Thursday, December 25, 2008

Find Rest My Soul

When I get stressed, my body gives in.

I did my regular two-and-a-quarter mile run this morning, but I could feel it in my body--a lethargy had crept into it during the night while I was asleep and unaware. I had to push, pretty hard, to complete my circuit.

I could confront this on-coming cold as an external evil trying to knock me down, or I could take a deep breath and let my body tell me that my stress has gotten the better of me, that it's time to be still and take a different perspective.

I will be a smart therapist and take the advice that I would give others: a change in perspective.

1) I have an entire week before the New Year. I can, like I have done multiple times now, simply move my completion target. I can spend today reading Barney Glaser--heck, even the rest of this week. Advisor will be on holidays anyway, so it's not like she will be wanting to read my proposal.

2) While running this morning, I felt the Spirit remind me that God had already given me the funding that I needed for the next year. I do not need to worry. I only have to do the work that I have been called to do. And if it means doing it to the level which I feel it needs to be done (as opposed to just "getting by"), so be it.

3) Chinese New Year is a bad time to collect data anyway. That will give me at least 10 more days of lag. I'll collect data in February instead of end-Jan. This way, my new clients will be more settled before I have to take a break and leave for data collection.

I need to trust God through this process. I am doing this PhD because of him. He led me here, he will lead me through.

Find rest my soul in Christ alone.
Know his power in quietness and rest

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Grounded (to a halt) Theory

Several posts ago, I gloated about how much I love Grounded Theory after reading Corbin & Strauss (2008).

Since then, I've started to re-read Charmaz's constructivist version of GT. I thought that I could somehow blend Corbin & Strauss (2008) with Charmaz (2006) and have a proposal that would have a happily congruent epistemological thread (thanks to Charmaz) with some hefty methodology (thanks to Corbin & Strauss).

BUT, Barney got in the way. No, not Barney the big purple dinosaur. Barney Glaser, the first author of the first book on GT with Anselm Strauss.

According to the most recent Handbook on GT (Bryant & Charmaz, 2007)--yes, there is actually a handbook on the methodology--there are three main schools of GTM.
  1. The Glaserian school
  2. The Strauss & Corbin school (the Corbin & Strauss 2008 book is the 3rd ed.)
  3. The Constructivist school (i.e. Charmaz)
Well, I happen to have one of the books by Barney Glasser (1992), in which he systematically counters the Strauss & Corbin school. He claims that his is the original GT, and that the Strauss & Corbin version is not GT but "full conceptual description." In other words, the GT that I fell in love with is not legitimate.

As if it wasn't enough for me to have trudged through Corbin & Strauss (version 3 of the Strauss & Corbin school) and Charmaz (the constructivist school), now I have to not only read up on the Glaserian school, but possibly also read up on the original version of the Strauss & Corbin school. For sure, I have to read the original, original version of GT, i.e. Glaser & Strauss (1967).

[Insert expletive here.]

So many people have graduated with their PhDs without the in-depth study that I have been doing in order to legitimately claim that I understand my methodology well (I can say this because I read a good number of dissertations, some from my own department!)

I have two very contrasting thoughts battling within me right now.
  1. A PhD dissertation is a joke, and most dissertations are wimpy.
  2. I am the joke, and I should lighten up and get over my need to know things 100x more than I need to know them.
So, how much more reading do I have to do before I can write the second half of my proposal?

[Insert extra-loud expletive here.]

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dissertating and Friends - A Painful Mix?

This post is made in reference to my earlier post: Dissertating and Friends Don't Mix?

My wife was too tired so she decided to have our friends come over rather than to drive there. To cope, I decided to try doing some reading before they arrived.

I was able to study (with earplugs on) even when the kids were listening to Adventures in Odyssey at a high volume. But once our friends came over (earlier than I expected) my ability to focus dwindled. I had to move from the living room into my study because high level of interaction was too distracting.

Also, I feel (1) guilt for not interacting with them; (2) strain in having to force myself to concentrate when my body feels so tense; (3) tired because I did not have much sleep last night due to staying up late (reading) and having to wake up early to go to church.

I will read for another 45 minutes, and then join them. In addition to this cup of coffee that is almost empty, I'll need a cup of tea to tie me over to the end of my study time. After that, I'm a goner. It'll be a very early night for me. I'm going to try dissertating during the day time next week. (To think that I just spent two weeks converting to night time dissertating.)

I just needed to write this down. It's an importance piece of my dissertating process.

p.s. Thank God for high-quality affordable earplugs. What would I do without them?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dissertating and Friends Don't Mix?

During coursework, it was comparatively easier for me to"ignore" friends who were visiting and spend my time reading or writing instead. Now that I am working on my dissertation, I am finding it hard for me have friends over to my place at all. When they come, I feel guilty for not entertaining them.

I could not figure out why I felt so differently. Until now.

During coursework, I had to report to a professor. There was a deadline imposed upon me. And since all of my friends understoodd what it is like to have to meet a project deadline (or get it trouble with the professor), it was easy for me to excuse myself from their presence to meet my deadline. I was still a "good person," just busy.

However, any deadline for my dissertation is self-imposed. To ignore friends when they visit now feels more like self-centeredness. I have no professor on whom to blame my inhospitable behavior. I am just rude, or bad, or selfish to not spend time interacting with them. In addition, because this dissertation takes so long to do, it feels like I am forever ignoring them.

Perhaps I just have a problem with discipline. If I could discipline myself to get the work done *when* I am supposed to do it, then I could very well balance family, social, and dissertating life a lot better than I am currently doing it.

To whip or not to whip myself. That is the question.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Grounded Theory

I've almost finished the latest (3rd) edition of the very popular text on Grounded Theory (Corbin & Strauss, 2008). It is a great read.

Juliet Corbin added several chapters of her analysis of Vietnam war veteran's experience of the Vietnam war as an example to teach people how grounded theory methodology works. Extremely helpful to have when you don't have anyone on your committee who is an expert on the latest in grounded theory methodology.

Chapter 12 ("Integrating Categories") was the best. You really get a sense of how all the hard work and detailed analysis come together to construct a theory. It gave me goosebumps to see how she so artfully put together all her painstaking analysis to form a cohesive theory.

I cannot wait to get my proposal completed and begin on my dissertation. I want to tell the story of conflict in large Chinese Family Business that is constructed from rigorous data-driven analysis and elaborated through a cohesive and compelling theoretical architecture.

Then, I want to publish my dissertation in the form of a book.

After that, more research to take the theorizing a higher level of abstraction to include everything about the Chinese family business as a human phenomenon from history to current times. An exciting project that can emerge out of the research is a movie or a documentary on The Chinese Family Business. Something like this documentary project: Becoming American: The Chinese Experience.

