For the fans of the hit television series This Is Us, Super bowl Sunday was not just about the game, Justin Timberlake’s halftime performance, and the commercials. It was the day we finally learned the backstory of one of the show’s beloved characters, Jack Pearson, and how he died. As fans watched the show, it is likely that they experienced feelings of sadness and probably cried along with the thousands of other fans who were glued to their TV screen.
But why do fans mourn the loss of these TV characters? It has been suggested that fans of these TV shows use the characters as an escape from the stressors in their daily lives (Holmes, 2015). Each week and even each season, fans tune into their favorite shows to see how the characters are developing in life. It is not surprising that many people begin to form an attachment to these characters and potentially even see some of themselves in the characters.
A study conducted on the end of television series and thus the subsequent death of beloved characters found that fans are most unhappy when loose ends are left about the fate of the characters. This indicates that fans want a sense of closure with the characters’ stories and do not want to have to continue wondering, “What if.”
So know that when you feel sad that a beloved character is no longer on your favorite show, you are not alone, and it is likely that others around the world are having those same feelings.
Cristel Antonia Russell, Hope Jensen Schau. When Narrative Brands End: The Impact of Narrative Closure and Consumption Sociality on Loss Accommodation. Journal of Consumer Research, 2014.
Holmes, L. (2015, April 29). Yes, Grieving Fictional Characters Is A Real Thing — Here’s Why We Do It. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/29/why-we-grieve fictional-characters_n_7152992.html
Anissa Pugh, MA, LPA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern
Each year on February 2nd, we forget about the fancy technology that exists to predict the forecast and rather turn our attention to a groundhog and his shadow. On this day, people wake before dawn to see if the now famous Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow on the ground. Theory states if Phil sees his shadow on the ground then we can expect another six weeks of winter; however, if he does not see his shadow we can look forward to an early spring.
So you are probably wondering how accurate is this forecast prediction, because he is ‘only’ a ground right? Since Punxsutawney Phil was first tasked with this job over 130 years ago he has predicted 103 forecasts for more winter and only 18 forecasts for early spring. A study conducted by the National Climatic Data Center found that he is right 39% of the time (“Groundhog Day | National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) formerly known as National Climatic Data Center (NCDC),” 2015).
With predictions tending to heavily favor six more weeks of winter, it is important to understand how changes in seasons can impact a person’s mood. During the winter months, some people begin to feel depressed and notice a decrease in their energy levels that does not exist during other times of the year. These individuals may be suffering from what was formerly known as Season Affective Disorder (SAD) and what is now known as Major Depressive Disorder with season pattern in the DSM-5. The symptoms of this disorder are similar to that of a depressive disorder and those experiencing ‘Winter Pattern SAD’ may experience cravings for carbohydrates, weight gain, hypersomnia, or social withdrawal (a feeling like you want to “hibernate”). Treatment for SAD often includes psychotherapy such as CBT combined with behavioral activation to both look at negative thoughts process, but to also keep the person active. (“NIMH » Seasonal Affective Disorder,” n.d.). Another common treatment for SAD is light therapy to help replace the decrease in natural sunlight that is experienced during the winter months.
So did you see Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction this morning? Well if you did not he has predicted 6 more weeks of winter.
Groundhog Day | National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) formerly known as National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). (2015, February). Retrieved from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/customer-support/education-resources/groundhog-day
NIMH » Seasonal Affective Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml
Fun Facts on Groundhog’s Day: http://www.ibtimes.com/groundhog-day-2018-facts-quotes-history-upcoming-annual-ritual-2648921
Anissa Pugh, MA LPA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern
Although the imposter phenomenon is not an official diagnosis listed in the DSM, it is a very real form of intellectual self-doubt that can significantly impact one’s social and emotional well-being. Further, imposter feelings are often accompanied by anxiety and depression.
Imposter Syndrome is a fear of being discovered or unmasked. Many graduate students question whether or not they are prepared or truly worthy of doing the work that they are tasked to do. Often the work is being done well but the pervasive feelings of self-doubt, fraudulence, and insecurity dismiss successes and chalk it up to timing, luck, or a divine intervention. Imposter feelings often presents when students question how they ever got accepted into graduate school or matched through the stressful APPIC process. These students often view everyone else as a better candidate and continue to worry they don’t belong.
The following are ways to overcome imposter feelings while learning to acknowledge your strengths:
Georgetta Harris-Wyatt, MS
WKPIC Doctoral Intern
Can giving your significant other an undesirable gift impact the relationship? Research says yes, if the person receiving the gift is a male.
Men felt less similar than the gift giver when the giver was both a new acquaintance or a significant other. The receipt of an undesirable gift also negatively impacted the men’s view of the relationship.
Women, on the other hand, saw no change in similarities when they received an undesirable gift from a new acquaintance. However, when the undesirable gift was received from a significant other, the perceived similarities and view of the relationship increased. It is suggested that this occurs because women feel the need to guard the relationship, even when they do not do so intentionally.
Women reported that they too believed that receiving an undesirable gift would impact their view of the relationship in a negative way, just like the men.
They were wrong!
Dunn, E. W., Huntsinger, J., Lun, J., & Sinclair, S. (2008). The Gift of Similarity: How Good and Bad Gifts Influence Relationships. Social Cognition, 26(4), 469-481. doi:10.1521/soco.2008.26.4.469
Crystal Henson, MA
Around age of 6-9 years, children begin to question the idea of Santa Claus. Suddenly, rather than asking questions to learn more about “Santa’s magic,” they begin asking questions regarding the plausibility of Santa. It is around this age that children become skeptical of the stories they have been told. How is it possible for him to visit every house in the world in just one night? How can he fit down the chimney?
As children develop conceptual abilities, the stories of Santa Claus no longer seem plausible. For some children, this can be validating in that they have confirmed their perception of reality. For others, it can lead to anger about being “lied to” by adults. The acceptance of this new reality doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Explaining your idea about the spirit of Santa Claus and allowing your child to participate in creating the “magic” for others can help create a smooth transition to this new line of thinking.
Shtulman, A., & Yoo, R. I. (2015). Childrens understanding of physical possibility constrains their belief in Santa Claus. Cognitive Development, 34, 51-62. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2014.12.006
When Your Child Asks, Is Santa Real? (2016, July 17). Retrieved November 27, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/when-your-child-asks-is-santa-real/
Crystal Henson, MA
If you work at an acute inpatient psychiatric hospital, you will see familiar faces as patients are readmitted. It’s an evitable occurrence. When this happens you can do one of two things, either continue with the same treatment approach or go back to the drawing boards and find new evidence based treatment techniques.
One new up and coming therapeutic approach that can be used in an inpatient psychiatric hospital is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT is a part of the third wave behavioral movement that focuses on allowing the client to take action in his or her own life (Harris, 2009). In ACT, rather than focusing on solely reducing symptoms of the psychopathology the client will work to increase his or her positive psychological skills using techniques of defusion, mindfulness, and acceptance. ACT therapy frequently uses metaphors to describe new skills such as placing all thoughts of a leave floating down a stream when discussing the topic of defusion.
Bach and Hayes (2002) sought out to determine if a brief version of ACT could reduce the number of hospitalizations of psychotic patients along with reducing the believability of the symptoms as reported by the patients. The researchers conducted a randomized control study with 80 patients who were readmitted to a state psychiatric hospital. All patients either reported experiencing delusions or hallucinations. Individuals were excluded from the study if they had a diagnosis of a substance-induced psychosis, severe intellectual disability, or neurocognitive disorder (Bach & Hayes, 2002). The study collected several different data items including the number of readmissions a patient had for a four month period following discharge, the frequency of symptoms, distress related to those positive symptoms, and self-reported reliability of symptoms.
Study participants were divided into two groups: treatment as usual (TAU) or treatment as usual with brief ACT therapy (TAU+ ACT). Those in the TAU group received medication, attended at least three group therapy sessions a week, and had the chance to receive individual therapy once a week (Bach & Hayes, 2002). In the TAU+ACT group, patients received four ACT therapy sessions with a psychology intern (see psychology interns can do a lot while on internship). Each of the ACT therapy sessions lasted approximately 45 minutes. During the first therapy session, patients were provided with an overview of ACT, how the patient had managed positive symptoms in the past, and learning to defuse from thought (Bach & Hayes, 2002). Each additional session took place approximately 72 hours after the previous session. The second session focused on accepting the positive symptoms by discussing how past attempts to control these symptoms lead to additional distress. In the third session, the patient began exploring his or her own personal values and goals for life. When looking at their values, the patient had the opportunity to see how past attempts to manage positive symptoms hindered reaching those goals. The final session was a review session to discuss how the patient could use the skills when discharged.
The study found that just four individual ACT therapy session was enough to reduce the rate of rehospitalization by 50% for a group of patients who were considered to be severely mentally ill (Bach and Hayes, 2002). Additionally, the study found that those who received ACT therapy were more likely to report their symptoms to others, which aided in the patients being able to stay out of the hospital. Furthermore, both study groups reported similar levels of frequency and distress associated with positive symptoms; however, the TAU+ACT group reported lower levels of believability in those symptoms than the TAU group. This shows that even if the symptoms were still present that patients were able to understand that the symptom content was not reality-based. By understanding that the positive symptoms were not reality-based, the patients were then able to turn their focus to more effective coping skills.
So before you become frustrated the next time you see that familiar face being readmitted take the time to look at different therapeutic approaches because you never know what will work until you try it.
Bach, P., & Hayes, S. C. (2002). The use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to prevent the rehospitalization of psychotic patients: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 70, 1129-1138.
Harris, R. (2009). ACT made simple. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Anissa Pugh, MA LPA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern
For many, the holidays become synonymous with stress: finding the perfect tree, having the perfect decorations, finding the perfect gift, and spending time with family. These things can quickly turn holiday cheer into holiday drear. However, there are ways to reduce the stress that can come along with all the holiday hustle and bustle.
Not every get together will look like a Hallmark card. Not every family interaction will be like they are in the movies. Remember, this is real life. And in real life, it is what you make it…even if that means allowing things to be perfectly imperfect.
5 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress. (2016). Retrieved November 24, 2017, from
Wiegartz, P. (2011, November 12). 10 Common Holiday Stresses and How to Cope with Them.
Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-
Tips for coping with holiday stress. (2017, September 16). Retrieved November 24, 2017, from
Crystal Henson, MA
The Christmas season in America is thought to be carefree and whimsical, associated with joy, food, and fun. However, for some, especially individuals with severe mental illness, it can be a time of despair, loneliness and depressing memories. Turnbull (2015) found in his study, 36% of individuals with mental health problems have engaged in non-suicidal injurious behaviors during the holiday season, but more than half of the participants considered harming themselves around Christmas, while 45% have considered taking their own life. A further 76% of participants in the study reported having problems sleeping, and 60% of people reported experiencing panic attacks over the festive period.
Research has found components that can aid individuals with severe mental illness, such as engaging in leisure activities (Lloyd, King, Lampe & McDougall, 2001), but unfortunately these individuals lack possibilities to spend this time in ways that are meaningful to them (Perese, 1997). Leisure activities for individuals with severe mental illnesses have shown to have the potential to improve quality of life (Pieris & Craik, 2004; Carruthers & Hood, 2004). Leisure around the Christmas holiday for both individuals with and without disorders/disabilities is often what is wanted and hoped for, which is why it seems to be readily researched but the importance of holiday trips for people with severe mental illnesses is not widely known (Pols & Kroon, 2007). Results from Pols and Kroon (2007) found that one can assist individuals with severe mental illness while on a holiday trip by managing their medication, finances, and creating a somewhat structured routine. In addition, the researchers found holiday trips were linked with rehabilitation goals that were hard to identify by staff members who worked with the participants in the institutional setting. Holiday trips for individuals with severe mental illness helped the participants establish and maintain social relationships.
That is what the holiday season should be about, positive supportive connections, with the people that matter most in life. Turnbull (2015) suggested to combat unhealthy activities and coping methods, to “Look out for one another and show that you care by listening supportively, be affectionate, appreciative, or simply by spending time with loved ones.”
Carruthers, C. P., & Hood, C. D. (2004). The power of the positive: Leisure and well- being. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 38(2), 225-245.
Lloyd, C., King, R., Lampe, J., & McDougall, S. (2001). The leisure satisfaction of people with psychiatric disabilities. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 25(2), 107-113. doi:10.1037/h0095035
Perese, E. F. (1997). Unmet needs of persons with chronic mental illnesses: Relationship to their adaptation to community living. Issues In Mental Health Nursing, 18(1), 19-34. doi:10.3109/01612849709006537
Pieris, Y., & Craik, C. (2004). Factors Enabling and Hindering Participation in Leisure for People with Mental Health Problems. The British Journal Of Occupational Therapy, 67(6), 240-247. doi:10.1177/030802260406700602
Pols, J., & Kroon, H. (2007). The importance of holiday trips for people with chronic mental health problems. Psychiatric Services, 58(2), 262-265.
Turnbull, A. (2015). Pressures of Christmas lead to rise in mental health problems. Independent Nurse, 1.
Katy Roth, MA, CRC
WKPIC Doctoral Intern