847-869-1500 ext. 233

Yellowbrick Blog


Paradigm Shift and Youth

By Michael Losoff, PhD
Staff Psychologist, Director of Adolescent Services 

A book that has had a vivid impact on me, even though I first encountered it in the 1980’s, is Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In it, he talks about moments in history when the view of the world changes in a deep and fundamental way. He talks about these moments as representing a paradigm shift—a fundamental change in approach and in our underlying assumptions. We are living through such a shift right now – the way we see and understand and approach the world will never be the same. Our very reality is in the process of change. Our lives are upended.

Who can help us live in a space of such great uncertainty, when we look at the world with which we are familiar one moment and then blink, only to see a fundamentally different world? Who will walk alongside us (at a distance of six feet!) through such a turbulent time? Who will model for us how to be flexible?

Young people.

Wait, seriously, young people?

Continue reading Paradigm Shift and Youth
Online Learning At Home

Online as Effective as Classroom Learning

Tracey Reaves, M.A.
Coordinator of Adolescent Education and Clinical Services

Are you afraid that school closures from COVID-19 are going to harm you or your child academically? You don’t need to worry.  Research shows that online high school and college classes are at least as effective as classroom-based learning. In fact, web-based instruction can be even better at engaging students in active, not passive, learning.  David Pritchard of MIT concludes, “The amount learned is somewhat greater than in the traditional lecture-based course.” 

David Pritchard was the lead author on a 2014 international study conducted by MIT, Harvard and China’s Tsinghua University, in the “International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.” They found that online learning is effective for every student regardless of each individual’s amount of class preparation, skill, and engagement level. Pritchard summarized the findings, “(online) classes really can teach at least as effectively as traditional classroom courses…regardless of how much preparation and knowledge students start out with.” Students are engaging and interacting in productive ways. Including video conferencing programs can break classes into small groups just as easily, if not better, than in the traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms.

Continue reading Online as Effective as Classroom Learning
Stepping Into the Unknown

Stepping into the Unknown

By Stephanie Benson
Neuroscience Associate, Yellowbrick

The Virus is here and it’s changing the world.  We are in uncharted territory. Fear spreads like wildfire. Trust me I know fear very well. It is easy to say, be calm. It’s easy to tell someone that things are going to be OK. Words mean nothing when you are living in the fear of unknown. When emotional overload meets fear of breakdown and persistent illness the overall feeling in the air is panic. Reading this may seem somewhat annoying as you feel the world’s safety net collapsing. How could any words or anyone understand the fear of walking in the unknown. Many of us are scared. Many of us are anxious.

Continue reading Stepping into the Unknown
Humans are the most experience-dependent species that has ever existed on the planet.

Humans are the most experience-dependent species that has ever existed on the planet.

Our brain depends on its experiences to build itself.

Our genes lay a blueprint, but they actually only contain a microscopic amount of information compared with the trillions of connections and bits of information that end up actually building and shaping the human brain.

Let me give you an example:

Close your left eye and hold your left index finger a few inches from your nose.
Take your right index finger and hold it directly behind your left finger, a couple inches away. Make sure you center the fingers so you can only see your left one.
Now switch having only one eye open at a time.
You should see your fingers in different positions.

What’s happening is each eye is seeing a completely different view of the world. Your brain fuses the images together – this is called ‘stereoscopic vision’.   It’s what allows us to see depth perception, to see in 3D. Continue reading Humans are the most experience-dependent species that has ever existed on the planet.



By Marc Sandrolini, MD

E-cigarette use, commonly known as vaping, gained rapid popularity after hitting the US market in 2007. Vaping was originally believed to provide a safe alternative to cigarettes and a new way to overcome nicotine addiction. But with increased popularity, there has come increased concern about benefits and safety of vaping.

A vaporizer is a hand-held device that uses a heating coil to create a vapor that is inhaled by the user. The liquid, or “juice,” used to create the vapor typically contains nicotine along with propylene glycol, glycerin, and flavorings. The liquid can be modified by include cannabis, CBD oil or other additives. Vaporizers are available in different forms, including e-cigarettes, vape pens and e-hookahs.

How popular is vaping? The annual Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the University of Michigan, found that more than 25% of high school seniors have vaped in the past month, and more than 40% of these students have tried vaping at least once. (1). The survey reported that in 2015, e-cigarette use surpassed the use of tobacco cigarettes (2).

There has been growing concerns about the safety of vaping. In the past year, a number of vaping-related deaths and injuries came to light. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that as of December 2019, vaping has been directly related to 54 deaths and over 2000 severe lung injuries in the United States (3).

Most of these cases affected people who have modified their vaping devices or have used black-market liquids. Of particular concern are vaping products that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the intoxicating chemicals in cannabis. The CDC identified vitamin E acetate as a possible culprit in these injuries. Vitamin E acetate is a thickening agent used in THC vaping products, and it was found in the lung fluid of many of the people who died or were injured. The CDC currently recommends that people avoid vaping products that contain THC or products that come from uncertain sources, such as friends or online dealers.

There has also been concern about flavored vaping products. In January 2020, the federal government banned fruit- and mint-flavored vaping products. This ban grew out of a concern that the flavored products made vaping more enticing to children and adolescents.

Even though vaping appears to have fewer dangerous chemicals than cigarettes, when used as recommended, much is still not known about vaping, including the full range of chemicals created by the vaporizing process, and the impact of long-term use. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance regardless of the source, and vaping nicotine appears to be just as addicting as smoking it. There is not yet evidence that vaping is an effective or safe way to kick a cigarette habit.



