September 2018

Medication in Addiction Treatment – myths, facts and guidelines; Addiction Survivor; Sharing Solutions about CRAFT; Empathy

Read More

July 2018

How many seconds do you wait? – Improving medication adherence – How’s the water?

Read More

May 2018 – What to Say When…. What would you say if…?

Vol. 16, No. 2

In this issue: Welcome to the May edition of Tips and Topics (TNT). To the many new subscribers joining us this month, thanks for choosing to be part of the TNT community. David Mee-Lee, M.D. DML Training and Consulting In the many hundreds of workshops, plenary and breakout sessions I have presented, there is one training objective I hold important: Will participants leave with something they can use in their daily work? I know I am successful in that goal most of the time. Over the years, many have told me how something they learned changed their whole perspective, practice or policy. In particular, workshop attendees find it useful when they hear an example of how to convert a clinical principle or policy and procedure into actual words to say to a client. So in this combined SAVVY and SKILLS section, here are some “scripts” of what to say in different situations. This is how I might say it. But you should fashion what you say in ways that make sense to you and most importantly, that make sense to your clients, patients or participants.

TIP 1 What to Say to Engage People in Treatment

Job No. 1 in the first minutes of meeting a client is to form an alliance with the person. You are trying to attract them into an accountable process of lasting change. Here’s how to get started: “Thank-you for choosing to come to treatment.” “I didn’t choose you. They made me come.” “What would happen if you hadn’t come today?” “I’d do more time in prison, or won’t get off probation or I’ll lose my children, my job or a relationship.” “Would that be OK with you if that happened?” “Heck no, that’s why I’m here.” “Well then thank-you for choosing to work with me so I can help you do less time, get off probation, keep your children, job or a relationship. Now lets do some assessment together to see what you are doing (or what others think you are doing) that is keeping you from getting what you want.” Now you can do an assessment to identify with the client any attitudes, thoughts and behaviors that stand in the way of getting what they want. For example: What are your friends like who make it easy or hard for you to stay away from crime and getting arrested again? Does living with Vinny, the drug dealer, make it easier or harder for you to keep your children? What do you want to do about the fact that you don’t show up to work or a family gathering because you are so hung-over and out of it?


What to Say to Orient Participants to a Drug or Treatment Court

In justice transformation, Drug and other Treatment Courts are seeing the value of treatment to reach the goals we all want – safety for the public and children and families and decreased crime and costs. Here’s one way to orient treatment court participants:

“Thank-you for choosing to enter Drug Court. The reason you have been given the opportunity to get treatment rather than be incarcerated is that you have addiction related to your charges. We believe if you receive addiction treatment and establish recovery, this will not only be good for your life, but society will benefit from increased public safety, decreased crime; and spending resources on treatment rather than incarceration, which is much more expensive. But you are accountable for doing treatment, not time; for working on changing your attitudes, thinking and behavior, not just complying with a program and graduating.”

Treatment providers’ responsibility is to keep the court informed about the participant’s level of active engagement, not just passive compliance with attendance and positive or negative drug screens; on whether the participant is actually changing in attitudes, thinking and behavior which advances public safety.

TIP 3 What to Say to Check on Progress

“Tell me about your treatment plan.” (Pause to see what the participant says and monitor if they are working on anything in particular to improve functioning for public safety; or whether they are just “doing time” e.g., “I just have to be here and have another three months.”) “What you are working on to change your attitudes, thinking or behavior that has gotten you into trouble with crime, restricted your freedom and threatened public safety?” (See if the treatment plan is only a court-order-compliance plan or if it is an assessment-based, individualized treatment plan focused on changing attitudes, thinking and behavior to improve function.) TIP 4 What to Say to Track Treatment Engagement “What would you like to do in this session or in group today to advance your treatment plan?” (Pause to see what the participant says and monitor if they are working on anything in particular to improve functioning for public safety; or whether they are just “doing time” e.g., “I just have to be here” Or “What do you want me to say?”) What you would hope they would say is: “I don’t have an anger problem, but I am trying to get off probation so I’m going to ask someone to role play with me an angry situation. Others might get into a fist-fight but not me. I have good anger management skills and am going to demonstrate to the group how to handle that in assertive but nonviolent way. Please note that down and let my probation officer know I am doing well.”

