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Psychologists Celebrate the 5th Annual Psychology Day at the United Nations

 Contributions from Psychology to the UN Agenda on Meeting the Human Rights of Vulnerable People are Offered


Psychologists who represent NGOs (non-governmental organizations) at the United Nations will hold the 5th Annual Psychology Day at the United Nations on April 19, 2012.


The theme of this year's conference is “Human Rights for Vulnerable People: Psychological Contributions and the United Nations Perspective.” The topic was chosen because achieving human rights is an ongoing major mission of the United Nations and its extended community.  The meeting will be held at the UN Church Center located at 777 UN Plaza on First Avenue and 44th Street, across the street from UN headquarters in New York City, from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Psychology Day at the United Nations is an annual event sponsored by psychology organizations that have Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status with the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The event offers UN staff, ambassadors and diplomats, NGO representatives, members of the public and private sectors, students, invited experts, guests, media and other stakeholders, the opportunity to learn what psychologists contribute to the United Nations, to exchange ideas and to establish partnerships on global issues. 


“Psychology plays a major role in achieving the global goals of the United Nations as well as of civil society,” says Martin Butler, Ph.D., Co-Chair of the 2012 Psychology Day at the UN and NGO Representative to the United Nations for the International Association of Applied Psychology. “We are very pleased that this year’s Psychology Day at the UN brings many academicians and advocates together with UN staff to exchange psychological principles and United Nations perspectives on the crucial topic of human rights for vulnerable peoples.”


Three panels will be held.  The panel on “Psychosocial Well-Being of Refugees” features Ms. Grainne O’Hara, Senior Policy Advisor for the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR); as well as Adeyinka Akinsulure-Smith, Ph.D., originally from Sierra Leone and currently Assistant Professor of Psychology at City University of New York; and Katherine Porterfield, Ph.D., former Chair of the American Psychological Association Taskforce for Effects of War on Refugee Children and Families Residing in the U.S.. Both Akinsulure-Smith and Porterfield are staff psychologists at the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture  


The panel on “Poverty Eradication in the Lives of Women and Children” features Telma Viale who is the Director of the International Labour Organization in New York and who is also a trained psychologist. She is joined by Stuart C. Carr, Psychology Professor in the Industrial and Organisational Psychology Programme at Massey University in New Zealand who was recently appointed as an EU Erasmus Mundus Scholar in Humanitarian Work Psychology. Also speaking on that panel is Winifred Doherty, a social worker trained at University College Cork Ireland, who is a UN NGO representative for the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd and who also serves as Chair of the UN NGO Committee on Social Development.


Panelists discussing “Mental Heath and Sustainable Development” include Vijay Ganju who is CEO of the World Federation of Mental Health, an NGO accredited at ECOSOC at the UN; Priscilla Dass-Brailsford, Associate Professor at Georgetown University Medical School; and Richard Dougherty, President of Basic Need US, a non-profit organization focusing on poverty and human rights with programs in Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Lao PDR, Vietnam, and Nepal.

“Besides the present focus on the topic of human rights for vulnerable peoples, psychology provides research and best practices on a wide variety of important issues.  These include ageing, trafficking, domestic violence, poverty, mental and physical health, gender equality and education,” points out Co-Chair of Psychology Day at the UN, Janet Sigal, Main Representative to the United Nations for the American Psychological Association. 


In the past, Psychology Day at the UN has addressed the topic of “Psychology and Diplomacy” including ‘Negotiating Humanitarian access” and the “Human Aspects of Diplomacy” as well as the topic of “The Role of Psychology in Achieving Universal Access to Education,” specifically focused on projects encouraging STEM education for girls.  Psychologists representing NGOs accredited at the UN come from varying specialties, including clinical, educational, social, developmental, counseling, community and industrial/organizational.  They participate in various committees and working groups (for example, on the family, migration, technology, human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, climate change and disaster recovery); advocate at UN commissions (for example, the Commission on Social Development and the Commission on the Status of Women); and design, implement and evaluate original field projects related to the MDGs (for example, on poverty eradication in Haiti and on women’s empowerment in Lesotho, Africa).


Admission to the conference is free. A reception following the sessions will be held at the nearby Alcala Restaurant, 342 East 46 Street.


Psychological organizations co-sponsoring the event include the American Psychological Association APA), the International Division of the American Psychological Association (APA Division 52), APT Metrics, the Association for Trauma Outreach and Prevention (ATOP), the Institute for Multicultural Counseling and Education Services (IMCES), the International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP), the International Council of Psychologists (ICP), the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS), the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology (SIOP), and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI).


For information, visit: www.unpsychologyday.org

or contact the Planning Committee Co-Chairs: Dr. Janet Sigal (janet2822@aol.com) or Dr. Martin Butler (butlerpsych@cs.com). 


