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Posted: Feb 20, 2006 00:02


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Houston, Texas
Stephanie Cunningham, MBA, Director of Business Development

By: Larry Stednitz, January 26, 2006

My first visit to the Menninger Clinic was in 1980, and the purpose for my visit was to participate in an educational program for the treatment of eating disorders. I was the clinical director at Capistrano by the Sea Hospital in California and we were developing an eating disorder program. I knew Menninger would have the latest and best information. Menninger Clinic was well-known for its educational programs and many of our staff kept abreast of clinical developments through the Menninger Bulletin that came out monthly.

Menninger Clinic, accredited by JCAHO, was founded on a sprawling campus in Topeka, KS, by C.F. Menninger and his sons, Will and Karl, in 1925. The Clinic was known as the premier psychiatric hospital in the country. Will is known as one of the key influences in the development of a psychiatric guide which later became known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Karl is known in many circles as the founding father of psychiatry; he produced 15 books that influenced psychiatry over the years. Menninger was a key training hospital from the early days and became the largest training center in the country after World War II. During this visit I hoped to discover that the Menninger Clinic brought some of this excellence to Houston, TX.

Due to a combination of factors, aging buildings and significant changes in third party payers, Menninger re-invented itself as a hospital that provides specialty programs. Now located in Houston, Menninger continues to position itself as "the international psychiatric center of excellence, restoring hope to each person through treatment, research and education." Menninger is now affiliated with the Baylor College of Medicine and Methodist Hospital. The number of current staff numbers is approximately 250, with 75 from Kansas, and a leadership of highly credentialed, experienced and trained professionals. Baylor College of Medicine is recognized as one of the top 15 medical schools in the US and abroad. They boast $327 million dollars in research funds, and this partnership between the two enables Menninger to continue its tradition of medical and behavioral psychiatric research.

This program serves adults and adolescents with 24 beds for adolescents, ages 12-17, who experience family, school and social difficulties due to moderate to severe behavior issues, psychiatric disorders, substance abuse or dual diagnosis.

Typical patients exhibit lying, minor stealing, truancy, running away, school problems, authority problems, oppositional behaviors, poor impulse control, substance abuse and past suicidal thoughts or attempts. Typical diagnosis includes mood disorders, severe personality disorders, behavior disorders and psychotic disorders. Many have multiple disorders and substance abuse is frequently a secondary diagnosis.

Menninger's treatment efforts focus on helping adolescents build on their strengths and concentrate on targeted problem areas. The focus in treatment is to learn how to manage feelings effectively. Care is paid to understanding each patient's strengths, weaknesses, and genetic make up to better integrate therapies and interventions. Menninger uses a bio-psycho-social approach in treatment.

The adolescents experience a well structured day including individual, group and family therapies as well as extensive psycho educational groups. Menninger emphasizes the importance of educating its patients in relation to their disorders by offering various substance abuse groups, anger management, DBT groups, cognitive therapy groups, self-harm and self-esteem groups. It also focuses on healthy physical outlets. Patients participate in yoga, swimming, walking, crafts and other activities.

Menninger offers specialty programs: Adolescent programs include: General psychiatric treatment, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Adult programs include: eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders and treatment. Menninger also offers a Compas Program for Young Adults, Hope Adult Treatment Program and Professionals in Crisis Program.

What has made Menninger so "special" over the years? It is special because of its close integration of all disciplines and its working together as a team, exploring and searching for answers that may unlock a patient's door to hope. They also understand the importance and power of supervision. Working with psychiatric patients requires enormous self study and evaluation. Every interaction provides the opportunity for understanding and discovery. Staff needs to continually explore their own thoughts and feelings to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and Menninger's patients.

Research is important to Menninger, and it is one of the few hospitals placing financial resources into treatment, research, development and education. Today, Menninger still demonstrates its genuine desire to become the beacon of psychiatric treatment.

Karl Menninger aptly expressed the Menninger Clinic of his day in his book, "A Psychiatrist's World, the Selected Papers of Karl Menninger", 1920. The excerpts below were Karl's thoughts on the opening of Menninger Hospital's new building.

"Nevertheless, someday its strong walls will crumble, and what we look upon so proudly today as new and fresh and beautiful will be old and worn and tawdry. Some of the folks here then will be saying, 'What shall we do with the old building?' The old building, they will call it-the low vaulted past for which a new temple, nobler than the last and a dome more vast, will be in the making."

"We shall be gone by then, most of us. But the meaning of the hospital will outlive us all. It will out live this building-it will out live the memories of this glorious opening day. The vision and the faith of a kindly man who loved rocks and flowers and trees and shells and books—and, most of all, loved people and believed that they could help one another. This vision and faith, carried on by a thousand sons and daughters-this will live forever."

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