Episode 9 of our Mental Horizons Podcast is with Dr. Ross Ellenhorn and is about a fascinating topic: the fear of hope.

Listen to the Episode

Ross is trained as a sociologist, psychotherapist, and social worker and specializes in the integration of psychology and sociology. These two disciplines are typically rigidly separated in academia and as such, psychiatric problems are usually understood — and treated — only as psychological phenomena. In contrast, Ross views psychiatric disorders through a unique psychosocial lens.

For over 20 years, he has been helping individuals suffering psychiatric symptoms to find the psychological and social means for remaining outside of institutional settings. He is the CEO and founder of Ellenhorn, the first fully-operating intensive hospital diversion and wrap-around program in Massachusetts. Ross also created and led one of the first Programs for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) teams in the Commonwealth.

Dr. Ellenhorn is a published author and his 2007 book, Parasuicidality and Paradox: Breaking Through the Medical Model, addresses psychiatric hospital recidivism and techniques for diverting hospital use. He is a graduate of the UCLA School of Social Welfare and is the first person to receive a joint Ph.D. from the Florence Heller School for Social Welfare Policy and Management and the Department of Sociology at Brandeis University. His new book, published by Harper Collins, and titled “How We Change (and the Ten Reasons Why We Don’t), will come out in May 2020, and addresses many of the issues we’ll discuss today.

Three Main Talking Points

  1. First Ross speaks about his personal experience of becoming aware of the power of psychological labels and stigma in his own life and how that stigma led to him feeling like he had less control over his own future.
  2. Secondly, Virgil and Ross discuss how, as a young social worker in mental healthcare, Ross began to notice that clients, families and colleagues were having conversations about the importance of recovering hope. Ross will tell us about his observations that led him to believe that the recovery of hope is essential to the overall process of recovering from psychiatric symptoms.
  3. And lastly, Virgil and Ross discuss how fear of hope is a concept that exists within and outside of the mental health field and is something that is likely relevant to most of us at some point in our lives. We will ask Ross about his research and the consequent methods he has found to help clients and families overcome their fear of hope.

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