Step 1: Define Normal

Most people are astounded to learn there is not a clear definition for normal in the industry of Emotional Wellness (mental health). Without this definition, what is the objective? The answer is there isn’t one. This leaves one subject to a recommended lifetime of medication and therapy. Burris Institute has defined normal by defining behavioral epidemiology (behavior cause and control). This definition is used to establish baseline measurements for the client.

define normal, mental health

Your Normal

If you already have a definition for your normal our question to you is “what is the emotional state that gets and keeps you there?” This is why measuring, tracking and improving your emotional state over time is a fundamental protocol.

Step 2: Measure Outcomes

At Burris Institute, measurable outcomes at every session are used as a foundational tool to define normal and calibrate progress regarding the primary emotional drivers of depression, PTSD, (anxiety) anorexia/addiction and co-occurring disorders.

Measurable Outcomes were at the forefront when research began on our Emotional Wellness (mental health) process in 1984 with partner Barry Brenner, MD, PhD in Los Angeles, California. This was carried over when introduced into an eating disorders program in psychiatric care in 1990. Our three-instrument 22-point Emotional Wellness checklist covers the full range of emotion in a 12-point Emotional Checklist along with a 5-point Behavior Control Checklist which tells the practitioner if the client understood the process and a 5-point Relationship Satisfaction Scale to reveal how the client responds to and processes involvement with other people.


Fixing the mental health system requires accountability and this is done by first defining normal and then measuring outcomes based on this definition at every session. This is the motivation behind the Burris Institute limited scholarship program. It is a response to the fierce resistance we have faced over the past 27 years to measurable outcomes and defining progress of a client.

Step 3: Eliminate Labels

Labeling a long list of emotional issues as a disease enables pharmaceutical companies to sell you drugs for life based on the fact there is no cure for the disease they just invented. When normal is defined, a clear objective can be established and outcomes can be measured, tracked and improved over time. If it is indeed an emotional issue you are addressing and not a physiological issue, then labels are not only unnecessary they will cause stigma and ultimately impede the progress of the client.

The Naming Convention of Mental Health and Mental Illness

The use of the term mental health and mental illness to describe aberrant emotion is at best deceptive and does not clearly represent the issue of the client. People do not seek out psychotherapists and psychiatrists because they think they are mentally ill. They seek out these practitioners because they do not feel well. The term feel can relate to an emotional or physical feeling but if it is physical most people do not go to a psychotherapist. 

Emotional Wellness is a straight forward term that clearly and accurately describes what needs to initially be addressed and without the stigma or lack the of clarity of mental health or mental illness. It is important to understand that by definition a thought process cannot be an illness or disease and emotion requires thought. 

Step 4: No Personal History

If the objective is to feel better and get control of one’s emotional state digging into personal history while one is emotionally distressed can and will exacerbate emotional stress. If the emotional distress is specific to a thought process, which most if not all aberrant emotion is, then personal history or psychoanalysis is NOT useful. If a physiological issue is confirmed, a medical history is most certainly appropriate.

Step 5: Measurement of Gut Health

In 2008 NIH initiated the human microbiome project which put a focus on the gut in relation to mood and disease.  With over half a billion neurons (brain cells) lining the gut and bidirectional communication with the main brain via the vagus nerve, measurement of gut health is not just a critical factor in Emotional Wellness (mental health) but overall physiological health

The Burris 22-point Gut Health Checklist consists of a 7-point Gallstone and Liver Stone Symptom Checklist, a 7-point Parasite Symptom Checklist and an 8-point SIBO Candida IBS/Gut Dysbiosis Symptom Checklist. The Gut Health Checklist may reveal an issue that could prevent an Emotional Wellness Checklist from improving.

Regarding both the Emotional Wellness (mental health) Checklist and the Gut Health Checklist Burris Institute believes these measurements are a fundamental part of any Emotional Wellness (mental health) process. The Gut Health Checklist is especially imperative for eating disorders and addiction.

How Thought Emotion and Behavior Work

Emotion and the resulting behavior could not happen without the process of thought. Therefore, after establishing an emotional baseline we teach our clients how thought, emotion and behavior work. When this foundation is established one can interrupt, restructure and reprogram any thought, emotion and behavior which does not work. 

With a 25-year efficacy regarding depression, anxiety, anorexia/addiction and co-occurring disorders Burris Institute has promoted the use of measurable outcomes at every session since its introduction into psychiatric care in 1990. We feel this protocol is critical in affectively addressing the emotional drivers of any behavior the client wishes to change.

Burris Institute Scholarship Program