Lessons from the Penn State sex abuse scandal


In the wake of the sex abuse scandal at Penn State, revelations about the serial sex abuse allegedly perpetrated by assistant coach Sandusky, the firing of revered coach Joe Paterno and the rioting of Penn State students in his support:

1.  Some media are hesitant to talk about the details of the grand jury findings against  ex-Penn State coach Sandusky, fearing they are too lurid.  Dr. Judy says we must not be ostriches putting our heads in the sand about child sex abuse. Glossing over what the disgraced coach did to the boys is like denying the horrors of pedophilia and child sex abuse.We must not skirt the issue and just say Sandusky is reported to have had “sex,” but instead we must say enough specifics to educate people about what child sex abuse is; for example, that he touched the young boys inappropriately and made one young boy put his hands up against a wall while he forced him to have anal sex from behind. That lets people know we are not afraid to face the facts and that we are brave enough to help people learn from this horrible case.  

2.  Use this case as a “teachable moment”: for all parents to talk to their young children about sex abuse.  Tell them that it is not okay for anyone to touch them in their private parts, and that if they are touched in a way that makes them “feel funny,” they should tell you right away, and that you will do something to protect them.

3.  Children need to be taught this lesson from the time they are little, even as young as five years old. Repeated child sex molestation even occurs to children as young as three.

4.  This sex abuse scandal at Penn State is a wake-up call for all college campuses - and high schools- to have classes about sexuality, about sex abuse and even about sexual harassment -- since the statistics about “hallway harassment” are shockingly high. All parent-teachers associations and groups should insist on such classes in their schools.  

5.  People are up in arms about Penn State students rioting in favor of now-fired head coach Joe Paterno, caught on video and posted on Youtube.  This rioting shows shocking disrespect for the kids who suffered the abuse. These students should be rounded up and showed the video interviews with the young boys who were molested. They should be asked, “How would you like it if you were forced up against a wall and the coach penetrated you sexually?”  That will shock them out of their football frenzy and into a different state of mind.

6.  Tremendous support should be offered the young men and their families who were “victims” of this abuse.  By the way, should be called “survivors,” not victims. They have demonstrated great courage in coming forward.  They need to be reassured that it is normal for them to have been confused – as one young man described – about what was happening when they were touched sexually by the coach, and for them to not be sure about how to react.  Such confusion and fears (e.g. of shame, not being believed) are very common.  They were understandably hesitant to report the experience, because they were getting benefits from the coach, and didn’t realize how they were being manipulated, seduced and bribed to keep quiet.  

7.  Some of these young boys who were abused are now finding strength in speaking out against child sex abuse, promoting an organization that helps survivors and provides education.  In this way, they can turn their horror into healing by helping others.  Others who have not yet come forward may be too afraid to publicly admit they too were abused but they can find strength in the others speaking out.

8.  It is not uncommon for serial pedophiles ot have been abused when they were young, completing the cycle of abuse.  But even if Sandusky had been abused as a young boy himself; this is in no way any excuse for his criminal behavior.  

9.  It is true that sports can stimulate sexuality, psychologically and also physically in that chemicals flow in the brain during the extreme activity, including adrenalin and endorphins.  Similar reactions occur in activities where crowds and action n predominates, like rock concerts.  Research proves this connection.  From a constructive point of view, I developed “theme park therapy” for Universal Studios based on the principle that couples can fall in love when engaged in an exciting activity in a high-energy environment like a scary theme part ride, or in a large, reactive crowd at a concert or sporting event.   But everyone must learn how to manage those feelings in appropriate situations, and to separate the “rush” from acting out sexually.  Kids should be given lessons about how to manage these experiences, since the psychological and physical reactions can be confusing.

 10.  Parents might understandably be leery of allowing their kids to join team sports because of the abuse uncovered in this case.  With adequate education, now that this scandal has been so public, kids can safely engage in the sport.  All schools personnel, coaches and parents will now be on the alert.


Lennon’s former lover and other shutterbugs show off iconic photographs with a psychological message

Trust is key in making a relationship work. I know that, as a psychologist. Trust is crucial for lovers, and between photographer and subject.


Accordingly, “Trust” is a subtitle of a section of favorite photographs held by their image-maker, featured in the new book “Behind Photographs – Archiving Photographic Legends. The exquisitely published coffee table book produced by photographer Tim Mantoani includes a range from collector’s item portraits of icons like Mother Teresa, Bruce Springsteen and Nelson Mandela to jaw dropping images of war refugees, an Iraqi boy injured by an explosive, an AIDS-ridden child.and a row of Russian missing forearms deformed by pollutants. There’s also Cuba’s Fidel Castro smiling and hugging  grinning Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev when they met at the United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 1960 – an encounter of particular interest to me, as an NGO representative at the UN who has sat in on GA sessions when heads of state make presentations each September. 


Imagine. That’s another favorite psychological term.  Imagining allows you to fulfill your dreams, consistent with the inspirational saying, “If you can see (imagine) it, and believe it, you can be it.”


Imagine is also the title of one of John Lennon’s most popular albums. Imagine if you were up close to that icon of our times.


May Pang was.  The photographer and Feng Shui jewelry producer is an icon of sorts herself as the one-time assistant to Lennon and Yoko Ono who became his lover during the 1973-1975 interim phase of that relationship, referred to by Lennon as the “Lost Weekend.”