The next 10 years will be exciting.


Corbin J. & Strauss A. (2008). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


  • Monday, Adviser gave me some good news on my proposal: "Great Progress!" I celebrated by not doing any more work.
  • Tuesday, I had a day full of supervision and counseling to do. The administration and traveling was a good excuse to not work on my proposal.
  • Wednesday, I had no excuse not to work other than that my back has been achingly sore the whole week. Prolonged sitting would not help it get better any faster. I did spent time clearing off more administration work and spent more time with the kids.
  • Thursday, American Thanksgiving day, I did two hours of transcribing of a pilot interview. That made me happy. The rest of the day/evening was spent with friends. Imagine that. I still have friends.
  • Friday, I met with my buddies for breakfast and went for my haircut. I did not do any work. But for the first time in 8 days, I was able to wake up and get out of bed without remembering that my back was sore. A good sign.
I would say that I have had a good break and it is time to get back into action. Especially now that my back is doing much better. Saturday's goal is to work for four hours.

I am thankful for the Thanksgiving break. I will not feel guilty for having taken it. No, I will not.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Bamboo

One day I decided to quit...I quit my job, my relationship, my spirituality.... I wanted to quit my life. I went to the woods to have one last talk with God.

"God", I said. "Can you give me one good reason not to quit?"

His answer surprised me.

"Look around", He said. "Do you see the fern and the bamboo?"

"Yes", I replied.

"When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them water. The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant green covered the floor. Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.

"In the second year the fern grew more vibrant and plentiful. And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.

"In year three there was still nothing from the bamboo seed. But I would not quit. The same in year four.

"Then in the fifth year, a tiny sprout emerged from the earth.

Compared to the fern, it was seemingly small and insignificant.

But just six months later, the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall.

It had spent the five years growing roots. Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive. I would not give any of my creations a challenge it could not handle.

"Did you know, my child, that all this time you have been struggling, you have actually been growing roots? I would not quit on the bamboo. I will never quit on you.

"Don't compare yourself to others." He said. "The bamboo had a different purpose than the fern. Yet they both make the forest beautiful.

"Your time will come", God said to me. "You will rise high."

"How high should I rise?" I asked.

"How high will the bamboo rise?" He asked in return.

"As high as it can?" I questioned.

"Yes." He said, "Give me glory by rising as high as you can."

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Remember Sisyphus? Well, things are actually moving along now.

I finally have enough material written on my proposal that it made sense to put in a table of contents. I had a total of 21 pages two days ago. Today, I have 24 pages, and I'm feeling good.*

It's not so much the number of pages that makes me feel good, but that I've broken through a major research block that Adviser put up for me. On the one hand, I understood what Adviser was saying and agreed; on the other hand, I kept feeling like I have a case too with my (different) approach.

After about 6 weeks of going back and forth between methodologies, I finally read enough, thought through enough, argued with myself enough to feel solid about my approach. What is neat is that given all of my back-and-forth, my approach now not only makes sense, it is philosophically congruent and I can articulate it well.**

I've also stopped meeting Adviser weekly for 4 weeks now. That helped to allow my ideas to "brew" without me having to meet Adviser and get confused each time I did.

I had consistently set goals for myself to finish since September, but failed to meet them. Now that I have pushed through my block, I feel like I can really complete my proposal by this weekend. And I have the pages to show for it. Whether or not Adviser will be happy with it is another story, for another post.

For the record, I really like my Adviser. I think having a tougher adviser will end up making me a much stronger scholar. And Adviser is generally very supportive, so long as I can defend my position well.


*MS Word has a great table of contents feature that is automatically updateable.
**For anyone interested, my methodological struggle was between using Analytic Induction or Grounded Theory. Grounded Theory won, that is, the constructivist version of GT (reference: Kathy Charmaz).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Remember To Take Breaks

My latest timer technique is working out really well. [Also, see earlier post.]

I press the timer (set for 10 minutes), and I work while it counts down. Whenever I am tempted to deviate from work, I look at the timer and say to myself for instance, "only 4:26 to go, keep working." I actually stay focused.

At the end of each 10 minute segment, I make a check on a piece of paper: four vertical lines and one diagonal line across to denote fifty minutes of effective and focused work. I draw a circle around the five lines for the last 10-minute segment to denote the completion of one full hour of work.

Sounds good, right?

The trouble is, the method is so effective that I am forgetting to take breaks. And thus, I find myself unable to work for longer than 2 hours, by the end of which I am so exhausted from the intense focus that I don't want to look at the work for the rest of the day.

Not good.

So now, instead of drawing a circle around my five lines to denote a full hour of work, I press the timer at the end of 50 minutes, and I take a 10-minute break.

We'll see if this makes any difference to me being able to focus effectively for at least 5 hours a day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The King And I

I feel like Sisyphus. Each time I seem to be making progress on my dissertation proposal, something happens and I am propelled back to the beginning: a sentence uttered by my adviser; an article pointing the emphasis in a different direction; a drop a self-doubt pelting down on my research question from the looming dark cloud of methodological uncertainty above.

This past week, it was illness. At first, I ran my errands like a trouper, resisting the idea that an eight-mile-a-week runner could succumb to something so banal as a cold. When I could no longer deny the truth of my sorry state, I took to homeopathy and drowned myself in water and sleep to overcome it. I was bent on getting my rock to the very top of the hill.

By day three, I declared myself well and took to reading again. At first, my goal was to complete two articles and perhaps parts of a book. By late afternoon, my hopes dwindled down to merely one article. It took me the entire day and all the energy I could muster up, but I finished it. Truth be told, I think it finished me.

Today is day five. By now, I should have tackled the theory and the methodology readings that I have piled up beside me. But here they sit, untouched. Books and articles that wonder why I torture them with the bright desk light into the early morning hours without bothering to read them. Books and articles that stare at me with bitter silence, hurling unheard accusations that cut to the very core of my demotivated being.

Sisyphus \ˈsi-sə-fəs\
: a legendary king of Corinth condemned eternally to repeat the cycle of rolling a heavy rock up a hill in Hades only to have it roll down again as it nears the top.
[Mirriam-Webster's Online Dictionary]

It has not been a good week. My rock feels like it is at the very bottom of the hill, or at best, immobile. But I will arise, just as Sisyphus does. Tomorrow will be another day, and the day after that will be yet another tomorrow. One day, the king of Corinth will find his redemption. And one day, I too, will find mine. But for now, we sigh our sighs, and we begin again.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Duh (Lessons from My Timer)

When I write, I set up 15 minute chunks of time for work with 2 minute breaks in-between. It helps me to stay focused on the writing process.

I just realized that I don't do the same for reading--take a break after an allotted time, that is.

