What’s it Like to be a Psychotherapist?

What’s it like to be a psychotherapist?

Psychotherapy encompasses a variety of methods for treating mental, emotional, and psychiatric medical conditions. It helps patients understand the triggers of anxiety, depression, or related condition, and develop better ways of dealing with stressful situations. A psychotherapist is a mental health professional who interacts with patients to gain a solid understanding of feelings, thoughts, and behavior, and how it correlates with their mental health condition. He or she works to help patients overcome and recover from a variety of issues to live better lives.

Typical Job Activities

Psychotherapists work with a wide range of patients, from individuals and families to groups. They work with patients to help them reflect on certain aspects of their lives and learn new abilities, like managing anger. They strive to help patients overcome their mental health issues and they tailor treatment plans to specific situations. When meeting with new patients, psychotherapists commonly set up an initial interview, followed by several one-on-one sessions lasting 30 to 60 minutes one or more times a week to gain an understanding of the individuals. Then they establish a course of treatment and incorporate various things to help the patient deal with their mental issues. Psychotherapists use many different non-medical treatments to help patients understand their feelings and behavior and find new ways to deal with distress. Common approaches include cognitive behavioral therapies, hypno-psychotherapy, systemic therapies, and psychoanalytic therapies.

Essential Skills for Psychotherapists

Psychotherapists must have the ability to be emotionally available to patients, and when individuals are angry or hostile the job can be distressing. The ability to deal with stressful situations is essential for psychotherapists, and even when patients are disrespectful, these professionals must be committed to helping them overcome their issues. It is necessary for psychotherapists to completely understand the theory of psychotherapy and ways to apply those concepts to actual situations. They must be natural listeners and have the ability to focus on key things a patient says. Flexibility and improvisation are also helpful when dealing with new situations. In general, the most important skill needed by psychotherapists is the curiosity of understanding individuals with mental health issues and why they think and act they way the do.

Psychotherapist Work Environment

Some psychotherapists work for medical facilities or private practices and work on consistent schedules. Many psychotherapists are self-employed, so they are able to create their own schedules. Some see patients during the day, but many schedule appointments in the evening because a lot of adult patients come after work. Additionally, many psychotherapists offer on-call services for consultations, patient questions, and emergency interventions. A lot of psychotherapists specialize in a certain age group of patients, like the elderly or adolescents. Others focus on specific services like addiction counseling or couples therapy.

Benefits of Working as a Psychotherapist

Working as a psychotherapist can be a very rewarding career. For example, when a patient who is initially hesitant and closed-mind suddenly opens up and overcomes their mental health issues, it can provide a psychotherapist with a sense of euphoria. When patients are more balanced and at peace with themselves, psychotherapists often feel proud to have contributed to helping patients live happier lives. This profession is typically never dull and patients keep psychotherapists on their toes and ready to tackle a plethora of challenges.

Top 30 Counseling Blogs of 2012

In today’s information-flooded world, many are searching the Internet for direction concerning their counseling needs. In response, counselors and therapists are sharing their knowledge and offering advice through the medium of blogging.

In preparing this list of the Top Counseling Blogs of 2012, we evaluated quality and freshness of content. We also looked for up-and-coming blogs as a way of bringing our own readers something new. Of the hundreds of outstanding blogs we reviewed, we’ve selected these 30 as being the most helpful and offering the sharpest insight in their respective area of focus.

General Aids for Counselors

  1. The American Counseling Association: The ACA is now celebrating sixty years of serving the counseling community. Its website hosts a blog sourced by licensed counselors as a resource for other counselors and covers a wide range of topics.
    Highlight: Insights

  3. The Good Therapy Blog: Good Therapy is a website dedicated to helping people find therapists. Their blog is updated multiple times daily by professional counselors and addresses all areas of counseling.
    Highlight: How Social Networking Changes Friendships

  5. Online Therapy Institute: Online Therapy Institute is a helpful guide for any counselor looking for ways to better incorporate technology into their practice.
    Highlight: Enhancing Mental Health by Understanding Cyberculture

  7. Counselling Resource: Originally created by Dr. Greg Mulhauser, this blog is now sourced by an international team of contributors and provides a scholarly look into the field of counseling.
    Highlight: Find Your Secret Formula

Pursuing a Career in Counseling

  1. Masters in Counseling: This blog acts as an essential guide to any counseling student trying to navigate their way through graduate studies. It aims to serve both students of counseling and counselors who are early on in their career.

    Highlight: Unique Mental Health Needs of Graduate Students


  3. Admitted Blog: The official blog of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, Admitted provides information for college counselors as well as prospective students and their families.

    Highlight: Strong Academic Momentum Positively Associated with Degree Completion


  5. DVC International Counseling Blog: A blog focused on guiding prospective students through the application process. It is written by an academic counselor out of California and is aimed toward international students.

    Highlight: Fall 2013 UC Application Integrity


Educational Counseling

  1. Savvy School Counselor: Creative advice and ideas for elementary school counselors from blogger Vanessa, who has been a school counselor for 8 years and is 2009 National Board Certified.

    Highlight: The Girl World: A Small Group


  3. School Counselor Blog: Another essential resource for elementary school counselors that uses new techniques and fresh ideas to guide and inspire children.

    Highlight: Connect and Share with More School Counselors on Twitter


  5. Counselors’ Corner: Views from school counselors about the counseling profession.

    Highlight: Why College Essays Need to be Risky Business


  7. The Counseling Geek: The school counseling blog of techies aims to put your counseling program into the 21st century so you can be an ever bigger support to your students.

    Highlight: Keys to Communication – Boost Your Electronic Communication Skills with TACT


Religious Counseling

  1. Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation: Faith based counseling resources and advice for Christian counselors and their clients.

    Highlight: Is there any point in talking to a person with paranoid schizophrenia?


