner that is portrayed in The Office. In conclusion, no, it is not an accurate portrayal of mental illness, but Michael Scott is an incredibly entertaining character.

Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
In the earlier episodes of The Office, Michael is not presented as a sympathetic character. He ridicules numerous people based on personal qualities (e.g., appearance, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, gender) and acts in an irrational manner. However, as the seasons progress, the audience sees more of Michael’s sweet, caring, fun side, and this results in more compassion for his struggles and more sympathy about his lack of insight into his role in his own struggles.

Overall rating:
When considered overall, we award The Office with a Dundie for the “Best Television Show Ever!” Although the portrayal of mental illness is not entirely accurate, the writers did not set out with this goal in mind. We can’t fault them for missing a goal that they never had. Beyond that, the show does not seem to add to the stigmatization of mental disorders. In fact, in the episode Here Comes Treble (Season 9, Episode 5) Nellie helps to dispel some of the misconceptions that Dwight holds about individuals suffering from anxiety. And in the episode Stairmageddon (Season 9, Episode 19), Jim approaches Toby to ask what he and Pam can expect from couples counseling. Both episodes normalize experiences related to receiving mental health services.

Diagnosing the Dark Knight

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name:  Bruce Wayne, aka Batman
Date of Birth: February 19th
Age: 30 – 32 years of age (in the current Batman comics)
Ethnicity/Race: Caucasian
Education: Degrees in Criminal Science, Forensics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Engineering, Biology, Physics, Advanced Chemistry, and Technology
Date of Initial Interview: 3/01/2016
Date of Report: 3/24/2016
Therapists: Brandon Saxton, Kathryn Gordon

Presenting Problem
Bruce Wayne (Batman) presented as an approximately 30- to 32-year-old man, who was referred for treatment by his former guardian and current butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred primarily had concerns related to the traumatic loss of Bruce’s parents at a young age and the obsessive and unrelenting way that he wages war on the criminals of Gotham City which has resulted in significant distress, physical harm, and in some cases death to his family, co-workers and the individuals he apprehends.

History
Bruce Wayne was born on February 19th in Gotham City. Bruce was the only child of Thomas and Martha Wayne. In addition to his medical career, Thomas and his wife, Martha, owned Wayne Enterprises and were both dedicated philanthropists. They were both heavily involved in efforts to restore Gotham City which was battling a depression, rising crime rates and corruptions, and overall despair. Overall, Bruce reported mostly positive memories regarding his childhood, during which he lived with his parents and butler at Wayne Manor. Bruce identified two traumatic childhood events that helped to shape him into who he is today. The first occurred when he was very young and playing on the grounds surrounding Wayne Manor. While playing, he fell through a hole in the ground that dropped him into a cave system that ran under Wayne Manor. Unfortunately for young Bruce, the cave system was home to hundreds of bats. He reported that this instilled in him a strong fear of bats. Subsequently, he reported seeing one uniquely large bat from the cave system multiple times following the event.

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The second traumatic event that Bruce reported occurred a while after when he fell into the cave system. Bruce, along with his parents, attended the film The Mask of Zorro. As they were leaving the theater, the Wayne family was confronted by a mugger demanding their valuables. Thomas resisted the mugger which resulted in both he and Martha being shot and killed. Bruce was left alone with the dead bodies of his parents. Bruce identified this as being the most traumatic and defining moment of his life. With the passing of Bruce’s parents, Alfred, the family butler, became his guardian and caretaker. While processing his parents’ murder, Bruce reported experiencing a great deal of distress. At the peak of this transformative process, Bruce recalled finding himself standing in front of the graves of his parents. It was then and there that he vowed to get vengeance for what happened to his parents and to keep that from happening to anyone else ever again. Bruce reported that this was the moment where, in his mind, Bruce Wayne died, and Batman was born.

Holding true to the promise he made at the graves of his parents, Bruce threw himself into his schoolwork. He was very successful and reported performing at the top of his class. After graduating high school, Bruce left the country to travel the world training under a variety of martial arts masters. He sought out the best of each discipline to train under. When he felt prepared, he returned to Gotham City to begin his crusade against the criminal underworld. Bruce started off small by simply patrolling the more dangerous areas of Gotham City on foot. His goal was singular; to learn more about the criminals that ran Gotham City. Unfortunately, one night Bruce was attacked and involved in a street brawl. As a result of the fight, he was seriously injured. Bruce was fortunate enough to make it back to Wayne Manor safely and without being identified. Bloody, broken, and seemingly defeated, Bruce recalled sitting in his father’s study. Contemplating what went wrong, he realized that criminals, although cowardly and superstitious, would never fear a common, unarmed man on the street. At that moment, the large bat he had reported seeing previously made its return. The bat smashed through the window into the study. Though nearing unconsciousness, due to blood loss — the answer was obvious to Bruce. He would become the thing he feared most, a bat.

