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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Every Therapist's Worst Nightmare: The Colorado Massacre

After the recent shootings in Colorado, it's now come to light that the shooter, James Holmes, was under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton. Latest news reports don't indicate what, exactly, he was being seen for, but they are clearly pointing toward a serious disorder, such a schizophrenia, because Dr. Fenton specializes in it. (Perhaps the fact that he died his hair bright orange and called himself "The Joker" might have also given his mental state away.)

James "The Joker" Holmes
A similar thing happened in the Virginia Tech shootings. When Seung-Hui Cho's records were released back in 2009, it was apparent that he had suffered from some serious mental disorders and had ongoing suicidal ideation. Triage counselors at the psych ward where Cho was seen must have been shaking in their shoes as their exact case notes regarding Cho came to light.

I imagine the same thing will happen with court-ordered subpoenas for Fenton's notes. 

All that is known right now is that Holmes sent Dr. Fenton a package containing a notebook of some sort, and while communications between therapists and clients are privileged, if there was something in the notebook that could have indicated his plans to open fire on a group of midnight movie-goers, she would have had a duty to warn (also called a duty to protect). By the way, according to ABC, she never received the notebook.

I realize the public is clamoring for a "fall guy," a scapegoat on which to blame the tragedy. Her entire background is now circumspect, with information coming out about her being disciplined by the medical board of Colorado about poor documentation and prescribing pills to herself and family members. So she's done some wrong--who hasn't?--but it's not fair to lay everything at Fenton's feet. Lay the blame where it deserves to be lain: JAMES HOLMES. He alone made the choice to open fire.
Dr. Lynne Fenton

I've been in a couple of situations where I had serious concern about a client's mental state enough to call the police and have them escorted (voluntarily or involuntarily) to the emergency psychiatric services unit.

A client says something in my office that reeks of instability, makes my heart pound, and my gut squeeze. So I do what the law requires, and when they reach the psych ward....they sometimes are released a few hours later, b/c the client knew exactly what to say to get out of Dodge.

"I was just joking. I'd never hurt myself."

"I just said that to get attention. I'd never kill anyone."

This is NO JOKE. Mentally unstable clients know the buzz words to use. I would not be liable if a client I had concerns about was released, and then later went to kill themselves or someone else. The psych ward people would be, though. I would have documented my treatment approach, my referral (whether voluntary or involuntary) to psychiatric services, and then it's quite literally out of my hands. 

Now if a client gave me a name of someone he'd want to kill, I'd have a legal (and moral/ethical) obligation to contact that person and warn them. I'd also need to contact the police. But I'm going to assume (b/c I have the need to trust in Fenton's treatment of Holmes) that she knew nothing of his homicidal urges. And since she didn't see this alleged notebook, she shouldn't be held liable if there is something in there indicating what Holmes was planning to do.

This truly is a therapist's worst nightmare. Having your treatment decisions called into question at all--much less by the national media--is enough to ruin a career forever...even if the therapist is exonerated. There is still a taint now associated with her name. Do you think the University of Colorado is happy? Do you think she'll keep that job very long?

I just urge my readers to keep an open mind (as I'm going to) and reserve judgment until more is known about Dr. Fenton's treatment of the Holmes. 

Let's Analyze: How many public tragedies can you recall that have been pinned to a mental health professional besides the Virginia Tech shooting?

I'm going to be out the rest of the week until Friday's Free Association Chain. My parents are visiting, and I need a break! See you Friday.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Free Association Chain

The words are....


RULES: First commenter free associates (writes the first word that comes to mind) with the above word. Second commenter free associates to the first commenter's word, and so on. Remember - the FIRST thing that comes to mind.


And don't forget! Click here for a chance to win Keli Gwyn's debut nove,  A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, CA!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Exciting Trademark News!

I received notice that my trademark application was published in the Official Gazette of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office just yesterday! This means that I'll receive an official registration of my company's name within 12 weeks! Here's a copy from the publication:

Check that out! Pretty cool news to me, so I wanted to share! Thanks for celebrating with me!

Don't forget! Click here for a chance to win Keli Gwyn's debut nove,  A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, CA!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Review and Giveaway of Keli Gwyn's A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California

I'm honored to welcome debut novelist and friend, Keli Gwyn, to the character therapist! Keli is an amazing example of perseverance in the publishing world, and her book is such a long-awaited pleasure that I can't wait to introduce you to.

Here's a blurb from Keli's website:

An ever-resourceful widow, Elenora Watkins arrives in El Dorado ready to go into partnership with Miles Rutledge. When he refuses, Elenora becomes the competition across the street. Is this town big enough for the two of them?