Pang’s contribution in Mantoani’s book was taken in the summer of 1975 on the Long Island Sound, capturing Lennon in a charming pose with his young son Julian.


“I helped bring the two of them together that summer,” Pang told me.

Pang answered a burning question, “Was John Lennon a good lover?” with an enthusiastic, “Yes.” When I asked her to elaborate, she replied that he knew how to please a woman first and even taught her a few things.  These are all excellent signs, I told her. 


Another stunning photo is the Fab Four in 1964 caught midair jumping onto a bed when told by their manager Brian Epstein that they were number 1 in American and going to New York.


Besides the Lennon shots, you can “Imagine” why I marveled at a youthful Elvis Presley caught on celluloid June 30th 1956 backstage at the Mosque Theatre in Richmond Virginia clearly tongue-kissing an unknown date. It reminded me of how Gene Simmons once thrust his (albeit longer) tongue down my throat backstage at a concert in the days when I was hosting my Z100 “LovePhones” call-in radio show. 


Imagine doing something innocently at one point in time that decades later becomes outrageously valuable. Lori Grinker did that as a student in 1980 when doing a project on young boxers, taking a picture of then 14-year old Mike Tyson, being told he would become the next great heavyweight champion – and then he did! She followed the later-ear-biting champ for 10 years, and is quoted in the book saying, “He was a troubled but sweet kid who veered off the good path he was led to with all that comes with being a celebrity in that world.”


Similarly, Amy Arbus in 1983 stopped a then-unknown young woman on the street (whom she recognized as a girl in her gym who sat around naked in the locker room) to ask for a picture who said she still had her pajamas on, was grateful since she would be famous one day.  The girl turned out to be Madonna.


At the book reception and exhibition recently in New York City, Mantoani described the psychological value of a still photo that you can look at again and again.  “It tends to burn into your psyche. It becomes ingrained in your mind.” 


Seeing the groundbreaking image-makers with their favorite subjects not only puts a face to their work, but reveals another interesting psychological principle in Mantoani’s description of how over time photographers develop their own way to seeing and their individual style.  Indeed for all of us, “We all have our own personalities…our own voice and our own style.” 


Convincing the photo takers to pose with their images was surprisingly not always easy.  “Some were shy,” Mantoani told me.  But he was persistent, driven to show young generations what these artists have done and to be inspired to create their art.


His words reminded me of a young Japanese girl in the class I taught at Tokyo’s Aoyama Gakuin University.  After my lecture about following your dreams, she came up to me and told me of her dream to become a photographer, but her parents’ disapproval, wanting her to do something to insure a more secure future. She cried as I encouraged her to go for her dream.


Another valuable psychological message in the book comes from a photo of children jumping high in the air off a rock onto the sand at a beachfront on the Marshall Islands in 1997.  The notation by photographer Mark Edward Harris says wisely that “kids don’t need money to entertain themselves…a lesson we should all keep in mind.”  


We all have our own Ministry: Wisdoms from a luncheon at the UN

“We all have our own ministry.”

That was the wisdom of the Honorable Felix Ortiz, New York State Assemblyman, learned from his father.  I love that message.  We all serve others in our own way, with our own skills.  It reminds me of Martin Luther King’s famous saying that if you are a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be.

Ortiz, chair of the Mental Health Committee and Puerto-Rican/Hispanic Task Force in the state assembly, was the keynote speaker at the luncheon I attended October 27th at the United Nations delegates dining room, sponsored by the American Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation (AAPR).  One reason I went is because I have worked with AAPR colleagues, since they are an NGO affiliated at the UN, like my NGO, the International Association of Applied Psychology, for which I am the main UN rep.

“We have to think out of the box,” said the congressman, using another phrase I\that I consider wise. I love that phrase.  I always recommend that people, and couples, be creative in their lives. 

The assemblyman, a member of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic Legislative Caucus, also noted that to improve mental health systems, we have to achieve cultural competency, including to overcome linguistic problems.  Fortunately, the government has mandated that every agency that provides services needs to have staff who speak different languages. We also have to identify problems early, to get them into the system (like in cases of autism), taking a more long-term view.

On other matters, he noted the need to re-distribute financial waste, utilize webcasts, and be ready for women in the armed forces returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another reason I went to the luncheon was to meet in person the President of the World Psychiatric Association, Dr. Pedro Ruiz, who was being honored with the Irving Blumberg Human Rights Award (pictured with me in the photo). 


I've had a long-time association with WPA, on the board of the Disaster Section and meeting with colleagues in Buenos Aires and Sao Paolo. I gave him a copy of our book, Intervention in Destabilizing Situations: Crises and Traumas (published in Rio de Janeiro by Associação Brasileira de Psiquiatria, 2009) and edited by my friends Brazilian psychiatrists Jose Thome and Iveley Taralli and Argentinian psychiatrist Moty Benyakar.  The book is an interesting multi-cultural tome with articles mostly in Portugese and Spanish. My article in English is “Communication and media in mass trauma: How mental health professionals can help.” Another article in English is “Spirituality, Religion and Resilience Promotion in Resilience Trauma” by Australian psychiatrist Russell D’Souza.

