Concern about Employees Means More than “Canned” Tips on a Website

McDonald’s has come under fire in recent weeks for a series of posts on an employee web portal (now deleted) which struck many people as insensitive at best and hypocritical at worst. The “tip sheets” included a health page from a university-based group of authors that cautioned readers to limit their consumption of fast foods. Other tips included financial advice to sell unused items if money is short, and at the other extreme, what to tip your au pair for the holidays. Given the company’s largely low-wage workforce –  an issue that has been receiving unflattering attention (including some strikes by workers) lately – these suggestions struck many as insulting. Some were appalled that a website for a fast-food company offered suggestions about applying for food stamps.Continue Reading Concern about Employees Means More than “Canned” Tips on a Website

Welcoming a Family Therapy Colleague to Downtown Chicago

I would like to encourage you to visit the website of Meg Coyne, LCSW, and Coyne Counseling. Meg is an experienced and skilled couple and family therapist who trained at the program of the Chicago Center for Family Health, under renowned family therapist Froma Walsh, Ph.D. Coyne Counseling is located at 22 W. Washington, Floor 15, #78, Chicago, IL 60602. This is in the Block 37 building at State and Washington, and is convenient to most areas of the Loop. Meg accepts Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurance and has a sliding scale for those who do not have (or do not wish to use) insurance coverage. She has a training partnership with the Adler School of Professional Psychology, for which I am most appreciative.

Coyne Counseling’s website is

Meg has special interests in helping couples with issues of intimacy and sexual problems, child behavior and parenting, divorce, and co-parenting. She will be running a parenting education group in the near future, so please contact her if you are interested in learning more about the use of encouragement, and logical and natural consequences, in parenting both young children and teenagers.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot at Local Conference on Urban Mental Health

Today’s keynote speaker at the Adler School of Professional Psychology’s conference on urban mental health was Professor Sir Michael Marmot, a researcher at University College London who specializes in studying health inequities around the world. He made a number of excellent points.

One of his points was that disparities in income and wealth have been associated with poor health outcomes in the US and Britain more than in other countries (for example, the Scandinavian countries). He pointed out that Britons have universal access to health care, but lower income Britons, like lower income Americans, still don’t have the health enjoyed by similar income people from some other countries.

The take-away from all this is that neither more money nor wider availability of “health care” (actually, the system of paying for medical treatment services. about which we argue so much in this country, and which other countries provide free) can ensure good health for large groups of people. Of course, if a person is diagnosed with cancer and has no insurance, he or she may die. But prevention is also important, as is managing the traumatic stress that goes with poverty. Nutrition, exercise, attitudes, and avoiding risky behaviors such as smoking and heavy drinking, need to be combined with better access to health care, to produce healthier communities.

Another point he made is that some decisions made by public policy makers, economists, and politicians – such as a decision to let unemployment rise in order to avoid inflation -may be expected to cause some people to die, because unemployment is correlated with higher rates of suicide, homicide, and illness. Although “correlation is not causation,” his point was that some evidence cannot be ignored without dehumanizing the people who experience problems of poor physical and mental health. We should be looking at the processes that lead to these outcomes, rather than characterizing the people who suffer from them as less worthy than ourselves and excluding them from access to the resources that could help them.

Our current conversation about whether people are “entitled” when they need help from the rest of us – with getting food, health care, and safe places to live – was obviously in the background of all he was saying. Race is an obvious issue when discussing this, and he described his research with the castes of India to illustrate that marginalization has real effects on people’s health, even with financial and service resources being equal.

Professor Marmot’s work is available at the “Marmot Review” of the Institute for Health Equity at UCL. The conference link is here and the Twitter hashtag is #ISE2012.