Miles can’t help but stick his well-polished boot in his mouth whenever he comes face-to-face with Elenora. Can he find a way to win her heart while destroying her business?

Miles’s mother, Maude, is bent on Elenora becoming her new daughter-in-law while Elenora’s daughter, Tildy, thinks Miles would make a perfect papa. How far will these meddlers go to unite this enterprising pair?

Can't wait to sink your teeth into it, right? The premise is unusual, creative, and really appeals to my competitive streak, that's for sure. "Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you!" might as well as be Elenora's theme song.

Keli transports the reader back to the Wild West, and I could just picture Miles' and Ellie's stores facing each other, with them sneaking looks out the window at each other. Keli also has a knack for turning a phrase. One of my favorites for "putting his foot in his mouth" was "tickled his tonsils with his toes." Come've got to love that alliteration and freshness.

Donning my therapist cap, Keli saddled both her characters with previous marriages that weren't all that rosy. Their past experiences (and future expectations of trying to avoid more of the same) play a large role in the two of them keeping each other at arm's length.

Kudos to Keli for driving an arrow straight into Mr. Rutledge's heart by providing a traumatic experience later on in the book that is pretty much his worst nightmare relived. And you romance lovers out there will swoon over the Ellie-Miles moment that follows. Promise.

Keli has generously agreed to gift one lucky commenter with her debut!! My giveaways are a perk for my blog readership, so please make sure to click "Follow" to the right and then leave a comment with your email address below. The giveaway will run until Sunday.

Let's Analyze: How many of you have a "meddling" in-law like Maude? Thankfully, I don't! That Maude was pretty sneaky!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weekend Funnies: For All You Cat Lovers Out There

Sounds like the life to me!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Free Association Chain

In honor of my weekend plans (hello, Sacramento Faith Writers!), 
the word is....


RULES: First commenter free associates (writes the first word that comes to mind) with the above word. Second commenter free associates to the first commenter's word, and so on. Remember - the FIRST thing that comes to mind.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Suicide by Facebook?

I wanted to take some time to talk about suicide and social media. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, and it's a preventable problem!

It seems that more and more deaths and suicides are being preceded by posts on Facebook or Twitter or MySpace. Simone Back updated her status on Facebook on Christmas Day, 2010, to say, "Took all my pills be dead soon bye bye everyone." She had over 1000 friends and none reached out to help. Some even posted heartless messages back to her, stating it was her choice or calling her a liar. 

Bart Heller updated his Facebook status on December 12, 2011, with this: "Someone call 911. Three dead bodies at 3229 Lima Road, Fort Wayne, Indiana. I've killed Ryann, Erin, and myself. People were warned not to play me and ruin me. They didn't listen. Sorry about your luck." 

A friend in Washington State saw the status update, looked up police in Fort Wayne, gave them the address, and they were dispatched 18 minutes after Bart's status. Unfortunately, all three were dead, just as Bart had said.

Facebook teamed with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in December 2011 to enable Facebook users to report a suicidal comment they see posted by a friend on the site. They can literally connect that person to help almost immediately.

Facebook users can go to the link to Report Suicidal Content. (You can find this link just by going to Facebook's help section and typing in "suicidal content.") You can check if the person is in the military or not, their full name, the content of what was posted (copy/pasted) and any additional info you feel relevant.

Facebook can respond directly to the user via email (if appropriate), indicating that someone on Facebook is concerned about their safety, and encourage the user to enter a confidential online chat session with a crisis counselor or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline is available 24/7.

Twitter has done something similar, allowing users to report suicidal of self-harm content here.

I thought that not only would this information benefit you as fellow humans of suffering people in the world, but also as writers. You never know when something like this might show up in one of your novels. I'm just grateful that Facebook and other social media networks are trying to address this very real problem.

Let's Analyze: Have you ever heard about a friend or yours who posted suicidal content on the web? What else do you think Facebook/Twitter/etc could do?

Monday, July 16, 2012

How to Identify E-Reader Addiction

There is a relatively new condition plaguing readers everywhere. Therapists are just now uncovering some of the symptoms, but I'll let my readership in on preliminary findings.