  3. Biblical Counseling Coalition: A blog by Christian counselors, for Christian counselors. They provide daily advice on caring for people’s spiritual needs.

    Highlight: Biblical Counseling Ministries Catalyze the Whole Church


  5. American Association of Christian Counselors: The AACC provides spiritual devotionals and professional advice to those looking for religiously centered counseling.

    Highlight: Transforming Culture: Our Role as Christian Professional


Grief and Bereavement Counseling

  1. Grief and Healing Blog: Useful information on caregiving for a family member or ailing pet and advice on transitioning into a period of loss.

    Highlight: Grief Support Groups: What are the Benefits?


  3. Grieving Dads: A project designed to reach all bereaved dads and give them an avenue to connect and share their stories.

    Highlight: Too Much


  5. The Elizabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center Blog: The Bereavement Center Blog provides resources to patients, families, and professionals alike.

    Highlight: Rituals and Grief


Relationship Counseling

  1. Marriage Counseling Hope: A blog by the National Registry of Marriage Friendly Therapists, serving as an avenue for a myriad of relationship-centered advice and as an liaison for finding the marriage counselor that is right for you.

    Highlight: Roomates or Soul Mates


  3. Men’s Counseling: A blog run by counselor Jason Fierstein which focuses solely on the unique problems that men face within relationships.

    Highlight: The Number One Thing Guys Must Know About Relationships


  5. Rockin Marriage: This interesting new take on marriage counseling has created a buzz in the media. It provides fresh look on creative ways to breathe new life into your marriage.

    Highlight: What is an Emotional Affair and Can it End Your Marriage?


  7. Divorce Counseling: Providing help, hope, support, and accountability to couples trying to rebuild their marriages and avoid divorce. The blog is updated by Michael Brooks Ph.D., who has 25 years of experience counseling marriage relationships.

    Highlight: Can You Save Your Marriage Alone?


Addiction Counseling

  1. Center for Healthy Sex: The Center for Healthy Sex presents a blog focused on helping men and women recover from sexual addiction. It provides a professional and stress free atmosphere to an often taboo subject.

    Highlight: Is Sex Addict the New Slut?


  3. Eating Disorder Treatment Blog: The blog of an eating disorder treatment facility in Newport Beach, CA. It posts expert advice on how to start recovering from an eating disorder.

    Highlight: Eating Disorders and Attachment


  5. Inner Gold Blog: Focuses on Internet addictions, primarily pornography.

    Highlight: Pornography Addiction Questions


  7. Addiction Blog: A great starting point for information on many the different forms of addiction, including compulsive gambling and prescription drug use. The blog is updated daily with clear advice on coping with addiction.

    Highlight: Intervention for Teenage Drug Use or Abuse: A How-to Guide


  9. CPDD Community Website Blog: The College on Problems of Drug Dependence was formed in 1929 and uses their blog as a source for information on substance abuse research, treatment, and related issues.

    Highlight: Context of smoking portrayals in movies influences risk for future smoking in adolescents


Depression and Anxiety Counseling

  1. My Postpartum Voice: Started in hopes of bringing together women who are struggling with postpartum depression, this blog uses personal testimonies to let women know that they are not alone.

    Highlight: Here Comes the Rain Again


  3. Depression Marathon: A Female runner and health professional contributes a candid look into her struggle to live a productive life after being diagnosed with severe depression.

    Highlight: My Own Private Roller Coaster


  5. Anxiety Sufferers Blog: A blog set up to help anxiety sufferers overcome their disorder with confidence. The site is run by 10 year anxiety sufferer, Paul David.

    Highlight: Anxiety Becomes a Learned Behavior


  7. Positively Positive: An inspirational blog dedicated to healing depression and anxiety through the power of positive thinking. Join their mailing list and receive a daily word of encouragement.

    Highlight: What Are You Pretending Not to Know?


Substance Abuse Counselor Resource Guide

This resource guide is a comprehensive list of items of interest, research and reading materials for students, substance abuse counselors and members of the general public who seek to learn more about Substance Abuse Counseling. The resource guide is divided into broad categories, with each category listing pertinent resources. Each resource entry provides a link to the resource and is annotated with a brief description of the item. This guide also includes links to Substance Abuse professional associations, databases, journals and other resources to assist with research and applied practice in the area of Substance Abuse Counseling.

In addition to resources for those interested in topics related to Substance Abuse Counseling, various educational and informational resources are provided for parents and those in need of personal assistance with substance abuse. Certain social media accounts of notable practitioners in the field are listed to keep updated with news and developments in the field.

General Resources

  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is one of the 27 federal agencies that comprise the National Institutes of Health. The agency is the largest provider of funds for research efforts in areas of alcohol and alcoholism. The NIAAA mission is also to diseminate research findings to researchers, policy makers, health care workers and the general public. The NIAAA supports research that delve into understanding alcohol addiction and the socio-economic differences in response to alcohol.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a federal agency that funds research in the area of substance abuse across several disciplines. The Institute is also committed to disseminating research findings and applying such findings in practical ways. The Institute also informs federal policy and seeks to improve prevention and treatment programs nationwide.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration The Samhsa is the federal organization that was established to provide resources to substance abuse counseling professionals. The organization was developed in 1992 to identify specific opportunities for substance abuse and mental health programs to serve American communities. The organization seeks to apply the latest research findings to programs that serve the American people.
  • Substance Abuse Counselor This site explores the duties of a substance abuse counselor and provides resources for those seeking treatment centers. Hosed by Palm Partners Recovery Center.


