Thoughts from a Christian Psychiatrist

Welcome to my website.  This section allows me to 'journal' (or blog, if you prefer) thoughts that may be of use both to my patients as well as our society at large.  As a Christian, I believe in absolute truth, and much of the work I do as a psychiatrist is a search for truth.

In the months ahead I will broaden the areas that I will be discussing.  Under the general category of "Christian Worldview" virtually anything can be examined, and so I will move beyond specific mental health issues and Christian thought to some commentary about the world that we find ourselves living in.  Please join me as I journey along in this journal.

For specific information about my practice, please use the links to the right of the page


Time to redecorate the site

I guess now that I am going to get busy writing, a bit of a 'dressing up' is in order.  How about this look for the site?  I may change the appearance from time-to-time as I see what looks good.  Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions!


Sandy Hook and mental illness

Like so many people, I struggle with prioritizing my time.  There are always more things that I wish to do than I can find the time for.  There are so many thoughts that I truly wish to share, and yet I don't seem to take the time to come here and write.  After several hours of therapy at my office, I am drained and won't discipline myself to sit down and put a few thoughts together.  Most of the writing I do ends up being in emails to people, or perhaps on an internet forum.  Much of what I write for selected audiences would also be appropriate to share here (if modified for privacy reasons at times), but it takes discipline!  So, without further ado, let me try once more.

After the Sandy Hook shootings, I had many people wish to discuss these issues with me.  I spent a half-hour on air with Michael Hart (local conservative Christian talk radio host) talking about mental illness and violence.  It saddens me to see this tragic event being used to further the political agenda of many elected officials.  The recent gun control push misses the mark so badly, and yet that is the dialogue that comes out of this.  Seeing the surviving children used to sing at a sporting event appeared particularly callous.  WHY would we want to make them 'celebrities' because of what they experienced?  This is NOT the way to deal with trauma.  It just makes them feel MORE abnormal.  Their fame comes with the death of the schoolmates.  This makes no rational sense.

Similarly the approach of producing more and more laws about guns doesn't get at the issue.  Almost none of the proposed laws would have even prevented the massacre.  When these mass murder events happen, they are virtually always perpetrated by mentally ill people.  One suggestion is to lock up all mentally ill!  But that doesn't work, as very few mentally ill ever engage in such behaviors.  We won't incarcerate a criminal until proven guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt" as determined in court (and these are people we KNOW commit crimes) so to limit the freedom of a mentally ill individual for far less evidence is unjust.

Resources for the treatment of mentally ill persons have been declining for many years, and given the changes in healthcare, it continues to further restrict reimbursement for mental health treatment.  Here in Alabama I am being told by my patients that their insurance companies are refusing to provide ANY coverage for out-of-network providers (like me).  Control over healthcare by the government and a few large insurance companies is wrong, but this is the trend.  Wouldn't it be great if psychiatric care got even a fraction of the attention of "gun control?"


Time keeps moving on!

I see it has been another couple of months since I last posted.  Life gets hectic, that's for sure.  Dealing with my practice as well as my wife's cancer can be overwhelming at times.

Just a brief thought to share:  Last week I was offered the chance to speak to UAB Medical and Dental students at the CMMA luncheon.  I delivered a brief talk to serve as an intro to Apologetics (the defense of the truth of Christianity).  It looks like I am going to have an opportunity to present a series of lectures dealing with this subject in the coming weeks.

As a psychiatrist, much of the work that I do concerns a search for certain truths in one's life.  Symptoms need to be relieved, but underneath it all there are usually issues that relate to the difficulty of living in a fallen world.  Over the years I have come to understand how much the TRUTH of Christ's message impacts our emotional well-being.  So a search for individual knowledge relating to personal distress, unhappiness, anxiety, and anger will generally lead back to a deeper look at ultimate truth.

Basically the talks will cover such topics as Truth and Knowledge, Evidence for the Existence of God, Competing Worldviews, Evidence for the Resurrection, and Reliability of Scripture.  There should be audio recordings made, and I will try to provide links for download.


Happy New Year!

Well, it is that time of year again.  Time to make promises or commitments to ourselves and others about changes that we wish to carry out in the coming year.  We have all made these resolutions, haven't we?  Unfortunately most of the time we fall far short of our goals, and may even end up in worse shape than when we started.  Worse?  How?

This is a common experience that many of us have.  We make a plan or commitment, stumble, and then engage in a harsh internal criticism of ourselves.  This is something experienced by many addicts and alcoholics trying to stay clean and sober.  Let's say that a person has a goal of sobriety, has been going to AA and making changes in his life, and has been sober for some number of weeks.  Somehow he ends up in a bar (usually from some sort of relapse trigger...and we'll talk more about this later), and perhaps during his 3rd or 4th drink he realizes what he is doing.  What are the options at this point?

Too often the alcoholic will begin to beat himself up, telling himself he has once again failed, will always fail, and might as well drink himself into oblivion.  This negative attitude is quite self-destructive.  The other option is this: acknowledge the mistake, see this event as an isolated stumble in the process of recovery, and learn from it.  This approach is much more positive, making an effort to understand how this "slip" happened and stop it from turning into a full blown relapse.

In my practice, I try to look at a relapase as an opportunity for learning.  Although the goal for a person struggling with addiction is total abstinance on a daily basis, a relapse can be a postive thing IF it leads to growth in recovery.  As long as one can honestly examine what happens and take responsibility for needed changes, good things happen.  So what about New Year's resolutions?

Change is an ongoing process, it occurs over time, and often progesses in an uneven fashion.  We need to set reasonable goals (hmmm...goal setting...sounds like a topic for another post!) and make daily effort.  If your resolution starts to slip away, reflect on whether or not you are committed to this change.  If you are, restart immediately!  Declare a fresh 'new year' even if it is the third week in January.  Don't be afraid to reset and begin again.  Hopefully a resolution or commitment to change is worth  making that daily effort, even if you hit the occasional 'speed bump'.

Have a great New Year and thanks for reading.


Communication - need to know

There is a clear principle in many different organizations guiding the movement of information: who needs to know?  When that question is considered in life, people often change their communications.  In therapy the issue of boundaries is frequently addressed.  We live in an age when technollogy has created such easy flow of information via telephone, text message, email, facebook, twitter, and whatever comes next.  It has become so easy that we may forget to ask the question: who really needs to know? 

To answer that question, consider another: what is the purpose of this communication?  The process of communication involves a sender, a receiver, and a language.  It appears to me that people are communicating more and more information from themselves (the sender) without careful thought about who it is going to (the sender).  The unconsidered question involves the motivation underlying the communication.  Is this information being provided because it is going to be useful or helpful for the receiver, or does the sender simply want to be heard?  To simplify: whose need is being met?  If we stop and give thought to this question, we may find that some or even much of what we communicate really is unnecessary and may even be inappropriate.

This question relates to the previous post about my wife's cancer.  For me, I have had to (or at least attempt to) clarify my motivations and assess whether or not the information would be useful for someone else to know.  Obviously by posting this information on the web, it is now out there for anyone to view.  We gave careful consideration of this before I embarked upon my writings.

There is much more to be said about this topic, and I am going to try to be diligent about this means of sharing my thoughts.  The focus will be broad, a look at ourselves from a Christian worldview.  Please come along for the ride, and thanks for reading!