- Hardcover: 160 pages
- Publisher: Amer Psychiatric Pub; 1 edition (November 1, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 161537082X
- ISBN-13: 978-1615370825
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 7.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #500,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Improving Mental Health: Four Secrets in Plain Sight 1st Edition
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Sederer's thoughtful and provocative book could not be timelier. It arises out of a seemingly confusing moment in mental health and poses an immense creative challenge: to draw out the rules, or laws, that govern the psyche as it adapts to an ever-changing world. His laws or secrets often counterintuitive, yet full of clinical utility illuminate his profound understanding of patients and their particular predicaments. Theres a powerful thread of wisdom that runs through Sederer's writing like a bright red line, reminding us that by identifying the driving tenets of clinical care, we refresh and deepen our engagement with it in the future. I read this book in a single setting, and felt so much wiser at the end. --Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene
This is an intelligent, balanced, and very useful guide to becoming a knowledgeable and confident actor in pursuing your mental health. It will also help you to approach mental health professionals as an equal partner. --Andrew Solomon, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Columbia University, and author of Far From the Tree and The Noonday Demon , winner of the National Book Award
This book is a must read for those who experience or have a family member with a psychiatric condition. Dr. Sederer gives moving descriptions of patients and their suffering and sage advice about interventions. His deep experience in working with those afflicted with mental illness comes ringing through, page after page. --Maria Oquendo, M.D., Ph.D., President, American Psychiatric Association, and Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center
From the Inside Flap
In Improving Mental Health: Four Secrets in Plain Sight, Dr. Lloyd Sederer, a renowned psychiatrist, clinical administrator, and public health advocate, explores four foundational truths he has identified over his extensive career. These "secrets," as he calls them, are hidden in plain sight. They are epiphanies, which can enable practitioners, patients and families to better understand mental illness and improve lives. Written for clinicians in both mental health and primary care, as well as lay readers, this eloquent and concise book is full of apt, beautifully crafted patient stories designed to illuminate four secrets for a happier life. Dr. Sederer also uses historical incidents, wisdom culled from books and movies, and research findings to support his theme.
Rarely are books written for mental health practitioners so richly drawn, compassionate, and insightful. Improving Mental Health: Four Secrets in Plain Sight will help clinicians understand their patients -- and patients understand themselves.
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The title of this sensitive, thoughtful and wise little book – FOUR SECRETS IN PLAIN SIGHT – is defined on the Contents page – 1) Behavior serves a purpose, 2) The power of attachment, 3) As a rule, less is more, and 4) Chronic stress is the enemy – and as Dr. Sederer comfortably explains, ‘each one, unveiled and freed from constraints of the ineffective habits and behaviors, can change lives. Together, when revealed and acted upon, they can change the world.’
There are many ways to read this book – to better understand signs and manifestations of mental illness in our families, among friend and associates, in the public at large, and in reflecting on our own adaptation to the world and situations. But it is also a brilliantly clear guide to understanding global behavior, which at this particular time in our social history seems inexplicable. How to we explain senseless killings, bullying to the point of excluding sectors of society from the joy of quiet living, the growing disparity or polarization between the extremely wealthy and the dissolution of the middle class which is approaching the other extreme, the increased growth of the internet control of all aspects of our lives and the hackers and drones that accompany that expanding threat? By reading and absorbing Dr. Sederer’s book we come to a new level of understanding of how our own behavior and responses and these in tandem with the other secrets can help not only our personal experience but also effect the direction of global society. It is brilliant timing to release this book in the quaking anxiety of the new effect the new leaders of government will take us. Follow the four secrets…and breathe.
The concluding comments are poignant: ‘Failing to understand that a behavior is serving a purpose seems a habit worth changing because it has the power to distance us from those we serve and care about. Not appreciating that a human touch, a connection made, and attachment fostered, which are the greatest anodynes against isolation and despair, seems a sad habit that derives us all – caregivers and recipients alike.’ And that is only a small excerpt from a book that should be in the hands of us all. Grady Harp, January 17
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.
