Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Instill Faith in Recovery

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Instill Faith in Recovery

Article excerpt

I have a lot of experience helping people deal with loss. In my prison clinic, many of my patients have experienced unimaginable losses. They've witnessed the murder of friends and the suicide of family members, been burned in house fires, seen horrible crimes. They've lost homes, jobs, and spouses--in addition to freedom.

I know what to say to them; it's somewhat practiced by now, but it seems to help. I remind them of what they haven't lost: that last friend, the supportive ex-girlfriend, the young child in foster care. I advise them to stay in the present instead of dwelling on the worst conceivable future. I encourage them to take pride in their past accomplishments.

Disaster and loss, trauma and recovery are always easier to manage when it happens to someone else. When it hits closer to home, it can be a challenge to take your own advice.

I found myself thinking about this in late October as I attended the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law conference. This meeting is notorious for bad weather stories; survivors of the infamous Denver conference remember the 3-foot snowstorm that shut down the airport and kept us stranded until the hotel ran out of food.

This year's conference was no exception, and I stayed glued to weather forecasts as Hurricane Sandy crept up the East Coast. I was relieved that, contrary to usual luck, my presentation was not the last session of the last conference day. I had a reasonable chance of leaving early if necessary.

I was impressed by the size of the storm. I tracked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration coastal flood advisories and fiddled with the online flood model of New York to see how bad things could get. I attended luncheon talks with my colleagues from New York, all the while thinking that things wouldn't be as bad as forecasters were predicting.

I was so wrong. Watching news stories about the evacuation of NYU Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital, I thought about the people I knew there and the patients they were moving. …

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