Comments by Ben Furman, MD

Showing 7 of 7 comments.

  • Swimmingupstream, I am interested in your observations. You are clearly working with some difficult cases. I have become convinced that the help of friends – in one form or another – is needed to get absent children get back to school. I reckon most of the time parents and counsellors cannot succeed without help from friends.

    You say the kids that you work with don’t have friends. I know there are lot’s of lonely children out there that don’t have friends but I wonder if it would be possible to use the strategy described by Sue Young whom I have interviewed on Youtube, where you actually recruit “friends” (read classmates) to act as friends to help the student go back to school (in her case to be happy in school) – or the other option, you collect several youngsters and ask them to support one another to get back to school. This is a strategy that is sometimes used in Kids’Skills with kids who have severe behavioural problem but no friends – so we summon the kids into a group and coach them in helping each other.
    Here is the link to Sue Young’s interview if you are interested. I’m curious to hear your take on these strategies, if they perhaps seem unrealistic in your experience. I can imagine that the problems are quite big when kids are already medicated and have perhaps even begun to buy into the idea that there is something inherently wrong with them.

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  • Absolutely fantastic video! Thanks for that. Way to go. It’s challenging to go against the medical model. As you know, in Norway, where they started with the first psychiatric hospital that does not use drugs, they got a lot of resistance, not from service users but from psychiatrists. If doctors don’t prescribe medication they can be sued by families or the society. When I treated depression, many many years ago in a hospital without antidepressive medication, the professor who was the head of the clinic said that he appreciated my work but could not allow this to continue because if any of the patients treated without medication would kill themselves, or even attempt suicide, the whole hospital would be in deep shit. I think it’s still like that. Even if doctors would want to try to help patients without drugs, they are scared to do it because of the potential dire consequences. The entire system, not only the doctors, is skewed. It’s really difficult to change structures like that. Chapeau for your good work!

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  • hi and thanks for comments. I didn’t mean to disappear. On the contrary I have been thinking of responding to some of the comments here by writing another blog about ideas related to humanizing schools and replacing punishment with what I like to call collaborative problem solving.

    There were also some reactions to my comment that some people, at least in my country, are satisfied with the services they get. I wonder what is your response to the interview that I made in one Finnish hospital. The project they have been doing for some years now is called “Phoenix project” and it has received international attention (WHO). It’s just one example of efforts to improve services and to humanize psychiatry.

    The video has English subtitles. In it I am interviewing a nurse who works in tight collaboration with the Italian doctor Marcello who in fact was originally a cardiologist when he came to Finand several years ago.
    See what you think. I am curious to read your reactions.

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  • Thank you all for your comments. Clearly there is much dissatisfaction with the public schools in America as well as in other countries around the world. If we think of schools as correctional institutions, it does not make much sense of helping kids get back to school. On the other hand many of the children who are absent from schools do not dislike the school. They miss school and they miss their friends and they would want to return to school, it’s just difficult for them. But I acknowledge the argument that we should focus on improving schools and I am already contemplating writing a blog about how humanize shools and turn them into institutions of caring rather than institutions of correction. There’s some fantastic work being done there too. Also good to remember that even if many people have disappointed with psychiatric hospital care, there are also psychiatric wards around the world that get good evaluations from patients. There is hope there too.

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  • I was delighted to read these few comments that my blog has provoked. Thank you so much. It’s very valuable for me as I think my calling is to spread information about positive and drug-free ways of addressing not only tantrums but also other childhood mental health issues.

    The solution-focused approach can seem very child focused, as if ignoring issues related to the environment, such as bullying or domestic violence. Point well taken. I just want to point out that what happens with Kids’Skills is kind of paradoxical. When everyone, the parents, the kids at school, the teacher… everyone, joins forces to help the child learn a skill, something happens to all these people. They all start to change.

    When you are helping a child learn a skill, you cannot bully them, you cannot criticize them and you have to get your act together with your wife or husband.

    Kids’Skills appears to be a method that ignores the environment but in reality it is a so called systemic method that influences not only the child but everyone in the human system around the child.

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  • Steve, you are touching on an important question that is discussed a lot in almost all training seminars and lectures on solution-focused, or future-focused therapy. How much do people need to talk about their past in order to be able to move on in their life? it’s not an easy question. Maybe people are also different. Maybe some need to talk more and some less.

    I have written a book about this topic entitled “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood”. To give my five pennies worth to this perennial question I’d like to share the idea that we can view our past with various spectacles on our eyes. We can see our past as the source of our suffering, but we can also look back (with a different set of spectacles) and see how we have been able to convert the shitty things that we have experienced in the past into manure for a better future (as one of my old friends put it).

    BTW I was watching a documentary of Bruce Springsteen yesterday on TV. it appeared to me that he is a prime example of a person who has done just that. No wonder his autobiography has been sold millions of copies.

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    Have you seen this one? Glasser is one of our heros. Together with my colleague Tapani Ahola we have created a model for teaching children and youth responsibility that we call “Steps of Responsibility” that draws a lot from Glasser’s thinking. Thanks for asking. BTW, if you want to learn about steps of responsibility (which was created for use in schools) you can find more about at

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