Author: Margie Nichols, Ph.D.

The DSM 5 and LGBT Rights: Still Crazy After All These Years?

By Margie Nichols, Ph.D. Two things recently have made me think about that important piece of LGBT history, the ‘de-classification’ of homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973.  The first is the news, released this week, that the fifth edition of the ‘Bible’ of psychiatric illness, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, will be published in Spring of 2013.  The second was the election, and the two are related. In the November election, LGBT people made up 5% of voters – enough to make the difference. And it showed. The election results were almost unimaginable for someone like me who came out in the mid-70’s. The gay Congresspeople, the lesbian Senator, the four Marriage Equality ballot initiatives that won – I still have to pinch myself.  So it made me reflect on the progress of the ‘gay agenda’ since the ’70’s. Many LGBT people don’t fully understand the critical role that the political action against the mental health community played a in advancing lesbian and gay rights. Soon after the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969, the new gay activist movement took on the task of getting homosexuality removed from the psychiatric ‘Bible,’ the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders (DSM). Before 1973,… Read more »

My Therapist’s Brand? Open and Accessible

by Margie Nichols The November 25 edition of the New York Times Sunday Magazine has a headline that reads ‘What Brand is Your Therapist?’   The story, ‘The Branding Cure: My so-called career as a therapist,’ is written by Lori Gottlieb, herself a newly practicing psychologist.  She describes – and mostly deplores – the trend towards people finding therapists online and the way that some therapists are encouraged to market themselves on the web.  There are ‘branding consultants’ who specialize in helping psychotherapists, at least in California, and they recommend among other things, the use of warm and inviting websites, Facebook business pages, and Twitter accounts where prospective clients can get to know the counselor a bit more personally. As a therapist who has all three my interest in Gottlieb’s story was piqued.  On what basis did her skepticism rest?  As a relatively young therapist, it’s a safe bet she’s not a tech Luddite, like some of my contemporaries. I soon learned the article is an example of much that is wrong with ‘traditional’ therapy.  It turns out that Gottlieb was trained psychodynamically, with the same tired old dogma about how the therapist has to be a  ‘tabula rosa’ so that… Read more »

Why Your Kids Don’t Understand That Sandy Is Over, And How You Can Help Them

by Margie Nichols and Colleen Powers (Colleen Powers, L.C.S.W., is an IPG therapist specializing in work with children and families.  She contributed to this article but couldn’t write it because she and her own family were flooded out of their home by Hurricane Sandy) It’s been more than two weeks since Sandy hit, and unless you are very unlucky your power is back, your kids are in school again, and life is beginning to return to normal.     So why are your kids not alright- why haven’t they got the message? Maybe they are.  If so, good for you!  One less thing to worry about. But maybe you are noticing behavior that is out of the ordinary for them.  They may be clingy, wetting their bed again,  absent minded or acting out at school, or downright aggressive and rebellious.  It may not have occurred to you that they are suffering from the emotional trauma of Hurricane Sandy.  Many adults are still reacting to ‘Sandy Stress’  and children can still be reacting as well. If your child is actively voicing worries or fears about hurricanes or actually talking about Sandy, the connection is obvious. But if not, you may not see… Read more »

Giving Thanks- Steaks and Gratitude

by Margie Nichols In honor of Thanksgiving, I’m posting this blog I wrote in 2010, along with an update at the end.  It’s pretty personal, and when I read it again I realized the theme is as true now as it was then.  I hope you enjoy it.   One night last week I offered my daughters steak for dinner and my 15 year old, Ale, turned up her nose. “Steak AGAIN?” she complained. At first my jaw dropped in surprise and a little righteous indignation –I sure didn’t take steak for granted when I was growing up! Then I remembered. My daughter Jesse wasn’t supposed to die, we had survived two months of brain surgery, rollercoaster ups and downs, and now she was safely in rehab where the only question was how long before she would talk and walk again. The tumor had manifested very late, and very ambiguously, until suddenly in March 2004 she seized again and again and was admitted to the hospital. She never returned home again. After the shock and numbness began to fade, I realized how unprepared I was to lose the daughter who was my closest companion in life. I had been a single… Read more »

Overcoming Stress from Hurricane Sandy: How to Survive a Superstorm- After It’s Gone!

by Margie Nichols I. Why You Aren’t Crazy If You Feel Stressed – AFTER It’s Over     Okay, your power is back on, you pumped out the basement, your kids may even be back in school.   You survived Hurricane Sandy, the Superstorm, the ‘Frankenstorm.’   So you should be feeling fine, right?   Even brimming over with gratitude because no one you knew lost their life?  Or at the very least – back to normal, instead of cranky, exhausted, sad, anxious or numb? Wrong.   The aftermath of an event like Sandy can last for weeks, even months.  For starters, there are real-life consequences that take much longer to resolve:  lost belongings, housing, cars.  And the loss of income.   Most of us lost money in some way in this storm, and a lot of us were stretched pretty thin already.   I’m seeing a lot of people with faces creased by worry about how they’re going to get by financially in the near future. But even if you lost next to nothing and aren’t worried about money – you may be feeling a post-Sandy slump.   That’s because an event like this disrupts our ‘map of the world,’ literally and figuratively.   Figuratively, because it forces us… Read more »

