The Strengths Model

The Strengths Model is a recovery-oriented approach to working with people with psychiatric disabilities.  The Strengths Model is both a philosophy of practice and a set of tools designed to help people set meaning and important life goals and draw upon both personal and environmental strengths to achieve them.  Six core principles serve as the foundation for strengths-based practice:

Principle # 1:
People with psychiatric disabilities can recover, reclaim and transform their lives.  Strengths Model practitioners have an unwavering belief in people’s potential to recover.  They hold a long-term view of what people can attain and do not lose sight of this potential in the midst of short-term crises, challenges, and barriers to growth.

Principle #2:
The focus is on an individual’s strengths rather than deficits.  While Strengths Model practitioners do not ignore people’s experience of psychiatric distress or environmental or personal challenges, the person’s strengths are amplified in order to find creative solutions for moving forward in one’s life.  People are seen as whole individuals, and all individuals possess strengths which include their skills, talents, personal qualities, environmental resources, interests and aspirations.

Principle #3:
The community is viewed as an oasis of resources. Just as all people have strengths, the person’s surrounding environment is filled with strengths.  Strengths Model practitioners take the time to help people find niches in their community where they can flourish.

Principle #4:
The client is the director of the helping process.  Strengths Model practitioners strive to understand what people are most passionate about and what brings value or meaning to their life.  Goals for the helping relationship are based on what the person finds important, not what the practitioner views as most important.  Practitioners help people explore and resolve decisional uncertainty and/or conflict and generate options based on their strengths to help them move forward in their recovery.  Self-determination is highly respected.

Principle #5:
The relationship is primary and essential.  In order to do recovery-oriented work, you must know the person with whom you are working.  Strengths Model practitioners view engagement as essential to formulating client-centered goals.  The role of a Strengths Model practitioner is often viewed more as a traveling companion rather than a travel agent.  We become invested in the person’s recovery journey and view it as an honor to accompany them during the course of the working relationship.

Principle #6:
The primary setting for our work is in the community.  Recovery doesn’t occur inside the walls of the mental health center.  It occurs where people live, work, and play.  The Strengths Model practitioner becomes a valuable resource to the person as they come to understand the person’s life setting and help them use or build upon their strengths as their achieve their goals.

From Kansas University’s website. (
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mr762_lgIn the wake of all the violent and tragic shootings both in schools and other public facilities it seems the answer is GUN CONTROL. Really? I don’t own a gun (I have shot them) but last time I checked a gun is an inanimate object incapable of hurting anyone by itself. There are those tragic events where a parent leaves a loaded gun lying around their house and children kill or hurt them self or others. That is a totally avoidable tragedy with the use of a simple gunlock or even better, a gun safe.

Don’t worry. I don’t belong to the NRA and I’m not a “gun in every home” kind of guy. These weapons are just that. Weapons. One model, just to get an idea, is the MR762A1 manufactured by Heckler & Koch. Heckler & Koch makes weapons used by the U.S. Military and they all look the same except there is one notable difference. Civilian versions are semiautomatic while the militaries version is fully automatic.

Civilians in the U.S. Can’t own a fully automatic assault rifle. Really these weapons are called machine guns. A semi-auto gun needs you to pull the trigger to shoot every round in the magazine. Fully auto guns can be switched into a mode where one trigger press can fire a full magazine of bullets.

So as our government struggles to solve the problem of people going into schools or theatres with their “assault weapons” remember we can’t even buy or own a fully automatic weapons. We can’t convert a semi into a fully automatic because it’s already against the law to own one and you will go to jail for 20 years.

Really; think about it. If a bad person wants to get a weapon he will find a way to get one. He’s a criminal. All the hysteria about clip capacity really doesn’t mean anything. So I bring four clips not two so I can kill everyone.

Now…lets talk about the real issue here.  The issue that is a difficult problem for the government and society so solve and the one we don’t want to face. That problem is access to quality mental heath treatment for the time needed to get things turned around right. We brand people with mental illness then deny them proper insurance coverage, life insurance, jobs you know the same stuff every other person expects to be available to them.

We use to shut the mentally ill away in asylums “for their own good.” That made it so we, “Out here,” didn’t have to deal with people like the ones “in there.” Did that system work? No. I’ve studied this issue for years and the history is clear. Before asylums we had almshouses and no treatment of any kind was offered. Then in the late 1800s society moved from almshouses to asylums. These asylums were massive college campus sized facilities. Often times they grew their own food, had their own power station and were really independent from the rest of society.

Starting in the late 1970s and through out the 1980s asylums were systematically closed, The population released back into society and most of these campus sized facilities were leveled leaving no trace of the tragically horrific job they had done in helping the mentally ill. Where did the patients go? Some went to homes, family but a large portion of them ended up living on the streets, homeless and hopeless.