TIP 5 What to Say about Positive Drug Screens

In treatment programs and treatment court programs, many still have policies and procedures mandating abstinence as a condition for treatment and expect perfection in abstinence as a condition for staying in treatment. But how is it useful to suspend, discharge or sanction a person for a flare-up of their signs and symptoms of addiction when that is the very time they need the help to make sure their addiction doesn’t spiral out of control even further? Here’s what to say: “In addiction treatment, it’s not OK to use any unauthorized substance. But if this didn’t happen and everyone had perfect control over using, they wouldn’t have addiction and wouldn’t need treatment. You can learn skills and use supports to never have to use again, so it is not inevitable you will have a flare-up and use. However if it happens to you or anyone else in treatment with you, it is your responsibility for your safety and your fellow participants to immediately address any attitudes, thinking or behavior building up to any substance use; or any actual use. Reach out to a team member, just like you would if experiencing a heart attack or feeling suicidal. They will then work with you to find out what went wrong and how to improve your treatment plan to prevent another flare-up. If substance use happens in a residential setting, there will be a community meeting ASAP to help anyone who used with you. If you or anyone else is not interested in finding what went wrong and changing your treatment plan in a positive direction, you have the right to choose no further treatment. You can then take the legal consequences of your criminal charges.” When treatment programs and treatment courts have zero tolerance policies, substance use, or even building up to a drink or drug (BUDD-ing), goes underground. Participants in the program become more focused on snitching and covering up actual or potential drug use than on keeping their environment safe from drug use for their own well-being, as well as for the treatment community they are in. Criminogenic thinking and antisocial behavior is thus encouraged. If jails and prisons can’t keep drugs out – with all the cameras and correctional officers supervision – how can treatment programs keep a milieu safe without the help and responsibility of all participants? Learning how to take responsibility to prevent use or catch drug use early is what treatment is all about. Clients and participants are just as responsible as the staff to keep themselves and the program safe. TIP 6 What not to say to about Drug Screens testing Positive for Substance Use If you want participants in treatment to be honest about substance use, don’t have policies and procedures making it nearly impossible for them to be honest and still get what they want. Here’s what not to say: “In addiction treatment, it’s not OK to use any unauthorized substance. You are mandated to be abstinent and if you use and it is found on a drug screen, you will be sanctioned and could be set back a phase in your treatment program. If it happens more than once, you could be suspended or incarcerated for a brief period and it may even be grounds for discharge from the program. In order to advance through the phases of the program and eventually graduate, you must demonstrate full abstinence. If you do not, there are escalating sanction and consequences, but there are also incentives for those who do stay abstinent.” “Now be honest, did you use or not?!!” Here’s what many clients say when backed into the corner of zero tolerance: “No, I absolutely did not use a thing. That lab has gotten my urine mixed up three times now and anyway, it was only positive for cannabis because I had to go to the restroom where a whole lot of people were smoking weed. I must have gotten the second-hand smoke.” TIP 7 What to Say in Individual, Group, or an Emergency Community Meeting when a client has used substances while in treatment Just like a person who has Major Depression and suicidal thoughts or behaviors, you want the client to reach out for help as soon as they start thinking of acting on their impulses to use or for actual use. Here’s what to say: “Please reach out and get help if thinking of using or actually using so we can nip this in the bud and prevent further crises.” If the client has a flare-up of addiction, uses substances and shows up at a group or session, first make sure they are safe and not in severe withdrawal. If the person is so intoxicated or in withdrawal and can’t function cognitively, postpone a session or group. (This is what you would do to check stability if a person with Major Depression showed up suicidal; or if a person with Bipolar Disorder showed up manic).If they are safe and not impaired after a few beers or having smoked or shot up a drug, here’s what to say: “Now that you are here, share what happened that led up to and triggered the substance use. We want to figure out what went wrong and help you get back on track. If others used with you, please identify them so we can do the same process with them ASAP. If you are willing to change your treatment plan and work on fixing the mistakes with commitment and effort in good faith, then treatment continues. If you are not interested in doing that, you have a right