  • Addiction Blog – Blog that addresses topics of substance abuse, as well as other addictions.
  • Addiction Inbox – Blog created and maintained by Substance Abuse Expert, Dirk Hanson. Hanson examines literature, articles and research regarding alcohol and substance addictions.
  • Addiction Recovery Blog – Blog designed for the free exchange of ideas of recovering addicts and alcoholics.
  • Addictions Recovery Blog – Blog of substance abuse counselor Jan Edward Williams, MS, JD, LCADC
  • Alcoholism Support – Blog dedicated to providing support for those living with alcoholism.
  • Helping Psychology – Blog that discusses substance abuse counseling issues and topics for practitioners.
  • Non-Twelve Step Drug Rehabs Blog – This blog discusses thoughts, opinions and research about non-12 step research methods and treatments.
  • Opiate Addiction Blog – This blog is maintained by substance abuse specialist, R.G. Newman, MD. Discusses addictions to opiates and successful treatment methods.
  • Quit Smoking Blog – Blog discusses smoking cessation methods.
  • Substance Abuse Counseling 101 for Parents – Blog created and maintained by substance abuse professional, Berry Lessin.
  • The Good Drugs Guide – Blog posts cover all topics related to substance abuse, including treatment methods, rehabilitation centers, prescription drug abuse resources and more.
  • Therapist Resources – Blog that discusses a wide variety of substance abuse counseling and other topics of concern to therapists and counselors.
  • Transitions Substance Abuse Counseling Blog – Blog created and hosted by Transitions Drug Rehabilitation Centers.
  • Wall Street Journal Blog – Wall Street Journal Blog regarding incidence of substance abuse increasing among older Americans.


  • American Counseling Association – The American Counseling Association is the largest educational and professional organization for practicing counselors. The association was founded in 1952 and offers an annual conference for practitioners and advanced degree students. The association offers several publications, continuing education opportunities, leadership training and advocacy services. The association currently lists over 50,000 members.
  • Association of Christian Alcohol and Drug Counselors Institute – The Association of Christian Alcohol and Drug Counselors Institute is a non-profit founded in 2002 for training alcohol and addiction counselors in working with patients from a Biblical perspective.
  • National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors – The National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors is a professional association that offers annual conferences and certification for substance abuse counseling professionals. The organization offers continuing education opportunities and resources for practitioners.


  • Drugs.com – Drugs.com is an online database of prescription and illegal drugs, definitions, identification and information about all drugs. In addition, the site provides information and articles regarding the use of drugs in American society.
  • Drug Rehab Database – Nationwide database of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. The site also offers in-depth information about several types of drugs, both illicit and prescription, as well as alcohol.
  • Find Counseling Substance Abuse Counseling Interactive Glossary – Site offers an interactive glossary of terms utilized in the field of substance abuse counseling.
  • MedLine Plus – Database published and maintained by the National Institutes of Health for patients and the general public. MedLine Plus is a clearinghouse for information about substance abuse.
  • Reelizations Media – Videos and multimedia resources for substance abuse counselors.
  • Science Daily Addiction News – Site posts the latest news and research in the field of addiction.
  • Sober Nation – Nationwide directory of substance abuse counselors.
  • The Addiction Recovery Guide – Online resource index for addiction recovery information. Hosts a forum and message board, as well as a treatment center database. Also includes alternative treatments for substance abuse.

Educational Resources

Patient/Parent Resources

  • Aids.gov Substance Use and Abuse Issues – Aids.gov provides a resource for individuals living with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The Substance Use and Abuse section offers educational information about how substance use and abuse affects those dealing with AIDs.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous – Community based, multi-lingual 12-step global organization for those who use or abuse alcohol.
  • Ask an Addiction Counselor – Twenty-seven year veteran of substance abuse counseling accepts questions from users and addresses issues online.
  • Ask the Internet Therapist – Substance abuse counseling questions answered and therapy provided online.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the federal agency that provides facts, statistics and resources for the public with regards to addiction, substance abuse and other public health issues.
  • Child Welfare Information Gateway – The Child Welfare Information Gateway provides resources and information for families working with the Child Welfare system.
  • Counseling Depot – Repository for substance abuse counselors who provide online and telephone sessions to clients.
  • Drug Addiction Help Now – Substance abuse counseling center offers telephone counseling sessions to clients across the nation.
  • Drug Strategies – Drug Strategies provides resources for help with addictions. The site will assist the user with finding Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings in their area. Drug Strategies also lists various treatment centers across the U.S. The site also provides additional resources, such as articles on various topics of addictions.
  • DrugsTV – Comprehensive parent and teen Internet resource center for information about drugs and alcohol.
  • Hazelden – Hazelden is a popular network of substance abuse treatment centers and sober houses. The website provides resources and information for parents and patients.
  • Healthy People 2020 – Provides information and education to the general public with regards to substance abuse.
  • Narcotics Anonymous – Community based, multi-lingual 12-step global organization for those who use or abuse drugs.
  • National Substance Abuse Index – Index listing substance abuse resources across the U.S.
  • Smart Recovery – Online support for substance abuse and addiction recovery.
  • The Georgia Meth Project – The Georgia Meth Project is an effort to educate the public about the drug methamphetamine and addiction to meth. The site provides information about topics such as meth psychosis and how meth changes the appearance of the user.
  • Treatment4Addiction – Online treatment center information repository.

Twitter Accounts

  • Addiction Counseling @counselinginfo – Account of addiction counseling referral agency
  • Purple Treatment Center @purpleinc – Residential treatment center for substance abuse.
  • Good Therapy @good_therapy – Directory for substance abuse professionals.
  • American Counseling Association @counselingviews – Account for the American Counseling Association blog.
  • Ask an Addiction Counselor @addictionguy – Account for an experienced substance abuse counselor who accepts questions via Twitter and on his professional blog.
  • Campus Explorer @campusexplorer – Directory of schools that offer substance abuse counseling training courses and certifications.
  • Counseling World @CWcom – Online and telephone substance abuse counseling directory.
  • Changing Lives @changinglives – Telephone-based substance abuse counseling.
  • Erica Spiegelman @ericaspiegelman – Notable, renown substance abuse counselor, author and consultant.
  • MNT Alcohol and Addict @mnt_alcoholadd – Latest addiction and substance abuse counseling news, topics, research and information.
  • Psych Central @psychcentral – Mental health and substance abuse news and information.


