Comments by Hugh Polk, MD

Showing 11 of 11 comments.

  • Dear boans,

    Regarding my invitation to participate in our Creating Our Mental Health group on zoom (see my previous response to your comment), you asked, “are they ways and means of maintaining confidentiality with this Zoom meeting? Or do I have to provide my Birth Certificate and passport to join in?” When you sign in, the East Side Institute which is the sponsoring group for it, will ask you to register for Creating Our Mental Health by giving your name, email address and phone number. The Institute is the international hub for new approaches in mental health, education, culture and wherever groupings of people are creating ensemble performances for human development. Ann and I are on the faculty there. It’s a great place. Here is the link to the website: The Institute is independent of any government institutions. The information they ask for is purely for following up with you as to upcoming events if you choose to follow up with them. You can unsubscribe at any time.

    Hope you can come to the next group meeting on Sat, Jan. 14 from 2–3:30 pm.

    Best regards,


  • Dear boans,

    Thanks for your comments and your kind wishes to Ann. You say you often wonder about how we define violence—me too! I thought you shared some examples of things that are violent but often not thought of that way. Just to add to what you said, I also think that the ways that people are labeled, not heard and dismissed in ordinary everyday conversations could be thought of as (often not intended) violent acts. WE REALLY HURT EACH OTHER that way!

    We have to learn how to listen to each other, no matter our differences and to treasure, not dismiss people. I want to invite you and any other readers to a free monthly group meeting which is open to people around the world where we encourage people to talk to each other about anything that’s on their minds. We work together to create (as much as possible) a nonjudgmental environment where we listen and respond to each other as co-builders of the conversation. It’s led by myself, Rachel Mickenberg, a fellow social therapist and Dr. Jessie Fields, a medical doctor practicing in Harlem. It meets on the second Saturday of each month from 2—3:30 pm Eastern time and the next meeting is Saturday, Jan 14. It’s on zoom. Here’s the link: To Join by Zoom click here:
    To Join by Phone dial 1-312-626-6799 and
    Then type meeting ID (811 9135 4580) followed by the # sign
    If you are outside the US/Canada/Mexico, check here for a dial-in #

    I look forward to meeting you!
    Best wishes,

  • Thank you so much, develop1954, for your lovely comment! Yes, I think the labels, definitions, categories of psychology and psychiatry dehumanize us and blind us to the “wonderful complexity and contradictoriness” of who we are as humans. Your comment inspires us to keep going with building non-labeling groupings of people creating our lives together. I share Sam Plover’s love of your comment! Thank you, too, Sam!

  • Garth, I think your awareness of wanting to control things (as we all do) is a great first step. Perhaps a next step is working on embracing, in your words, “I can only be in conversation with other people,” embracing creating “non-knowing and non-controlling” conversations with others in which you mutually explore your assumptions and opinions as a joint activity not focusing on the rightness or wrongness of what you and they are saying. I’ll be eager to hear how that’s going. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’m also a fan of POD and Open Dialogue. I think it’s important for therapists to not assume that we know best or better than our clients. However, I think we have an obligation to offer our opinions, responses and thoughts to them, not as “right answers” or explanations of what’s wrong with them, but as starting points for joint exploration of what might be holding them back from becoming all that they might want to become. I appreciate your highlighting the danger of becoming a “colonizer” with our clients.

  • Garth,
    Thank you so much for your response. When you say, “people come to therapy to talk, to talk about their lives, what troubles them. Talking is not enough…” Yes, and that’s what people do in ordinary conversation everywhere. Endless hours are given to us learning to talk, to express ourselves, to talk “right.” Virtually no thought or attention, in school nor anywhere else, is paid to learning to LISTEN AND RESPOND TO THE OTHER. I think if we’re going to change the world, we need to help each other learn how, as you say, to have “engaged discussion…to listen, to get close, to understand, engage in a dialogue.” Let’s continue to work on this together.

  • Thank you, Greg, for sharing NLP with us. The advances in the understanding of neuroplasticity are very exciting. I was struck by your statement in your last paragraph that “We are, of course, social mammals…” Yes, and thus neural programming is as social as everything else we humans do. Often people think of the brain as “inside” our heads as opposed to the world which is “outside” our heads. But there is no separation. Our heads and all that goes on in them are in the world. The beauty of that is that we can, with other people, choose how we perform our lives. We can collectively change how we live. Best regards, and I hope we meet soon again!

  • Dear Someone Else,

    thanks for your response. I agree “we’ve had the wrong people in charge for way too long now.” We need a whole new psychology, based not on labeling people but bringing people together to collectively recreate our emotional lives going forward. The institutions of psychology and psychiatry are not going to do it–they’re too invested in the status quo. It’s going to have to be grassroots, from-the-bottom-up work done by ordinary people and progressive, open-to-change practitioners of all stripes working together. This website is part of that work.

  • Thank you, Rosalee, for your comment. Ann and I are social therapists (see the intro to our first blog for a brief description of social therapy) and have been working for 40 years to create a non-diagnostic, performance-based, group therapy approach to helping people with their emotional difficulties. Central to it is group members creating the group as a non-judgmental, non-authoritarian activity of creating our mental health collectively. Fortunately, there are other therapists who are also challenging the authoritarian-ness of psychology and psychiatry. There is a post-modern movement of social constructionists, narrative therapists, open dialogue practitioners, critical psychologists and more who are building new approaches with their clients. If you know of psychiatrists and therapists who want to join this conversation, please let them know about it.

  • Dear Someone Else,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I agree that the question of whose authority is being exercised in psychotherapy is a good question. I think that authority is imposed from the top down by “the powers that be.” Power, on the other hand, is created and built from the bottom up by ordinary people creating their lives together. As a psychiatrist and social therapist (see the intro to our first post for a brief statement on social therapy) I am struggling to give up my authoritarian-ness because I believe that creating power with my clients and like-minded colleagues is the only way for us all to develop emotionally and socially. When you point out that “If these were the ‘right’ questions for [your] role of The Therapist,” you were taught wrong,” I agree. I believe that all psychotherapists (and, of course, psychiatrists) are taught wrong in their training–we are taught to be authority figures. If we are going to practice a non-authoritarian therapy which empowers our clients, we are going to have to transform ourselves to become co-creators with our clients of their and our emotionality. And we have to support their struggle to break free of their allegiance to their authoritarian-ness as well.