to choose no further treatment and be discharged from the program.” Whenever there is a poor outcome in the treatment of any illness, the first step is to assess with the client what went wrong and improve the treatment plan. We would never tell a suicidal patient to go away and come back tomorrow when they are not suicidal. But providers still suspend someone who used substances to come back tomorrow when sober before coming back to treatment….or treatment providers even discharge the person. TIP 8 What to Say to a Person who says they don’t want to go to Alcoholics Anonymous There are many wonderful benefits of 12-Step recovery groups. I always want clients and participants to embrace such self/mutual help programs if they fit and work for them. But mandating people to go to meetings and getting attendance checked off doesn’t necessarily translate into active participation and change. It is not unusual for a client to object to having to attend AA or other such groups. Here is how to address such clients: “There are AA meetings and groups that appeal to different members in different ways. If you haven’t tried a number of different groups, it just may be you haven’t found the meeting that works for you. Now if you are saying you just don’t want to go to AA for whatever reason, I don’t want to push that on you. Do you have another self/mutual help group that works better for you? Before you give up on AA, let’s discuss where else can you find a support group where: 1. You can have access to regular meetings every day; and even more than once a day if you really need them – and all for free? 2. You can have a coach like an AA sponsor, who is ready to have you call them at all hours of the day and week if you really need them? 3. You can be with a whole group of people and have sober fun while there are temptations and triggers all around you on New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras, or St. Patrick’s Day? 4. You can have many friends who have been exactly where you have been with addiction; understand what you are going through from deep personal experience; and will be there for you if you reach out? Maybe you have a group like that at your church, synagogue, community of faith, or some other group. If you receive support from that group with all the same effective features of what AA has to offer, then by all means embrace that group. This is about getting the ongoing support and guidance you need to establish and maintain recovery and well being, not pushing AA on you.” Resources: 1. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) training video on The ASAM Criteria that can be viewed by selecting Adult Drug Court under Courses; then Adult Drug Court: Lessons and create an account. The system can be found at Bureau of Justice video and this video was initiated by Dennis Reilly at the Center for Court innovation. 2. Critical Treatment Issues Webinar Series, Bureau of Justice (BJA) Drug Court Technical Assistance Project at American University Feb. 10, 2016 – May 3, 2016 Critical Treatment Issues – David Mee-Lee SOUL It is gratifying when I hear positive feedback on my training like: “We received so much from your workshop that when our team has a challenging client, we say What would Dr. Mee-Lee say in this situation?” I know then I have reached my training goal for them to learn something they can use. But have you ever noticed that a friend may be telling you about a relationship roadblock they keep running into. As you listen, it seems clear what the issues are and what you would suggest? Yet, when you run into a similar relationship challenge with your loved one, somehow it is not clear at all what to do? This is just the age-old phenomenon of being so close to the problem you can’t see the wood for the trees; you can’t be objective when you are too close to have a clear perspective. I would like to take full credit for wise, perfect words when the team says “What would Dr. Mee-Lee say?” But I suspect that what is working (besides my brilliant words) is that by asking that question, it: Helps the team obtain some objective perspective when faced with a challenging client situation. Puts them outside the team for a moment and moves them away from being too close to see clearly what to do. So the next time you run into a roadblock with your loved one, think what you would say to your friend who described the same situation. You might actually get a clear perspective on how to proceed around and through your roadblock. Or you could try: “What would Dr. Mee-Lee say in this situation?” SHARING SOLUTIONS TNT book cover There are more scripts on what to say about treatment in Chapter 5 “Turning paperwork into peoplework” in my Tips and Topics book. –> Get selected relevant clinical and systems tips from the years of Tips and Topics all in one place.” Tips and Topics: Opening the Toolbox for Transforming Services and Systems” by David Mee-Lee, MD with Jennifer E. Harrison, MSW. You can buy in two ways: –> Go to Tips & Topics book at The Change Companies and buy online. –> Call The Change Companies at (888) 889-8866 and ask for Dr. Mee-Lee’s Tips and Topics book. Until next time Thanks for reading Tips & Topics this month. See you soon again in late June. David [/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