15 Great iPad Apps for Students and Professionals in Psychology

While many use tablet-based devices for entertainment, they’re also incredibly useful in the professional world – perhaps nowhere more significantly than in medicine, psychology, and counseling, where tablet apps can be used to help probe, solve and monitor one’s health. We’ve compiled a list of the 15 great iPad apps for students and professionals in psychology. We’ve grouped the apps by Personal and Professional Development, Writing and Note Taking, Content Management, Remote Access, and Virtual Meeting.

Personal and Professional Development


For enthusiasts of the mind, PyschExplorer is indispensable. If you have this application, you will have access to published research, blogs, podcasts and interviews. The application publishes hundreds of research papers per month so students will have a pool of articles and abstracts to choose from. Students will be able to read the latest news and developments in the field of psychology and get personally connected to famous doctors and writers on Facebook and Twitter.


BrainTutor 3D

Students will be amazed by Brain Tutor 3D. This application will inspire people to study the brain’s anatomy and physiology because it comes with 3D colored presentations. Users can zoom by touching the region that they intend to study. The display seems realistic because it uses a rendered head and shows MRI brain models.



TraxItAll is like a log that keeps track of a person’s daily activities in order to meet certain goals. Subscribing to this application is like building a habit, and it motivates people to accomplish what they set out to do without any delay. Important notes, schedules and appointments will be recorded for future reference.


iCounselor OCD

This is a handy self-help tool. People who have this application ready on their iPads can avoid obsessions and compulsions any time and anywhere. The advice and calming activities were created by licensed psychotherapists. The application comes with a complete package including OCD level, calming activities and different skill sets based on the person’s level. This is not a treatment. For more questions and concerns please visit your doctor.



Shift is a game that many people love. However, it is not just a game. It is perfect for people who love difficult challenges and complicated puzzles. Like most phenomenal games, Shift is really addicting. It makes you want to play again and again especially if you can’t beat it. This game is worth the price.


Writing and Note Taking

Bamboo Paper – Notebook

Note taking is very important especially for students. Bamboo notebook helps students in jotting down notes during class and doing their homework. This is an all time favorite notebook application because it has different options like sizes, colors and styles. It works perfectly and gives you the freedom to write and draw like you would with real paper.



Penultimate has many different font colors to choose from. The most widely used font for school and the office is classic blank ink. It comes in a perfect size eraser too. The handwriting looks clear, and the drawing looks like it’s real and has been drawn with an actual paper and pen.


Dictation and Recording

Dragon Dictation

Tired of typing emails? Dragon Dictation is easy to use. Once it recognizes your voice, it will automatically transcribe the exact words you are saying. It is much faster than typing.



This is an excellent recorder for the iPad. Just imagine recording your class or office meetings on your phone. You can even record outdoors without losing the sound quality. Background noise is often a problem, but iTalk cancels it to produce the best sound quality.



Sometimes our thoughts and ideas go chaotic because we become indecisive. MindMeister is a good mind mapping tool that helps us organize what we think. You can use it to process all the ideas you have.


Content Management


Cloud app offers a variety of features for people who need enterprise content management. One of the greatest features is that there is no need to be connected to the Internet to access an organization’s videos and podcasts. Sharing important information and communication in the palm of your hands.



Dropbox provides portable storage for files. Videos, pictures and documents can be stored in Dropbox. What is great about Dropbox is that it’s free, and all your files from computers, tablets and phones can be easily accessed.


Remote Access


Using Wifi or 3G, LogMeIn application can let the user access their Mac log in. It can even open and check files and documents. This app can even manipulate and control the desktop.


Virtual Meeting


GoToMeeting is very convenient if you want to have a meeting online or set up a webinar. It is like you are having a real meeting because you can see each others’ faces, hear everyone and share files or documents for the meeting.



iPads and iPhones can now use WebEx to give users the chance to stay connected to important meetings and avoid any delays. With WebEx, conferences become real because videos and presentations are clear with the use of wifi and 3G.

Top 10 iPhone Apps for Psychology Students and Professionals

If you have an iPhone, it’s probably never more than a few feet away from you. This can be a powerful thing when it comes to psychology apps. Whether you’re a student, professional, or just trying to understand the mind a little better, these apps can help you reach your goals faster.

1. PsycExplorer

Called “a must have app for any psychology major,” PsycExplorer is an all in one collection of the latest psychology news, videos, blog posts, and tweets. The app is updated daily by Michael A. Britt, Ph.D., host of the number one academic psychology podcast.


2. Study Sets – Psychology

Study Sets’ psychology app organizes a wealth of information in a single app which functions offline for those study sessions outside network range. Sections such as Conditioning, Memory, Personality, and Neuroscience contain links to relevant Wikipedia articles. Look up the Lite version on the App Store to try before you buy.


3. Live Happy

In contrast to academic study aids, Live Happy is geared toward regular people who want their iPhone to help them cultivate positivity throughout the day. Featured in The New York Times and SELF Magazine, Live Happy guides users through daily activities which have been scientifically proven to boost short and long term happiness.


4. No More Meltdowns

An interactive version of Dr. Jed Baker’s book of the same name, No More Meltdowns helps parents track behavior and understand difficult incidents with their child as they happen. Building on Dr. Baker’s four step plan, the app helps parents keep detailed records which can later be analyzed to correct unhealthy patterns and better understand triggers.


5. SymTrend ADL

ADLs are Activities of Daily Living. For parents, something as simple as getting their child dressed, fed, or into the bathroom can be a minefield of stress and confusing emotional reactions from the child. SymTrend has been in the electronic diary business since 2001 and created SymTrend ADL to track ADL issues against therapies, medications, diets, and supplements.