Come on people. We are making all this noise about gay marriage where are all the people fighting for the rights of folks that suffer with a mental illness they never asked for. I have way more to say on this than what will fit in one blog so hold on. The people responsible for the recent tragedies and mass murders weren’t driven to do it because they could buy a gun. They did it because our system, us, won’t take the treatment of mental illness seriously and bring the resources to bare and help the afflicted.

Next time I’ll talk about a simple tool to use at home with your children called The Grump Meter. It’s in the home where we have the chance to teach and equip our kids to deal with this crazy world in a positive and healthy way. We all have a responsibility to society to force the government and insurance companies to treat folks with mental illness like just the people they are. Wow. Discrimination is alive and well in the 21st century.


If you question the decline of America…

If you question the idea that the USA is in decline just watch this video. Karen Huff Klein (more) was the subject of this weeks viral video. This video is a graphic example of the out of control nature of a lot of our youth. These smart teens show the world that if they can’t pass chemistry it doesn’t matter because they’ll just bully their way into a job and to the top.

There is outrage over this as there should be but I guess I have to ask, if Karen is the bus monitor why doesn’t she have any authority to ‘do’ something about these kids. Who is she protecting if she can’t even protect herself? This is no indictment of Karen but of the society that would allow this. What investigation needs to be done? The evidence is all on the video. I’m sure she didn’t incite these teens into being bullies.

My wife taught school at North Highschool in the Kansas City, Missouri school district. She quite after being struck by an out of control teen who was strangling one of his classmates. My wife thought for sure this boy was going to murder the boy he was fighting with. She tried to intervene and was the object of a kids elbow to her head. At this same school a seasoned and accomplished teacher was fired for “strong arming” a boy in his class who was becoming violent. That is a classic example of the heart of the problem.

Schools in the Kansas City Missouri school district have lost accreditation and the state is threatening a take control from the elected school board due to their lack of leadership. Fire good teachers, have other good teachers leave, expel kids that are causing the problems and tell me what do you get? I’ll tell you, shamed teachers that have spent a lifetime at their profession and teens on the street who now have time to deal drugs, fight in gangs and murder people. They keep the Black Community in fear of their lives so no one rats them out. These teens either end up dead or worse. The communities they live in are in terror of them and society has failed in its mission to be the village that can raise a boy up into a productive and honorable man. Same goes for the girls.

No amount of money, welfare, government housing or food-stamps will fix this. Government does not hold the answers to this problem. They help to create it. Our government will pay off the student loans of college grads that are willing to teach in the urban core for two years. Sounds good. Here’s what the website says:

Teach For America

Compensation and Benefits

As a corps member, you will be a full-time teacher and receive a full salary and comprehensive health benefits from your school district. Additional benefits, such as funding for relocation and help with student loans will ease your transition and allow you to be financially stable as a corps member.

Snapshot of Corps Member Compensation

*Teach For America is currently a member of AmeriCorps. Given the nature of the AmeriCorps competitive grant process and the dependence on Congressional funding cycles, we cannot guarantee these benefits for corps members serving during the 2012 – 2013 school year until receiving final confirmation in June 2012. Recent changes in national service laws may result in an adjustment to the education award for the 2012-2013 year.” Source:

The unintended consequences of this program results in the firing of seasoned and qualified teachers who are replaced by green and untested (and unprepared) teachers who cost the district a lot less money. These teachers leave the urban school setting as soon as they’ve done their time leaving the community at a loss for qualified teachers.

The discipline issue is left on the way back burner. It’s time we as a nation pull together regardless of sex, race, political affiliations or social class and get serious about finding a true solution to these problems. What we are doing now isn’t working and to keep applying the same solution over and over gaining the same result is the definition of insanity.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  – Albert Einstein

The issues of bullying, teen suicide, and societal displacement are huge yet we do nothing. It’s time for change.

Can do better…about the apology.


I want to pass along a distilled version of an article I recently read in Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry.  The issue is Volume 6 Number 1 spring 2004.

Now if anything the findings of this report are worse today than ever. We have become a society that is very quick to find a pill to “fix” a problem. This has escalated dramatically in the treatment of children and adolescents behavioral issues. There has to be a diagnosis for every child who exhibits behavior that society feels is outside the norm. Primarily teachers bring these issues to the parents. I’ve even heard teachers diagnose a student saying they were ADHD.

I respect teachers but they are not qualified to make this kind of evaluation then pinning a “label” on a child that will follow him all through school. Any psychiatrist that is being honest knows that the brain of a child and teen is in a constant state of growth and change. The brain doesn’t finish growing until about the age of 30.