Vol. #15 No. 10 – January 2018

Welcome to 2018 and the January edition of Tips & Topics (TNT). I hope you, like me, are looking forward to a happy, healthy and productive year.


In late November/early December, I made a quick trip to India to do a three day training train on The ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine) Criteria. I was in Pune, about 95 miles from Mumbai (formerly known or as Bombay). In November’s SOUL section I spoke about the bureaucracy of getting a visa to train in India.   Tips & Topics November 2017
Since this was India’s first introduction to The ASAM Criteria, I wanted to share a brief Q&A with Ranjana Pavamani, the driving force behind bringing this training into reality:
1. Who you are and why do you have such a passion for bringing The ASAM Criteria to India?
I am Ranjana Pavamani, Executive Director of IC&RC IADCC (International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) and International Alcohol and Drug Counselor Certification Trust for India). I come from a pioneering background where my father, the late Dr. Vijayan Pavamani,
pioneered Drug Rehabilitation and Suicide Prevention for South East Asia In 1971 under The Calcutta Samaritans.
Over time, I felt this intense desire to work as a Drug Counselor, and I realized that the experience of working with my father would be a bonus or would expand, with additional formal training. In the 1990s, there was no formal training in Asia, to my knowledge. I was told about an Institute in Florida willing to accommodate me for Drug Counseling Training and I attended for a year. I returned to India at the end of the year and in 1999 onwards, began my endeavor to train counselors on addiction.
I do feel passionate about the ASAM Criteria, as it structures a precise assessment of a patient suffering with addiction/mental health Issues. Using the ASAM Criteria 6 assessment dimensions and the continuum of levels of care gives a person a chance of recovery, as opposed to forcing someone into a 21-day program. They, perhaps, may not need that length of stay or a 24-hour treatment setting.
The ASAM Criteria delivers excellent patient-care matching, which saves a lot of time and money. It enlightens the fact that recovery is very possible and the chances of getting out of addiction and leading a normal life are huge, with the guidance of the ASAM Criteria. I recommend that more and more medical and non-medical Institutions should use the ASAM Criteria for addiction treatment and recovery.
2What is the mission and activities of the IC&RC International Alcohol and Drug Counselor Certification Trust for India?
In 2010 we began our efforts to establish an International Credentialing service for Drug Professionals, which we pioneered in the Indian subcontinent and established by 2012 called The IC&RC IADCC. You can see more about us on our website: IADCC
We worked with a department of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in the government of India called NISD (National Institute of Social Defence), which umbrellas 900 Drug Programs. They receive support from the Government of India. My father, Dr. Vijayan Pavamani was one of the founders of this department.
We then went on to work with those Drug Programs interested in International Credentialing and also with some of them that were privately-run Drug Programs.
3. Who came to the three days of ASAM Criteria training and how did you decide who should be invited?
On November 30th to December 2nd, 2017 in Pune, we had a small group of 16 doctors who were administrators in their hospitals in several states from all over India to take the ASAM Criteria training.
Three years ago, when we were organizing our syllabus for students to get our credentials, I came across the ASAM Criteria. On studying it, I realized that we needed someone from ASAM to teach us about it. We sent an email to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and then someone responded that there is Dr. David Mee-Lee who could be interested in training on the ASAM Criteria to those interested in India.
In our quest to promote the ASAM Criteria amongst the Drug Programs, a psychiatrist in Punjab asked me if we could deliver this training for Medical Practitioners. On this request, we began to request doctors who were working with addiction patients to take this training. We were requested to deliver this training and so we did!!
4. How do you think the training went and what are your Next Steps?
Our trainer was none other than Dr. David Mee-Lee for whose training we received excellent reviews for all those three days.
Here is our group:

If you want to see more photos:

Our next step is implementation of the ASAM Criteria in India. We hope that a few ambassadors of The ASAM Criteria would be available to mission their time in India to help with the implementation of The ASAM Criteria for a few medical Institutions.
Yours sincerely,
Ranjana Pavamani
Executive Director
The IC&RC International Alcohol and Drug Counselor Certification Trust for India
While I had the opportunity to introduce something new to India, the USA, along with many other countries, have long looked to the ancient wisdom of India for health and spiritual guidance in our fast-paced society. In February 1968, fifty years ago, the Beatles travelled to Rishikesh in northern India to attend an advanced Transcendental Meditation (TM) training course at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Note one recent study on Transcendental Meditation Program’s Impact on the Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder of Veterans.
Current treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are only partially effective. The purpose of this study was to determine whether an extensively-researched stress reduction method, the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, can reduce the PTSD symptoms of veterans.
The findings of the 46-patient study were published online December 29, 2017 in the journal Military MedicineResults indicated that TM practice reduced PTSD symptoms without re-experiencing trauma.
  • After 1 month of TM practice, all 46 veterans with PTSD responded.
  • Because of the magnitude of these results and dose-response effect, placebo effects are unlikely explanations for the results.
  • Major limitations were the absence of random assignment and lack of a control group. Those who self-selected to enter this study may not be representative of all veterans who have PTSD.
  • But when taking into account these results and all previous research on the TM technique in reducing psychological and physiological stress, the evidence suggests that TM practice may offer a promising adjunct or alternative method for treating PTSD.

TM has been extensively researched for other disorders like hypertension, heart attacks and other

cardiovascular disease; depression, insomnia and stress-related conditions.
For more on this research:  Evidence on the benefits of TM
“The Transcendental Meditation Program’s Impact on the Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder of Veterans: An Uncontrolled Pilot Study”
Robert E Herron, Ph.D., MBA Brian Rees, M.D., MPH, MC, USAR (Ret.)
Military Medicine.

December 2012

Guns and violence; A rant; A new resource


I am no gun expert – either in handling a gun or in the research on guns and violence.  However it is hard to keep silent in the wake of two shocking gun violence killings within three days of each other – December 11 Clakamas Mall shooting in Orgeon with two deaths in addition to the shooter’s life (and there would have been many more death had his gun not jammed) – and the December 14 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut leaving 20 schoolchildren, 6 teachers and staff members, the gunman and his mother dead.

On December 18 in my local “big city” newspaper, The Sacramento Bee, Will Oremus, a staff writer for SLATE shared his viewpoint on the gun control lessons the USA might learn from a mass shooting in Australia.

I remember being shocked in April of 1996, when hearing about the gunman who had opened fire on tourists in a seaside resort in Port Arthur, Tasmania, the quiet island state off the southeast tip of the big island country of Australia. It was the kind of event you couldn’t imagine happening there in that tiny community, just like Newtown, Connecticut. By the time the gunman was finished, “he had killed 35 people and wounded 23 more. It was the worst mass murder in Australia’s history.”

I will extract from Will Oremus’ article that you can read in full at

It is worth pondering what the Australian government did just twelve days after the April 28 shooting.  I understand Australia’s population of about 23 million is just 60% of California’s population, let alone the whole USA. But even California, which has the toughest gun-control laws in the USA, couldn’t mobilize support for the range of changes Australia made less than 2 weeks after their mass murders.