Dr. Ruiz was presented his award by his good friend, psychiatrist Dr. Humberto L. Martinez, who has spent 32 years serving in the South Bronx.  I found it fascinating that he remembered my being on TV news from decades ago, from recognizing my eyes!

“The eyes are windows to the soul,” he said wisely. We traced that keen attention to his being in the armed forces, after being drafted from his native Puerto Rico. As an army brat, I could relate.

Yet another valuable wisdom from that afternoon was the phrase:  “A sandwich and conversation.”

That’s a good way for friends to offer their friendship and consolation.  It’s the approach of “Project Help” described by founder Sam Tsemberis, when volunteers cruised the streets of New York in a van looking for homeless people and offering them help (food, shelter, personal connection). It reminds me of the approach we used as mental health volunteers after 9/11 when we walked around the pit of Ground Zero offering the rescue workers water, apples, gloves and an opportunity to talk if they wanted.  It is also my approach in disasters that I applied in Haiti right after the earthquake there, where I trained students to be “comforters” offering the injured people lying on hospital grounds water and comforting words. 

So think about, what is my own ministry?  How can I think out opf the box?  To whom can I offer a sandwich and ocnversation?


Ruth and Bernie Madoff’s “suicide attempt” and lessons for life

Ruth Madoff, wife of disgraced financier Bernie Madoff, who seduced and duped colleagues into a Ponzi scheme that wiped out their savings, has admitted that she and her scheming husband impulsively planned to kill themselves.  Their act highlights death wishes thousands of people sadly have. Here are some issues from a psychological point of view:

1) If the Madoffs really wanted to die they could have succeeded. People who are smart enough to con colleagues out of so much money, as in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, are smart enough to know how many sleeping pills to take to insure not waking up. They would also know what pills they were taking (i.e. Ruth said she didn’t know if they took Ambien or not). Their act of taking pills and then being surprised when they woke up in the morning shows that they likely really wanted – as many people do – to go to sleep and have all their problems disappear in the morning.

2) No doubt the Madoffs are both depressed.  Suicide, after all, runs in the family. Their son Marc committed suicide in his Manhattan loft on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest. But the son did it in a more violent way- hanging himself. And he was evidently very intent on being successful, because his first attempt with a cord did not apparently work—the broken cord was found nearby.  He strung himself up again with another cord, that worked. That shows determination. 

3) Lack of success with a sleeping pill overdose to kill oneself seems to run in the family. This is not uncommon. Apparently son Marc had made an earlier attempt (before his hanging) with pills – the way his parents supposedly tried – had not “worked.”

3) The Madoff’s suicidal ideation and attempt highlights the act as (what we hear so often) a “cry for help,” but it is also despair that there is “no way out” of the person’s current desolate situation and mental state. The Madoffs were caught in the$18 billion financial deception and there was no way out.  Also narcissistic and powerful people in the high life, like the Madoffs, who fall from grace and their position, suffer tremendous humiliation, which can add to suicidal ideation.

4) Double (husband-wife) suicide pacts – and acts -- have happened in other cases.  Just a few days ago a husband and wife in New York, reportedly under financial problems, committed suicide together.

 5) Ruth Madoff’s admission of the suicide attempt is certainly also a public relations ploy to sell more books she agreed to her son that she would help promote.  It can also be a way to elicit a bit of public sympathy, since they were so besieged by hate mail, and could be “the most hated couple in America” (next to Casey Anthony being dubbed the “most hated woman in America”).

6) One predictor of suicide is a previous attempt.  It was said that Bernie Madoff was under suicide watch after being exposed, and that he thought of it (but stopped because of thinking of helping recover the money and also of his family).  Now that their attempt is so public, it will likely prevent another attempt.

7) Mrs. Madoff was quoted as saying that when she woke up after the night that ended up of  sleeping off the pills, “I’m not sure how I felt about him waking up.”  One interpretation of that is tremendous anger, that she would have wished her husband had died—maybe because of her anger at him, that her charmed life was ruined, or  saving him the pain of facing it (although she is the one who thought she didn’t know how she would face it).

8) With the Michael Jackson trial underway and the defense claiming suicide, and Ruth Madoff now talking about suicide attempts, the publican learn valuable lessons about suicide.  When you feel the thoughts of ending it all, immediately seek help.  Go to the nearest emergency room and see a psychiatrist.  Choose life and convince yourself that your family needs you, no matter what, and that you are strong enough to face the consequences. 

see abc.com news story by Susan James about Ruth Madoff's confession for excellent info about drugs that kill and don't kill.  



Shrinking Casey Anthony

The latest news about Casey Anthony’s psychological state is that the young woman accused, but acquitted, of the death of her little daughter Caley, is about to see a female psychiatrist. Reportedly, she had previously been getting help from a “grief counselor.”  Here are my reactions:


1.  Seeing a “psychiatrist” implies that hopefully Casey will be getting a proper diagnosis – since speculation has been rampant about her condition.  She has been labeled as narcissistic, psychopathic and a pathological liar.  Her mother, Cindy Anthony, has publicly said, “I think there’s something seriously wrong with my daughter,” including a deficit in her “thought processes.”  Cindy has even hypothesized that her daughter has “post partum schizophrenia” “a brain tumor” or “Grand Mal seizures” -- which have been questioned by experts and criticized as a way to excuse her behavior. 