SMART Recovery expands Chicagoland meetings

I have been talking this week to some individuals who are Facilitators and Advisors to SMART Recovery groups in Chicago, and have learned that more meetings are taking place than ever before. This is a positive development for people struggling with drug and alcohol dependence, and for the professionals who need self-help resources to provide referrals for their clients.Continue Reading SMART Recovery expands Chicagoland meetings

New research reports on addiction

The latest issue of the journal Neuron is devoted to research on addiction and how it operates in (and affects) the human brain. This is important research, and the publishers have made this entire issue accessible at no charge to the public. One of the main take-aways is the idea that addiction is not so much as disease as a “hijacking” of the brain systems that ordinarily serve to help us survive and be healthy. The substances themselves produce changes in the functioning of the brain at the cellular level, and those changes unfortunately create a vicious cycle of use, abuse, and withdrawal. They also impair the very processes that ordinarily help people avoid trouble and think their way out of danger. “Executive functioning” is the term loosely used to describe our ability to plan ahead and choose things that may be less pleasurable in the short term but ultimately better for us in the long run. Addictive substances (and perhaps even process addictions) may impair our very ability to think clearly and plan ahead. I’ve certainly never agreed with the old AA chestnut that says, “Your best thinking got you here.” Actually, I’ve always thought it was the opposite – not being able to use your best thinking is what can get you there. (Even in the case of Charlie Sheen!)Continue Reading New research reports on addiction

Here are some great relaxation and meditation resources, and they’re free!

I have often wished for a handy compendium of relaxation and meditation exercises to give to clients for use between sessions. In the old days, we used to record our own and give them out on tape cassettes. Later, we used CD’s. We could also recommend books with relaxation scripts and ask clients to tape record themselves or a family member reading them.

Thanks to the Internet and some helpful organizations, I can share a list of links that can be used anytime you have a computer and Internet connection. You can try them out to see which ones help you the most with stress reduction and relaxation. Here they are:

Hobart and William Smith Colleges Relaxation Exercises (mp3 files, scripts and suggestions):

Arizona State University Virtual Counseling Center Relaxation Exercises:

The Meditation Room (Various meditation scripts in the form of streaming audio files):

Self-Help Magazine Stress Reduction & Meditation Center (Various audio, video, ald slideshow presentations for relaxation and meditation:

Vipanassā Fellowship – Buddhist Mindfulness and Meditation Audio Recordings:

These and additional links for relaxation, breathing, mindfulness, and stress reduction can be found at the Loyola University Maryland Counseling Center’s “Relaxation Room”:

Spotlight on Service: DuPage Community Clinic

DuPage County, Illinois is often thought of as an affluent segment of the Chicago metropolitan area; and it might not be obvious that there are many county residents who need health care, yet do not have health insurance. Immigration, relocation of city residents, and the growth of the service economy that resulted from the real estate boom of the mid 2000’s, have all combined to result in a larger number of middle to lower income residents in the county, many of whom lack healthcare coverage.

The DuPage Community Clinic is a vital resource for these residents, and for the county. Leveraging the skills and efforts of many volunteers and trainees in healthcare fields, the clinic provides free healthcare to any resident without health insurance. This includes acute and primary medical care, dental services, and behavioral health services, serving 5,000 DuPage County residents last year.

Several of my students from Adler School of Professional Psychology (as well as students from a number of other counseling and psychology graduate training programs) have served as volunteer trainees and interns at the clinic,  providing psychological and counseling services. Linda Pfeifer, who now serves as the clinic’s volunteer coordinator, has been a colleague of mine in the Northern Illinois Chapter of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association, and we are both currently board members of that organization.

You can help the clinic by exploring volunteer opportunities and by considering a donation to this worthwhile organization. If you are a healthcare professional, your volunteer services are needed and would be appreciated. Volunteers with the ability to speak any of the numerous languages spoken in DuPage County are especially needed. Please see the clinic’s web page for current volunteer needs.

If you are in a position to make a donation to this organization – one that provides an important service to your neighbors and your community – a contribution in any amount to assist the DuPage Community Clinic would provide valuable help.