Consider this list of gun-control measures. Could they work in all parts of the USA?

The Australian government in 1996 was able to craft a bipartisan deal with state and local governments to enact sweeping gun-control measures:

  1. Massive buyback of more than 600,000 semi-automatic shotguns and rifles, or about one-fifth of all firearms in circulation in Australia.
  2. Prohibition of private sales.
  3. Requirement that all weapons be individually registered to their owners.
  4. Requirement that gun buyers present a “genuine reason” for needing each weapon at the time of the purchase. Self-defense did not count.

In 1989, California became the first state to ban the manufacture, transport, import or sale of assault weapons.

Other key gun-control laws in California as listed in The Sacramento Bee, December 19, 2012, p.A18:

    1. Require gun buyers to undergo background checks and mandate that handgun buyers obtain safety training and certificates.
    2. Require gun sales to go through licensed gun dealers, and mandate a 10-day waiting period and criminal background check.
    3. Ban gun sales to felons, drug addicts and various other people deemed potentially dangerous, including those suffering from certain mental disorders or covered by a restraining order for domestic violence.
    4. Prohibit possession of concealed weapons without a permit. County sheriffs have discretion to approve or reject such applications.
    5. Outlaw high-capacity magazines that house more than 10 rounds.

Banned the carrying of a firearm within 1,000 feet of public or private schools.

  • Prohibit consumers from buying more than one gun per month.
  • Require people who move to California to register their firearms.
  • Ban the sale of various cheap guns commonly used for crime.
  • Bar possession of armor-penetrating bullets.


By now, if you are an avid gun-owner, you are probably fuming and it is questionable whether the same policies would work as well in all parts of the United States.

I am Australian-born living in California, so my culture shaped by my upbringing is not highly invested in protecting the US Constitution’s Second Amendment protecting the rights of the people to keep and bear arms. (The only “bear arms” I’m focused on as I prepare to spend the holidays in Hawaii, are “bare arms” on the beach….sorry).


Ponder how to balance individual rights for guns with a public health perspective and the greater good.

Here’s what happened next in the sixteen years after the sweeping gun control measures in Australia. I am listing and quoting from Oremus’ article:

  1. Homicides by firearm plunged 59 percent between 1995 and 2006, with no corresponding increase in non-firearm-related homicides.
  2. Drop in suicides by gun was even steeper: 65 percent.
  3. Studies found a close correlation between the sharp declines and the gun buybacks.
  4. Robberies involving a firearm also dropped significantly.
  5. Meanwhile, home invasions did not increase, contrary to fears that firearm ownership is needed to deter such crimes.
  6. “But here’s the most stunning statistic. In the decade before the Port Arthur massacre, there had been 11 mass shootings in the country. There hasn’t been a single one in Australia since.”


“There have been some contrarian studies about the decrease in gun violence in Australia.” Again I am listing and quoting from Oremus’ article:

  • A 2006 paper that argued the decline in gun-related homicides was simply a continuation of trends already under way.
  • But that paper’s methodology has been discredited and its authors were affiliated with pro-gun groups
  • Other reports from gun advocates have “cherry-picked” anecdotal evidence or presented outright fabrications to make the case that Australia’s more restrictive laws didn’t work.
  • “Those are effectively refuted by findings from peer-reviewed papers, which note that the rate of decrease in gun-related deaths more than doubled following the gun buyback, and that states with the highest buyback rates showed the steepest declines.”
  • A 2011 Harvard summary of the research concluded that, at the time the laws were passed in 1996, “it would have been difficult to imagine more compelling future evidence of a beneficial effect.”


As Will Oremus says: “I wonder if Americans are still so sure that we have nothing to learn from Australia’s example.”