What I Learned From Hurricane Sandy

by Margie Nichols Nope, I’m not blogging about gratitude.  Though the situation certainly includes many possibilities for that.  Just a couple of things I noticed, given so much time on my hands:   1) We Are Animals.  Our Bodies Prevail.  In our section of Jersey city, where we were asked to wait out the storm inside rather than evacuate, everyone I knew hunkered down – and down, and down, and down.  It felt like hibernating, the decrease in energy level.  For me, it didn’t happen at first, not until 2) We are Nesters and Nurturers.  I didn’t start to hibernate until after a frantic burst of activity.  Well, FIRST first – I experienced dazed shock, disbelief, and a desire to pretend this would have the same lack of impact as Irene did in 2011.  Then, I forced myself to face reality and ‘sprang into action.’  Battening down the hatches.  Cooking.  Freezing.  Making ice. Planning. Organizing.  THEN hibernation, when it was done.  My teenage daughters, on the other hand – they went into vegetative mode instantly.  Tho it’s hard to tell the difference between that and their normal indoor behavior. 4) We Really Depend on Electronics.  But we’re ok without them. … Read more »

Why Maxwell Zachs’ Petition Is So Important

By Margie Nichols, Ph.D. Last week this was all over the Internet: a London transman named Maxwell Zachs began a petition to the World Health Organization to remove ‘transsexualism’ from its list of ‘mental disorders’ in the ICD, the international disease classification system. Zachs says: “There is nothing wrong with me. I am perfectly healthy. I just happen to be transgender.” But his move has generated a lot of controversy even among trans rights activists. If you don’t know a lot about transgender issues, you might not understand the significance of Zachs’ petition.  You might not know why the issue is a big deal in the first place. If you don’t know – you need a refresher in LGB history.  Before 1973, homosexuality was classified as a ‘mental disease,’ and this reinforced social views that ‘those people’ were deviant, unstable, and deficient.  It legitimized all kinds of discrimination, not to mention providing the basis for unvoluntary psychiatric commitments and other ‘treatments,’ being discharged from the Armed Forces or teaching – well, you get the point.  In fact, most queer historians consider the removal of this diagnosis one of the pivotal ‘gay rights’ events of the last forty to fifty years…. Read more »

Esther Perel At IPG (Video)

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. “The bonds of wedlock are so heavy that sometimes it takes three to carry them” quipped Esther Perel, author of ‘Mating in Captivity,’ quoting Alexander Dumas. Acclaimed psychotherapist Perel did a workshop for the IPG staff in September. We love her because she always has a fresh and unique take on things.  One of the great things about Esther, who is one of the most mesmerizing speakers ever, is that because she was raised in Europe she brings a cross-cultural view to things.  In ‘Mating in Captivity’ she talked about the sad-but-true fact that passion tends to die in monogamous egalitarian relationships.  When she talked to our staff a couple of years ago about the book, she intrigued us by mentioning that Americans are ‘divorce tolerant and affair intolerant’ compared to Europeans, for whom the reverse is true. So when she came back last month, she spoke about her current book, working title ‘State of Affairs.’  These videos present some of her views, which amount to a revolutionary way for therapists – and everyone – to look at affairs, infidelity, intimacy,  monogamy, and transparency. Esther begins by reminding us that for most of recorded history, in the… Read more »

Bhutan – Shangri La For The 21St Century?

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. For the last decade or so, I’ve increasingly felt glimmerings of a consciousness raising in the United States, a growing movement of people dissatisfied with materialism as their sole or primary life goal.  They seem to be  aware of the ‘Easterlin Effect,’ the oft-repeated finding that above a certain relatively modest income level, more money, more stuff, doesn’t mean more happiness.  The recession has complicated this movement, making it at the same time more and less relevant to our immediate lives.   But the signs are around us, in the ‘mindfulness’ movement, in environmentalism, in the increasingly common discourse about work-life balance. And then today I picked up Time Magazine and read an article about Bhutan, a tiny little country in the Himalayas whose government has recently transitioned from monarchy to budding democracy and is trying to achieve ‘sustainable development,’ i.e., economic growth that doesn’t devastate the culture and environment and lead to inequality and loss of quality of life. And how is Bhutan doing this?  Among other things, they are actually attempting to measure happiness, or rather they are trying to include life quality as an official economic indicator. The Bhutanese are not using Gross Domestic… Read more »

Guest Blog: Gay Men And Dating

Jordan Hunt, L.C.S.W., our guest blogger, is a psychotherapist who worked at IPG for many years until he moved to Connecticut this summer. A friend of mine recently asked me to comment on his blog where he was posing the questioning of why gay men have such a difficult time finding people to “date”.  Below is my response. Dear Michael, So, you have asked me to respond to your blog about the difficulties that men (gay men, in particular) have when it comes to dating. Where do I begin?  I mean, this topic is truly worthy of a dissertation. However, I did see that someone else responded saying, “I can’t even find a man worthy of a date.”  To me, his statement is the crux of the problem that gay men encounter when trying to date or “make a real connection”. We prematurely JUDGE as a way of avoiding risk and vulnerability. To be fair, perhaps gay men are not really entirely to blame for the difficulties we encounter.  Regardless of whether we realized we were gay since birth, we are socialized based upon our anatomy. Society as a whole does not “socialize” people to be in romantic relationships…it socializes… Read more »