by William Van Ornum, Ph.D. on
Dr. Stefan de Schill, for sixty years a key figure of the American Mental Health Foundation, saw group therapy as an important part of his practice. He supported all efforts to strengthen the training of group therapists because he thought that these efforts at the time were “dreadful.”
Since then, the use of group therapy has diminished. One reason for this is that the field of mental health has changed into a “medical model,” where a diagnosis has to be established at the beginning of treatment and the mental health provider needs to establish a certain plan of treatment, or protocol.
Within this time there has been the emergence and even flourishing of another kind of group–the self-help group established for a particular purpose or condition. The most successful of these are based on the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous. These meetings are run by members themselves. The support of and acceptance by the group are importance factors, as are structured behavioral “steps” and study of AA books and literature at and between meetings.
Recovery Incorporated began around the same time as Alcoholics Anonymous, but for a different purpose. The founder, Dr. Abraham Low, wanted to help people coming out of the psychiatric hospital (and outpatients as well) to change their behaviors and thinking. He wanted them to create effective patterns of living that were productive and effective, rather than habits of negativity, depression, and anxiety.
The work would be done at group meetings. Anyone seeking to change behaviors such as the above were invited. The groups evolved structured format, based on Dr. Low’s book. Mental Health Through Will Training, and his other writings as well.
The website for Recovery International is here.
One important aspect of the meetings is for participants to pick an example from ordinary life where they initially reacted in an anxious or negative manner, and then re-assessed their response by changing their thinking or substituting a different behavior, which Low described as “commanding your muscles to do what your will wants them to do.”
Ways of changing thinking include the following. (A more comprehensive list can be found here.
*Treat mental health as a business and not a game
*Humor is our best friend, temper is our worst enemy
*If you can’t change a situation, you can change your attitude towards it
*Comfort is a want, not a need
*Feelings should be expressed and temper suppressed
*Do things in part acts
*Anticipation is often worse than realization
One reviewer has noted, “the Recovery International Method is believed by many to be the original cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), having been pioneered by Abraham Low, MD, in the 1930s. CBT is a system whereby people train themselves to identify and monitor negative or damaging thoughts and behaviors and to change the way they would typically respond to those occurrences. By changing negative thoughts and behaviors, people take control of these damaging impulses and can live happy, healthy lives.”
To find a meeting, one can go here and locate meetings withing a range from 25 miles to 100 miles of one’s zip code.
An online version of Dr. Low’s book, Mental Health through Will Training, is available here.
AMHF endorses Recovery Inc./Low Self-Help systems as an helpful adjunct modality of group training and assistance for persons who are receiving mental health care.