2.  Consulting a psychiatrist implies that Casey will now be assessed for appropriate medication treatment, since “counselors” are usually not medical doctors and psychiatrists are licensed to prescribe medication for psychiatric disorders.  Only a few states (e.g. Louisiana) have given prescription rights to licensed psychologists.


3.  Likely, antidepressants will be considered, since Casey has multiple reasons in her life to be depressed.  Her long and very public trial is very stressful.  Further, she has suffered many losses, including the death of her daughter; “loss” of her parents (especially her father saying on TV’s Dr Phil show that she is to blame for her daughter’s death and that she is not welcome in their home); loss of a future “normal’ life; damage to her reputation (being called ‘the most hated woman in America”); and worse, threats to her life. 


4.  It has been reported that Casey will see a female psychiatrist.  The gender of the therapist can be important for some clients, given what is called “transference” whereby the client unconsciously projects feelings, and repeats behaviors, with the therapist that come from past significant relationships. Often relationships from childhood with a parent are re-enacted. This dynamic affects the patient’s degree of openness, trust, honesty, comfort, subject matter, and behaviors in the sessions, as well as what is triggered in the sessions and enacted in life. While it is true that the degree of rapport between the therapist and patient matters most in the outcome of therapy, the matching of genders matters.  For Casey, seeing a female can be positive, in that a male can trigger negative transference to the “father” figure, George, who is right now being critical and blaming, which would undoubtedly lead to Casey being furious at, and feeling betrayed by, him and any male authority figure. Conversely, her mother has defended her, and been the more stoic of her parents (George has been suicidal and also therefore not a role model of a strong male figure).  Her mother also seems to have similar personality characteristics to Casey, which could predict a more positive identification and transference with a female therapist. 

5. Therapists also have what’s called “counter-transference” with patients -- projecting past experiences onto the patient relationship. Of course, therapists are trained to recognize and control any entangled emotions and reactions, not letting them interfere with the therapeutic alliance or objectivity. A female therapist would have to be conscious of personal feelings about mothering (especially if she is a mother herself) and about any woman who might have been involved in their child’s death. A female therapist might be more understanding of a woman’s conflicts over mothering, or sympathetic about post-partum conditions, but it is also possible she would struggle with negative reactions like condemnation or hostility towards a woman’s lying, partying, irresponsibility towards mothering, or even being suspected of malicious actions towards a child.  

6.  Casey’s problems are more serious psychologically than can be adequately handled by just getting medication, or seeing any therapist in private sessions, even a few times a week. Psychiatrists these days usually see patients for short periods of time, mainly to check on their meds, and do not typically have the 45- minute “talk” sessions that psychologists and other mental health counselors typically do. 


7. In my opinion, Casey should be in residential treatment, in a protected environment where she has a myriad of treatment sessions, and other therapeutic activities, every day.


Anthony Marriage Alert

With the explosive interviews of Cindy and George Anthony on Dr. Phil, my psychological observation is that their marriage is in trouble now more than ever before and can explode.  Here is why:


  1. Research shows that many couples who lose a child separate, as deep-seeded emotions, including guilt and blame, cause unresolved conflict. Granted Caylee is the Anthonys’ granddaughter, but (1) she had been like a child to them, given their attachment to her and given that Casey was hardly a hands-on mother; and (2) they have now “lost” their daughter since they are not in contact with her and George admits Casey is “not welcome at their home.”
  2. They presented a somewhat united front during the years leading up to the trial, but this has crumbled, as demonstrated on the Dr Phil show when George spoke up about his theory about Casey’s involvement in Caylee’s death and Cindy, with disapproving looks throughout the show, said she had never heard him say those things before.  George is now breaking out on his own – a loose cannon – which can cause intense “aftershocks”, e.g. blow-ups behind closed doors.
  3. In response to their differing views on Caylee’s fate, Cindy says they can “agree to disagree.” From a psychological point of view, can you “agree to disagree” and make a marriage work?  Yes; compromise in communicating and resolving disagreements are key to a healthy relationship (I have written extensively about this in my book, “The Complete Idiots Guide to a  Healthy Relationship”). But some issues cannot withstand totally diverse opinions.  This would include the Anthonys’ disagreement over whether their daughter was involved in their granddaughter’s death!  It is hard to imagine a couple laughing over romantic dinners, or cuddling in bed, when one blames the daughter and she was involved (possibly with someone else) in their granddaughter’s demise while in stark contrast, the other is defending the daughter’s innocence. George blames Casey and says Caylee may be have been “sedated” so she could go out partying, which led to a worse outcome) and Cindy defends her daughter’s innocence, posing theories about her having “postpartum schizophrenia” or a ”grand male seizure” and saying she prayed to God that the trails’ outcome would show the truth, and that she believes the not guilty verdict did that.
  4. The Anthonys are even victims of the intense public attention to their family dysfunction and drama. People are still glued to their story because it is a soap opera.  The newest installment is Cindy and George’s appearance on TV in apparently candid interviews. With soap operas being cancelled on TV – much to the outrage of millions of fans -- people will be looking for more family dramas like these.
  5. The Anthonys have a vast different style of coping with tragedy, which is even more evident now. Cindy is still covering up, while George is going in the opposite direction, unraveling and uncovering. George has admitted addiction (to gambling) and depression (even suicidal ideation).  In contrast, Cindy uses defense mechanisms of denial and rationalization and appears to lie. A temper like hers could easily be directed at George, which he can turn inward. 
  6. The couple has to seek therapy to resolve many intense issues, especially as they have been played out in the public eye. Their need for therapy is evident even in their giving access to Dr Phil, instead of a news show.
  7. Love and connection was not evident between the couple on TV.  Although George did reach out to put his hand on Cindy’s knee at one point, Cindy smirked, and tightened her lips, on many occasions when George spoke, revealing more tension between them.  They both displayed more downward glances than any caring glances towards each other.
  8. Therapy should be couple counseling and also individual therapy. This is psychologically sound approach for couples with as severe issues to afce as the Anthonys.  This was evident in Dr. Phil interviewing George on his own. 
  9. An issue that must be addressed in couples counseling as well as individual therapy is the accusations made by Casey’s lawyer of George having abused his daughter. Such accusations are exceptionally psychologically serious, and can serve to unstable an accused man and to enrage his wife and the mother of their child.
  10. Control is another issue to address in therapy.  Cindy has seemingly worn the pants in the family and George is now speaking his mind in disagreement with her.
  11. George is in danger of re-emerging suicidal thoughts, given his revelations on television.  After this airing, Cindy can be aggressively critical of him, his performance and what he said.
  12. The drama that is unfolding will undoubtedly have another chapter.  The Anthonys can be addicted to their TV personas, and the public will also want to see the next evolution of their story.
  13. It is important to know how much the Anthony’s were paid to do theinterview.  Clearly they have had financial troubles before.

Kids Connect for Trauma Recovery on Eve of 9/11


                  Unique Event at St. Luke’s Hospital Annual Back-to-School Event  

New York, NY, September 8, 2011–  The 10th anniversary of 9/11 occurs coincidentally with the time kids return to school and with the release by the New York Department of Education of a new curriculum that schools can use to teach students about the events of September 11. To address the potential stress of this time, and to help educate kids about 9/11, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital is including a special workshop at their 4th annual Child and Family Institute’s Back-to-School Event that includes self-esteem exercises, healing songs, and an exchange of dolls made by children from Haiti and Japan who survived the recent earthquakes and tsunami.

Where:  St. Luke’s Hospital, Babcock Cafeteria, 419 W. 114th St. (btw Amsterdam Ave. & Morningside Dr.), NYC

When: Thursday, September 8, 2011, from 3:30 PM to 6:00 PM

At the workshop, the New York children will be making dolls with messages of hope to be sent to kids in Haiti and Japan who have gone through the recent earthquakes there.  Last month, 100 dolls were decorated by Japanese children after the recent tragic tsunami/earthquake in that country and brought to Haiti where they were given to children who survived the earthquake there.   

“The circle of dolls makes the children who have gone through terrible tragedies know that children in other countries care about them.  The psychological impact of this, and learning simple techniques to feel good, is healing and also fun,” 

says noted New York clinical psychologist, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, founder of the Global Kids Connect Project, a popular radio and TV personality, and humanitarian and NGO representative at the United Nations for the International Association of Applied Psychology.  Dr Judy provided psychological first aide after 9/11 at Ground Zero and at the Family Assistance Center in NYC, as well as after other disasters including Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the Asian tsunami, earthquakes in the Haiti and China.  

Including New York youth in the circle of children is significant at this time, given the upcoming 10th anniversary of September 11 when New Yorkers will all be aware of the need for healing. Many of these children are dealing with other major stressors such as family problems, poverty, poor living conditions, and family financial problems that prevent them from essential school supplies.


“The doll exchange is based on sound psychological principles applied in other disasters, like the teddy bears given to children after 9/11, which represent ‘transitional objects’ and ‘contact comfort’ symbolic of a nurturing maternal figure offering security and safety essential for children after disasters,” adds Dr. Judy. 


At the event, an original song, “Towers of Light,” written in commemoration of 9/11 to promote healing and honor the heroes of that day will be performed by the Stand Up for Peace Project (www.towersoflightsong.com).  The song has been performed yearly at 9/11 memorials in New York, as well as in Japan and around the world, including for the Dalai Lama.


Other partners for the Event include Nozomi Terao, founder and Executive Director of HappyDoll, Inc. (www.happydoll.org) and formerly of Morgan Stanley; Russell Daisey, internationally known composer and co-founder of the Stand Up for Peace Project; Father Wismick Jean Charles, a Haitian Catholic priest who preaches in Westbury, Long Island and teaches at New York’s Fordham University; and the International Association of Applied Psychology, an NGO accredited at the United Nations. Partners in Haiti are Centre Bon Samaritan and The Haitian Action for the United Nations. 