6. Healing Hypnosis

No longer a bit of entertainment at a magic show, hypnosis has been proven to reduce or eliminate physical and emotional pain, even in patients who don’t respond to other treatments. This well-reviewed app by Darren Marks pairs his extremely popular hypnotherapy with relaxing visualizations and allows for sessions with or without a “wake up” instruction at the end.


7. Migraine i-pocketcards

BB pocketcards are an invaluable resource for healthcare professionals who need a lot of information about medical conditions and treatments in a small, pocket-sized package. This app makes it even smaller, putting over 30 pocketcards spanning 11 different therapeutic categories on the iPhone you already carry with you.


8. Momento

All psychology professionals recommend journaling. Momento sets itself apart from other diary apps with its full integration of services like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Last.fm. Your private thoughts won’t be posted to those public feeds, but Momento can integrate your posts and activities to help you remember how you felt and put emotions in context.


9. Better Thinking and Better Living

This simple app incorporates a 25 day plan for Better Thinking and Better Living.


10. Memory Practice

After his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers, David Dennis developed this streamlined app for her to simulate a neurology test which greatly improved her memory.

Top 10 TED Talks on Psychology

Throughout time, people have been in near constant pursuit of motivation, happiness, inner strength, love and fulfillment. In recent years, a new approach to understanding these feelings and the motivation behind pursuing them has led some to look at how they are related, and how they may be achieved.

Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work

The question of what motivates us is one that never seems to have a defined answer. In this talk, Shawn Achor proposes that happiness motivates us, rather than the other way around. Happy people are inspired and productive people.

Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation

Many believe that the key to improving performance is to provide incentives for results. While it would seem obvious, it is not always true. Once a small degree of cognitive skill and creativity is needed, incentives often become less effective. What may be more effective? More autonomy and a greater sense of purpose for employees in their work.

Barry Schwartz: The Paradox Of Choice

Choice is supposed to be a good thing. The idea is that with more choice, people gain more freedom and are better off in their lives. However, Barry Schwartz proposes that too much choice paralyzes decision making, stifles progress and warps expectations. Choice allows us to do better and achieve more, but our expectations may never be met.

Martin Seligman: The new era of positive psychology

For many years, psychology has concentrated on what is wrong with people and finding ways to repair damage. Instead, psychology may need more focus on building strength in individuals, as well as identifying and repairing damage in those seeking treatment. Those who have engagement and meaning in their lives appear to be happier, stronger and more productive.

VS Ramachandran: 3 clues to understanding your brain

Dr. Ramachandran presents three interesting examples that examine the relationship between the tissue of the brain absorbs and transmits, and what the mind understands. The difference between the “real world” and the goings on of the mind can be profound.

Temple Grandin: The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

What would it be like to think in pictures instead of words? The autistic mind sees and solves problems that a typical brain may not be able to deal with. A broader range of minds can solve a broader range of problems in the most effective manner possible.

Oliver Sacks: What Hallucination Reveals About our Minds

We often think of hallucinations and assume that a person is on drugs, has gone insane, or perhaps both. This is not always the case, but what our minds see in these hallucinations says quite about who we are.

Nancy Etcoff on the Surprising Science of Happiness

We have no choice but to try to be happy. What will we do to increase how happy we are? How attached is happiness to our day to day lives and circumstances? How programmed are we to bias towards the negative and to respond to difficult circumstances with excessive stress, killing our ability to be happy? If we
were happy all of the time, could we even survive the troubling times?

Matthieu Ricard: Habits of Happiness

From biochemist to Buddhist monk, a presentation on the habits that foster happiness, serenity and a sense of well-being. How do we nurture the conditions within the mind that lead to happiness?

Helen Fisher: Why we love, why we cheat

What causes us to love one person instead of another? An examination of the chemical factors that influence emotions like love. More importantly, what current societal factors are influencing these emotions?

10 Most Brutal Prisons in the World


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Prisons – there’s no escaping it. If you dump a large number of violent criminals together and offer them no hope and no future, there are bound to be problems. Life behind bars can often be just as brutal as life on the outside – for some offenders, even more so. What’s more, on top of vicious inmates and sadistic guards, prisoners also face the sometimes extreme difficulties of overcrowding, poor hygiene, and bad sanitation.

To deal with their harsh environments, lifetime criminals often have to toughen up and “switch off” even more. From the threat of deadly prison gangs to the fear of being unexpectedly shanked in the shower, life in jail must take its toll on any inmate’s mental state. And as a result, prison counselors have clearly got their work cut out for them. Still, as they say, “It’s a dangerous job, but somebody’s got to do it.”

Read on for the 10 most dangerous prisons in the world.

10. Bang Kwang Central Prison – Nonthaburi Province, Thailand


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Nicknamed the “Bangkok Hilton” by foreigners, Bang Kwang Central Prison is a notorious maximum-security facility just outside Bangkok that deals with death-row inmates and serious lifetime offenders. All Bang Kwang prisoners are forced to wear leg irons for their first three months of incarceration – and death row inmates have them permanently welded on.

The prison provides one bowl of vegetable soup with rice a day, with prisoners also allocated cooking facilities and being expected to buy ingredients from the prison canteen. Fresh fruit, insect repellent and ketchup are luxury items. Since May this year, visitors have been banned from bringing prisoners food, clothes and other items.

Bang Kwang is extremely overcrowded and offers nothing in the form of mental stimulation, exercise, creativity or rehabilitation. Inmates are pretty much left to their own devices, and up to 70 percent of them are said to have succumbed to depression. “I see a lot of people who are losing their minds. I see men turn into zombies, literally tuning out and existing in a numb-state. It is a struggle to stay sane here,” said one Canadian inmate.

