Alexandra N. Helper, MD




Shrink Rap: Three Psychiatrists Explain Their Work

March 19, 2012

Structured around fictional case vignettes, this book presents the different pathways through which one enters the mental health system. Patients can better judge whether they are being offered the optimal treatment modality and can more effectively assess the stylistic match between themselves and their therapist.

In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother’s Suicide

December 01, 2009

Whether treated or untreated, if the outcome of mental illness is suicide, it is a devastating end to a life and it wreaks havoc on family members left behind. Child psychiatrist Nancy Rappaport of Cambridge, Mass, has written a moving memoir of her mother’s suicide that took place during an acrimonious custody battle. Rappaport, at age 4 years, was the youngest of 6 children left behind. She shows great courage as she risks discovering painful information and creating potential ruptures with her father and siblings, some of whom disagree with her decision to write the book.

Troubled Waters

June 08, 2009

Every August, during my lakefront vacation, I kayak to the middle of Otter Pond, lay the paddle across my knees, and drink in the tranquil scene around me. Sunshine glints hypnotically off the rippling water. Every muscle relaxes, my cares recede. But this past summer, my annual reverie was interrupted by the shriek of a young child. “Let me out, let me out!” he cried, teetering halfway out of a passing paddleboat. “I want to swim back to the house!”


June 03, 2009

From this book’s title, iBrain, I expected to learn about the positive impact of the computer world on the ever-evolving brain. I was in for a surprise. iBrain is a nuanced account of brain anatomy and function, brain plasticity, the impact-good and bad-of the Internet and Web access on the brain, and how to have a healthy brain and life in the face of our technological world. The book is written by psychiatrist-neuroscientist Gary Small, MD, director of the Memory and Aging Research Center at UCLA, and his wife, Gigi Vorgan, a film and television actor and writer. Small and Vorgan have a linear, easy-to-understand writing style that includes entertaining and educational case vignettes.

In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids' Inner Wildness

February 01, 2008

In Defense of Childhood, by Chris Mercogliano, is an elegant book about societal challenges to children's innate spontaneity and exuberance. It is based on the author's more than 3 decades of experience as teacher and, ultimately, director of the Albany (New York) Free School.

Is There a Doctor in "House"?

June 01, 2007

Four physicians work on the same patient for days at a time, continually returning to a white board, where they list the patient's changing symptoms and their own differential diagnoses. They think inside and outside the box. As data come in from tests and as interventions succeed or fail, they remain flexible in their way of thinking. The attending physician's main lesson to his 3 fellows is to remain unencumbered by preconceived notions and to constantly revise their thinking to fit the data. Only then, he tells his trainees, is there any chance of a correct diagnosis and medical treatment.

Mariella's Eye

May 01, 2007

The call came early one morning. Rich and Christine werevery upset. Their 6-year-old daughter, Mariella, had seena flashing light in her left eye that would not go away. Atrip to the emergency department revealed a smallretinal tear.

Rembrandt's Feathers

March 01, 2007

This month, I decided that the time had finally come the time to throw out the 4 boxes I had stored in my attic since leaving my childhood home. These boxes lay piled in a corner with 30 years of dust and dirt on their lids. Unopened in all these years, they were filled with things I didn't need or miss. But before tossing them out, I decided to take a look inside.

Green and Dying

January 01, 2007

I met Wally for the first time when he was in the ICU. He was 14 years old and fighting a losing battle against rhabdomyosarcoma. Wally greeted me with a look of silent despair. His right arm had been amputated just above his elbow and he was on a ventilator. This was my first experience with a dying child and, seeing Wally in his shocking state, I felt totally overwhelmed.