With the help of Alfred, Bruce worked tirelessly to design a functional, yet frightening suit, weaponry, and base of operations for the Batman. Ultimately, Bruce settled on the cave system under Wayne Manor which he coined “the Batcave.” Bruce reported that he grew quickly as the Batman. As he combined experience to his years of training, he become much more effective and competent. The police force, ripe with corruption, demonized and hunted him. However, there was one officer, James Gordon, who held out against the corruption. After some time, Batman and James Gordon began what would be a long-term professional partnership. As Batman gained more notoriety, the villains he faced evolved from common criminals to supervillains. Bruce reported that some of the more fearsome foes he faced included Edward Nygma, known as The Riddler, Oswald Cobblepot, known as The Penguin, Harvey Dent, known as Two-Face, Pamela Isley, known as Poison Ivy, Dr. Jonathan Crane, known as Scarecrow, and perhaps most fearsome of all, the Joker, whose identity is yet unknown. As the criminals of Gotham City evolved, Batman knew he had to as well.

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To ramp up his war on crime, Batman decided to take a sidekick. Dick Grayson, known at the time as Robin, joined Batman. For quite some time, the two worked well together in what was a major change in the way Batman, who was used to operating alone, battled crime. However, as the criminals became more dangerous, Bruce decided he did not want to place Robin in more danger than was necessary. As such, Batman started to keep Robin on the sidelines. Eventually, the two split, with Dick Grayson taking up the mantle of Nightwing and leaving to operate independently of Batman. Sometime later, Batman took his second Robin, Jason Todd. Todd was a young man whose parents were killed by Two-Face. Bruce reported empathizing with Todd’s experience and wanting to help guide the young man down a path where he could channel his emotional responses for good. Despite this, Todd was much more rebellious and angry in his approach to crime fighting than Dick Grayson was before him. One night, while working solo, Jason Todd was taken, tortured, and killed by the Joker.

Bruce reported that the loss of Jason Todd hit him hard. He returned to fighting crime alone as a much darker force than he ever had been before. This new, darker, less refined Batman was noticed by a young boy named Tim Drake. Tim, an extremely bright young man, was able to work out the identity of Batman and the original Robin, Dick Grayson. He urged Dick Grayson to return to his role as Robin, as he felt that Batman needed someone to stabilize and support him again. Dick Grayson refused to return as Batman’s sidekick. However, through this pursuit, Tim Drake himself ended up becoming the third Robin. Bruce reported refusing to make the same mistake again and insisted that Tim train with the individuals from whom Bruce learned. As a result, Tim was a Robin who was much closer in ability to Batman himself.

Bruce then reported what he identified as the most challenging moment of his career, a time where he was not able to wear the cape and cowl. This period of time was the result of Batman battling and ultimately being defeated by the criminal known as Bane. Bane was able to defeat Batman, physically overpowering him and breaking his spine. While Bruce recovered, one-time villain, Azrael, took the mantel of the Bat. Azrael proved a poor Batman though, becoming so unstable that he was eventually close to executing criminals. Bruce was able to recover and defeat Azrael to reclaim the cowl.

Tim Drake moved onto a new, more independent role as Red Robin. Meanwhile, Bruce’s son, which he didn’t know he had, Damian Wayne, stepped into the role as the next Robin. Damian’s mother was Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, leader of the League of Assassins. As such, Damian received training from the league and was exceptionally skilled. Bruce, however, clashed with his son’s assassin training and reported trying his best to instill in him the values he had gotten from his parents. However, in an event outside of his control, Damian was killed battling an adult clone of himself known as The Heretic. Bruce reported that this event would have ended him without the support of the Bat-family and Alfred.

