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Psychologist blogs about the dark corners of his field

By Sam Boykin
Correspondent
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After receiving his doctorate in psychology from York University in Toronto, Romeo Vitelli spent 15 years as a staff psychologist in Millbrook Correctional Centre, a maximum-security prison in Ontario.

In 2003, he “successfully escaped” to go into practice full time. Vitelli is also a disaster-management volunteer with the Red Cross.

His blog, Providentia ( www.drvitelli.typepad.com), is Vitelli’s “biased look at psychology in the world.” Find Vitelli via Twitter at @rvitelli.

Q. What was it like working at Millbrook Correctional Centre?

A. As a maximum-security facility, we got the cases that couldn’t be handled anywhere else in the province. This included sex offenders and people who needed special protection because of problems with mental illness or who couldn’t be held safely anywhere else. It was a strange place at times, but I got exposure to a range of psychiatric problems.

Q. What psychology issues do you blog about most often on Providentia?

A. It’s basically my chance to say what I want in my own personal corner of the Internet. Along with interesting news items that tend not to get much play in the regular news sites, I also talk about interesting new research studies, most of which rarely get any coverage (topics range from assisted suicide to the health risks of loneliness to demonic possession).

I also have a fascination with bizarre episodes from history that most people have no idea about, such as the 1949 demonic possession case in St. Louis that inspired the movie “The Exorcist.”

Q. What would you most like to convey to readers about your blog?

A. With Providentia, I am trying to provide a resource for people to consult about different issues, including mental illness, suicide, recent research and history.

Q. After practicing psychology for 25 years, what kind of insight into human behavior do you bring to your blog?

A. Many people tend to be invisible in our society since others prefer not to acknowledge their existence. I try to deal with that, to some extent.

I also focus on how people with mental illness are treated in developing nations, including cases where they have been accused of being witches or possessed by demons. Some incidents can be horrific, but it is important to call attention to them when possible.

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