Joseph Strayhorn, M.D.: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

My email address for matters related to OPT, the Organization for Psychoeducational Tutoring, is

Current professional work

I'm currently directing the Organization for Psychoeducational Tutoring (, and writing; I’m with the Psychiatry Faculty Practice of Upstate Medical University in Syracuse and am on the voluntary faculty of Upstate.


As a psychiatrist, I have in my career written many prescriptions for psychotropic medication, and I try to study the scientific literature on such medications assiduously. The medications commonly given for ADHD appear to have a high ratio of effectiveness to long-term adverse effects, and I have especially often used these.

I’m particularly interested in the fact that much of what helps people get over psychological difficulties is new learning. For example, someone with anger control problems learns ways of responding calmly and rationally to provocations, and drills and practices those desirable responses. Someone with anxiety learns not to exaggerate the "awfulness" of what will take place, and drills and practices responding courageously to the previously feared situations. Children with defiant behavior learn patterns of kind and cooperative behavior, and practice them. Practice in imagination, or fantasy rehearsal, is a very effective method of practicing these skills.

Psychoeducation can be carried out in the course of psychotherapy. It can also be carried out in a non-medical, more purely educational context. New learning can be carried out by educational techniques: reading instruction manuals and doing standard exercises with hypothetical situations.

If psychological skills are those that make life better, academic skills, i.e. reading, writing, math, and learning about the “big ideas” that people have come up with, are a subset of psychological skills.

Some Books

Below are the links to some books I’ve written, designed to help people learn psychological skills. The "programmed" books are meant be usable via "alternate reading": two people take turns reading the numbered passages; if one of them is the student, that person answers the comprehension probes; the tutor celebrates greatly if the student's answer matches that of the tutor. Alternate reading can and should be a pleasant experience for both people. Of course, one person can simply read any of these without making the reading a social activity.


A Programmed Course in Anxiety Reduction and Courage Skills

Social Skills:

Friendship Building and Social Skills

Conflict-Resolution and Anger Control:

Conflict-Resolution and Anger Control

Self-Discipline Skills:

A Programmed Course in Self-Discipline

Proficiency in Reading:

Manual for Tutors and Teachers of Reading

The Letter Stories

Manuals covering numerous psychological skills:

Illustrated Stories That Model Psychological Skills

Programmed Readings for Psychological Skills

A Programmed Course in Psychological Skills Exercises

Plays That Model Psychological Skills

Psychological Skills Questions On Novels

Instructions On Psychological Skills

Exercises for Psychological Skills -- non programmed format, original version

Some Manuals on Math Skill:

Learning Math Facts With the Broken Number Line

Reading About Math

Task Switching and Set Shifting (Also for attention skills)

Study skills for students:

Being a Successful Student

Career success skills, especially for those on the autism spectrum:

Career Success For Those On Autism Spectrum

Some manuals for parents:

A Programmed Course for Parents

The Competence Approach to Parenting

Reinforcement and Punishment -- Vignettes for Practice in Applied Behavior Analysis

A Program of Ranks and Challenges as applied to psychological skills:

Ranks and Challenges, Student Manual

Ranks and Challenges Tester Manual

Books about psychoeducational tutoring

Psychoeducational Tutoring

Guidelines for Psychoeducational Tutors

Some Handouts

Below are some brief tips on mental health.

Regarding anxiety:

How to reduce anxiety

Relaxation Methods

Avoiding Hyperventilation

Breathing Exercises, Q & A

Words Useful in Thinking About Fears and Aversions

Reducing Nightmares Through Imagery Rehearsal


Learning About Compulsions

Regarding Depression (also relevant to anxiety):

Overcoming Depression and Increasing Life Satisfaction

Life Satisfaction Strategies -- a "Programmed" Version with Questionnaire

Nonpharmacological Ways to Reduce Anxiety and Depression

Regarding anger control and conflict resolution:

Anger Control

Four Thought Exercise for Anger Control

Conflict Resolution for Family Members

Regarding sleep problems:

How to sleep better

Hard to go to sleep, Hard to wake up: Circadian Rhythm Problems

Relevant to a variety of psychological skills:

Positive Goals for Mental Health

List, Specific Positive Examples of 16 Psychological Skills

Twelve Types of Thoughts

DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) summary

Brief Vignettes for Psychological Skill Identification Practice

Three Big Goals for Mental Health

Regarding parenting:

For Parents: An all-purpose skill enhancement program

For parents: The emotional climate, CCCT, and REFFF

For parents: Encopresis

Introduction to Family Psychoeducation

Drug side effects:

Medication Side Effects

Marijuana -- Quotations from Journal Articles, About Adverse Effects

Some “Getting to Know You” exercises

Would You Rather

Sentence Completion

Questions for getting to know someone

Divergent Thinking Practice


Aggression Solutions

DSM Diagnoses Where Criteria Include Anger, Violence, Irritability, Etc. (An appendix to the talk on aggression solutions)

Abstracts on Propranolol for Aggression Another appendix regarding aggression)

Breathing Retraining for Panic and Hyperventilation

References on Breathing Retraining


Regarding anxiety:

GAD-7 (anxiety rating) "GAD-7 scores ≥11 and GAD-7 scores ≥17 represented the optimum specificity and sensitivity for the detection of moderate and severe anxiety, respectively."

Regarding depression:

PHQ-9 for teens (depression rating) "A PHQ-9 score ≥11 had a sensitivity of 89.5% and specificity of 77.5% for detecting youth meeting DSM-IV criteria for major depression on the DISC-IV." "0-4 No or Minimal depression 5-9 Mild depression 10-14 Moderate depression 15-19 Moderately severe depression 20-27 Severe depression."

Strategies for Life Satisfaction Scale

Relevant to a variety of psychological skills:

Twelve thoughts, frequency rating

Rating of One's Contribution to the Emotional Climate of a Relationship

Parent ratings of child’s overall functioning:

PFSCA and Psychological Skills Inventory

One item functioning, and improvement scale

Parent ratings of child’s overall functioning and ADHD items:

Parent PFSCA and Vanderbilt

Teacher ratings of child’s overall functioning and ADHD items:

Teacher Rated PFSCA and Vanderbilt

Aggression and Anger Control:

Aggression: Mattes Revision of Overt Aggression Scale

Aggression: JMS Revision of Overt Aggression Scale

Strategies for Anger Control

Violence Risk Factors

Reasons for being kind to self and others:

Reasons for Nonviolence

Reasons for Living

Meaning and Purpose Scale

Reading skill:

Phonetic Reading Test

Option-generating and pros-cons generating:

Options test and pros-cons test


These are some "psychological skills songs." My audience for these has been younger folks; I've tried to put some of what I think are big ideas of psychological health into very simple language. Maybe some of these can be enjoyed by older folks as well. These are my compositions except for the melody of "Ole, Ole," the entirety of "Friends, Friends, Friends," and the lyric to the “Golden Rule Song.”

Spirit of Nonviolence

Here's How You Learn

Maybe Someday

Who Was the Braver Man?

What's the Most Important Thing

Many Different Ways

When You Love Someone

I Can Take It

If You Can Read and Follow Directions

I Can Hear the Sound of Kindness


Golden Rule Song

Ole, Ole

Friends, Friends, Friends

The Best You Can Do

What are the Qualities

Songs: From Emily and Joe to You

These are some songs recorded with my daughter, Emily.

The Ash Grove

Circle Game

Down By the Riverside

Four Strong Winds

Lean On Me

Loch Lomond

Nancy Whiskey

Proud Mary

Sloop John B

Song For Canada

Walk Away Renee

There But For Fortune

Un Canadien Errant

In My Room