Human rights organizations have complained about Bang Kwang’s lack of medical care and sanitation and have cited the facility for overcrowding, its reputed use of torture, and its insistence that inmates wear restraints. In 2012, police raided seven zones of the prison and discovered 40,470 baht ($1,318) in cash, pornography, crystal meth, and smuggled mobile phones.

9. Nairobi Prison – Nairobi, Kenya


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Nairobi Prison was built in 1911 to house 800 prisoners, but by 2003, the inmate population had already exceeded 3,000. Unsurprisingly, in view of such extreme overcrowding, sanitation, hygiene and general living conditions have been severely affected. Officials don’t even have enough uniforms for all the inmates.

Located in the industrial quarter of Nairobi and described as a “maze of chain-link fences, razor wire and guard towers,” the prison is thought to be one of the most congested in the world. Cells reek of sweat, filth and human waste, and the stench of raw sewage hangs in the air.

“This is the worst prison I have ever seen. Everything about this place is bad, including the treatment from the wardens,” said Nigerian inmate Colin Alexander. “We are surviving by the grace of God – I don’t think any human being can survive here.”

In a prison where simply staying physically and mentally healthy is a struggle, reports continue to circulate about brutality and torture. “The story is the same everywhere in our jails,” explains frustrated prison official David Mwania. “Congestion because of delays in court cases, leading to more and more congestion. There is a lack of funds to provide for basic essentials for inmates. Simply, the system cannot cope anymore.”

8. Rikers Island – New York, USA


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New York’s Rikers Island gained a reputation for violence in the 1990s, when stabbings, murders and other attacks (on fellow inmates and guards) were common and unlikely to result in any punishment. Inmates have described the prison as rougher than the roughest New York streets.

The list of documented attacks and guard-related assault cover-ups in Rikers is huge. Corrupt guards have even used inmates as “enforcers.” In 2008, an inquiry was launched following rumors of an inmate fight club instigated by prison guards. In October that year, 18-year-old prisoner Christopher Robinson was beaten to death by teenage inmates while guards “looked the other way.” Subsequently, three guards and three inmates faced charges. In the end, two of the guards were charged and imprisoned. The other guard is awaiting sentence, and in total, 12 inmates were implicated in the scandal.

In response to the violence, prison officials clamped down in 2009 by searching cells daily for homemade weapons, using SWAT teams to break up prison riots and transforming Rikers into one of the strictest prisons in the country. That year, annual stabbings fell from 1,000 to around 70.

Still, graphic images of inmate injuries released in 2012 suggest that violence remains a problem in Rikers. While the Correctional Department insists the improvements are real and lasting, insiders suggest that violence is once again escalating in one of America’s most notorious prisons.

Well-known inmates in Rikers include John Lennon’s murderer Mark Chapman, David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, and rappers Tupac Shakur, Lil Wayne and Foxy Brown.

7. Black Beach – Malabo, Equatorial Guinea


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Black Beach is a sinisterly named internment facility in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea that is synonymous with rat infestations, inmate overcrowding, malnutrition, sadistic guards and brutality. It was not unheard of for prisoners to die from chronic disease or even disappear completely in this prison, which is situated on the volcanic island of Bioko.

Although Black Beach’s infamous old buildings were replaced five years ago and the facility now boasts a hospital wing and pharmacy, prisoners are still shackled for up to 12 hours a day, as they shuffle past landings covered with wire to prevent suicides, in constant fear of torture and beatings.

In 2008, a special reporter for the UN expressed concerns that torture was frequently used to secure convictions in Equatorial Guinea and that corporal punishment was used in prisons like Black Beach. Prisoners have reportedly died following prolonged beatings, and there are also indications that political prisoners have been held in solitary confinement for as long as four years.

Black Beach is notorious for its lack of human rights and offers little protection for inmates. A prisoner can expect hardly any contact with the outside world, as access to lawyers is rare and families are not even allowed to visit their incarcerated loved ones.

6. Petak Island prison – White Lake, Russia


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Remote Russian prison OE-256/5, commonly known as Petak, is specially designed to hold the country’s most dangerous prisoners. Like Alcatraz, Petak is isolated by water, and the White Lake area that surrounds the prison is said to be one of the most beautiful parts of Russia – a stark contrast to the grim reality of life inside.

Yet as dangerous as the prisoners here are, they don’t have to fear much violence from one other, as they barely meet their fellow inmates. Prisoners in Petak are restricted to their cells, which they share with one cell mate for up to 22 hours and 30 minutes a day. They spend the remaining time in a cage, where they have been said to “pace like predatory animals.” And in such states of isolation, prisoners must contend with some of the harshest conditions of any prison in the world.

“There are no lavatories, no proper washing facilities and you spend your whole life in a cell,” said 39-year-old inmate Valery in a 2004 interview with The Daily Telegraph. “When I came here I told my wife to get a divorce. She cried a little and we’ve never seen each other since.”

You can’t even imagine the psychological effect Petak must have on its prisoners – caged up all day and surrounded by freezing cold water and snow. “This place destroys people. The first nine months or so they spend adapting. After three or four years their personalities begin to deteriorate,” says prison psychologist Svetlana Kiselyova. “There is no way anyone can spend 25 years in a place like this without being psychologically destroyed. The homosexuals are the ones who come off best – at least they are not starved of physical and emotional contact.”

5. San Juan de Lurigancho – Lima, Peru


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Located in Lima, Peru, San Juan de Lurigancho is often referred to as the toughest prison in South America – and that’s saying something. Built for 2,500 inmates, the facility now houses around 7,000 prisoners within its dilapidated walls. But inside, the regime seems surprisingly relaxed.