The Back-to-School Event fosters excitement about education by creating a fun environment with confidence-building activities designed to teach kids that academic success is key to achieving future goals.  The Child and Family Institute in the Department of Psychiatry Outpatient Department provides therapeutic services to over 730 children and families with emotional, behavioral, family and learning issues.  At last year’s Back-to-School Event, 130 children and teens participated in activities to promote school achievement, study skills and self-esteem. Refreshments and backpacks and other school supplies were donated by Staples, BJs, Whole Foods, the Discovery Center and others, and a computer was raffled off. 

AVAILABLE:  Press interviews with the kids, staff, donors & participants; photos and video of the Global Kids Connect event in Haiti and photos from the doll-making by children in Japan

Contact for St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital:  Susan Fenton, Director, Special Projects, Office of the Department of Psychiatry, (212) 523-7342 - sfenton@chpnet.org

Contacts for the Global Kids Connect Project: Becky at (603)520-5941 - GlobeInk@mail.com

and Dr. Judy Kuriansky, (917)224-5839 - DrJudyK@aol.com 


Dr. Judy Kuriansky, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and relationship expert, teacher at Columbia University Teachers College and United Nations Main NGO representative who has provided disaster relief post-9’11 and around the world after disasters in Haiti, Sri Lanka, China and the Middle East. A former reporter for WCBS-TV, WABC-TV and host of CNBC-TV “Money and Emotions” and veteran radio advice talk show host of the popular “LovePhones” show, she now appears often as a TV commentator. A former columnist for the Daily News website and the South China Morning Post, and author of many books including “The Complete Idiots Guide to a Healthy Relationship,” and “Beyond Bullets and Bombs: Grassroots peace building between Israelis and Palestinians,” she was recently awarded for Lifetime Achievement in Global Peace and Tolerance by the Friends of the United Nations.


The Global Kids Connect Project is a cross-cultural humanitarian initiative promoting healing and comfort for children after disasters that includes a workshop of stress reduction techniques, cultural experiences and exchange of dolls.  Partners include HappyDoll Inc., a Japanese-founded organization that has exchanged dolls for orphans and other children; the UN-accredited International Association of Applied Psychology; Haiti Action Youth for the United Nations; and New York’s St. Luke’s Hospital.








United Nations DPI/NGO Conference, Bonn, Germany 2011


As Hurricane Irene HitsNew York City

9:36 a.m.


     Hurricane Irene comes at an ironically opportune time, as emotions intensify with the approach of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorism attacks. While Irene is a natural disaster compared to the man-made terrorism of 9/11, emotional reactions – and coping -- are similar. My advice in the wake of Irene follows.

     Talking about irony, yesterday I was in Australia, making a presentation about natural disasters at a psychology conference, saying that, at that very moment, a hurricane was hitting my own country. Also ironically, I had just finished a book about “Living in an Environmentally Traumatized World” about earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and how to cope. Given that I was talking in that presentation about being a first responder at major disasters around the world, and how to deal with the emotional impact, it hit me that I had to be home to do that very thing.

     So I left two days early to make my way back to New York City when everyone was advised to evacuate. After getting to Washington, when all the NY airports were closed, I drove from Washington DC to New York – again despite advisories.

     My message: “Get the facts, but also address the feelings.”  

     And to New Yorkers: Be prepared but do not panic.

     Sadly, Irene has been a deadly storm that has tragically claimed lives and caused destruction in its wake. But as it hits New York City, the Tropical Storm has been downgraded to Category 1 storm. Certainly there is cause to be on alert -- stay off the roads and remain indoors. We have been warned, including by politicians -- who have to be super-cautious, especially in light of the disastrous way events like Hurricane Katrina were handled.  And media has to give us the most drastic news. Some areas are hit worse than others – with flooding and power outages that will leave a “mess” -- but Irene is not as treacherous in the Big Apple as was thought. The rain out my window is as light as any other downpour.

     Some professional reflections and advice for New Yorkers:

(A) For adults:

1)      If there is no reason to go outside, don’t.  But if you must, don’t be overly frightened. 

2)      Use being prepared as a lesson for any disaster. Even though Irene has lost her fury, the drill about what to do in an emergency is not just an intellectual exercise now, it’s a real run-through.

3)      Know what to do:  Stay indoors in a safe place; make an emergency kit (flashlights, food, radio, batteries), charge your cell phone

4)      Make sure to have people you can count on, staying in touch continually.  (My friend Russell was emailing me from the moment the news hit, telling me about travel options not just generally but that apply to my exact situation).

5)      Be aware of any past experiences when you have felt out of control or trapped, that could be triggered

6)      Manage your reactions by doing something to feel in control.  Do reassuring self talk (“I can take care of myself and my loved ones”. Do relaxing breathing exercises.

(B) For the family:

     (1)  Make that emergency kit (mentioned above) together

     (2) Post phone numbers to reach each other and emergency personal (electrical company, police, etc.)

(C)For Kids

     1) Pay particular attention to how kids are reacting. Since they’ve been told to stay at home, you don’t want them to be frightened to go out. Fears of going outside can lead to their not wanting to go to school this week, for fear of what would happen to them or to you.

     2)  Don’t reveal to kids your own fears of what could happen, to prevent escalating their fears.  

     3) Use this experience as a teachable moment about “Acts of Mother Nature” – offering a geology and natural science lesson, but also a practical lesson about what they should do in emergencies (where to find shelter, numbers to call to reach you and others) 
     4) Be reassuring, that you will keep them safe, and that others (the mayor, police, electrical company, etc.) are doing what they can to keep them safe. Make them feel safe by holding them, giving them attention.  
     5) Put precautions in place. (e.g. make sure they have a cell phone or a way to get in touch with you).

     (6) Have kids participate in making that family emergency kit (flashlight, canned food, etc.)

     (7) Be reassuring: “This might be scary but remember we have this plan in place about what to do to be safe".
     (8) Limit – as much as possible – their seeing sensationalized stories on TV or internet (e.g. of children being lost, orphaned; pets being abandoned).

     (9) Keep kids involved in some useful activity.

    (10) Ask children what they think about the situation to correct any inaccurate ideas, and ask how they feel, to address their emotions. 


Some personal experience and reflections:

     While everyone was first being told to evacuate my city- or to stay indoors and not drive– I choose to drive INTO the storm.” As I mentioned, I had been in Sydney Australia -- at a board meeting and conference of an organization I represent at the United Nations (the World Council of Psychotherapy) -- and changed my ticket to come home two days early to be here in my city. Why? Because I was talking at the conference about coping with natural disasters, so how could I not be in my city when one such event was happening?  I had been here during 9/11 and have been a “first responder” in many natural disasters on these shores (e.g. Hurricane Katrina), and worldwide (e.g. the earthquake in Haiti and China, and the Asian tsunami).  And because I anticipated that dealing with the emotional aspect of things would be important, when all the news was being covered.

     All the airports in the NY area were closed, and the United airline personnel at the Sydney airport advised me to stay in Australia — or they could get me as far as San Francisco and then only back to NY on Wednesday! Not good enough, said I. Besides, I had to be in Bonn Germany by Friday for a UN conference.  Fortunately, I thought to ask about flying in to a neighboring city (lesson: you should always think about those options for yourself as someone else might not!).  Surprise, the Washington D.C.(Dulles) airport was open!  Of course, it could close by the time I reached the states but I took the chance anyway, to get closer to home and with trust that I’d figure something out when I arrived (lesson: always have plan B,C, etc.)

     When I got to DC, all trains and buses were cancelled. How to get there? Hertz- rent-a-car! Lesson: when you are really determined, you can find a way to make something happen.  I believe, "There is always a way."

     Foolhardy to drive?  People would think so, given the expectation of high winds and pounding rain.  But I didn’t believe I would be in any danger.  Inside, I felt calm and knew I would be safe -- a valuable feeling in an emergency. I was also relieved to see a few other cars, and even a number of emergency vehicles on the road.  I was also reassured remembering that I have been on the road in far worse conditions of wind and rain.  Once on the NY Turnpike in winter, my car was being thrown out of my lane by high winds and slipping on sheets of ice, as pellets beat the windshield. And just two weeks ago, sleeting rain on the Jersey Turnpike made cars crawl at 5 miles an hour.  

     Driving on the Jersey Turnpike up to NYC in the wee hours of this morning, I reflected about how some of my philosophies were confirmed. 

1)     Worse case scenarios don't always manifest.  A big storm was once before supposed to hit NYC, but died down and even turned off shore. 

2)      Tuning in to my inner voice about what to do is useful. Of course, backing up intuition with some  data also helps.  In this case, I heard Mayor Bloomberg say on TV, at midnight when I was standing in the Hertz Rental Car, “Go to sleep, and I’ll speak to you more in the morning.”  Go to sleep!  If there had been a real emergency, no one should be sleeping, Trees might be falling, and windows might be shattering.  If the Mayor and all of us should go to sleep, it would certainly be safe to drive.

3)      Fear does not have to manifest. I never felt frightened on the highway and was always confident that the road would be clear. This, despite warning signs with red-lit lettering. One read “Hurricane Warning, seek shelter”.  Another said “Flooding ahead, after exit 11” and another, “Standing Water. Take alternate route.”  We had already driven through one big puddle on the highway near Baltimore -- before the sign -- and there was only one tiny puddle after the sign. The rain was light at times, and never to the point where you couldn’t see out of the windshield. Mayve the signs hadn't ben updated. Another sign on the Jersey Turnpike said “Road closed,” while I had called my sister to look online and she found no such warning.  Lesson:  checking the internet for traffic conditions is useful.

4)      Luck – or some divine intervention – plays a role in natural disasters. My friend who was driving was panicked about crossing the Delaware Bridge, given its height and exposure. But when we got there, the rain – and wind -- totally stopped. All was calm as we crossed the bridge, adn then when we got to the end, the rain started dribbling again.  It was as if a God had a hand in that.

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