Thoughts from a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist on Wholeistic Education
As a practicing Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, I’ve seen many different treatment models and therapeutic approaches over the years. To be honest, I don’t like most of them.
Well, that’s not exactly fair. I certainly like aspects of many different treatment models. The problem is that most of them are effective for a relatively small group of adolescents, but don’t work so well (or can be really counter-therapeutic) when applied to others. The real problem is that many well-intentioned therapists and other treatment providers fall in love with a particular treatment approach and use it to the exclusion of others. Moreover, the mental health field at large, researchers, and even insurance companies frequently fall into the trap of over-promoting a certain treatment model for the wrong reasons. Treatment models – like clothing – come “in and out of fashion,” which they really shouldn’t do.
When Joe introduced me to WED several years ago, the reason I listened as closely as I did is that I knew Joe did tremendous clinical work with some of the toughest adolescents to reach out there. I was also intrigued by the amount of personal time and energy he devoted to formulating and refining WED, which really has been a lifelong journey for him. During this journey, Joe performed an incredibly vast literary survey on human research and thought, which has included the subjects of psychiatry, psychology, education, philosophy, religion, anthropology, Darwinism and genetics, and classical literature, to name a few. I can honestly say Joe is the single best-read person I’ve ever met. I’d hate to play him at Jeopardy.
Of course, all of that study doesn’t amount to anything if you aren’t able to apply it somehow in real life. But this is exactly was Joe has done with WED.
Although I’ve become quite a fan of WED, I can’t say I’m a “convert,” for the simple reason that I had come to nearly all the same conclusions about what makes for good parenting, good therapy, and good education as Joe outlines in WED. Joe and I agree probably 98% of the time clinically (and maybe 66% of the time on other subjects, such as popular music, movies, top NBA players of all time, etc.). So WED naturally resonates with the clinical approach I take every day.
Although the two of us have arrived at similar places, what impresses me among Joe’s accomplishments are the following:
1. He successfully has distilled and articulated all of that knowledge and experience about what makes for ideal treatment, therapy, and education in a way I have not seen done before.
2. He successfully has developed a cultural approach that allows him to work with groups of adolescents – not just the individual – in the context of the most effective group therapy model for adolescents I have ever seen.
3. As teenagers commonly say these days, he can “back it up.” If you ever want to know why he does things the way he does – for example, why the ideal group size is about 12 people (not just in therapy, but everywhere) – he’ll give you an earful.
What really makes WED different in my mind is its applicability to virtually all teenagers, regardless of diagnosis or circumstance. Compared to other models, I find it more encompassing, less restrictive, and with more “breathing room” within its boundaries. It focuses on what is important for all adolescents (and all humans): forming and maintaining healthy relationships. It defines just the right amount of structure, demands just the right amount from the individual, and offers a concise, just way to deal with conflict that arises.
Most importantly, WED works. We’ve treated over 2,000 adolescents of all ages, diagnoses, and circumstance, and the feedback from clients, parents, and other treatment providers has been overwhelmingly positive. I guess that’s really the bottom line.
Why WED? WED works.
Duncan Gill, MD
Direction Behavioral Health Associates, LLC
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