It's no wonder that I end up reading 7 pages in 2 hours. I'm not focused and there is no timer to keep me accountable.

4:15 to 5:30pm - Read 11 pages (5 minutes per page) with 2 minute breaks in between each 15 minute interval.
5:30pm - Reward myself by going for a half-hour jog.


ACTUAL (5:22pm):
I did it! I completed the reading with 8 minutes to spare, and I even made notes.

The KEY DIFFERENCE was that with the timer, I was forced to focus on that which was important to me and to ignore that which was tangential or not even useful. This is an important lesson. In reading articles at this stage of my dissertation proposal, I do not want to waste time on the agenda of the article I am reading. I want to focus on the agenda of my proposal. And I need to remember that the authors of these articles are not on my examination committee. I need to please my committee and no one else... that is, until I have to publish, but that's another blog altogether.

And now, I am off for a run. Yes!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

One Goal

Tonight's effort was valiant. I planned to get almost 3 hours of writing in, and I am glad that I worked all that time.

However, about half of that time was spent looking through literature. Obviously, I have not done all the reading that I could have done. What's frustrating is that I thought I had read enough and imagined myself able to sit down and type out the proposal; that the challenge was simply to articulate my arguments coherently enough. I did not expect to have to stop and read another 6 hours worth of articles. For the literature review section, maybe, but not in my introduction!

And so, to come up with a complete draft by early next week feels like an impossibility unless I do one thing: keep working non-stop. Given my time and financial constraints, I need to keep working. And so I will.

For the next three days, I will do nothing but make my dissertation proposal a living priority, whether it be writing or reading. I have one goal: get the damn thing done.

Will I continue to blog and journal? Of course. It's the only way to keep sane through this process.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Needed: Motivation

I've come to realize that my problem with dissertating is not loneliness per se, but a deep need to talk to someone about my progress. But not just anyone. Someone who can empathize, deeply.

For instance, today, it took all of my energy to force myself to do 4.5 hours of writing. I did it, but it was a painful process. I applied all the clinical behavioral skills I knew on myself to make it happen, including a bit of eye-movement reprocessing first thing in the morning to shave some anxiety off my body (it's never a good thing to wake up to an aching jaw--you know you've been grinding your teeth all night).

Now it's 9:48pm. I have a 200+ page dissertation sitting next to me that has to go back to the library tomorrow (it's an inter-library loan and I've used up my renewals). Do I want to force myself to work for another 2 hours to quickly read and summarize this work?

Boring, isn't it, to read about my dissertating woes? But if I don't talk about it, how else do I alleviate this pain of working when it is so torturous to work?

I suppose I could get a punching bag and beat the crap out of it. That would provide some relief. But the ultimate relief is found only in work done. So I should do that.

I will work until 11:30pm. Then I will come back and add a postscript. If you read a p.s. at the end of this post, will you leave a comment of "yay" for me?

Yours humbly,
Lonely Dissertator


11:17pm. p.s. The dissertation was an interesting ethnographic study that was only tangentially related to my dissertation. My practicality said, "get rid of it and do something else;" my curiosity said, "but it's so interesting and knowledge of this work might come in handy one day." Tonight, practicality won.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

PhD Blogs on Wordpress

I just discovered a WHOLE bunch of PhD blogs on Wordpress here.

Wordpress has some nice features that make your blogging life much richer. I signed up there, I'm not sure I have the time to muck around with yet another new blog program.

What I like about it though, is the community of PhD bloggers there. Perhaps I can sneak peeks in between dissertating and make a comment or two. Who knows? I might actually meet a couple of like-minded individuals.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

With All My Will I Will Love You

When I am sick of you, I tell myself that I chose to pursue you six years ago. I cannot abandon you now even though sometimes I hate you with all of my guts.

I turn on soft music, preferably Adagio from Live365. I create the mood lighting. A candle works wonders--the flame flickers in the corner of my eye as Adagio softly and desperately serenades the romance back to life. I pour you and I a libation. Tonight, it's Rooibos, for our health.

So what if we only spend an hour together? It is better than no time at all. At least I whet my appetite for more of you.

Tonight, I celebrate my love for you with all my tenacity. I will sit here and devour your words. I will cherish this moment. I will do everything necessary to make sure that my love for you does not die, even though there is nothing I want more right now than to leave you forever.

One day, by God's grace, you and I will cross the threshold together. You in my hands as I bow to receive the word that confers me with the three letters that will make you a part of my name for the rest of my life.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Social Science Research: Deduction versus Induction

Many social science research texts (and professors) talk about hypothesis testing as a deductive process. "It's like moving from a general principle to specific instances," they tell us, and then, to complete the picture they explain, "as opposed to induction, which moves from specific instances to make a general principle."

Take for instance, the online Research Methods Knowledge Base. The author explains that in a top-down, deductive research process, "we might begin with thinking up a theory about our topic of interest. We then narrow that down into more specific hypotheses that we can test. We narrow down even further when we collect observations to address the hypotheses. This ultimately leads us to be able to test the hypotheses with specific data -- a confirmation (or not) of our original theories." (ref.)

Yet, when one looks up the definition of deductive reasoning, one gets something like this:

"Deductive reasoning is reasoning which uses deductive arguments to move from given statements (premises) to conclusions, which must be true if the premises are true. An example of deductive reasoning, given by Aristotle, is
* All men are mortal. (major premise)
* Socrates is a man. (minor premise)
* Socrates is mortal. (conclusion)" [ref.]

So, is hypothesis testing a deductive process as explained by the author of the Research Methods Knowledge Base? No. In fact, the process described is mostly an inductive one. The only thing deductive about the process is "thinking up a theory about our topic of interest." The rest of the process has its foundation in induction--that is, trying to induce from the data that the general principle is correct.

It is no wonder I have been confused about this for so long--bad teaching.

The scientific method, whether it be pure or social sciences, relies primarily on induction. Don't let someone confuse you by telling you that quantitative research is deductive and qualitative research is inductive. They both utilize inductive reasoning because they rely on data to make conclusions.

So where does deductive reasoning occur? In disciplines that come up with principles without the need to refer to data, for instance, mathematics or theology. It is, as mentioned above, when we just "think up a theory" or when we use abstract reasoning to come up with general principles.

An older Wikipedia entry on Deductive Reasoning found in explains it well:

"Alternative to deductive reasoning is inductive reasoning. Many incorrectly teach that deductive reasoning goes from general information to specific information and that inductive reasoning travels in the opposite direction. This is not accurate [emphasis added]. Deductive reasoning applies general principles to reach specific conclusions, whereas inductive reasoning examines specific information, perhaps many pieces of specific information, to derive a general principle. By thinking about phenomena such as how apples fall and how the planets move, Isaac Newton induced his theory of gravity. In the 19th century, Adams and LeVerrier applied Newton's theory (general principle) to deduce the existence, mass, position, and orbit of Neptune (specific conclusions) from perturbations in the observed orbit of Uranus (specific data)."

