Challenges in Starting Psychiatric Medications

Posted on Friday March 26, 2021 by Jacob Campbell.

Over the years, I have talked with many families and individual clients about medications. It is a scary proposition for clients to consider starting a regime of medication. Every family has different reasons to both want to start or not start medication. In my practice, it is crucial to be centered around the client’s desires for medication. My role is often focused on talking through options with clients, discussing where they can get more information, and processing some of their feelings.

Many of my clients have been worried about the length of time they might need to use medications. Sometimes the medicines that people take are indefinite, and they will always need the support offered. Other times, people need more of a short-term intervention. The symptoms that they are experiencing are so severe that it hinders their ability to make any forward progress. One metaphor I have used is that of going up a mountain. They need the help of the medication to make it to a place where they can learn new coping skills and have a period of time that is successful before they are ready to maintain that progress without the support of the medications.

Graphic I created showing a cart going up a hill
Sometimes medication help us make up a hill that felt insurmountable

My own experience of quitting smoking is not a one-to-one correlation to the support that psychiatric medications can help, but it feels very related to me. During the start of the Pandemic, I got extremely sick and was struggling to breathe. Since I was a child, I’ve often had an illness that affected my lungs. This last time scared me enough that I decided that I needed to quit smoking finally. Since I was about fourteen years old, I’ve been smoking. This means it has been well over half of my life that I’ve been a smoker. I’ve tried quitting a number of times, but never successfully. I have often, sardonically said that I quit quitting… because I don’t like failing. I decided to talk to my doctor about stopping smoking and was prescribed Chantix. It helped curve my cravings for long enough that once I stopped taking the medication, I was able to stay strong and not restart smoking. It has been almost a year since I quit smoking now. I don’t think I could have done it without the support of Chantix.

A recent study by Bentley and Thissen (2021) completed a survey looking to understand feelings related to psychiatric medications. Their study, Family Conundrums With Psychiatric Medication: An Inquiry Into Experiences, Beliefs, and Desires was able to see two latent profiles of their respondents. These profiles included those where are skeptical and those that are supportive of a medical model.

The study was completed by a survey sent out to members of National Alliance on Mental Illness, there is also a NAMI Tri-Cities locally. As a case manager years ago at Tri-Cities Community Health, I went with one of my clients to their meetings. I have frequently referred clients to NAMI and feel their organization is a pretty awesome service to the community and those with mental health (and their families). Their mission is “Dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with mental illness and their families through support, education, and advocacy.”

In Bentley and Thissen’s (2021) study, most of the respondents were parents of those with mental illness. Their sons and daughters’ medications were most frequently antidepressants, anti-psychotics, anti-anxiety medications, and mood stabilizers. The responses were most frequently from parents of those with mental illness. Out of their report, I found the narrative description their participants provided the most useful as a practitioner. For example, the following is some advice that participants wished they could give to mental health providers:

  • Increase family inclusion in care: believe, involve, appreciate
  • Show respect through honesty and access
  • Educate patients and caregivers in an unbiased and balanced manner
  • Listen more fully to stories of lived experience
  • Seek knowledge on new treatments
  • Embrace collaboration with families and other providers
  • Be upfront about costs and strive to use affordable options
  • Provide a milieu of open dialogue, hope, and empathy
  • Slow down and be kinder and more patient


Bentley, K. J., & Thissen, R. (2021). Family conundrums with psychiatric medication: An inquiry into experiences, beliefs, and desires. Community Mental Health Journal.

Knowing Ourselves - As Change Agents How We Keep Ourselves Unstuck [Link Post] Permalink

Posted on Sunday March 21, 2021 by Jacob Campbell.

Episode #4

Jacob and Judy use Pathfinder’s Tarot deck to pull the Fool Card. They talk about the somatic Writing Class that Judy is taking. As a part of the class, she wrote a short Mantra she shared, following the same format as one Amanda Gorman described using. They also talked more about personality and how our parents impact our temperaments.

The Breaking and Breakthroughs in our Lives [Link Post] Permalink

Posted on Sunday March 7, 2021 by Jacob Campbell.

Episode #3

Judy and Jacob pull the Major Arcana card, breakthrough. They talk about Judy’s time after the Convent in Portland, the breakthroughs and challenges we have in our lives. Judy tells a story about getting into a scary situation while working in a psychiatric unit. We also talk about how experiences growing up can impact us and the need to identify what is happening in our minds.

This one was a fun one. I also got my mom to give me some photos of her in her habit, while she was in the convent.

A photo of Judy after first getting her Habit with her father Wilbur Dirks in June of 1966
Judy after first getting her Habit with her father Wilbur Dirks in June of 1966.
Photo of Judy in August of 1968 with her mother and siblings after having given her first vows.
Judy in August of 1968 with her mother and siblings after having given her first vows.