Yet, a child exhibits aberrant behavior and off to the doctor we go. What we get is a prescription for a drug that will hopefully “fix” the issue. Many of these drugs are powerful psychotropic medications and frankly no one knows how they work. There are two kinds of drugs palliative and curative. Palliative drugs are like the cold meds we take to relieve the symptoms but it does nothing to “cure” the problem. Curative drugs do help “cure” like antibiotics taken for an infection. The only curative psychotropic medication is the class of meds called SSRIs. This class of meds causes the serotonin level in the brain to increase thus relieving depression. It’s thought over time the brain will just start producing serotonin at higher levels and the medication will no longer be needed. The issue is no one really knows why.

In this journal is an article titled “The Ethics and Science of Medicating Children” by Sparks and Duncan. They examine the studies done to argue the case for the use of drugs and then report the trend in their use. First off I want to say they report most of the drug studies done to gain approval for the use of medications for children were tied to drug companies. That fact alone makes the findings suspicious but the FDA has bought into it and we have seen a tremendous increase of the use of these drugs for children and adolescents.

The two problems usually treated are depression and ADHD. Now remember this is a 2004 article so I can only guess at the number in 2012. One disturbing trend found is that children in foster care are 16 times more likely to be on meds than there non-foster parent counterparts. Between 1991 and 1995 we saw a record number of meds prescribed for preschoolers. In the group of kids 2 to 4 Ritalin (for ADHA) prescriptions increased by 169%.

The current climate is such that a request by parents for alternatives is meet with formidable resistance. I’ve been there. You are looked at as neglectful if you don’t use the drugs so many parents feel backed into a corner. If I don’t use the meds then child protective service’s will be knocking at your door.

So there has been huge increases in the use of SSRIs and Stimulants to treat the child’s “condition.” Research has shown that in double blind studies the researchers found there was no difference between placebo vs. medication trials. The researchers could tell who was on the real med soon enough because of reported side effects. In self reports from patients and parents the feeling was no change was taking place. Self reporting was mostly ignored by the researchers.

What has happened is we as parents sit and watch our kids for any tell tail signs of depression or ADHD? We are way to quick to stigmatize a child with a “diagnosis.” The sad fact is poor children or those on Medicaid and in the foster care system or in residential treatment are more often medicated than there counterparts.

I’ve seen this first hand. Staff at residential facilities like foster parents use the medications as a control tool not a treatment tool. I know of situations where parents have had to become very confrontational with doctors to get their kids off useless medications that are only masking systems and retarding the child’s ability to really conquer the behavior through therapy. I know of cases where parents remove their child from a hospital AMA (against medical advice) and had social service’s called to report this event. Who’s in charge here?

It seems doctors, social workers and staff know so much more about your child than you do so what they say goes or you are reported and called a bad parent. Take it from me these people aren’t in control.

Know your child. Be involved in her treatment. Stand up for what you think is right. I won’t take a child being put on meds so she’s more controllable. I want to get to the bottom of her issues so she can learn self control. Drugs remove this opportunity. Now believe me there are times when medications are needed but with a plan not just because. Ask what the doctor expects the outcome to be by using a medication. Remember a diagnosis is truly impossible to make on children due to the brains unfinished state. Stand up for your child and yourself.

This Will Make Some Mad

Two things that concern me are underage drinking and bullying. Both of these topic get lip-service in the media and social groups like PTA and attention from school administrations.

I have been a parent for 31 years now and my youngest is 16. That’s 31 years of parenting 8 children. I have 1 graduating from High School this year and heading to college in the fall and my last still in High School. These issues have become epidemic over the last 31 years.

Last fall as High School started I was exposed to the same kind of underage drinking materials that I’d seen for the last 11 years. In 2001 I got behind an effort to create a new program in hopes that it might prove more effective than the current D.A.R.E. program that was in use by local law enforcement.

I looked at the issue as one of hope. Teens don’t feel hopeful about their future and nothing about that has changed in the last 11 years. Really things have gotten worse. Now unemployment is out of control and government spending is creating a situation where kids soon will be born owing $50,000 against the government debt.

I don’t want to get into politics here. I just want to help the youth of America become tangibly more hopeful and less prone to high risk taking activities. After getting Kansas Family Partners on board along with course development headed by KU I had the program development and training set along with distribution through out the state of Kansas with hopes to network with other states to build a national effort.

What I couldn’t find was funding for this project. Even though I had a professional fund-raising organization working for me no one came forward. That left me stunned and puzzled.

After a few years had passed I realized something that I’m sure will make many people angry. There was really no will to solve this problem. People gave great lip-service to the horrors of underage drinking but when it came to doing something about it the will just wasn’t there.

I could speculate on the reasons for this but I won’t. I’ll just leave it at this; if and that’s a big if, we (society) want to really help our youth by curbing underage drinking and stopping bullying then we have to DO something. To do nothing is to say, the status quo is what we want and all efforts are unimportant. I put some resources and statistic HERE.