In The Method of Sociology, Znaniecki explains it this way:

"Sociology can be nothing but a strictly inductive science. This does not mean that it should not use deduction: no science can live without the help of deductive reasoning (...) induction is the dominant and determining method of sociology: deduction must remain entirely subservient to it as an auxiliary method (...) The fundamental distinction between [deductive and inductive methods] is that from the point of view of the deductive method the final test of a new truth is its logical agreement with a truth already established, whereas from the inductive point of view the final test of a new truth is its validity in theoretic application to empirical facts. It is obvious that a science dealing with empirical reality could not be deductive, for it would either be incapable of proving anything or else be inapplicable to its object-matter [emphasis added]" (1934, pp.218-219).

I rest my case.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Process, process, process. That seems to be what I am doing a lot of these days. It's a qualitative research thing, particularly if one tends towards social constructivism, an epistemology I find myself embracing more and more.

Heather, another aspiring scholar, has taken the liberty to keep me accountable on my blog, which means more regular updates. Doesn't hurt me to do so. In fact, it may help me to share some of my processing.

Where have I been?

Over the last month, I have been working on my dissertation proposal. My adviser (I prefer to spell it with an "o", but when in Rome...) has been wanting me to write, but I've been hesitant, finding that writing without reading beforehand is a waste of time for me. I don't think by writing drafts, I think by writing memos. "Journal While You Work," I call them. I even have a little acronym: JWYW.

And so, I open my MacBook, and turn on the little yellow sticky notes and start typing. This is what I would write right now if I were to write in my virtual stickies:

- 1:59pm. I've written and edited two pages of my intro. It's a good start. I like them. But I did have this artificial target to get a full draft done by yesterday. I won't punish myself for an arbitrary target. I will look at the work done and rejoice over what I've accomplished. Besides, Adviser is very understanding about how long it takes to write. My client is at 4pm, which means I have to stop working at 3:20pm. That gives me 1 hour 20 minutes. What should I do? I feel stuck with the headings. I don't really know how long a qualitative dissertation proposal should be. It's so creative and subjective. I think what's more important is to fill up the information on the existing headings, "Introduction" "Conceptual Framework" "Research Questions" "Research Methods" and "Validity." Go with these for now and just add content to the scaffolding. Let Adviser comment and suggest edits. God, will this be done by the end of the week??? (That, by the way, is a prayer, not an utterance of exasperation.)

The rest of this post to be completed at the end of the day.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

How Long It Takes To Read

I took some notes as I worked today. Here's a peak into what took place -- straight out of my MacBook stickies.

So here I am, with some caffeine in my system. Note taking should not last more than 15 minutes. Then, reading the rest of the chapter (15 pages) should take 15 * 5 min = 1 hr 15 minutes. That should take me to 4pm. After that, take a 10 minute break, and take notes for the rest of the chapter -- no more than 20 minutes. That should take me to 4:30pm.

2:30-2:45 Note take
2:45-4:00 Finish chapter 1
4:00-4:10 Break
4:10-4:30 Note take
After that, decide on what to do from 4:30 to 6pm.

2:30-3:05 Note taking
3:05-3:20 Break
3:20-3:55 Read pp. 31-36
3:55-4:00 Break
4:00-5:30 Read pp.36-45 (finished ch 1), with breaks to make phone calls.

I used 3 hours to take notes of 5 pages, read 15 pages, and I still have to make notes on those 15 pages read, which I am now anticipating will take 1 1/2 hours! Granted it is a topic that I am not used to reading and I did lack some sleep last night, but this actually represents one of my BETTER days! How scary is that?

So my QUESTION to myself today is: How in the world are you going to get your dissertation proposal done in the next TWO weeks?


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Research Update

I suppose I ought to be more faithful to this blog and update more often (I tend to update my "other" blog a lot more frequently).

So, what's there to update about my lonely dissertator's life?

It's been frustrating and scary and exciting at the same time. Frustrating in that I want to spend all of my time focused on designing my dissertation proposal but I can't. Life gets in the way. Scary because my dissertation looks like it's going to be a heckuva major project that has never been done before. Exciting because if I can pull this off, it will result in a real contribution to the field--it may even be a landmark study.

My advisor (my new advisor, that is) told me today that there is safety in the committee. If they feel like I've taken on more than I can chew, they can sometimes redesign the whole thing and make it a lot more simple and d-o-a-b-l-e.

Doable. That would be nice.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I dropped the "I"

I am no longer ABDI (all but dissertation & internship). I finished all 500 hours of my doctoral clinical internship as of yesterday. So now, I'm truly ABD.

A couple of things have transpired for me and my dissertation.

First, I've completely changed my internal committee members. I had planned originally to do quantitative work and so I selected people who would appropriately help me in that regard. With my change to qualitative methodology, I have felt a strong need to change to people who understand the qualitative research process. It is VERY different! With that change set, I am now happily going to start on my dissertation proposal.

Second, I have decided to collect my own data in my home country. It's ambitious but there is really no other alternative for me. I feel that this is the only thing that I can do and feel like it is work that truly matters. I don't want to spend my time doing work that does not feel important and significant to me. I want to publish my dissertation, I want to allow my dissertation to be the launching pad for my research work into the future. The extra effort will pale in comparison to my motivation to do my dissertation. At the end of the process, I want to be able to say, "that was really meaningful work!"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My Epistemological & Ontological Bent

I have come to the realization that epistemologically, I am social constructionist. I was not sure what to make of my ontological bias. I may have found it, in Critical Realism.

According to wikipedia, theologian NT Wright is one such example. This following quote by him (as taken from wikipedi under the title "Critical Realism" retrieved today) resonates well with me:

"..I propose a form of critical realism. This is a way of describing the process of "knowing" that acknowledges the reality of the thing known, as something other than the knower (hence "realism"), while fully acknowledging that the only access we have to this reality lies along the spiralling path of appropriate dialogue or conversation between the knower and the thing known (hence "critical")." (The New Testament and the People of God, pp. 35)

Pardon my French in the previous post. I just had to let some frustration out.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


It is incredible sometimes how one's epistemology can create so much conflict and controversy. Social research can be dangerous sometimes; not only others to me, but also I to others.

In the spirit of integrity and expediency go I.

And no more bullshit.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Beverages Welcomed

"You are welcome to bring beverages in covered containers into the study areas of the library."

Aren't those the most wonderful words you have ever read on a sign in a library?