I Finally Started, My New Project The Mother Dearest Show

Posted on Tuesday February 23, 2021 by Jacob Campbell.

As a young child, I spent a lot of time in cars. Whether we were going back and forth between the Walla Walla State Penitentiary or going on a road trip, my mom and I listened to a lot of “books on tape.” We heard murder mysteries, educational books, and so many more. I remember listening to Dune traveling down the Oregon Coast and talk about our car being a mobile university.

Graphic showing a car and the caption Car-a-versity

Growing up in this way cemented my appreciation of the spoken word. I recently finished listening to From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want by Rob Hopkins for the Reverse Imagineering class I’m taking. If you are looking for an encouraging book under challenging times, this is a great one. We all need more imagination. I have also been making my way through Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series. Currently, I’m listening to Foundation and Empire. I love having gotten back into science fiction/fantasy books.

I also listen to a lot of podcasts. In 2014, I wrote Jump in The Stream, Favorite Podcasts where I shared some of my favorite podcasts at the time. I still listen to most of the podcasts on that list, but the number of different podcasts I listen to has grown along, and which ones get priority. Maybe at some point, I will write up something about my current listening habits. If you are looking for some great shows, I value the Relay FM network and all of the great shows.

A graphic of headphones and text - currently I have 21 shows With episodes I'd like to listen to... too many subscriptions
Maybe I’m subscribed to too many podcasts

I have also been trying to get my kids interested in listening to audio. We have listened to some audiobooks. They enjoyed The Wizard of Oz, which was one of the first books I got them to listen to on the way to a camping trip a couple of years back. They have also enjoyed WOW in the World and Circle Round. Lately, every time we get into the car, even if we are only going five minutes away, they say to put on the Mother Dearest Show. When I have put it on, they always get reticent and listen, but afterward, they tell me that I should make it less boring. They figure the way to make it less boring would be for them to be on it.

What is this, you might be asking yourself, how would they get on to the podcast? The Mother Dearest Show is a new podcast made with my mom (Judy Dirks) and me. It is actually so new that it’s not even listed in the Apple Podcasts directory yet. I recently submitted it for review, but it takes about five days to approve new shows. If you search next week, you should be able to find it there.

Show Art for the Mother Dearest Show
The Mother Dearest Show Art

So far, we have done two episodes, and it has been enjoyable. The general premise is me talking with my mom about a subject. If you know my mom, you know that she is a pretty amazing woman. She helped start a couple of non-profits. The last couple of years, I have had her come in and speak to the students in my Social Work Classes. She always gets them excited, and they tell about how great her time was with them.

Photo of Judy Dirks Teaching in 2017 at Heritage University
A photo of my mom presenting in 2017 for one my classes at Heritage University

To start each episode, we have been drawing tarot-style cards and connecting with the topic. The first card was from my Zen Deck and was going with the flow and the second one was from My mom’s Oracle Divination Cards and the Yang card. It has been fascinating to see how each episode how it connects with the topics. We have explored some counseling practices, my mom being in the convent, and some other interesting conversations. I figure the topics will range from areas that we have some shared interest or family interest.

The initial notes that I took when I was first starting thinking about wanting to do this project were dated October 2015. I had started brainstorming what it could look like and some possible topic ideas. I’ve considered it on and off again for years but have kept putting it off. I finally decided that this was something I’m going to start now. My intention behind this project is multifaceted. First, I want to have an excuse to talk to my mom. I think some of our conversations will be about her growing up, or maybe about my dad and all kinds of things I want to be able to capture and save. Second, I want to learn how to create a podcast. I must share that Relay FMs member-only podcast, Backstage, really helped me start learning the basics. I think it sounds ok so far, but I would like to make it better and know that going through this process will improve my editing skills and speaking skills. I don’t have any other projects I’m looking to start right now, but who knows what the future may hold.

Anyways, I’m proud to share these and would love for people to check them out. You see the episode at our website or right here… and eventually, they will be everywhere you listen to your podcasts.

Episode 1: Our First Episode - Tarot Cards and EMDR in Counseling

Episode 2: Connecting with the Divine - Spirituality and Systems Thinking

Connecting with the Divine - Spirituality and Systems Thinking[Link Post] Permalink

Posted on Sunday February 21, 2021 by Jacob Campbell.

Episode #2

Jacob and Judy pull from the Wisdom of the Oracle Divination Cards and get Yang card. We talked about the Course of Miracles, Judy’s time as a Postulant with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. We also talk about silent retreats and connecting without ourselves and systems U-Theory for systems thinking and co-creation.

Pixar’s Soul an Interesting View of States of Flow

Posted on Saturday December 26, 2020 by Jacob Campbell.

Pixar’s 2020 Soul (Wikipedia Article or Pixar Article is a great movie that offers a fascinating picture of the flow state and obsession that can happen. I have for many years been in love with Pixar like so many people. Before subscribing to Disney Plus, which is a great value, I purchased most of them on iTunes. One of the things I appreciate, other than being able to watch them with my kids, is how they push the boundaries and offer new ways of imagining the world and concepts we have.