Diagnostic criteria for 401.00 E-Reader Addiction

A maladaptive pattern of e-reader use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by five (or more) of the following, occurring within a 12-month period: 

1. You tap on the cover of a traditional book to open it. 
2. You set a traditional book down on its spine and are surprised   
    when it closes and you lose your place. 
3. You tap on the edge of a page instead of turning it. 
4. You tilt your book vertically and expect the print to follow. 
5. You cringe as you enter the bathroom at work with a traditional 
    book that no one would mistake for a DayPlanner. 
6. You double tap on a word you don't know to get the definition. 
7. Upon seeing that the book only comes in one font size, you 
    adjust the distance from your nose accordingly.  
8. You hesitate to sign up for a book giveaway on a blog because it 
    only comes in print format.
9. You have bookmarked sites selling ebooks on the web (i.e., 
    Kindle, Nook, iBooks) and check them daily for freebies. 

If you or someone you know suffers from this condition, seek help immediately. 

Let's Analyze: Come on, be honest. How many of you think you might suffer from this addiction? Which symptom rings truest for you?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Weekend Funnies: Even Hamburgers Need Help....

Big shout out to cartoonist Jon Carter, who graciously allowed me to use his cartoons. You can see more of his creative genius at

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is....


RULES: First commenter free associates (writes the first word that comes to mind) with the above word. Second commenter free associates to the first commenter's word, and so on. Remember - the FIRST thing that comes to mind.


And once again, if you missed the 3 non-fiction book reviews I'm giving away on my blog, click here!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

If You Missed It...Non-Fiction Book Giveaways!

I was really honored to do reviews and hold giveaways for 3 non-fiction books this week. If you missed them, here are the links again:

Grieving God's Way: The Path to Lasting Hope and Healing 
by Margaret Brownley

Making Lemonade: Parents Transforming Special Needs
by Candee Fick

The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story
by Amy Deardon

Just leave a comment on either/all posts to be entered in the drawing for each book!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Attention Writers! Review and Giveaway of Amy Deardon's Story Template

I was excited to review Amy's non-fiction craft book because I've always struggled with plotting. I had picked up Save the Cat, Story, The Moral Premise and Story Engineering at about the same time, and quite honestly, you could say that Amy's book kind of puts all the good eggs from those books in one basket that was easy to read and included visuals (which was great for me, since that's my learning style).

Here's a blurb about the book from Amazon:

Writing a novel or screenplay sounds like a fabulous idea. But where do you start? And how do you finish? 

Award-winning author, Amy Deardon, answers these questions in The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story. This approach will help you focus your creativity and complete your unique and compelling story, script, or novel. With this tool and more than 100 targeted writing exercises, you will learn to: 

* Ascertain the four foundational story pillars, and use the "secret weapon" of the story template, to structure your story.

* Build character depth with believable change. 

* Create subplots to raise tension while you deepen and contrast story themes. 

* Review writing techniques that shape your ideas into a compelling manuscript. 

The Story Template is a product of Amy's comprehensive research -- as well as her personal experience -- for what makes a story "work." No matter your level of accomplishment, this book will help you build a better story.

Amy is a scientist, and as such, she approached fiction writing from this perspective. She analyzed (I like her already) around twenty modern novels and 15 or so fairly recent films and made a list of scenes from each of them. She calculated word count and timed the scenes, did other mathematical stats (that I won't pretend to understand, but you don't have to, yay for you!) and graphed the stories out. She compared the progression of the story to determine a common pathway from all of them...and this how she created the "story template."

It's not a formula, but it described the fundamental "shape" of a story. If writers utilize it, it ensures that story elements are present and proportionally correct to the rest of the book.

Now take a second and just let yourself ponder the awesomeness of what she has done for us.

Seriously. It was a little intimidating at first, but Amy's style is easy to read, and the exercises (over 100 of them!) are very helpful in fleshing out your story idea into a viable novel. You will find concepts that are familiar to you, but Amy gives them a different term. She addresses techniques for plotting, POV, dialogue, storyboarding, editing, etc, and blends it all together. In essence, she wrote a book that plugs a needed gap in the craft literature out there....a one-stop shop, if you will.

So if you find yourself staring at your screen, not having a clue what to do next or where to go, get this book.

Amy has offered to give away a copy of this book to one lucky commenter. I like for my book giveaways to be a perk for my blog readership so if you haven't already "followed" my blog, please do so by clicking the Follow button to your right. Leave your email address in the comment so I can reach you if you win!

Let's Analyze: Has that ever happened to you? Maybe you're plugging along and then WHAM! Writer's block. Or maybe you have a great idea for a book, but can't flesh it out enough? How do you get through this?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review and Giveaway of Candee Fick's Making Lemonade

Today I've got another non-fiction book up for grabs. This book will be especially appealing to those of you out there who have experienced personally or know other folk who have experienced the challenges of raising a child with special needs. The premise is obviously taken from the old adage, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."