Not only that, the desk is big (good for spreading out papers for editing), there is a nice yellow lamp creating a feeling of warmth, it's very very quiet (maybe because this is the hallowed halls of a seminary), and most importantly, there is a wall of windows offering a beautiful view to the outside and some sunlight to my soul!

This is what it looks like:

Oh yeah, and I don't have to pay for parking. Sweetness or what?


On a separate note, I attended my first dissertation support group hosted by the University counseling services this morning. I'm glad to report that it was a positive experience. More on that later.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Psychological Services for China's Traumatized Quake Survivors in Full Swing

BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific - May 19, 2008

Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

["China Exclusive: Psychological Services for China's Traumatized quake Survivors in Full Swing" - Xinhua headline]

MIANYANG, Sichuan, May 19 (Xinhua) - China's largest ever psychological service operation for survivors of a natural disaster is in full swing, a week after an 8.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the southwestern Sichuan Province.

In a temporary residence site for earthquake victims in west China's Mianyang City, Dr Wang Ningxia, a psychologist faced an eight-year-old girl Qiao Xi, who was traumatized and unable to speak after experiencing the tragic disaster.

Qiao Xi's mother lost four of her family including her son, Qiao Xi's elder brother, in the earthquake. The voluble girl lost vitality after that.

"Do you still want to go to school? Would you want to go back to your school?" the doctor asked.

The question won the first one-word response from the traumatized girl a week after she lost speech.

"Want," whispered the girl, who had been communicating with simple body languages of nodding for "yes" or shaking head for "no".

Doctor Wang said that the session with the girl had had some success. But not all the cases she met in the quake zone progressed.

"I tried in vain to communicate with a mother who lost her daughter in the earthquake. She could not face the mishap that happened. She neither cried nor ate anything," said Wang.

The doctor from the South West University of Science and Technology led 10 teachers and 34 students to carry out psychological service work in Mianyang City.

Wang took out a questionnaire she drafted, and pleaded with Xinhua's reporters to help submit it to authorities, who have the power to hand out the questionnaire among quake victims.

"The questionnaire would help psychological counsellors to locate victims who urgently need psychological treatment," said Wang.

There are at least 300 professional psychologists working in the quake zone, according to Xinhua's tally of medical staff sent by the Ministry of Health and a dozen of medical institutes around the country.

A group of psychologists led by Zhang Yuqing, associate professor from the Psychological Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has carried out counselling on 1,000 school children in Beichuan County, closest to the epicentre of the earthquake.

"We have taught the children some psychological knowledge and some methods to ease psychological stress," said Zhang, who also planned to meet injured victims and orphans.

Wang Ningxia said that most of psychologists working in the quake zone volunteered to join the task.

"This was the first time that we faced so many traumatized people. This is the first attempt at such a massive psychological operation in China. The work lacks overall coordination," said Wang.

She said that psychological therapy is urgently needed, since survivors are still gripped in horror, and by a sense of insecurity and solitude.

"They re-experienced the horrible scenes again and again in everyday nightmares or insomnia. The trauma may remain for two to 10 years," she said.

Zhang Kan, director of the Psychological Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said that millions of quake victims, witnesses, rescuers and even reporters on the earthquake may suffer psychological trauma, and need counselling.

"Some people may not handle the helpless emotion, and suffer long- time panic, the feeling of setback and emotional dysphoria. Such patients may turn to liquor, cigarettes and drugs for comfort. Some may contemplate suicide or other extreme behaviour," said Zhang.

Thousands of volunteers from around the country have registered through local psychological service stations to go to the rescue front line. However, there is still a heavy shortage of professional psychologists, since the therapy is in an initial developing stage even in China's major cities.

(C) 2008 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 16, 2008

Soldier cries: "Please let me rescue one more!"

I read the following article that is being published in many Chinese news sites. It is a personal account of the earthquake in Sichuan, translated into English (article in Chinese here: 消防战士跪地落泪:求求你们让我再去救一个)

[Disclaimer: the following article may be disturbing to some readers, but it is meant to mobilize us to action.]

"I just received a call from a reporter who had recently interviewed me. She just returned from MianZhu. On the phone, she described a scene she personally witnessed. She used only four words to describe what she saw - "世界末日" (Armageddon). She could barely work, because while there her tears never stopped. There was ruin after ruin, and the void left by collapsed buildings was filled by the sounds of crying. Rescue teams frantically rushed from site to site, but often it was too late. The photographer that went along with her only took one picture before throwing away the camera to join in on the rescue effort. The surroundings made it impossible to just stand and watch.

She told me that at a school she saw a scene that she will never forget. Half of the school's main building had collapsed. When the quake happened, roughly 100 children had been buried by the debris. All of them were elementary school kids. Soldiers-turned-rescuers had already retrieved teens of live children and 30 some corpses from the site. Watching the miniscule children that will never be able to open their eyes again, she couldn't find enough strength to even speak.

But as the rescue effort escalated to an all out sprint against time, aftershocks and the instability of the building was threatening a further collapse. Anyone going into the rubbles again would only meet certain death. The rescue commander issued an order for all rescuers to immediately evacuate the scenes until further notice. But just at that time, some of the soldiers who had just left the ruins yelled that they had found more trapped children.

When some of soldiers heard the news, they lost it and immediately began to crawl back down the rubbles. At that very moment, the second collapse happened. A huge slab of concrete was falling right in front of everyone's eyes. Other soldiers attempted to restrain those who wanted to go back in. The two groups wrestled with each other, until people eventually moved them into a safe zone. A soldier that had just pulled a child from the rubbles, kneeled on the ground and sobbed, pleading to the people pulling him away.

"Just let me rescue one more."
"I am begging you, just let me rescue one more."
"I can rescue one more!"

Everyone who watched the scene unfold cried. But they could only stand helplessly, as the building collapsed for a second time. Later on, those children were retrieved from the rubbles, but only one was still alive. As the reporter watched the young soldiers carry the sole survivor to the rescue tent, she sobbed uncontrollably.

Even though the story was told to me through the phone, it touched me greatly. I can't imagine how emotional the scene would have been had it occurred right in front of my eyes. What I do know is that it is a true story, and that right now, in the heart of the quake disaster area, the same story is being repeated. Tonight, as I sat in the comforts of my room, I first became aware that I should do something. Even though it is not realistic for me to be at the disaster site, can I do something that is within my power?

With tears in my eyes, I decided to first publish this article. I know that this article won't bring about any real help in itself, but this is the fastest, most immediate thing I an do. One article doesn't have any real power, but at least I can let more people know what is happening. Only after finishing the first task, can there be a second or a third..."

Pray for China. Show your love. Friends, no matter what situation you are in, as long as it is one where you can help, I hope we move as fast as possible. Don't let the fact that your action has too small of an effect, deter you from doing it. One article, one dollar of donation, they are all forms of support."