When it comes to gun control, addiction and mental health, personal, interpersonal or cultural issues, H.L. Menken’s wisdom is worth remembering:

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.

George Engel, M.D. championed the Biopsychosocial model, a holistic alternative to the prevailing biomedical model that had dominated industrialized societies since the mid-20th century. (Engel GL (1977): “The need for a new medical model: a challenge for biomedicine”. Science 196:129-136.)

A biopsychosocial view is a useful construct to appreciate that guns and violence is a complex problem for which you may think there is a simple solution….and it would be wrong!


Take a broad perspective on what is involved in a biopsychosocial view of guns and violence.

Here are some issues that have surfaced in the proliferation of reports, articles and blogs since the Newtown, Connecticut shootings:


→ “Connecticut’s chief medical examiner said he hopes Adam Lanza’s biology will help explain why the Sandy Hook shooter went on a deadly rampage. The Hartford Courant reports that Dr. H. Wayne Carver has asked a geneticist at the University of Connecticut to join in his investigation of the killings.

→ “I’m exploring with the department of genetics what might be possible, if anything is possible,” Carver told the paper on Tuesday. “Is there any identifiable disease associated with this behavior?”

→ Carver is also awaiting toxicology testing results for the gunman.


→ Fox News reported Nancy Lanza, Adam’s mother, was in the process of having her son committed to a psychiatric facility when he went on the mass shooting spree, according to a lifelong family acquaintance. Connecticut police have said a motive for the shooting remains unclear, Newtown Patch reports.

→ A senior law enforcement official confirmed that Adam Lanza’s anger over his mother’s plan is being investigated as a possible motive for the massacre.

→  According to Psychiatric News (December 19), a publication of the American Psychiatric Association, reacting to speculation that the shooter behind the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, Adam Lanza, “might have had Asperger’s syndrome or some other autism spectrum disorder,” some “national autism groups were quick to point out that, although that may have been true, such diagnoses would have had nothing to do with his violent acts.” On its website, the group Autism Rights Watch “noted that autistic individuals are more likely to be victims, rather than perpetrators of violence, and urged the public and media outlets not to stigmatize these individuals and their families.”

→  “Poor social skills, trouble communicating and repetitive behaviors are all hallmarks of autism, but there’s no correlation with violence, says pediatric neuropsychologist Michelle Dunn, director of Montefiore Medical Center’s Neurology and Autism Center in the Bronx.”


There is the influence of the shooter’s immediate family social network:

→  “A federal law enforcement official said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had determined that Lanza and his mother, Nancy Lanza, visited firing ranges together and separately in recent years, with one known occasion of their going together. It was not clear whether they had both fired weapons on that visit.”

And then there’s the influence of the greater culture and social context:

→  “So deeply embedded is the gun culture of the United States that millions of law-abiding Americans truly believe that it is safer to own a gun. This is based on the chilling logic that because there are so many guns in circulation, one’s own weapon is needed for self-protection. To put it another way, the situation is so far gone there can be no turning back.”

(William Oremus)

Bottom Line:

For each of the personal tragedies that have involved guns and violence, the configuration of the unique biopsychosoclal factors in each case, reminds us that there is no simple solution.

For the larger issue for society on what to do about guns and violence, it is also multidimensional and complicated.

But complexity need not justify procrastination; nor bipartisan paralysis need not justify inaction.


I am reminded often of the importance of cultural competence.  Whenever I start getting worked up and angry over the obvious (to me) stupidity and narrow-mindedness of others, I try to remember cultural sensitivity.Here’s my rant about guns and violence and individual rights versus the greater good:

Sort of like Piers Morgan on CNN, I yell:  How many more children have to be slaughtered; how many more cinema goers and mall shoppers have to be terrorized and killed; how many more murders, crimes of passion and suicides have to splash on the front pages and feature in “Breaking News” before we wake up and do something real about guns and violence?