Here's a blurb about Making Lemonade: Parents Transforming Special Needs from the author's website:

When life gives you lemons, how you approach, process, and transform them makes all the difference. Especially for parents facing the sour experiences of raising a child with developmental, behavioral, and/or health needs.
Mirroring the steps of a recipe for making lemonade, the book covers the pucker reaction, the juicing process where it can feel as though one’s guts are being ripped out, adding the sugar of hope, adding siblings to the mix, watering down with life, stirring it all together within a pitcher of support, chilling, sipping, and sharing the end result.
Incorporating practical strategies from a Christian worldview and the emotional stories of parents, including the author, busy in the kitchen of life, readers will find hope and encouragement as they face their own lemons.

If there is one thing I can say about this book, that is that it's heartfelt and honest. Candee doesn't shy away from the strong, many times conflicting emotions that come from having a child diagnosed with special needs (autism, rare genetic disorders, etc). She's quick to point out that children aren't lemons (and that lemons aren't defective fruit). They are simply sour experiences, and that the challenges that come from parenting these children often can be "sour."

As a counselor, reading this book gave me a lot of insight into the emotional processing that happens behind the scenes when parents facing these special challenges. Sometimes in session, it can be hard to put words to some of the experiences they face.

But for a parent who has a child with special needs, I can only imagine the camaraderie and support they would receive from reading it. To know that they are not alone in their journey would be like opening the doors to a literary support group every time they crack the pages.

I really appreciate the faith element that Candee included. I understand that she was told by various people to tone down the God-aspect of the book so that it would have a more far-reaching audience, but the God-aspect is what makes the lemonade! It's what brings the hope. I'm so glad Candee left it as is, and I have no doubt it will be a great affirming book for parents in need.

Candee has offered to give away an ebook copy of her book of a voucher for 50% off the print version (winner's choice). So if you have a child with special needs, or simply want to better empathize with parents who do, leave a comment below to be entered for this book. 

Let's Analyze: How would having a child with special needs be like making lemonade from lemons?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Review and Giveaway of Margaret Brownley's Grieving God's Way

Margaret Brownley's non-fiction book, Grieving God's Way: The Path to Lasting Hope and Healing, is a must-have for counselors or lay people.

Here's a blurb from the book's website:

Did you know that it can take as long as five years or more for a person to adequately work through grief? But because we live in a fast-paced society, we often sweep grief under the rug, or ignore it altogether. Medical experts now know that unresolved grief can cause such health problems as headaches, depression, back pain, and even heart disease and cancer.

Grieving God’s Way is a book made to order for the grieving spirit. It will help you gain new insight into the grieving process, gain more appreciation for friends and family, and come to understand God’s plan for healing heart and soul. It may even help cure your back.

What I liked best about this grief devotional is it's brevity. Too often, I've had people recommend these lengthy works to give bereaved individuals and the truth is that when you're hurting, sometimes the very last thing your mind can focus on is long chapters of text.

Margaret's book is composed of 90 chapters, most of which are under 2 pages. There is a brief 3-4 paragraphs pertaining to that day's subject matter, beautifully written haiku poetry by Diantha Ain, and then an exercise or two to engage in if so desired.

I went through the book with my husband, who lost his father very suddenly back in March 2011. Since the chapters were so short, he stayed focused and interested, and even though the grief wasn't at it's keenest, he still found it helpful. I believe that once a bereaved person gets through the initial shock, this book would be a very thoughtful gift to help them on their healing journey.

Margaret used a very biblical approach to grief, dividing the book into four sections:

1. Healing the Grieving Body...through healthy choices

"...Listen closely to my words...for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body."  (Proverbs 4:2-22)

2. Healing the Grieving Soul...through beauty, art and nature

"He has made everything beautiful in its times."  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

3. Healing the Grieving Heart...with the help of family and friends

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."  (Proverbs 4:23)

4. Healing the Grieving Spirit...through faith

"'Go,' said Jesus, your faith has healed you." (Mark 10:52)

Margaret's personal journey through the grief of her eldest son is poignant, and she writes from her own experience and heart. Her suggestions for exercises are therapeutically sound, and many of them I use in my practice. I picked up several more, so thanks Margaret!

I received this free book from Thomas Nelson.  A positive review was not required and the opinions expressed are my own.

Let's Analyze: Have you ever tried to read something too detailed or too long when you were grieving? What was your reaction? Would you or someone you know benefit from a book like this?

Leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing for this book! I like for my book giveaways to be a perk for my blog readership, so if you aren't already doing so, please click the "Follow" button to the right! Giveaway in the lower 48 states only.