I am going to do something.

Current death count exceeds 20,000; those buried under rubble estimated to exceed 25,000; total feared dead exceeds 50,000. Millions are homeless. [Source]

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So You Want To Become A Psychotherapist!

Most undergraduate students in psychology or social work or some other “people-helping” field want to get into the field of mental health, but they don’t know how to go about it. Well, I don’t blame them. To begin with, there are so many different terms that seem to sound like the same thing (for example: psychotherapy, psychology, psychiatry) it can be quite confusing. To add to the confusion, there are different professions that all seem to do the same thing, and different educational pathways towards these professions.

The purpose of this post is to provide an introduction to the different psychotherapy professions and the educational pathways you can consider (and it will be from a biased perspective: my bias!). I will limit my discussion to psychotherapy as it is taught and practiced in North America. First, let us clarify some important terms.


Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is a broad term that covers therapy that makes use of the psyche (or the mind) for treatment. A psychotherapist uses talk-therapy, cognitive therapy, behavior modification, etc. to treat a person while a medical doctor will tend to resort to pharmacotherapy (or drug therapy) to treat a person. In the USA and Canada, the psychotherapy is NOT a profession, but a description. A more official term to use than Psychotherapist is Mental Health Professional (see wikipedia link).

Profession. A profession is a paid occupation, esp. one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification (e.g. lawyer, doctor, psychologist). The training tends to last at least 2 years, the formal qualification is often granted by an association after a formal exam, and the individual is licensed by the state and/or country. It is a crime to refer to yourself as a lawyer or a medical doctor, or a psychologist unless you have been trained and qualified as one. These professional titles are legally protected. Types of mental health professions include: Psychiatry (MD), Clinical/Counseling/School Psychology (LP), Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT), Clinical Social Work (LCSW), Counseling (LPC).

Main Differences Between Mental Health Professions

PSYCHOLOGIST. There are many different kinds of psychologists, and not all are “mental health professionals” in the vein of a psychotherapist. For example, an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist will not see patients with depression. The psychotherapy oriented psychologists include: Clinical psych, School psych, Counseling psych. Nowadays, in order to become a Licensed Psychologist (LP), you need to have a doctorate, either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D.

Clinical psychologists tend to do a lot of mental health assessments from diagnosing depression to figuring out if you have a personality disorder, or even if you have learning disabilities. They can see people of all ages, but usually, will specify if they specialize in seeing children (because special training and skills are required to work with young children).

School psychologists also do a lot of mental health assessments, but they work in the school setting seeing children from K-12. If your child is having problems (learning difficulties or mental health issues), a teacher may likely have them be consulted by a school psychologist.

Counseling psychologists are what you see in movies and TV: the kind that sits on a nice comfy chair opposite their clients, ask questions, nod and look very empathetic. They mostly specialize in adult talk-therapy.

If you are having a simple problem with depression, all the above psychologists should be able to help you.

(See American Psychological Association and Wikipedia entry on Clinical Psychology)

MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST. This is my profession, and so I understand this best compared to all the other mental health professions. It is a fairly young profession compared to psychology and social work, but in some states, it is a very strong profession (e.g. California, Minnesota). A marriage and family therapist who is trained through the AAMFT-accredited schools will have training in working with multiple relationships beyond any of the other professions. We are comfortable working with multiple family members at the same time (and I’ll admit that I find it more interesting when there is actual conflict in the room than when everything is going smoothly!)

To become an LMFT, you need to get a two-years masters in an accredited program, then get 1000 hours of face-to-face supervised therapy experience, and then sit for a national exam followed by state oral exam. The key difference between LMFTs and the other professions is that we specialize in working with marriage and family relationship problems.

(See American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and Wikipedia entry on MFT)

COUNSELOR. The problem with the term counselor is that it is a very generic term, and so people don’t often realize that “going to see a counselor” could mean anything from getting credit counseling from a bank to receiving hypnotherapy at a hospital. And just to make things more complicated, both the American Psychological Association and the American Counseling Association both use the term “counselor” in their professional titles: an LP (licensed psychologist) specializing in counseling psychology or an LPC (licensed professional counselor). In this section, I’m referring to the Licensed Professional Counselor.

An LPC is a masters trained mental health professional that uses a variety of psychotherapy modalities to address people’s mental health concerns. The training received by LPCs is a lot less rigorous than LPs (which require a doctorate) and a little less rigorous than LMFTs (in terms of clinical face-to-face hours).

It is interesting to me that if you go to the CACREP website, you will find programs in career counseling, college counseling, community counseling, gerontological counseling, marital couple and family counseling, mental health counseling, etc.

In general, of the LP, LMFT, LCSW, and LPC licenses, the LPC license is considered the less well regarded (at least in California and Minnesota). But I have met a couple of LPCs whose work I respect very much.

(See American Counseling Association and Wikipedia entry on Licensed Professional Counselor)

CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER. The main difference between social workers and other psychotherapists is that their field advocates going out into the field where the people are. If psychology is about seeing people in private offices, then social work is about going to the people where they are. Some social workers train to become clinicians, in that they are licensed to do psychotherapy. These are often referred to as Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW, or LiCSW).

To become a LCSW, you go through a Masters Degree in Social Work, and do a few more psychotherapy-related coursework. Of all the psychotherapy training mentioned here, social workers are least trained to be “clinicians” (compared to psychology, counseling, or MFT). This does not mean that a LCSW is a bad psychotherapist—they may have obtained further training on their own to build up their competence as a clinician. I personally know some LiCSWs who are excellent clinicians.

(See National Association of Social Workers and Wikipedia entry on Social Work)

PSYCHIATRY. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. Psychiatry is a specialty of medicine, and you need to have a medical degree in order to become a psychiatrist. It is the highest salaried of all the mental health professions. Psychiatrists often see patients to diagnose mental health disorders and to prescribe medication. At the same time, psychiatrists tend not to be very well trained in talk-therapy. They tend to see mental health problems as pathologies using the language of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), for example, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, etc.
Usually, a patient will go and see a psychiatrist through the referral of a counselor (LPC) or a clinical psychologist (LP). And usually, patients are referred to a psychiatrist for specific diagnosis of mental health disorders and to receive medication.

(See American Psychiatric Association or Wikipedia link on Psychiatry)


Sometimes, too much information can be more confusing than helpful. The reason why people give a lot of information is so that they can be accurate as to their representation. I’m sure many psychologists, social workers, and counselors will read my entry and offer corrections (you are welcome to do so, please leave me a comment). But for the student who wants a “big picture,” let me offer very some grossly exaggerated caricatures of what each of these professions do or are regarded (from my lens as an MFT). Here we go.