No matter what the program is, who creates it and where it’s delivered I know if we as parents aren’t committed to change, these issues will continue to get worse. The toll on our youth and those they affect will expand destroying families and creating untold crisis in our homes and community. Any ideas?

Communications Disappear

ImageOne very important fact is being neglected today. The children today actually believe everything they read on the internet, learn in school, read on FACEBOOK and watch on TV.

We view the world through a haze of propaganda. Almost every message sent to us is some form of propaganda. The most basic form is commercials. Advertising is purposeful propaganda created to motivate us toward a specific action (buy a new car). There’s nothing wrong with that. We know that anything in an advertisement is suspect and to be a wise consumer we need to check things out.

It is other messages that disturb me. For example, I recently saw a government sponsored (I guess you’d call it a public service announcement) ad about heath screenings for the elderly and how it can save lives. That statement is true for all of us but in the PSA the actor says, “The health care law lets those of us on Medicare now get most preventive care for free.”

First off this is a poorly written sentence and maybe written that way to create a little confusion as your listening but for sure you take away ‘the health care law,’ ‘preventive,’ and ‘free.’ This gives the impression that the “new” healthcare law (not in force yet) provides free “preventative” care. But that’s not true. What the actor is really telling the elderly is, “some preventitve healthcare screenings are covered under the current Medicare laws. As you can see a subtle yet very different message. To see the ad go to

When Allen and Green developed “The Propaganda Game” they based it on George Henry Moulds book Thinking Straighter. This book is out of print but the game is available from WFF ‘N PROOF at I suggest everyone buy a copy and play it with your teenagers.

For example a very common form of propaganda used by the press is “Quotation out of context.” In this case the press uses only the part of a quote to support their particular agenda. The best recent example is the way NBC News edited George Zimmerman’s 911 call prior to him shooting Trayvon Martin. Now the issue about should he/should’t he have shot isn’t the issue. As important as that event is even more important is the actions of NBC NEWS in altering the story to help create specific actions by the public and impact opinions formed.

Just that easily a lie can be told, shrouded like truth and everyone is calling for Zimmerman’s arrest. For me, an apology from NBC won’t cut it. They have lost credibility as a new source. They promise “necessary steps” will be taken “to prevent this from happening in the future” but what are those actions? For me they would include cleaning house at NBC from the top down.

Trouble Comin’ Every Day

I remember on June 27, 1966 Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention released their first record called ‘Freak Out!’ Its sophisticated music yet catchy tunes were funny while making social commentary. On the record was a song titled, “Trouble Every Day.”



Frank sang:

So I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’
Hopin’ for the best
Even think I’ll go to prayin’
Every time I hear ’em sayin’
That there’s no way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day.

• To hear the song visit here:

At the time we all were 60s flower children and the Vietnam War was raging but today I think this song is even more relevant. Here’s why. I have said for years that cell phones, instant messaging, texting, email and Facebook (among other electronic communications tools) is tearing the fabric of our society apart. I would always get blank stares upon saying this. Especially from teens.

Now I hate to report that things really are falling apart as I foresaw. Let me give just a few examples written about in the January/February 2012 issue of Psychotherapy Networker. Rob Waters wrote a great survey piece called “Mental Health Systems Under Stress.” To give you a few brief highlight he says that in Detroit, the county mental health program has lost $30 million in state funding over the past three years. Central City Community Mental Health attempts to prepare patients for transition from psychiatric hospitals and jails to the community. It has lost ¼ of its funding leading to the termination of 1/3 of the staff. A program called House that helps in the same way closed.

In California program cuts have drastically affected the elderly, putting them at risk. Throughout the country states have cut school budgets reducing the number of counselors, therapists and nurses at all levels.

As we all know the economy has caused tragic problems for families. The loss of jobs, bankruptcy, foreclosure on homes has led to a near epidemic of homelessness for a class of people who have never had to deal with it before. Kids suffer because they no longer have a home and with nowhere to turn for help we’ve seen the teen suicide rates explode in some communities. Along with suicide, child abuse, alcoholism, and drug abuse are climbing.

The numbers of therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists are not increasing to meet the current demand. Yup there’s trouble coming every day. I’ll continue to cover this topic over the next few weeks.


Credit:  All Frank Zappa material – ‘Trouble Every Day’ lyrics, artist names and images – copyright by their respective owners. All Frank Zappa “Trouble Every Day” song lyrics might be restricted for educational and personal use only. Reference – Psychotherapy Networker – January/February 2012 Vol. 36 No. 1 – “Clinician’s Digest” by Rob Waters p. 15-17 Copyright © 2012 by The Psychotherapy Networker – all rights reserved – USA.

Lyric Reference: