JBMTI Blog

The Jean Baker Miller Training Institute is proud to welcome you to the JBMTI Blog! Our hope is to create a place where the JBMTI community can visit often to check out the latest news on Relational-Cultural Theory practitioners, events, applications, and inspirations.

Please feel free to send us any ideas for posts to jbmti@wellesley.edu.

Recent blog posts

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A legal shift in looking at the men who pay for sex is a new focus for anti-sex trafficking activists. The strategy has led to changes in state legislation and educational programs at a growing number of "john schools."

Today, approximately 40 john schools serving 50 communities exist nationwide. Though "john school" is the generic term for educational programs for men who engage in transactional sex, each course has its own formal title, such as Chicago's Ammend Program.

By educating men on the consequences of soliciting sex--both for themselves and for sex workers--advocates say these programs raise awareness on the ramifications of sex trafficking and reduce recidivism. The reason behind educating men who pay for sex, says Hatcher, is simple: if there were no customers, there'd be no prostitution.  -  Women's eNews article excerpt

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In September 2010, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage created a YouTube video with his partner Terry to inspire hope for young people facing harassment. In response to a number of students taking their own lives after being bullied in school, they wanted to create a personal way for supporters everywhere to tell LGBT youth that, yes, it does indeed get better.

Two months later, the It Gets Better Project (TM) has turned into a worldwide movement, inspiring over 10,000 user-created videos viewed over 35 million times. To date, the project has received submissions from celebrities, organizations, activists, politicians and media personalities, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Adam Lambert, Anne Hathaway, Colin Farrell, Matthew Morrison of "Glee", Joe Jonas, Joel Madden, Ke$ha, Sarah Silverman, Tim Gunn, Ellen DeGeneres, Suze Orman, the staffs of The Gap, Google, Facebook, Pixar, the Broadway community, and many more. For us, every video changes a life. It doesn’t matter who makes it. - From www.itgetsbetter.org

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Galia Slayen recently blogged on The Huffington Post's HuffPost College site about the life-size Barbie she built in 2007. "I was frustrated after quitting the cheerleading squad, frustrated with pressures to look and act a certain way and most of all frustrated with the eating disorder controlling my life. I wanted to do something that would turn others' apathy into action."

Some people have skeletons in their closet. I have an enormous Barbie in mine.

She stands about six feet tall with a 39" bust, 18" waist, and 33" hips. These are the supposed measurements of Barbie if she were a real person. I built her as a part of the first National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAW) at my high school, later introducing her to Hamilton College during its first NEDAW in 2011.

When I was a little girl, I played with my Barbie in her playhouse, sending her and Ken on dates that always ended with a goodnight kiss. I had fond times with my Barbie, and I admired her perfect blonde locks and slim figure. Barbie represented beauty, perfection and the ideal for young girls around the world. At least, as a seven-year-old, that is what she was to me. - Blog excerpt

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JBMI Director of Advanced Study Amy Banks, M.D. was recently interviewed by Joan Brunwasser for OpEdNews.com. The article, "Dr. Amy Banks on How to Keep Those Grey Cells Fit as We Age," focuses on in importance of brain health.

Not only does exercise keep your body fit, but it contributes to keeping your brain flexible and adaptable. One of the issues, particularly with advanced aging, is a sense of isolation as friends and family may be dying.I think people need to be able to maintain community and connections, opportunities to interact.The physiology of healthy relationship contributes to building a brain that is continuing to grow. - Article excerpt

Read the interview

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A recent editorial in the New York Times makes the case for the Supreme Court to listen to the women of Wal-Mart. Ms. Betty Dukes (pictured right) is the lead plaintiff in the sex discrimination class-action lawsuit Dukes vs. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

The employment discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart, which the Supreme Court heard last week, is the largest in American history. If the court rejects this suit, it will send a chilling message that some companies are too big to be held accountable.

It began in 1999 after Stephanie Odle was fired when she complained of sex discrimination. As Ms. Odle recounted in sworn testimony, as an assistant manager she discovered that a male employee with the same title and less experience was making $10,000 a year more than her.

She complained to her boss, who defended the disparity by saying the male had a family to support. When she replied that she was having a baby that she needed to support, the supervisor made her provide a personal budget and then gave her a raise closing just one-fifth the gap. - Editorial excerpt       (Photo credit: AP Images)

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The Jean Baker Miller Institute sent out a flyer this week asking RCT practitioners in our current database to update their email addresses. We are in the midst of upgrading our database, and want to make sure we have the most accurate contact information for RCT community members. The flyer is also full of upcoming program information, new publications, and RCT resources, so make sure to check it out and spread the word to colleagues and friends.

Thank you for your consideration and participation.

JBMI Associate Director of Advanced Training, Amy Banks, M.D., has spoken and published extensively on the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in relationship, particularly interpersonal violence. She authored Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Relationships and Brain Chemistry with Cambridge Health Alliance's Victims of Violence, a program co-founded by Mary Harvey, Ph.D. and trauma pioneer Judith Herman, Ph.D.

An instructor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Banks also co-edited The Complete Guide to Mental Health for Women, which includes her chapter, "Post-traumatic Stress Disorder." She also published "The Developmental Impact of Trauma," in Diversity and Development edited by Dr. Dana Comstock (Belmont, CA: Brooks Cole), and "A Relational Therapy for Trauma," in the Journal of Traumatic Practice.

Dr. Banks will be presenting a webinar Love and PTSD: Understanding the Devastating Impact of Interpersonal Violence on Friday, April 29, 2011 from 11am-12:30pm EST. Using an interactive format, she will explore brain changes seen in people diagnosed with PTSD. Participants will also discuss the "five bad things" of an abusive relationship and the process of amplification seen in PTSD. Pre-registration at www.jbmti.org is required.  Learn more.

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Ethics and Power: Navigating Mutuality in Therapeutic Relationships, by Pam Birrell, Ph.D. is now available through the Wellesley Centers for Women Publications Office.

This paper explores Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) and the ethics of power-with, of mutuality and relational engagement. It examines how we and those with whom we work become whole and how we help others. Ethics is not a set of rules to follow, but is an attitude and a stance toward the suffering of others and toward helping them to heal. Mutual respect and mutual power, relational engagement, and the importance of uncertainty, being open to the people with whom we work are described as core ethical concerns. This paper initiates a conversation on relational-cultural ethics which can create possibilities and growth fostering relationships for all. - Abstract

Pam Birrell, Ph.D., is a Senior Instructor in the psychology department at the University of Oregon, and a psychologist in private practice. She completed the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute Practitioner Program in 2006.

REGISTER ONLINE TODAY for The Power of Connection: Tools for Personal and Social Change, JBMTI's  Intensive Institute from June 23-26, 2011 at Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA.

In response to feedback from our recent constituent survey, we've overhauled our Intensive Institute to focus more on practical applications of RCT and skills you need to be a better practitioner. We expanded workshops, community-building activities, research instruction, and theory-into-action exercises to empower and support participants as relational leaders in their work, families, and communities. We have also brought back on-campus housing accommodations during the Institute.

Highlights: Plenaries: Why RCT Matters in the Real World, "Be the Change" Conversations, and Action Growing from CommunityWorkshops: Creating Connection in a Sea of Disconnection: Research-Informed Clinical Practice, Getting Unstuck: The Tools of Empathy, Reclaiming the Connected Brain: A 10 Step Program to Awaken Your Natural Ability to Connect, and "Talking" the Talk through Media CommentaryCommunity: Group activities and poster sessions.

See you in June!

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RCT practitioner Judith Lockhart-Radtke recently published, Weaving Yarn, Weaving Cultures, Weaving Lives: A Circle of Women in Oaxaca, Mexico, in which she acknowledges Jean Baker Miller's influence on the book and her work:

This theory depended on the work of Paulo Freire and Jean Baker Miller...Jean Baker Miller has written extensively that women grown best in relationships of mutuality. This was the first experiment with Miller's work in the developing world in a cross-cultural project, and both Miller and the Institute she founded at Wellesley College were interested and supportive participants.

The Circle of Women began in 2002 when Judith Lockhart-Radtke and Pia Scognamiglio, a Swiss-Mexican midwife, joined to support the women of Oaxaca in building healthy and viable communities. Their vision is to "strive to realize social justice for women by supporting self-reliance, raising consciousness of individual talents and skills and enhancing cross-cultural relations."

New York Times columnist David Brooks has recently released a new book, The Social Animal. Cited neuroscience, scientists, and the importance of relationship, in his recent column, "The New Humanism," Brooks sums up so much of the work and paradigm shifts Jean Baker Miller called for in Toward a New Psychology of Women thirty-five years ago and JBMTI has been proposing for decades. JBMTI highly recommends Brooks's new book, as well as the inclusion of the worldview he is proposing in the larger culture.

Cannot recommend reading the entire column enough (link provided below). In the meantime, following is a short excerpt of the entire article.

Over the course of my career, I’ve covered a number of policy failures. When the Soviet Union fell, we sent in teams of economists, oblivious to the lack of social trust that marred that society. While invading Iraq, the nation’s leaders were unprepared for the cultural complexities of the place and the psychological aftershocks of Saddam’s terror.

We had a financial regime based on the notion that bankers are rational creatures who wouldn’t do anything stupid en masse. For the past 30 years we’ve tried many different ways to restructure our educational system — trying big schools and little schools, charters and vouchers — that, for years, skirted the core issue: the relationship between a teacher and a student.

I’ve come to believe that these failures spring from a single failure: reliance on an overly simplistic view of human nature. We have a prevailing view in our society — not only in the policy world, but in many spheres — that we are divided creatures. Reason, which is trustworthy, is separate from the emotions, which are suspect. Society progresses to the extent that reason can suppress the passions.

This has created a distortion in our culture. We emphasize things that are rational and conscious and are inarticulate about the processes down below. We are really good at talking about material things but bad at talking about emotion.

When we raise our kids, we focus on the traits measured by grades and SAT scores. But when it comes to the most important things like character and how to build relationships, we often have nothing to say. Many of our public policies are proposed by experts who are comfortable only with correlations that can be measured, appropriated and quantified, and ignore everything else. - Column excerpt

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Dateline recently ran an in-depth 10-segment series on bullying including both boys and girls. While the show missed the opportunity to discuss some key power dynamics such as the role of race and why there are even bullies in the first place, the series is impressive in that it delves deeper into the power dynamics of bullying beyond telling kids to just "be nice."

Watch the complete series

 

 

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Dr. Amy Banks, JBMTI's director of advanced training, has long been touting the central role of oxytocin, often called "the love drug," in connection and relational neurobiology. Two recent reports delve into the complexities of the drugs affects on human behavior.

Boston's WCVB-TV featured the story, 'Cuddle Drug' May Help Couples Bond, highlighting a new treatment of doctors giving patients "small tables that contain oxytocin" to increase feelings of intimacy. The report quotes Dr. Matt French of Wellness Solutions in Phoenix, "If a couple is struggling with bonding issues, with intimacy issues, it could be as a result of inadequate levels of the hormone oxytocin."

On the flip side, a January 11, 2011 piece in The New York Times, Depth of the Kindness Hormone Appears to Know Some Bounds, clarifies that oxytocin is not a universal answer to better connection among all people or to world peace. According to the article, Dr. Carsten K. W. De Dreu, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam, decided to take a closer look at oxytocin after, "he decided on evolutionary principles that no one who placed unbounded trust in others could survive." His experiment found oxytocin to produce ethnocentric behavior, and to create "intergroup bias primarily because it motivates in-group favoritism and because it motivates out-group derogation." 

What does it mean that a chemical basis for ethnocentrism is embedded in the human brain? “In the ancestral environment it was very important for people to detect in others whether they had a long-term commitment to the group,” Dr. De Dreu said. “Ethnocentrism is a very basic part of humans, and it’s not something we can change by education. That doesn’t mean that the negative aspects of it should be taken for granted.”

Bruno B. Averbeck, an expert on the brain’s emotional processes at the National Institute of Mental Health, said that the effects of oxytocin described in Dr. De Dreu’s report were interesting but not necessarily dominant. The brain weighs emotional attitudes like those prompted by oxytocin against information available to the conscious mind. If there is no cognitive information in a situation in which a decision has to be made, like whether to trust a stranger about whom nothing is known, the brain will go with the emotional advice from its oxytocin system, but otherwise rational data will be weighed against the influence from oxytocin and may well override it, Dr. Averbeck said.

Dr. Averbeck said he was amazed that a substance like oxytocin can affect such a high-level human behavior. “It’s really surprising to me that this neurotransmitter can so specifically affect these social behaviors,” he said. - NY Times article excerpt

Both reports confirm the importance of relational neuroscience research in understanding the role of the brain and its neurotransmitters in affecting human and social behavior.

 

 

 

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The complete schedule for the upcoming Intensive Institute, The Power of Connection: Tools for Personal and Social Change, is now available.

Program Highlights: Plenaries: Why RCT Matters in the Real World, "Be the Change" Conversations, and Action Growing from CommunityWorkshops: Creating Connection in a Sea of Disconnection: Research-Informed Clinical Practice, Getting Unstuck: The Tools of Empathy, Reclaiming the Connected Brain: A 10 Step Program to Awaken Your Natural Ability to Connect, and "Talking" the Talk through Media CommentaryCommunity: Group activities and poster sessions.

Online registration will open soon. Please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions. We look forward to seeing you in June!

15 CEUs awarded (APA approved - NASW, LMHC, LMFT approval pending)

by Harriet Schwartz, Ph.D.

I submitted a post late in 2010 to tell members of the JBMTI community about Antioch University's Ph.D. in Leadership and Change program, a program that holds relational leadership at its core. As promised, I's writing a second post to tell you about some of the related research that is in the works or has been completed at Antioch.

Martha Miser is a current student who is developing her dissertation topic. Martha writes: "In a sentence, my dissertation topic looks at globalization, growth, and social change from a feminist lens. In particular, I am critiquing the idea of endless accumulation that is the foundation of economic growth, capitalism, globalization, etc. I'm using a number of feminist scholars in this work, including Joyce Fletcher. I can't say yet exactly if/when/how relational theory will be a major element in my dissertation argument, but in any case, I'm also interested as a practitioner in leadership development and organizational change (I'm a coach, educator, consultant)."

Deborah A. Fredricks graduated in 2009. Fredricks drew directly on RCT, citing several Stone Center publications. Deborah's dissertation title is "The Leader's Experience of Relational Leadership: A Hermenuetic Phenomenological Study of Leadership at Friendship." 

And finally, I completed my dissertation "Thankful Learning: A Grounded Theory Study of Relational Practice Between Master's Students and Professors" in May, 2009.  RCT continues to be at the core of my research endeavors and I'm currently conducting a second study looking at relational practice between master's students and professors: this time I am using a different methodology (critical incident technique) and am interviewing current students to try to capture the smaller moments of connection.

I share these research examples with you because I believe that Antioch is unique in the way that the program design and faculty honor and draw from RCT and relational practice more broadly defined. For more information on Antioch's Ph.D. program visit: http://www.phd.antioch.edu/ In addition,  I would be delighted to talk with you or anyone you know who is interested in the program, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Dr. Dolores Finger Wright, an associate professor of social work at Delaware State University (DSU), was recently honored for "the role she played in the historic public accommodations demonstrations in Greensboro, N.C. during the early 1960s," as announced in a recent statement from DSU. 

On February 5, 2011 Dr. Finger Wright received the International Civil Rights Center & Museum Sit-In Hero’s Award during a gala commemorating the 51st anniversary of the Greensboro Sit-ins.

During the tumultuous 1960s in Greensboro, the DSU associate professor was an undergraduate student in Bennett College for Women. Her extracurricular activity from her bachelor’s degree pursuit was working behind the scene during the Greensboro demonstrations and taking part in the picket lines.
 
Presenting the award to Dr. Finger Wright was Ret. Maj. Gen. Joseph McNeil, one of the “Greensboro Four” that gained worldwide notoriety for their sit-ins protests at segregated lunch counters in Greensboro in 1960.
 
“Delores would picket during the days to integrate the stores,” said Ret. Maj. Gen. McNeil. “She would work the picket lines at night to integrate the movie theatres, which was dangerous in Greensboro.”
 
Dr. Finger Wright said that she also worked behind the scenes strategizing with her Bennett College sisters, professors, as well as through her affiliations with the NAACP and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). - Article excerpt

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JBMTI Director of Program Development Maureen Walker, Ph.D.,  recently published her article, "What's a Feminist Therapist to Do? Engaging the Relational Paradox in a Post-Feminist World," in the latest issue of Women & Therapy (34: 38-58, 2011).

The advances that women have made in public and private venues are often attributed to the successive feminist movements. One of the ironies of the 21st century, however, is that women's accomplishments are sometimes cited as proof that feminist consciousness is passe. This stance generates profound confusion and disempowerment for young women whose experience of embedded misogyny is contradicted by distortions of post-feminist discourse, one outcome of which is disconnection from socio-political context. This article illustrates the use Relational-Cultural therapy as a feminist approach that fosters healing and growth by facilitating both personal and collective empowerment. - Article abstract

Learn more

JBMTI is thrilled to announce a new program initiative, the Miller Family Social Action Project. The Project's mission is to address social problems resulting from inequitable power arrangements in contemporary culture. Using the precepts of the Relational-Cultural Theory as our guiding philosophy, the Project members will work in collaboration with diverse groups and individuals to develop programs that promote reconciliation, shared power, and mutual respect across in a context of culturally stratified relationships.

Following is an excerpt from an article Jean's husband, Mike Miller, wrote for the recent Winter 2011 eConnections about the intention of the project:

Social action was a defining aspect of Jean’s life.  Whether she was working with fellow Sarah Lawrence students in low-income  areas of Yonkers, pursuing national health insurance while in medical school, or supporting feminist mobilizations and anti-nuclear efforts, theory and action were always intertwined for her, each clarifying the other.  Her emphasis on “growth-through-connection” was not only about achieving psychological health and well-being, it was a call to action, urging us to work for social justice in all of our relationships.

The Miller Family Social Action Project is an effort to further Jean’s vision for social change through the work of the JBMTI.  Over the years, the Institute has contributed to both increasing awareness of the need for connection and improving organizational communication and effectiveness.  It is our hope that the Project will move Jean’s relational activism to a new level by mobilizing and inspiring even more practitioners to apply their knowledge and skills to social action that lead to positive and enduring social change.

Visit the Miller Family Social Action Project page on the JBMTI website for updated programming and initiative information

WBUR, one of Boston's NPR stations, recently ran an incredible five-part series on children and mental health in Massachusetts, "Are the Kids All Right?" Issues such as struggling to find a diagnosis; effects of medication; health care coverage; stigmas of mental health; and the shortage of pediatric mental health care providers are all explored in this important, in-depth series.

It's been five years since a federal judge issued a scathing ruling accusing Massachusetts of not providing adequate mental health services to children on public health insurance. The landmark case, Rosie D. v. Romney, has had broad implications on the diagnosis and treatment of all Massachusetts children who need mental health care. Although there have been many reforms in the five years since the suit, several challenges remain. We check in on how care has changed since Rosie D. - Excerpt from WBUR's report

Part 1: One Family’s ‘Traumatic’ Struggle For Mental Health Care

Part 2: Parents Divided By The Medication Debate

Part 3: Mental Health Screening Exposes Access Problems

Part 4: Provider Shortage Leaves Parents Searching, Doctors Overwhelmed

Part 5: Stakes High For Improving Mass. Children’s Mental Health System

Listen to the full series