• The psychiatrist is a medical doctor. He (usually a man) is more interested in giving out drugs than in talking to patients. We psychotherapy types don’t usually consider him as one of us, unless we need his help for assessment and to have our clients get medicine when talk therapy is not working.

• The psychologist is the “ooh—aah” of the psychotherapy professions. We masters-level trained types think that they think too highly of themselves. But we secretly wish we were LPs too because they earn a lot more than we do (average $70k compared to our measly average of $40k). When we masters-trained types feel stuck with our clients or need specialized assessments, e.g. for learning disability, we will consult them.

• The marriage and family therapist is a snob. (Yes, we are!). We think that ours is the best field of all because we are systemically oriented—all “problems” stem from relationships. We are so snobbish that some of us will even refuse to use mental health disorder categories (like borderline personality disorder) because we think they come from an individually oriented medical model, and is not a helpful way to think of problems, for example, a woman who is depressed is not depressed by herself, but rather her depression is strongly associated with her poor marriage or family of origin problems, etc. We marriage and family therapists are a small profession, and unless we are loud and aggressive about our work, we may likely get squeezed out by psychology or social work in the future.

Social workers are not really clinicians. They are more advocates than anything else. And their training in psychotherapy is very poor. The only reason why they are well accepted as a license is because social work as a profession overall is very old (as old as psychology) and they are very loud and aggressive.

Licensed professional counselors are master’s level psychologist-wannabe’s. Comparatively speaking, it’s one of the easier of the mental health professions in which to get licensed

Ph.D. = the ticket! You can increase your salary to be at the same level as a psychologist if you obtained a Ph.D. in MFT, or Social Work, or Counseling. Not only will you be better reimbursed, you will also get the same level of respect that a psychologist gets. In fact, even a psychiatrist will respect you when you say that you are Dr. So-And-So with a Ph.D. in MFT or Social Work, etc. BUT, you pay for it through about 4-6 more years of schooling post Masters.

[This post was written for Avis and other people in her situation.]

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Thoughts On The Impartation of Knowledge

Sherman Kuek has written another gem of a quote:

"Knowledge must never be imparted out of insecurity or anxiety.

When knowledge is imparted out of insecurity, it causes one to project one’s self as the subject of knowledge. It makes one flaunt himself as the person who knows it all, while others are subtly implied to know nothing of equal value. In the thick of such insecurity, only the knower’s field of knowledge and realm of discourse are of vital consequence. Such a man knows nothing except his own loftiness.

When knowledge is imparted out of an anxiety that others might not know enough, it causes one to impose onto others the obligation to know as much as the knower does. It does not take into account the different capacities and efficiencies of people to absorb knowledge. Such a manner of imparting knowledge makes people into objects of information; it demeans the human spirit and belittles the learner."

I seem to find myself vacillating between one or the other. It is time to find a better way.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Youtube Has Everything!

A teenager I've been working with insisted that you can find *everything* in youtube. Youthful ardor, I thought to myself. As I was just clearing up emails tonight, I decided to youtube "Grounded Theory." Can you believe it? There is actually a youtube video on it!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Finding Time

It's great that I've got renewed vigor to work on my dissertation. But having a full-time clinical internship, family, church demands, plus my own spiritual disciplines take up so much time that when I am ready to read, I need to rest instead.

For all you single dissertators out there: count your blessings!

I'm cutting back on church involvement. My calling now is to work on my dissertation. And if friends get upset with me for not hanging out with them, or people wonder what's wrong with me that I am not as involved in church activities, I just have bite the bullet and proceed with the advice of those who have gone before me in the hallowed halls of academia: Lock myself up!

And I think I'll add to that: See a counselor to work on my guilt for not interacting with people more.

... sigh.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


I am finding the books, the articles, the works that deal with the research topic of my life calling.

This just can't be real. It can't be happening.

I am so excited; I am so nervous; I think I'm going to cry... or throw up. Or both.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Getting Started: Preamble-ing

Setting up your space--formatting documents, rearranging bookshelves, renaming files, etc.--is important. As important as clearing out your mind of other distractions so that you can focus on the task at hand.

I need to add such "preamble-ing" activities to my routine. I find them relaxing and helpful for getting into the work. Much better than just walking around the room or internet surfing randomly because I can't seem to shake off the anxiety associated with getting started.

Do you do have such preamble-ing activities in your routine? Or do you do something different to get yourself into a work mode?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Think I'm Getting It

At first, it was about trying to get a dissertation fellowship. Now, it is about the integrity of the methodology and the centrality of the research purpose to my life calling.

Conceptually, the difference between the two can be labeled as extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation.

Metaphorically, the difference is like sweeping up loose hay just to get rid of the mess versus carefully preparing every straw to construct the wings of the very first human aircraft.

The former stresses me out; the latter gives me life.

Isn't the choice rather obvious?

The Log! The Log!

Why do I keep forgetting? When I am having trouble getting into the mode of research, start keeping a log:
  • Put down all thoughts, feelings, questions on paper (or computer)
  • Identify tasks to do for short periods of time
  • Use a timer (with buzzer) to keep on track with tasks
  • Take helpful breaks
  • Summarize in own words what has been read so far
  • Identify "next steps"
  • Print out and file log for easy access
Now, to get a tea, and come back to work.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I've Been Tasered. Come and play!

I have been tasered by the CEO (Career Encouragement Officer). The rules:

1. Provide a list of the books you’re currently reading.

a) Qualitative inquiry & Research Design, by John Creswell (1st and 2nd editions -- yes, I'm reading both editions, okay? :-P)
b) Handbook of Qualitative Research, edited by Denzin & Lincoln (1st and 2nd editions -- like I said!)
c) Grounded Theory in Practice, by Strauss & Corbin, 1997.
d) Qualitative Methods in Family Research, edited by Gilgun, Daly & Handel, 1992.
e) Handbook of Interview Research: Context & Method, edited by Gubrium & Holstein, 2002.
f) ...
There is a lot more along the same vein, but I won't bore you to death. And yes, this is why I'm the lonely dissertator.

2. Pick up the nearest book.

Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach (by Joseph Maxwell, 2005, 2nd ed.). Look, it's important to specify the edition, okay? People have made important changes to their writing! I mean, really!

3. Open to page 123

4. Find the fifth sentence.

5. Post the next three sentences.

Here we go: The introduction to your proposal "sets the stage for your research, explaining ... what you want to do and why" (Peters, 1992, p.202). It should clearly present the goals of your study and the problem (s) it addresses, and give an overview of your main research questions and the kind of study you are proposing.

Ha! Perfect, exactly where I am now, soon to write the intro to my proposal!