Supposedly, banned cell phones are hired out and many inmates have established enterprises in Lurigancho’s “market,” selling everything from fruit and vegetables to clothes, drugs, and DVDs. Cock fighting is also common in the prison. So too are visiting prostitutes, who the inmates refer to as “nurses.” One prisoner described the women as “a social service,” saying that the place would “explode without them.”

Prisoners aren’t segregated from one another – no matter what their crime – and they are allowed to freely wander the entire facility. Unsurprisingly, there have been shocking reports of violence and even murders in the prison, including one incident involving a Dutch inmate who killed his Peruvian girlfriend and buried her under his cell.

And despite the seemingly lax state of control, the government has been known to react indiscriminately. In 1986, when riots broke out in Lurigancho and two other Peruvian prisons, the authorities responded with extreme violence, killing 90 Lurigancho inmates in the process.

4. Gldani Prison – Tbilisi, Georgia


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In September 2012, Georgia was rocked by revealing videos filmed in Gldani #8 prison showing the savage treatment of inmates by prison guards, which included rape and violent sexual assault. The country’s zero tolerance approach may have left it with one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, but Georgia also boasts Europe’s highest rate of incarceration, with an acquittal rate lower than 0.1%. As a result, many Georgian prisons are overcrowded, and prisoners face epidemics like tuberculosis.

The emerging Gldani video evidence immediately focused attention on Georgia’s prison system – and its government. Such abuse highlights the cost behind Georgia’s rapid transformation from a crime-racked state to the supposedly peaceful and dynamic nation it is today. The recent revelations may well have simply confirmed what people already suspected, but they still cost Georgia’s penitentiary minister her job and led to the suspension of all prison guards – who were replaced by police in the interim.

While a corruption-free police force may be one of Georgia’s greatest achievements, concerns still linger over their accountability when it comes to dealing with the inmates of Gldani.

3. Gitarama Central Prison – Gitarama, Rwanda


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Gitarama Central Prison has been described as hell on earth. The LA Times once said: “There is no space remaining in hell today. The doomed already fill it. They live, sleep, eat, rot and die squeezed together four men per square yard in the roofless brick box that is Gitarama Prison.” Chillingly, this echoes the poster of George Romero’s horror movie Dawn of the Dead.

The prison was designed to house 400 people, but in the wake of the Rwandan genocide, the inmate population rose to nearly 7,000 by the mid 1990s. Continuing the zombie theme, prisoners have been described as “left for dead,” and they can wait in “purgatory” for as long as 16 years without ever receiving a trial date. It’s even been claimed that some inmates resorted to eating one another’s flesh out of sheer desperation.

In the extremely cramped conditions, prisoners have been described as standing together “as if one organism under the sun, under the rain, choking on the smoke of cooking fires, amid dysentery and despair.” And at one stage, without any shoes to protect them in their squalid surroundings, inmates frequently suffered rotting feet caused by gangrene.

2. El Rodeo – Guatire, Venezuela


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Under the presidency of Hugo Chávez, soaring crime rates and overcrowded prisons have all but overrun Venezuela. Last year, the country’s prison population soared to 50,000 – with three fifths of inmates still awaiting sentencing. Chávez himself has described the Venezuelan prison system as “the gateway to the fifth circle of hell.” Gun- and grenade-wielding inmates are a common sight in prisons like La Planta in Caracas. However, it’s El Rodeo Prison just outside Caracas that has drawn the most attention in recent times.

On June 12, 2011, a visitor day at El Rodeo erupted into one of the Venezuelan prison system’s most notorious bloodbaths. When Venezuela’s National Guard was sent in to control a shootout between rival gangs in Rodeo Unit I that had already seen 27 people killed, they found machine guns, assault rifles and grenades. The dangerous discovery led them to abandon an assault on the prison’s second unit, deciding instead to draw inmates out with tear gas. Incredibly, some Rodeo II inmates managed to last an entire month under siege, surviving on rainwater and confectionery.

1. Tadmor Military Prison – Palmyra, Syria


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Tadmor Military Prison is considered one of the most oppressive prisons in the world, with Amnesty International stating that every aspect of it was designed to dehumanize its inhabitants. “The level of brutality endured by prisoners in this prison is shocking,” added the human rights organization. But Tadmor became even more notorious in June 1980, when President Hafez al-Assad reportedly ordered soldiers to “kill every prisoner in sight” in retaliation for an attack on his life made by the Muslim Brotherhood the day before.

The jail housed hundreds of supporters of the Muslin Brotherhood, and some say as many as 800 inmates were indiscriminately killed in the attack – with other estimates suggesting the number could be as high as 2,400. The clean-up following the massacre reportedly took two weeks.

When Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father as President of Syria in 2001, Tadmor Prison was closed and some prisoners were granted amnesty. Optimistically, a lot of people probably thought that times were changing. However, in 2011, Tadmor was reopened to once again house opponents of the Assad regime involved with Syria’s Arab Spring uprising. Bashar’s reign has been described as no less brutal than his father’s. “The entire country really is Tadmor now,” said author and ex-Tadmor prisoner Dr. Bara Sarraj, ominously describing the situation in Syria.

Bonus: Camp 22 (Hoeryong Concentration Camp) – North Hamgyong Province, North Korea

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Not a lot is known about North Korea’s notorious Hoeryong Concentration Camp, commonly referred to as Camp 22. Isolated from the outside world, it’s believed to be a lifelong internment facility for political prisoners – but it’s also been referred to as a “death camp” and compared to Auschwitz.

Satellite photographs show a large compound reported to hold up to 50,000 prisoners. Shockingly, it’s claimed that the camp imprisons three generations of a dissident’s family, to ensure the roots of dissent are removed completely. While facts are scarce, insight into the conditions in Camp 22 has surfaced through personal testimonies and defectors, indicating that prisoners are at the complete mercy of their captors.

