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Benefits of Solitude Are Unappreciated

“In a world gone wild for wikis and interdisciplinary collaboration, those who prefer solitude and private noodling are seen as eccentric at best and defective at worst, and are often presumed to be suffering from social anxiety, boredom, and alienation.

“But an emerging body of research is suggesting that spending time alone, if done right, can be good for us — that certain tasks and thought processes are best carried out without anyone else around, and that even the most socially motivated among us should regularly be taking time to ourselves if we want to have fully developed personalities, and be capable of focus and creative thinking. There is even research to suggest ... that if we want to get the most out of the time we spend with people, we should make sure we’re spending enough of it away from them. Just as regular exercise and healthy eating make our minds and bodies work better, solitude experts say, so can being alone.

“One ongoing Harvard study indicates that people form more lasting and accurate memories if they believe they’re experiencing something alone. Another indicates that a certain amount of solitude can make a person more capable of empathy towards others. And while no one would dispute that too much isolation early in life can be unhealthy, a certain amount of solitude has been shown to help teenagers improve their moods and earn good grades in school. …

“A 2003 survey of 320 UMass undergraduates led [researchers] … to conclude that people felt good about being alone more often than they felt bad about it, and that psychology’s conventional approach to solitude — an ‘almost exclusive emphasis on loneliness’ — represented an artificially narrow view of what being alone was all about. …

“Teenagers, especially, whose personalities have not yet fully formed, have been shown to benefit from time spent apart from others, in part because it allows for a kind of introspection — and freedom from self-consciousness — that strengthens their sense of identity.”

Click here to read the full article
, by Leon Neyfakh, staff writer for Ideas.

A Sobering Message About Free Will and Addiction Recovery

By Wray Herbert, 
Association for Psychological Science

“On the one hand, newly sober addicts and alcoholics often hear the news that two of every three of them will ultimately relapse. … On the other hand, this folk wis-dom can also be heard echoing through the rooms of recovery: “Relapse is not a requirement.”

“ … [M]ounting evidence is making one thing clear: The belief in free will—or the disbelief—is itself a powerful cognitive force, shaping everything from aggression to honesty to feelings of personal responsibility. The newest findings from this line of research are now suggesting that attitudes toward free will (or genetic determinism) may actually influence the intention to act voluntarily (or lack of it), right down in the brain’s motor neurons.

Psychological scientist Davide Rigoni of the University of Padova, Italy, wanted to see if weakening people’s belief in free will might have an effect on volition and intent, as reflected in the brain’s electrical activity. To explore this question, he recruited a group of volunteers and had some of them read a passage from Nobel laureate Francis Crick’s book, “The Astonishing Hypothesis,” which argues that free will is a delusion—and furthermore that there is scientific consensus behind this view. This exercise has been shown in previous research to attenuate belief in free will, and indeed it did so in these volunteers to varying degrees. The other volunteers also read from the text, but nothing about free will. …

“This is the first evidence that high-level beliefs can influence basic motor processes, and the findings could help explain why such beliefs lead to antisocial and irresponsible acts. Putting less effort into our actions could lead to a diminished sense of responsibility for those actions, and this depleted sense of responsibility could in turn lead to careless behavior—cheating in life, lack of discipline, even relapse.

Excerpted from the blog, “We’re Only Human,” By Wray Herbert, APS, on March 21. Click here to read the full blog.

Promoting Your Practice: Search-Engine Optimization

By Sara K. Sims, Director of Business Development

I hope you’ve taken my advice from the “Promoting Your Practice” article in the March issue of The Advocate and gotten yourself a website. Once you have a website that’s professional, inviting, and content-rich, it’s time to grow your practice. In marketing your website, the goal is to get a high search-engine ranking. If you do it right, when someone Googles “therapy” along with the name of your city, your website will show up on the first page of “hits.” And since many people only look at the first page of hits when they do an online search, it’s important that your website be there.

You’ve probably heard the term “search-engine optimization” and wondered what it is. Search-engine optimization refers to the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a website. You can do this in a variety of ways, and here, I am going to focus on one—networking your website. 

Being listed by a respected online directory is a great way to optimize your website. Not only will it be a source of direct client referrals, your directory listing will also tell search engines that your site is part of a respected community, and the search engines will boost your page rank because of it.

If your website is not already listed in a directory, I recommend getting yourself listed in the Psychology Today Therapy Directory. Directory listings and websites work hand-in-hand and are both vital for effective website marketing. Everything you do to network your website with other respected sites on the ’Net will drive more traffic to your website and give you a higher search-engine ranking. 

If you have a website, you are ahead of the game because TherapySites automatically lists you in more than 50 different directories across the Internet. Additionally, by signing up for a TherapySites website, you will also receive a six-month free listing in Psychology Today’s Therapy Directory. Now that’s powerful search-engine optimization! 

AMHCA has partnered with to provide members with high-quality websites and online marketing services made just for mental health professionals. We are so sure you will like what you find at TherapySites that we are offering AMHCA members a special deal—your first month is free!

The Pitfalls of Using the Internet to Self-Diagnose Medical Problems

“ … The Web is having a profound effect on how we understand and how we do health.

“[In January,] Bupa and the London School of Economics released the results of an international healthcare survey. More than 12,000 people across 12 different countries [including the United States] were asked about their attitudes towards aging, chronic diseases, and health and wellbeing. The report, “Health Pulse 2010,” made headlines around the world ... because it fed our concerns about the Web: it condemned online health information and us for believing in it.

“To summarize their findings: more of us than ever are using the Web to find out more about an ailment before or instead of visiting the doctor. More health-related websites, tools, and social networks are available to support this demand. And, most alarmingly, only a quarter of the people surveyed checked the reliability of health information they found online by looking at the credibility of the source. …”

Source: By Aleks Krotoski, on page 24 of The New Review section of the Observer on Jan. 9, and published the same day on Click here to see the full article. For an analyses of the Health Pulse survey results, click here.

AMHCA Board Member to Participate in DSM-5 Field Trials

Camille A. Clay, EdD, LPC, AMHCA’s North Atlantic Region director, has been selected to participate in field trials for the DSM-5, which the American Psychiatric Association will issue in May 2013.

Nominate Yourself,  a Peer, or a State Chapter for a 2011 AMHCA Award

Every year, AMHCA bestows awards on several individuals and AMHCA state chapters at the Annual Conference in July. Award nominations are due on Friday, May 13.