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Assessment & Diagnostic Impressions
All diagnostic assessment information was obtained through this interview and behavioral observation (i.e., Batman comics, television shows, and movies). Based on the client’s history and presenting problems, diagnoses related to posttraumatic stress disorder, cluster B personality disorders, and cluster C personality disorders were considered. Bruce does exhibit some symptoms related to posttraumatic stress disorder. Specifically, he met the following criteria: 1) exposure to actual of threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence (the murder of his parents), 2) presence of intrusion symptoms associated with the traumatic event, beginning after the traumatic event(s) occurred (Bruce experiences repeated distressing memories, dreams, flashbacks, and distress at symbols of the death of his parents), and 3) marked alterations in arousal and reactivity associated with the traumatic event, beginning or worsening after the traumatic event occurred (the war Bruce wages on Gotham could be defined as reckless or self-destructive behavior with elements of hypervigilance). Ultimately, a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder was ruled out because Bruce does not meet all of the required criteria, specifically avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic event, as evidenced by his being the Batman.

A diagnosis related to cluster B personality disorders, specifically borderline personality disorder, was also considered. Bruce only meets the requirements for two of the five or more symptoms required to make the diagnosis. Bruce does experience some identity disturbance (e.g., he sometimes seems unsure of whether he is Bruce Wayne or Batman, many times moving between the two). Bruce also experiences inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger at times when dealing with criminals. Taken together though, these two symptoms do not constitute borderline personality disorder.

When fully considered, the symptoms that Bruce Wayne is presenting with are best represented by obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. He experiences 1) an excessive devotion to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (he often disregards relaxation and social activities to pursue his mission of justice), 2) is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (Bruce refuses to deviate from his moral compass under any circumstances), 3) is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his way of doing things (this is demonstrated both in the way he mentors his sidekicks but also in the way he serves as a tactician for the Justice League), 4) shows rigidity and stubbornness (once again, Bruce does not deviate from his moral compass and refuses to abandon his war on crime even if it means he dies in the line of duty).

Treatment Recommendations
In summary, the most fitting diagnosis for Bruce Wayne (Batman) is obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Currently, there are not any well-established treatments for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder that have been tested in large randomized clinical trials. It is worth noting that obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is different from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is a disorder that does have clear evidence-based treatment for it. Approaches that have been used effectively with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder include cognitive therapy, which focuses on challenging maladaptive thoughts related to the disorder. Following his experience of trauma due to an act of evil (i.e., witnessing the murder of his parents as a young boy), Bruce developed a strong moral code focused on helping others through his pursuit of justice and committed firmly to upholding it. While this has been of great benefit to the people of Gotham City and beyond, at times, it has come at the cost of his personal health and happiness. A therapeutic approach that prioritizes flexibility and healthy balance as goals may help Bruce to improve his mental health and experience less symptoms of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

Status at Termination
Six months later, Bruce returned to our office. He reported that a lot had happened since our first appointment. During this time, Batman faced off against Joker in what Bruce reported was the hardest battle of his life. The Joker was set to release the Endgame Virus in Gotham City. During the conflict, it appeared that both Batman and the Joker had died. Ultimately, Bruce ended up surviving, but lost all of his memories. The loss of his parents, his training, and his time as Batman, everything that made Bruce the Batman, was gone. Bruce reported that he started living a normal life, getting more involved in Wayne Enterprises, and even meeting someone to whom he got engaged. Bruce was seemingly happy and healthy. However, after some time, it all fell apart. Even without conscious access to his memory, Bruce knew he was supposed to be doing and giving more. His engagement ended and he withdrew from his more active role in Wayne Enterprises. He demanded to a heartbroken Alfred to be taken to his cave, of which he had no memory of. Even though he did not necessarily want to, he decided to be the Batman again.

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THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?

The symptoms that Bruce Wayne experiences related to obsessive-compulsive personality disorder appear to be accurately depicted. Beyond that, Batman serves as an example of someone who takes what is an extremely traumatic event and uses it to find meaning and purpose in life. He uses the death of his parents as a drive to make positive changes in the world around him as both Bruce Wayne (e.g., pursuing philanthropic efforts such as an orphanage funded by the Wayne Foundation) and Batman (e.g., by keeping criminals off the street to prevent other children from experiencing what he did.

2. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?

We find the portrayal of mental illness most broadly seen across mediums portraying Batman to be compassionate. Although authors do not typically set out to depict Batman as experiencing mental illness, it is clear that he has experienced severe trauma that influences him throughout his life. Beyond that, many of Batman’s greatest villains experience mental illness more explicitly. Particularly, in the seminal Batman: The Animated Series, these individuals are portrayed very compassionately, with Batman often empathizing with their experiences and seeking to rehabilitate them.

Overall rating: From a rating from Superman (e.g., the worst ever) to Batman (e.g., the best ever) we rate the overall depiction of Batman as… Batman (sorry Superman fans!). For the reasons above, we believe that Batman’s universe serves as an accurate and compassionate depiction of mental illness. Even as a fictional character, Batman has served as a real-life inspiration for others who are also pressed to overcome insurmountable challenges and odds (e.g., such as depicted in the documentary Legends of the Knight) or want to make a difference for those in need (e.g., organizations such as the real life Wayne Foundation).

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**Disclaimer**

Bruce Wayne, the Batman, made his debut in Detective Comics #27 on May 19, 1939. Over the last 75-plus years, Batman has been portrayed in comics, novelizations, video games, television shows, and movies by a variety of different actors, authors and directors across multiple timelines in the DC Comics Multiverse. As such, this evaluation focused on the most well-known canonical story as presented by Bruce Wayne during the timeline in the current Batman series by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo (which we recommend!)

 

 

Buffy’s Battle with Depression

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Buffy Anne Summers (the Slayer)
Date of Birth: January 19, 1981buffy tells spike
Ethnicity/Race: descendant of the Slayer line
Education: some college, Slayer training
Date of Initial Interview: 11/7/01 (~middle of Season 6)
Date of Report: 09/24/02 (~beginning of Season 7)
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Brandon Saxton

Presenting Problem

Buffy Summers presented as a 20-year-old single woman, who was referred for treatment by her Watcher, Giles. Specifically, Giles expressed concern that Buffy did not seem like herself and that she had recently made statements that she was “going through the motions” and that she wanted “something to sing about.” Giles reportedly had faith in Buffy’s ability to cope effectively with the challenges in her life, but worried that lately he had been “standing in the way” by jumping to her rescue too frequently.

Buffy described feeling down ever since she was brought back from death through witchcraft. Consistent with this, a friend noted that Buffy “came from the grave much graver.” When she was resurrected by her friends, she was in her coffin and had to claw her way out of her own grave. This experience was incredibly traumatic for her. She also struggled with the contrast between happiness in heaven and the return to her stressful life as the Slayer, “There was no pain, no fear, no doubt, ’til they pulled me out of heaven. So that’s my refrain, I live in hell, ’cause I’ve been expelled from heaven.”

Buffy described her emotional state as, “I touch the fire, but it freezes me. I look into it, and it’s black. Why can’t I feel? My skin should crack and peel. I want the fire back.” In addition, she disclosed that she had recently become romantically involved with Spike, a vampire who was in love with her, but who she mostly disliked. She stated that her relationship with Spike was unhealthy, and that she felt disgusted with herself for being part of it.

Family History

Before being called as the Slayer at age 15, Buffy lived in Los Angeles, California with her biological mother (Joyce) and biological father (Hank). Buffy recalled that, prior to becoming the Slayer, she was “popular, superficial, and vapid…kinda like Cordelia (a former classmate of hers).” After her parents divorced when she was 16, Buffy moved to Sunnydale, California with her mother. Buffy had hoped that she would be able to leave her vampire-slaying life behind when she moved. However, she soon learned that Sunnydale was built on a Hellmouth, and that it had even higher levels of supernatural activity than Los Angeles.

Buffy reported that her father had little to no involvement in her life currently, and that she used to blame herself for that when she was younger. Buffy recalled a close relationship with her mother, who tragically and unexpectedly died from a brain aneurysm in the past year. Currently, the only family member she maintained regular, close contact with was her younger sister, Dawn. However, she reported having close friends who she viewed as family members. In addition, she viewed her Watcher, Giles, as a father figure.

buffy friends

Educational/Employment History

Throughout high school, Buffy faced numerous hardships. She often struggled to balance academics with her other responsibilities (e.g., Slayer training with Giles, nighttime patrolling to protect Sunnydale, fighting off various Big Bads). Moreover, she experienced turmoil about embracing her role as the Slayer, while still feeling a strong desire to be a “normal girl” who had time for fun with her friends and dating, a typical lifespan expectation, and was not responsible for saving the world. When asked to identify two of the most difficult events (of many) that she experienced in high school, she named 1) being killed by the Master (though her friend Xander reviving her meant a lot to her) and 2) her first love, Angel, losing his soul after she lost her virginity to him. When asked how she coped with these stressors, she stated that she was the Slayer – someone chosen to persevere and keep fighting. She also noted that her mother, her Watcher (Giles), her friends (especially Xander and Willow), and Angel (at times when he had his soul) provided support and assisted her, as much as possible, with fighting evil.

After high school graduation, Buffy began college at University of California, Sunnydale. She continued to face similar challenges related to her role as the Slayer, as well as more typical struggles of her peers (feeling used by a man who she thought was genuinely interested in her, making difficult choices about whether to continue a relationship with her boyfriend, Riley). Buffy left college due to her mother’s health problems. Without parental financial support, Buffy was in need of an income quickly and took a job in fast food at Doublemeat Palace. She ultimately tried to reapply for college, but was denied admission.

doublemeat palace

Psychiatric/Medical History

When Buffy first saw vampires in Los Angeles, she told her parents, and they scheduled a psychiatric evaluation. The mental health staff viewed her experiences as hallucinations and delusions caused by psychosis. Buffy reportedly stopped talking about vampires after a few weeks, so that she could stop the mental health services. Later, a demon causes Buffy to believe that all of her supernatural experiences and life in Sunnydale were the result of undifferentiated schizophrenia. After taking an antidote to the demon’s poison, Buffy learned that the second experience at the psychiatric hospital was actually a hallucination.

Buffy faced several severe physical injuries (including dying twice) in the past. As the Slayer, her remarkable physical resilience meant that she was not suffering from any medical problems as a result.

Diagnostic Impressions

All assessment information was obtained through record review (reading Buffy comics) and behavioral observations (i.e., binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix). The group of symptoms that Buffy presented with are best captured by a diagnosis of major depressive disorder (also referred to as depression). She exhibited five of nine depression symptoms most of the day, nearly every day for well over the minimum of a two-week period required by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The symptoms Buffy displayed were: 1) sad mood (though she tried to hide it from most of her loved ones, she broke down crying to Tara and revealed her deep, persistent sadness), 2) markedly diminished pleasure or interest in activities (as mentioned above, she reported feeling like she was “going through the motions”), 3) feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt (when Buffy confided in Tara about her relationship with Spike, including using him to feel better about herself, she insisted that what she had done was unforgivable), 4) increased difficulty making decisions (significant indecisiveness about whether she should go back to school or get a job and whether or not she should be involved with Spike – though some of these are typical in light of her circumstances and developmental stage) or increased difficulty concentrating (she blamed herself for not noticing Willow’s magic use getting out of control or Dawn’s frequent shoplifting, and attributed this to difficulty concentrating on things outside of her own pain), and 5) thoughts of death or suicide (Buffy became invisible at one point, learned that she might die again, and then realized that she wanted to live, which implies that she did not before).

buffy crying

Treatment Recommendations

In summary, the most fitting diagnosis for Buffy Summers is major depressive disorder. Currently, there are several well-established treatments for depression that have been tested in rigorous scientific studies. These evidence-based approaches include: behavioral activation, cognitive therapy, cognitive behavioral analysis system of psychotherapy, and interpersonal therapy. In light of Buffy’s busy slaying schedule, it is also possible that she might be interested in some bibliotherapy options rather than standard treatment sessions. Two scientifically-informed options include Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy and The Mindful Way Through Depression.

In response to numerous stressful life events (e.g., the death of her mother, her own death, having to escape her own grave, the responsibility of caring for her sister without parental support, the responsibility of saving the world), Buffy developed major depressive disorder. She attempted to hide her feelings from her loved ones and coped with her emotional pain with an unhealthy relationship with Spike. A common obstacle that arises for individuals with mental health problems is their fear that they will be judged negatively if they seek help or that they will burden friends if they speak out about it. A therapist should address these obstacles with Buffy by providing her with education about the nature of depression – including taking time to dispel myths that asking for help is a sign of weakness.

Status at Termination (beginning of Season 7)

At follow-up, Buffy returned to her baseline functioning and no longer exhibited symptoms of major depressive disorder. This change could be attributable to multiple factors. Some that likely had an impact were: 1) ending her relationship with Spike, which temporarily lifted her symptoms at times, but ultimately increased her symptoms overall, 2) having her view of herself as defective and pathetic challenged by two individuals who she trusted and who knew her very well (Tara assured her that nothing was wrong with her; Riley affirmed that she was the strongest woman he had ever known), 3) realizing that the responsibility of saving the world did not fall solely on her (her friends, Anya, Giles, and especially Xander, played a huge role in the most recent world-saving), 4) when the world did not end, she had a powerful experience of feeling glad (she previously had not felt a strong internal drive to live), and 5) her feelings of despair were replaced with an excitement and optimism about seeing her sister grow up. Each of these factors appeared to have culminated in a strong sense of purpose, a return of joy, and the reestablishing of meaningful interpersonal connections for Buffy.

buffy smile

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

  1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?

Even in the context of a supernatural universe, Buffy’s major depressive disorder was depicted accurately. She displayed several symptoms that are described in the DSM-5 after experiencing negative life events, which commonly (but not always) precede a major depressive episode. Between the compelling (and entertaining!) acting and writing, the audience could truly get a sense of the deeply painful, often isolating, experience of depression. Moreover, the fact that Buffy – an incredibly physically and mentally strong superhero – is vulnerable to depression, may help to reduce stigma. It sends the accurate message that depression has nothing to do with weakness.

  1. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?

It is our opinion that Buffy, and her struggle with depression, were depicted with compassion. Viewers see Buffy’s attempts to feel better on her own, as well as her desire to hide her emotional pain from her loved ones in order to protect them. She was reluctant to seek help, which is understandable, but that likely prolonged her emotional pain. One of us may or may not have been brought to tears a few times by the compassion evoked through this portrayal of depression.

Overall rating: On a rating scale from Angelus (least truthful and compassionate) to Angel (most truthful and compassionate), we rate this portrayal of Buffy Summers’ depression as Angel. For the reasons described above, we believe the portrayal reflects an accurate representation of depression in a way that elicits sympathy.

Diagnosing Darth Vader

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader)DD
Date of Birth: 41 B.B.Y.
Age: 46 (at death)
Ethnicity/Race: Force-Sensitive Human
Education: Jedi Knight, Sith Lord
Date of Report: 03/01/16
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Ph.D., Brandon Saxton, B.S.

Presenting Problem

Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) presented as a widowed, 46-year-old man, who was referred for treatment by his son, Luke Skywalker. Specifically, his son expressed concern about his father’s persistent and pervasive pattern of violent, self-centered behavior, which caused significant distress and impairment to his family, co-workers, and the galaxy as a whole.

History

Anakin Skywalker was a Force-sensitive, human born on the desert planet, Tatooine. Anakin was presumed to be born of the will of the Force with no biological father. His mother, Shmi Skywalker, was enslaved when he was born. As such, Anakin was born into slavery as well. As a child, Anakin was noted for his kindness, generosity, intelligence, and willingness to risk his life for others. Even at a young age, Anakin was a very skilled pilot and mechanic.

At age nine, Anakin met Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Qui-Gon recognized Anakin as being Force-sensitive. Upon testing Anakin’s midichlorian count, it was revealed that he had a higher count than any other Jedi. Qui-Gon, who needed parts for his ship to leave the planet, bet on Anakin in an upcoming pod race. Through his skill as a pilot, Anakin won the pod race, winning not only the needed spaceship parts, but his freedom as well. Qui-Gon asked Anakin to leave the planet with him, hoping that the Jedi Council would allow him to take Anakin as a padawan learner. It was then that Qui-Gon began to suspect that Anakin might be the Chosen One, prophesized to bring balance back to the Force. With excitement, anxiety, and some regret, Anakin left his mother to train with Qui-Gon. Unfortunately, the Jedi Council ruled that Anakin was too old to begin training as a Jedi.

Qui-Gon and his padawan at the time, Obi-Wan Kenobi, were sent on a mission to protect Queen Padme Amidala. The two Jedi faced the Sith Lord, Darth Maul, and Qui-Gon was killed in the battle. With his dying breath, Qui-Gon asked Obi-Wan to take Anakin as a padawan learner despite the ruling of the Jedi Council. It was then that Anakin began his Jedi training.

Anakin’s training under Obi-Wan was not always smooth. Because he began his training at an older age, the other padawan learners were not always accepting of him. Anakin already appeared to have an emotionally labile temperament, and the stressors that he faced (e.g., being a slave, leaving his mother behind, being initially denied by the Jedi Council, losing Qui-Gon Jinn) further fueled those flames. During this period, Anakin started to become aware of how powerful his connection to the Force was. As such, he started to develop a flair of arrogance and sense of superiority over other padawan learners. Observing the power that Anakin possessed led Senator (and eventually Supreme Chancellor) Sheev Palpatine to express interest in young Anakin.

Years later, Anakin met Padme Amidala (then a senator) again, and developed intense, romantic feelings for her. His mentor, Obi-Wan, reminded and warned Anakin that those kind of feelings are expressly forbidden by the Jedi Order, as they often lead to the dark side of the Force. While Anakin was on a solo mission to protect Padme, he experienced dreams of his mother experiencing pain. Anakin believed that his dreams were a vision and quickly left with Padme to return to Tatooine. When he arrived, he found that his mother had been abducted by Tusken Raiders. Anakin found the village she was taken to, but it was too late – she died in his arms. Filled with intense rage, he slaughtered the entire village, including women and children who were not responsible for his mother’s death. He experienced immense pain and guilt at the loss of his mother and his actions. He then vowed to become powerful enough to save those he loved from death. Shortly after, he secretly married Padme.

Later on, Obi-Wan and Anakin embarked on a mission to save Palpatine from General Grevious. Despite Anakin’s reservations, Palpatine convinced him to kill Count Dooku. After the mission, Anakin learned that he was to become a father, as Padme was pregnant. They were both overjoyed by this news, but shortly after, Anakin began to have dreams about Padme dying during childbirth. Recalling how his mother died after his visions, Anakin became desperate to save Padme. He went to Master Yoda for guidance, who simply told him to let go of connections, as they lead to the dark side. Anakin was dissatisfied with Yoda’s response, which provided no comfort or solution. It was also during this period that strong distrust began to form between Palpatine, who requested Anakin to be his representative on the Jedi Council, and the Jedi Council itself, who requested Anakin to spy on Palpatine for them. Despite Anakin joining the Jedi Council to represent Palpatine, the Council still denied him the rank of Jedi Master.

Palpatine sensed the turmoil in Anakin and asked him what was troubling him. It was then that Palpatine told Anakin that he possessed the power to save an individual from death. He revealed himself to Anakin to be the Sith Lord who the Jedi Council were hunting for. He warned Anakin that if he turned him over to the Jedi Council, he would never be able to teach him to save Padme. Jedi Master Mace Windu, Anakin, and other Jedi went to arrest Palpatine. Palpatine defeated some of the Jedi, but right as Windu was about to overpower him, Anakin saved Palpatine, killing Windu. It was then that Anakin realized he had truly fallen to the dark side. Palpatine renamed him Darth Vader. Vader then lead the assault on the Jedi temple, killing all of the Jedi there, including the younglings. He then traveled to Mustafar and killed the entire Separatist Council, effectively ending the Clone Wars. Padme fled to Mustafar to try to get Vader to see the light again. When Vader saw that Obi-Wan was with her, he attacked Padme, Force-choking her. Obi-Wan attacked and dismembered Vader and left him for dead. Palpatine found Vader and rebuilt his body, resulting in him being more machine than human. Palpatine also told Vader that in his rage, he killed Padme. Vader did not know that his children survived.

Having lost his family and friends, Vader felt he had nothing left. Consequently, he became strongly loyal to the now Emperor Palpatine and embraced his new role as an enforcer for the Empire. During this period, he was described as ruthless, merciless, heartbroken, self-loathing, devoted, in emotional and physical pain, impatient, and haunted by his past. He was ruthlessly effective in his new role. About 19 years into Vader’s new role, he learned that his son, Luke, had survived. For the first time in a long time, Vader felt connection and concern for another person. This would ultimately motivate him to turn back to the light before his death.

Diagnostic Impressions

All diagnostic assessment information was gleaned through behavioral observations (i.e., watching Star Wars movies). Based on his history and presenting problems, it was hypothesized that Vader met criteria for a Cluster B personality disorder. Vader exhibited symptoms of antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder. Specifically, he met five criteria for antisocial personality disorder: 1) failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors (e.g., murders Obi-Wan Kenobi, assaults others regularly), 2) displays of irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights (e.g., using the Force to choke people), 3) reckless disregard for the safety of self or others (particularly others), and 4) lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt or mistreated others (e.g., his justification that others, even the Jedi younglings, deserved to die). Despite these symptoms, antisocial personality disorder was ultimately ruled out due a lack of evidence of conduct disorder before age 15.

While Vader has received prior diagnoses of borderline personality disorder, the behavioral observations do not support this diagnosis. He falls short of the requirement to exhibit five or more of the nine symptoms, and only clearly meets the criteria for two symptoms: frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment (e.g., turning to the dark side in an effort to prevent Padme’s death) and intense anger and difficulty controlling anger (e.g., killing a large group of Tusken Raiders after his mother’s death, choking pregnant Padme when he thinks that she intentionally led Obi Wan Kenobi to find him in Mustafar).

The constellation of symptoms that Vader presents with appear to best be captured by a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. He exhibits 1) a grandiose sense of self-importance and devalues others (e.g., regarding the Death Star, he tells Admiral Motti, “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The power to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power the Force,”) and 2) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes (e.g., he tells Padme that he will be the most powerful Jedi ever), 3) a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success and power (e.g., he tells Padme that he will overthrow the Chancellor and, together, they will rule the galaxy and tells his son, Luke, that he can defeat the Emperor and they can rule the galaxy as father and son), 4) has a sense of entitlement  and unreasonable expectations of automatic compliance with his expectations (e.g., when Admiral Motti challenges him, Vader chokes him and says, “I find your lack of faith disturbing,” Anakin feels entitled to being named a master on the Jedi Council at a younger age than anyone else), 5) a lack of empathy/unwillingness to recognize or identify with the needs of others (e.g., refusal to see Padme and Obi-Wan’s perspectives about his choice to turn to the dark side and responding with aggression toward them), and 6) a belief that others are envious of him (e.g., tells Padme that Obi-Wan Kenobi is holding up his advancement in the Jedi Council back because of jealousy).

Treatment Recommendations

In summary, the most fitting diagnosis for Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) is narcissistic personality disorder. Currently, there are not any well-established treatments for narcissistic personality disorder that have been tested in large randomized clinical trials. Approaches that have been used effectively include cognitive therapy and other types of treatment focused on improving relationships with others. Due to numerous extraordinarily stressful life events (separation from his mother, the loss of his wife, being enslaved as a child, extreme physical damage to his body), Anakin developed maladaptive coping skills for dealing with his fear and anger. A therapeutic approach that prioritized building a repertoire of healthy coping skills for effectively managing emotions may have helped him to improve his mental health and reduce the harm he caused others. A common hurdle that arises for individuals with this disorder is low motivation to change in therapy. There is some hope that Anakin might have been motivated to change through his desire to connect with his children.

Status at Termination

When Vader revealed himself to Luke as his father, Luke rejected Vader and the dark side. Vader expressed sadness, not anger, over this. At a later meeting, Luke attempted to convince his father to abandon the dark side and join him, expressing that he sensed the light in his father. Vader told him that it is too late for him and turned Luke over to the Emperor. Through their interrogation of Luke, Vader learned he also had a daughter. The Emperor became angered and attacked Luke using his Force lightning capability. Unable to face this, Anakin attacked and killed the Emperor to save his son. At long last, Anakin fulfilled the destiny and returned balance to the Force. Anakin, knowing that he was dying, asked Luke to remove his helmet so he can see him with his own eyes. He told Luke that he was always right about the light in him and asked him to tell his sister as well. He then passed away peacefully, becoming one with the Force.

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?

Though it is unlikely that George Lucas purposely set out to portray Anakin as having narcissistic personality disorder, the depiction is nonetheless a fairly accurate representation of the disorder.

2. Was the character with mental health issues depicted with compassion?

It is our opinion that Anakin was portrayed as a sympathetic character despite his numerous problematic behaviors. The films tell the story of a boy with enormous talent who faces trauma after trauma and desperately tries to cope and protect his loved ones. He is preyed upon by Palpatine during an extremely vulnerable time and is ultimately unable to resist the dark side.

Overall ratingOn a rating scale from Youngling (least accurate and least compassionate) to Jedi Master (most accurate and most compassionate), we rate this portrayal of Anakin Skywalker as Jedi Master. For the reasons described above, we believe the depiction reflects an accurate representation of narcissistic personality disorder in a way that elicits sympathy despite Anakin’s wrongdoings.