Monthly Archives: December 2007

The science of happiness and why we are not

My latest Monitor on Psychologyfrom the APA (December, 07) has a couple of short articles on happiness. One mentions that 1998 study that found Midwesterners predicting Californians would be happier because of their climate. Apparently not true. The author suggests that we’re not that good at predicting what makes us happy and are likely to focus on one positive or negative and neglect other factors that might be important. This sound quite true to me. We tend to point to particular anecdotes from our day/life and use those to confirm our set opinion about whether we are happy or not.

One other little tidbit on p. 38. “White Americans expect to be happy, so day-t0-day positive events have less effect on their overall mood than such events have on Asians and Asian Americans… Negative events, however, are a different story.”

It appears that it takes two positive events to offset a negative experience for White Americans. For Asian Americans, it takes only one.

Interesting. The researching author is quoted as saying, “the happier you get, the more powerful negative events become.” I suspect the truth is more like this. The happier you think you should and can be, the more powerful negative events become. I’m not sure we are more happy. But, I am sure we think we should be.   

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Filed under counseling science, Cultural Anthropology, Psychology

How do you evaluate the “next best thing” in Christian Counseling?

Last Monday we discussed this topic in my social and cultural foundations of counseling. There are always new ideas and books trumpeting something exciting that surpasses other counseling techniques with successes never seen before. Just read this book and your life will change forever!

Do you hear my voice dripping with suspicion? You should. While there are advances in counseling, popular books are often just that because they package a good idea or two into something that people want to buy (which means they also package it with fluff). What do we want to buy? Freedom from suffering; the end of our sorrows and struggles; we want complete removal of mental pain. This isn’t a bad desire, but it does set us up to buy the “next best thing” without proper critical evaluation.

And yet, we need to be open to the possibility that there is something new on the horizon. And so, I propose we do the following:

  1. Read with an open mind. Ask these questions: What does this author observe about their world, about people, about change? What are the problems they see? What are the solutions they envision? Can we see what they see? Can we consider the importance of what their observations?
  2. What techniques and interventions do they use to solve the problems they see? We may disagree with authors at numerous points but we can still evaluate the techniques they use. Do they work? How do we know?
  3. What assumptions, worldviews, presuppositions, etc. bleed through on their pages? I used to always go here first. The problem was it made me unwilling to consider their observations if they were wrong in their assumptions. But everyone sees—even if poorly. And observations can be very helpful—even if fixated on one small aspect of life.
  4. How might their observations and assumptions challenge mine? Where are my assumptions and worldviews uncritically formed; based on faulty logic or distorted beliefs?
  5. What techniques or interventions might find a home in my repertoire and what impact would they have on my work?
  6. What promises do they offer that must be critiqued? What misrepresentations must be exposed? What admissions must be made about our own models as a result of their work?

Now, these are good questions to use to evaluate the “next best thing” that actually has substance and as several commenters observed, creation therapy probably doesn’t merit this level of work until it moves into the realm of transparency and shows that it is available for observation and critique. With research on 5,000 individuals, where is the evidence? The real challenge is evaluating those models that run too far with a few facts and ideas and sell it as a type of cure-all. Much of the “change your brain, change your behavior” popular literature out there does just this. Some significant piece of data is then used to promote an idea that one can change everything.


Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling science

Ever hear of _____Therapy (the latest christian model)?

Someone recently mentioned “Creation Therapy” as the latest Christian counseling treatment. Ever heard of it? Is it any good?

You be the judge. Google it (with quotes) and tell me what your first impressions are of the several sites that mention it (and therefore impressions of the therapy). How would you go about evaluating the tools?

Tomorrow, I’ll make some comments on good ways to evaluate up and coming models of christian counseling.


Filed under christian counseling, counseling

Parent-teacher conferences and being graded as a parent

Our annual parent-teacher conferences took place this morning. We met with with our children’s teacher to get their first quarter grades and discussed pertinent matters. Every time we do this I find myself holding my breath, wondering what I’ll hear. There’s a part of me that believes I’m getting graded as well or I’ve just been sent to the Principal’s office.

What external things do you use to assess your “grade; your identity?” Your kids behavior in public? Your job title or pay? Your gpa? If we’re honest, we use things like this to determine our success or failure in life. Many of  these things we have little control over and yet we allow them to “determine” what we think and feel about ourselves.

By the way, I feel good about myself because both kids made honor-roll.

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Filed under Identity

Ebola outbreak in Uganda

Our church and World Harvest Mission (started by our founding pastor many years ago) have connections to mission work in Bundibugyo, Uganda. The medical team there is in the middle of an Ebola outbreak and some of their staff are sick with the disease. The team has sent the non-medical staff and children away for safekeeping but the missionary docs may have been exposed to the illness or are at least at risk of it.

Consider praying for the team each day for the next 3 weeks as they labor to control the disease and treat those suffering. It is very deadly. Here’s a link to a blog by one of the doctors. You can read and pray specifically for their needs.

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