Reports in the early 2000s suggest that inmates are subjected to human experimentation, including exposure to chemical weapons. There have also been horrific descriptions of gas chambers and poisoned food. And brutality against children and babies has been reported as well, with claims that camp guards have been known to kill newborns in prison by stamping on their necks.

One survivor, Soon Ok Lee, recounted a story in which she was instructed to hand out poisoned cabbage to a group of female prisoners. The women unsuspectingly ate the cabbage and suddenly started vomiting blood and died.

According to reports, Camp 22 closed in mid-2012, following the defection of its warden to neighboring China. However, these claims cannot be verified, and some have suggested that the camp is still operational.

10 Most Bizarre Mental Health Disorders

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The human mind is a complex instrument that, despite all our scientific and medical skill, we do not yet wholly understand. As with the other parts of our body, the brain can malfunction, sometimes leading to mental conditions so bizarre that — to those of us in our right minds — they seem utterly incomprehensible.

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10. Foreign Accent Syndrome

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Severe injuries to the brain can have many effects, but one of the strangest must surely be foreign accent syndrome. This condition, also known as irregular repetitive speech syndrome, causes the sufferer to begin to speak with an accent that sounds “foreign.” A rare condition, with only 60 cases recorded between 1941 and 2009, it unfortunately does not grant sudden powers of fluency in a foreign tongue — just an altered accent when speaking the native language.

9. Savantism

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Brought into the public eye by the movie Rain Man, savantism is a fascinating example of the breadths of human ability. The term “savantism” describes a condition where a developmentally disabled individual nonetheless displays a level of brilliance in some particular area. The incongruity of such skill and such disability has provoked much interest from scientists and the ordinary public alike. These areas of expertise can include amazing but narrow memories (something nearly all savants have in common), prodigious artistic talents, and an incredible facility with numbers, as highlighted in Rain Man. Although it is often known as autistic savantism, not all savants are autistic. On the other side of the coin, while many people assume that all autistic people must have a “special talent,” only one tenth of those suffering from autism display savant abilities.

8. Autophagia

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Although the vast majority of people find the idea of self-inflicted pain repugnant, there is a well-documented history of individuals who are compelled to injure themselves. This idea is disturbing enough, yet understandably more horrific to us is the notion of consuming human flesh. Amazingly, some individuals are compelled to break both these taboos. The need to bite or eat parts of one’s own body, known as autophagia, can be seen in combination with other disorders such as psychosis and schizophrenia.

7. Bibliomania

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The symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder can often seem bizarre and strange to those who lack experience with the condition. The media portrays OCD through such symptoms as compulsive hand washing, obsessive neatness and the inability to leave the house without performing ritualistic behaviors such as repeated switching on and off of lights. One interesting symptom experienced by some sufferers of the disorder is the collection of books — not necessarily to use in any way, but simply due to a compulsion to acquire and possess them. Victims of bibliomania have been known to collect more books than they could ever possibly read, including multiple copies — not just of the same book, but even the same edition.

6. Body Integrity Identity Disorder

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While most of us would recoil in horror at the idea of voluntarily amputating a healthy limb, for those with body integrity identity disorder, this is often a fervent desire. This disorder is thought to be due to a problem with the area of the brain that maps the body, leading those with the disorder to feel incomplete with all their limbs, rather than the other way around. For some with this condition, want leads to real-world action, and individuals purposely injure themselves in order to fulfill their desire for amputation.

5. Alien Hand Syndrome

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Imagine that your hand acted independently of your wishes, and yet in a purposeful fashion as if it had a mind of its own or was controlled by another life form. In alien hand syndrome — also known as Dr. Strangelove syndrome — this is exactly what happens. This condition can result from epilepsy surgeries that separate the two sides of the brain, as well as from strokes and infections. Those with AHS will often act as if the hand is not theirs, speaking about it as a separate entity — something which doubtless seems very strange to those who are unaware of the condition.

4. Factitious Disorder/Munchausen Syndrome

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Most of us hate being sick and go to great lengths to stay well and out of hospital. However, those with factitious disorder (also known as Munchausen syndrome) go to great lengths to simulate or induce symptoms of illness. Worse still, in factitious disorder by proxy — a similar condition — rather than hurting him or herself, the sufferer feigns or induces illness in someone else. The motives of the sufferer do not involve the seeking out of material gain, but rather an attempt to gain attention, sympathy and care.

3. Fregoli Delusion

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Human beings are incredibly good at identifying and recognizing faces. When this ability breaks down, however, bizarre consequences can ensue. Fregoli delusion is a disorder in which the sufferer believes that two or more different people are in fact one single person who is changing their appearance or otherwise disguising themselves. The patient will often feel paranoid, or persecuted by this person, and it’s no small wonder: he or she is fully convinced that this individual is deliberately pretending to be different people, who then pretend not to know him or her. Who wouldn’t find this suspicious and, indeed, terrifying?

2. Capgras Delusion

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Like the Fregoli delusion, sufferers of Capgras delusion have problems identifying people. However, rather than thinking they recognize strangers as people they know, sufferers of Capgras believe that people they know have been replaced by doppelgangers — identical looking, yet completely different, impostors. This condition can be found in connection with such illnesses as schizophrenia, dementia, brain injury and migraine. Interestingly, women are more likely to suffer from the syndrome than men. Perhaps Invasion of the Body Snatchers was inspired by such a disorder.

1. Stendhal Syndrome

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We often hear about how great art can inspire emotion, with tears not a completely uncommon sight in art galleries. However, for those with Stendhal syndrome, this is taken to an altogether different level. When confronted with a piece of art, particularly one which is exceptionally beautiful, sufferers of this condition experience a host of physical and mental symptoms, including fainting, raised heartbeat, dizziness, and in some cases, even hallucinations. While it is clearly a huge compliment to their work, we imagine some artists may find the effect a bit much!

Also check out: The Science of Celebrity Breakdowns