Soul reminded me Inside Out in that it pushes the theories of how our minds work to a manner of portraying it that is novel and elegant. I would propose that the format of animation affords Pixar to make these boundary-pushing visions. Soul dives into many aspects of what makes us people, our personality, the things that spark us, and does a similar job to Inside Out.

One of Soul’s visual representations is being in a flow state along with their theorized opposit of obsession and disconnection. Near The Great Before is a place that people go when they get the zone. Twenty-two, an ancient soul who had never been human before, described this area as “the space between the physical and spiritual.”

 Screenshot of 22 and Joe Gardner looking at souls in the flow
Pixar’s depiction of people who have entered the flow. We see 22 about to pop some people out of the flow with mischievous smile.

Buddhists have described this zone as Samadhi. In Nachmanovitch’s (2014), he explains that when somebody is in a selfless state and absorbed with absolute concentration. This Samadhi is about disappearing into the work and creation that we are doing. If you are interested in more about Free Play, you can read my short essay Free Play: Some Standouts of Nachmanovitch’s Book.

Csikszentmihalyi (2014) describes as flow experiences “the well-ordered, fully functioning dynamic state of consciousness” (p. 216). It is in this state that improvisation and newness are happening. I wrote more about this in Transformation, Creativity, and Some of the Things I Have Learned.

In the movie, Moonwind a devoted sign twirler on a Manhattan describes the The Zone and Lost Souls. He goes to the mystical astral plane during the movie, where he rescues lost souls from their uninspiring stressful lives.

Moonwind You know, lost souls are not that much different from those in the zone.

Joe Gardner What?

Moonwind The zone is enjoyable, but when that joy becomes an obsession, one becomes disconnected from life.

 The lost souls in the astral plane
The lost souls how have become disconnected from life.

Soul is a beautiful movie and well worth the watch for even kidless adults. The conceptualization they offer around flow and the potential obsession that can happen when fully absorbed is engaging.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Flow and the Foundations of Positive Psychology. Springer Netherlands.

Nachmanovitch, S. (2014). Free play: Improvisation in life and art. Tarcher.

Pacific City Beach Trip: Rituals are Good

Posted on Tuesday July 21, 2020 by Jacob Campbell.

The first year that you do an event or activity, even if it something that you want to do every year, you can describe that as a ritual or an annual event. It’s not until you have done it for at least two years or more that you can start to define something as a habitual observance. My personality style does not always engage with the conventional. As a young boy, I remember the value I used to place in doing something different. I would frequently make choices because I wanted to be different than everybody else.

Even now, I like to change things up in my life and “salir de la rutina.” New projects, activities, people that we know can be invigorating and feel very engaging. While that is true in my life, I (and I would argue that people in general) need to have consistencies as well. In my professional life, in talking to teachers and parents, I frequently discuss the importance of ritual and consistency. I see it in my family as well. Not only is it essential in managing the conflict that comes up (five kids, there is bound to be a lot of strife from time to time), but we have also made some of our traditions. We might change the location or activities, but there are some routines we have fallen into every year. I’m just getting back from one of my favorites (although I wrote most of this post while watching the fire die in Pacific City, I’m not finishing it up until we have been back home in the Tri-Cities). Growing together as a family is a great place that we can make traditions and rituals—the last couple of years, we have made it to the ocean at least once each year.

photo of my family on the beach
My Lovely Family

We stayed in a pretty decent VRBO, although they lack in amenities (who doesn’t even have salt/pepper or other basics.. as well there was some general disrepair in the home). We are just outside of Pacific City. I’m not sure if I am getting older, but I have some significant longing for the warmer oceans in Mexico and other more tropical habitats. I know as a youth loved being in any sea. I could spend all day, and I don’t think I ever thought it was cold. This year, I waded in to be close to the kids that I could go after them if needed, but the idea of swimming around in the cold water was more than I could bear. Maybe just need a wet suit.

photo of kids on the beach
Photo from when I was a child with my cousin on the Oregon Coast.

We made the reservation for the trip back in February. It was before we had any idea what has happened with COVID-19. We tried to stay as safe as possible, using masks when around other people. We did end up at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area and hung out at the Pacific City Beach, but spent most of our beach-going time in the almost private beach in front of our home. We also went to a restaurant for the first time since the quarantine started. We worked up an appetite climbing the giant dune and looking at the breathtaking views of the ocean against rock. We ate pizza at Doryland Pizza.

photo of kids in masks at Pizza Resturant
The Captan at Doryland Pizza

I would encourage people to find things that they can make as routines in their lives as their family. You can seem photos in Flickr 2020 Family Trip to Pacific City OR.

2020 Family Trip to Pacific City OR