  1. Monitoring the Future survey. https://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.pn.2019.11b14).
  2. http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/data/14data.html#2014data-cigs.
  3. https://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.pn.2019.11b14
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html

Psychiatric Hospitalization & Safety: Inpatient, or In the Patient?

David Baron, MD

A recent article in the LA Times “How to Reduce Suicides on the Psychiatric Ward” offered a perspective on how to “keep patients on inpatient units safe.”  This blog, and alternative perspective, is derived from 30 years as a practicing psychiatrist and currently Medical Director of Yellowbrick, a national psychiatric treatment center for adolescents and emerging adults in Evanston, Illinois.

The subject of suicide is complicated, so I will address three points:

  1. Reported numbers of suicide attempts and suicides that take place on inpatient psychiatric units are likely an underestimate
  2. While much can be done to reduce inpatient suicides, there is also compelling reason to sadly conclude they cannot be entirely prevented
  3. This is because popular, and to a large extent professional, beliefs about where safety originates, are both skewed and incorrect.

In the Joint Commission article quoted by the LA Times, from November 2018, 48.5 to 64.9 suicides on inpatient units annually in the US between 2014 and 2015 were estimated.  A prior study about five years ago estimated 1850 per year. Clearly these cannot both be correct, especially with a known increase in suicides over the last decade. Reporting of suicide by hospitals is voluntary; there is no agency with authority to require this information. Continue reading Psychiatric Hospitalization & Safety: Inpatient, or In the Patient?

The Brain On Porn

An article published 12/29/2019 in Neuroscience News highlights the concerns generated by the prevalence of pornography viewing. According to statistics published by the major site, PornHub, over 33.5 billion site visits occurred during 2018 alone. Pornhub reports 70% of users are men and 70% of U.S. adults ages 18-30 visit a porn site at least once a week. Given that this is also the window of brain maturation into adulthood, research has focused on what if any brain changes are associated with porn use. A 2014 JAMA article by Kuhn and Gallinat was among the first to sound the alarm regarding maladaptive changes in those areas of the brain regulating sexual arousal, reward seeking, novelty seeking and compulsive behavior patterns.

Continue reading The Brain On Porn

U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory: Marijuana Use and the Developing Brain

U.S. Department of Health & Human Service
Office of the Surgeon General
Content last reviewed on August 29, 2019

I, Surgeon General VADM Jerome Adams, am emphasizing the importance of protecting our Nation from the health risks of marijuana use in adolescence and during pregnancy. Recent increases in access to marijuana and in its potency, along with misperceptions of safety of marijuana endanger our most precious resource, our nation’s youth.



Marijuana, or cannabis, is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. It acts by binding to cannabinoid receptors in the brain to produce a variety of effects, including euphoria, intoxication, and memory and motor impairments. These same cannabinoid receptors are also critical for brain development. They are part of the endocannabinoid system, which impacts the formation of brain circuits important for decision making, mood and responding to stress1.

Marijuana and its related products are widely available in multiple forms. These products can be eaten, drunk, smoked, and vaped2. Marijuana contains varying levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the component responsible for euphoria and intoxication, and cannabidiol (CBD). While CBD is not intoxicating and does not lead to addiction, its long-term effects are largely unknown, and most CBD products are untested and of uncertain purity3.

Marijuana has changed over time. The marijuana available today is much stronger than previous versions. The THC concentration in commonly cultivated marijuana plants has increased three-fold between 1995 and 2014 (4% and 12% respectively)4. Marijuana available in dispensaries in some states has average concentrations of THC between 17.7% and 23.2%5. Concentrated products, commonly known as dabs or waxes, are far more widely available to recreational users today and may contain between 23.7% and 75.9% THC6.

Continue reading U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory: Marijuana Use and the Developing Brain

Suicide Deaths Are a Major Component of the Opioid Crisis that Must Be Addressed

By on

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. In observance, our two institutes, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), are taking this opportunity to highlight a dimension of the opioid crisis that receives too little attention—the links between opioid use, opioid use disorder (OUD), and suicide.

We’ve heard a lot about the opioid epidemic, and the rising toll it is taking on our communities. In 2017, 47,600 people died from overdoses involving prescription or illicit opioids. But the opioid overdose epidemic is not limited to people with opioid addiction who accidentally take too much of a pain reliever or unknowingly inject a tainted heroin product. Concealed in the alarming number of overdose deaths is a significant number of people who have decided to take their own life.

It can be challenging to discover the true relationship between suicide and drug use. In the absence of a suicide note, it is difficult to assess the intentions of an individual who has died of an overdose, other than circumstantially. Also, the intentions of someone with OUD who overdoses may not always be clear-cut. In a study last year of current and past overdose experiences among patients seeking treatment in a Flint, Michigan emergency department, 39% of those whose worst overdose had involved an opioid or sedative reported wanting to die or not caring about the risks; another 15% reported they were unsure of their intentions.

Continue reading Suicide Deaths Are a Major Component of the Opioid Crisis that Must Be Addressed

Going off to and at College: Parents and Emerging Adults in Transition

going off to collegeJennifer Dunitz-Geiringer, JD, MSW
Education and Career Specialist

It is the best of times and it is the worst of times – as parents and emerging adults approach the weeks leading up to post-secondary educational “launches,” the hallmark of these relationships is uncertainty and unpredictability. Just as every person is unique, so too is every parent/child relationship. Therefore, it is important to honor not only the needs of each individual involved in the transition, it is equally important to honor the nature of the relationship itself and to set expectations about that relationship going forward that are realistic and mutually agreed upon.

Continue reading Going off to and at College: Parents and Emerging Adults in Transition