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Approaching Mental Illness from a Perspective of Strength

By Dr. Jeffrey Kranzler, Member Docz Mental Health Advisory Board

While focusing on mental health issues is a necessary component of treatment, focusing on an individual's strengths is the key to overcoming challenges.  When someone has ADHD, they not only struggle with impulsivity and concentration.  They also are natural out-of-the-box thinkers, are willing to take business risks that others can't and have the capacity to focus for longer stretches of time than those without ADHD, when it comes to a topic they are interested in.  I strongly believe that diagnosed or not, the majority of CEOs in this country have some form of ADHD and use it to their advantage.

Some of the greatest writers in history suffered from mood disorders of one kind or another.  Many of those suffering from Depression and Bipolar Disorder have incredible creative capacities and recognizing and engaging those talents needs to be an essential part of treatment.

The examples go on and on.  Whether talents are part and parcel of the mental illness or simply are present in individuals who experience mental illness, success in treatment cannot be achieved without highlighting those strengths.

In the course of my training, I have had the opportunity to learn from many incredible teachers.  However, one professor of mine stands out. In class, a peer of mine once referred to a group of patients as "Schizophrenics."  My professor was visibly infuriated but managed to calmly tell the class that there are no "Schizophrenics" but rather "individuals who have Schizophrenia."  People are not defined by the illnesses they experience, but by the love, passion and talents that they possess. 

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