How much longer can the USA ignore the huge disparity in gun deaths compared with Japan, Europe, Canada and Australia all the while advocating for more guns; concealed weapons permission; and no change in gun laws already so diluted compared with the rest of similar societies?

When will we Americans find some balance in our fierce defense of individual rights that reveres personal freedom over the greater good (Live free or die)?”  “Nobody is going to make me buy health insurance, but I sure want someone to do something and take care of me if I end up in the Emergency Department!”  “I’ve got my health coverage.

I don’t want the government to do anything about the 30-40 million who don’t have coverage, especially if I have to help contribute to the cost of expanding access to care. But I sure want someone to extend my unemployment benefits and cover me if I lose my job and health benefits.

Ah, it feels good to rant. But then there’s that cultural competence thing again.

I don’t want to diminish any of the passion about this and other “rantable” issues.  But yelling across the great divide won’t solve much either.

Somehow I have to feel the pain of the National Rifle Association members which anchors their staunch opposition to gun controls.  Somehow I must develop a better sensitivity to the fierce defense of the right to keep and bear arms, and the historical cultural roots that fuel such steadfastness.

Maybe if I become more culturally competent, I can help solve these complex issues, not just rant about them. Maybe….but now I can feel myself getting worked up again.


Now available:Motivational Interviewing authors, Miller, Moyers and Rollnick have developed a two-part DVD set.  It provides descriptions and demonstrations of the new four-process method of Motivational Interviewing.  Watch a video explaining what resources are now available from The Change Companies with the new edition of Motivational Interviewing just published.

Until next time

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year for 2013. See you late January next year!


November 2012

Tips and Topics
Vol. 10, No. 8 November 2012
In This Issue

SAVVY – Alternate terms for “Relapse”; ASAM’s definition of relapse
SKILLS – How to deal with substance use in residential treatment settings
SOUL – When not being chosen was good!

Welcome to the November edition of Tips and Topics. I hope you have been able to balance some family and friends time with the commercial push to have you shop till you drop.

Senior Vice President
of The Change Companies®

Read More

October 2012

Tips and Topics
Vol. 10, No. 7 October 2012
In This Issue

SAVVY – “Relapse” revisited and reconsidered
SKILLS – Dealing with substance use in treatment and Deleting “resistance”?
SOUL – Who has influenced you and how did they get there?
SUCCESS STORY and SHARING SOLUTIONS: How one program is moving to individualized services

Welcome to the many new readers this month. Thank-you all for joining us for the October edition of Tips and Topics.

Senior Vice President
of The Change Companies®
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September 2012

Tips and Topics
Vol. 10, No. 6 September 2012
In This Issue

SAVVY – READERS’ REACTIONS: Comments on SAVVY, July 2012
SKILLS – Pilot test small changes and banish waiting lists
SOUL – We need a new party – The Compromise Party

Welcome. I’m glad you could join us and be part of the Tips and Topics community of readers.

Senior Vice President
of The Change Companies®
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August 2012

Tips and Topics
Vol. 10, No. 5 August 2012
In This Issue

SAVVY & SKILLS – Mindfulness from the “mother of mindfulness research”
SOUL – Lessons from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Welcome everyone to the August edition of Tips and Topics (TNT).  Thanks to all the new subscribers this month who are joining us for the first time.

Senior Vice President
of The Change Companies®
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July 2012

Tips and Topics
Vol. 10, No. 4 July 2012

Thank-you for joining us for the July edition of Tips and Topics (TNT). For all our readers in the Northern Hemisphere, hope you are having some summer fun. For our readers way further south….stay warm.

Senior Vice President
of The Change Companies®

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June 2012 – Tips & Topics

Tips and Topics
Vol. 10, No. 3 June, 2012

Welcome to the June edition of Tips and Topics (TNT) and to all the new subscribers. You can see nine years of back issues of TNT on The Change Companies’ website and download any of the previous editions.

Senior Vice President
of The Change Companies®

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