6. Tag five more people.

I tag Fajita's Blog, Ceiling In My Drink, Wilful Sunflower, Sivin Kit, Scholar Wannabe, and Sherman On The Mount. These are fine folks, the kind that love to read and would never make fun of me for admitting that I read both editions of a book. Hmm... let me add one more to the list: Twwt2001. Hmm... that's seven people, isn't it? Good thing I'm doing qualitative research! :-D


By the way, being tasered apparently is real problem. Some people have died from it. Here's a youtube video of a student getting tasered, and who's made famous the line, "Don't tase me, bro!"

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Short Bursts

I'm experimenting with working on my proposal over short bursts of time. Why? Because a deadline for scholarship is looming ahead, and I need to get to work, and I don't have the luxury of large chunks of time.

I am finding it frustrating that I cannot spend more time going deeper. The nice irony is, even though it cuts my time for going deeper, it also cuts my lead up time [read: procrastination] to actually getting productive. I get less done in one sitting but I get more actual work done in the longer term.

I'm going to keep experimenting. A coffee shop, ear plugs, a mobile laptop, good internet connectivity, and the right reading material are all that's needed. Last but not least, the changes of scene from one burst to another is most enjoyable!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Michael White

The clinical director in my Master's program was very fond of narrative therapy. And so it's not a surprise that I got a good dose of it and am influenced by its tenets quite a bit in my clinical work.

I just got news on email that Michael White, a key figure in narrative therapy, died of a massive heart attack while at a speaking engagement in San Diego.

I was hoping that after this PhD is done, I could get more hands-on clinical training with some of the masters. It's too bad that I will not be able to watch Michael White at work. I've heard amazing things about the way he does therapy.

May he rest in peace, and his work continue to thrive.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Need More Time To Read

I'm spending too much time doing clinical work and church work that I'm not getting much reading done. My only leisure time goes into exercising (which is really necessity rather than leisure) and blogging (which is fully leisure).

I can't avoid the clinical, it has to be done. I can avoid the church work, at least for a season. I can avoid the blogging too, but then I'd turn into a miserable SOB. Not a good thing.

I just need to get a good chunk of time to read.

Let's start with going to bed early.

(I know what you're thinking: how is that related to reading more? It is. Just trust me on that.)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Not Quite A Feminist

Yesterday marked the last meeting I needed to set up my new committee. I met Committee Member in her office, and we had a very nice conversation. She has lived in Buddhist Country and speaks the language fluently. In some ways, she behaves like people from that country. Buddhist Country may not be where I will collect my data, but My Country is pretty close to it, and so culturally, she is the closest informant in my department. She said she would be very happy to be in my committee.

Now I have a committee of three women. Two women co-advisers, and one woman committee member. I struggled with that a little, then realized that I am a man, and so is Outside Committee Member. That's balance, isn't it?

Working with women does feel different from working with men (generally speaking). I just need to alter my worldview slightly and chant a new mantra: "Let the estrogen flow!"

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

5 things you didn't know about Narcissistic personality disorders

The Miami Herald - April 01, 2008

Apr. 1--This relatively newly defined disorder first appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980 and the diagnostic criteria was revised in 1987 and 1994. Dr. William Samek, a clinical and forensic psychologist in Miami, explains the disorder:

1All about me: It's a character disorder in which a person tends to: have an inflated sense of self-importance; be preoccupied with thoughts of his or her great success, power, brilliance, or beauty; believe that he or she is special, unique or better than everyone else; desire, expect, or demand excessive admiration from others; have a sense of entitlement; exploit and take advantage of others; lack empathy and emotional connection to others; and be arrogant and act superior.

2Deep down: People with narcissistic personalities, in spite of their thoughts and behaviors, unconsciously feel inferior and inadequate.

3Successful treatment: Many experts believe narcissistic people can never be successfully treated. In fact they can be successfully treated. Treatment usually needs to be compelled, is long term (several years), and often requires both a mental health professional with special expertise in treating narcissistic personalities and another person or institution that has the power to require that the narcissistic person completes treatment. Treatment is usually best done in group therapy with other individuals who have narcissistic personality problems.

4Dysfunctional childhood: Narcissistic personality disorders are often caused by poor parenting and a dysfunctional childhood. The parents of a narcissist either overly spoiled and pampered the child or they were overly harsh and abusive. Either extreme may cause a child to develop a narcissistic personality.

5Mild to severe: Narcissistic personality disorder comes in all levels of intensity, from very mild to very severe. Mild forms are attracted to and may become leaders in industry and government.

Dr. Samek is an executive board member of the Dade County Psychological Association.


To see more of The Miami Herald or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to

Copyright (c) 2008, The Miami Herald

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Almost Decided

This is my THIRD attempt at a dissertation topic.

The first time, last summer, I sought to do a quantitative study on national level data. After much reading and conceptualizing, I came up with some questions. Then, I started my internship. Things got too busy, and I had to prioritize clinical over research. I stopped for several months.

In the meantime, my written prelim, which I had passed, got accepted into a major social science journal, but with some significant revisions. I had about 3 months to do it. I could not. I hated my article because it was all quantitative, and I was not able to connect with it... epistemologically. (Okay, this is a scholarly blog, I can write like this.)

Whilst traveling with a seasoned 70-year-old clinician, one who had studied with the masters, it came to my attention that what I really wanted to do was a project that would be closer to the experience of the participants. And so, I approached several people to convince them that I wanted to do a clinical study. Most specifically, to test an intervention. Only one person heartily supported that idea; the rest thought I was deluded (yet normally so for a dissertator just starting out).

After much convincing--that is, them convincing me--the delusion finally left. And now, I'm looking at an ambitious but much more doable project, using qualitative interview to collect data on a sample from Asia!

I haven't clarified my research questions yet, but I now have two willing advisers in place. One has content expertise but is a quantitative researcher; the other has methodology expertise in qualitative research. And they get along! :-) That is exciting!

I feel like I'm much closer to making this a reality.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Keeping A Journal

Although introverted, I am a highly relational being. Thus, I find difficult to read academic things without having a class to meet or friends with whom to discuss my readings. One way to overcome this challenge is to keep a journal.

This is my journal. And you are reading it.

Keeping a journal helps me to "talk out" my progress and thoughts. Gives me a sense that there is an on-going conversation for my work.

Today, I'm reading the big picture of qualitative research and trying to figure out how I can go about designing a research topic.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Lonely Dissertator

After 8 months of clinical internship, I've started to look at my dissertation again. And oh, is it ever painful! My advisor suggested that I may be one of those students for whom dissertating is an extremely lonely and challenging process. I think she may be right.

So I'm peeking into the blogosphere to find some mutual support.

Are you like me--a lonely dissertator? Drop me a line.