According to his introduction, Dr. Sederer writes for two distinct audiences: psychiatric clinicians dealing with patients suffering significant disorders, as well as students; and the families and friends of such patients, who must monitor their loved ones and provide constant palliative care. As such, Sederer’s prose is frequently dense with scientific concepts, but he never introduces terminology without providing definitions. His mix of official, medical language, with case histories, makes this a very humane exposition.
As the title unambiguously declares, Dr. Sederer distills mental health treatment into four broad “secrets,” or functional approaches. The first is, Behavior Serves a Purpose. All human behavior, even counterproductive, harmful, and seemingly “insane” behavior, means something. Substantial treatment begins, not when we get patients to stop hitting themselves, but when we identify what actual meaning their actions serve. This isn’t always easy, much less straightforward. But it’s more productive than just condemning actions we don’t understand.
Second, Sederer emphasizes The Power of Attachment. Humans are linked creatures, and loneliness can transform our mental functions, especially at early ages. People will remain in dangerous relationships rather than confront loneliness (which Sederer clearly distinguishes from solitude). And our need for relationship influences our ability to heal from illness. Sederer describes the “therapeutic alliance,” the relationship by which therapy actually makes any progress. It isn’t just THAT therapists help, but HOW they help, too.
Throughout this book, but especially here, Sederer overlaps significantly with the reading on addiction theory I pursued a few years ago. He talks about Bruce Alexander’s Rat Park experiments: laboratory rats in environments designed to resemble their natural habitats wax prosperous, avoid harmful behaviors, and live long, happy lives. Rats raised in cages will gorge themselves on drugs until they overdose and die. Here and elsewhere, Sederer demonstrates that all psychology is linked.
Third, Sederer writes, As a Rule, Less Is More. Remember the spa hospitals and heavy medications I mentioned earlier? Though tilted toward opposite extremes, both options represent a do-too-much attitude of massive interventions designed to overwhelm whatever preëxisting conditions produce undesirable behaviors. Rather, Sederer writes, the therapeutic goal should be to reëstablish optimum natural balances, and often, the least intrusive approach works best. Care providers, including families, should avoid the temptation to overtreat routine conditions.
Finally, Sederer hits the one I find most familiar: Chronic Stress Is the Enemy. This takes different forms in different patients, at different stages of life. Children exposed to chronic abuse or neglect develop defense systems that, as adults, turn maladaptive. Adults subjected to these same conditions develop inflammatory diseases that shatter our defenses and literally shorten our lives. These can manifest in myriad ways. What matters isn’t the particulars, but that stress undermines our bodies and brains.
In describing these operant conditions, Sederer also gives constant indications how to counter them. Some responses are within the patients’ control, while others require physicians, families, and other caregivers to take first initiative. In a few cases, Sederer makes recommendations of medications known to have beneficial effects, but in keeping with his Less Is More philosophy, he dispenses these suggestions only sparingly. It isn’t what goes into our bodies, but how we treat them, that transforms us.
Readers familiar with developments in recent psychology, even as filtered for a generalist audience, will recognize much here they’ve read before. From the effects of isolation and company on our short-term mental health, to how epigenetic influences reshape our brains over the long haul, I recognize from other writers. Johann Hari,Stephen Ilardi, and Gabor Maté cast long shadows over Dr. Sederer’s writing. For well-read audiences, Sederer brings these disparate influences together under one tent.
Counting out Sederer’s works cited lists and liberal illustrations, this book runs barely eighty pages, basically a long article. Ambitious readers undeterred by technical prose will savvy this book in one or two evenings. Yet it never feels underwritten or like it’s forgotten anything. It just stays concise, clearly focused on its topic. If anybody you love is undergoing mental health treatment, consider reading this book. It may open your eyes.
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