Reviews

Books from the September issue.

Thorough and in-depth
Maternal Sensitivity: Mary Ainsworth’s Enduring Influence on Attachment Theory, Research and Clinical Applications
Klaus E. Grossmann, Inge Bretherton, Everett Waters, & Karin Grossmann (Eds.)

This book is a reprint of the articles in a special double issue of Attachment & Human Development, which aimed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mary Ainsworth. The chapters are written by a number of prominent researchers in the field. The initial section examines Mary Ainsworth’s work, in the form of an autobiographic sketch.

It then moves on to consider issues such as sensitivity, mother–infant communication and cross-cultural research, as well as the role of individual dispositions on differences in attachment quality.

The main thrust of the book looks at how Ainsworth’s ideas have been built upon and continue to be of relevance in the years since she developed them. It provides a thorough and in-depth picture both in terms of Western and non-Western research findings.

The ideas contained within the book provide considerable background information and ideas that will be of relevance to psychology practitioners. However, as the book is squarely aimed at research, the links to clinical practice are not always direct.

Overall this is very good, comprehensive, and thought-provoking text, which will be of significant relevance to researchers into attachment ideas. However, it is one for the committed attachment reader or clinician who wants to develop their theoretical understanding of child development and attachment.

Routledge; 2015; Hb £90.00
Reviewed by Mark Wylie who is a clinical psychologist at Hill House School

 

A good starting point
Psychotherapy: A Very Short Introduction
Tom Burns & Eva Burns-Lundgren

Psychotherapy has a rich and varied history, filled with multiple theories, techniques, controversies and applications. To sum up this history and its topics in so few pages is no easy feat, yet this short introduction manages to do so in an engaging and informative manner. Tom Burns and Eva Burns-Lundgren demonstrate their wide knowledge about psychotherapy and tell an interesting historical narrative about the subject and how it has become the practice it is today.

The authors’ use of context helps inform the reader about why certain developments came to be, as well as providing a critical look at some (particularly early) approaches to therapy. Although still an example of many introductions to psychotherapy of mainly focusing on some of ‘the big approaches’ (i.e. psychoanalysis and CBT), other approaches and settings are discussed in such a manner that readers can enjoy a small sample of this broad subject.

The limits of the ‘A Very Short Introduction’ series means that this book was never going to provide readers with a great understanding of certain theories and critiques, but it still serves as a good starting point for those interested in learning about psychotherapy as a whole as well as the similarities and differences between the various ways it is practised. Overall, a light and entertaining summary.

Oxford University Press; 2015; Pb £7.99
Reviewed by Richard Potter who is an MSc student, University of Exeter

 

Genuinely holistic
Genocide and Mass Violence: Memory, Symptom, and Recovery
Devon E. Hinton & Alexander L. Hinton (Eds.)

This wide-ranging collection of anthropological essays explores the consequences of mass trauma on multiple levels. Edited by eminent scholars in the fields of medical anthropology and transcultural psychiatry, the 17 papers brought together here examine a variety of cases ranging from the Holocaust to more recent atrocities such as the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides.

The volume is organised into three sections examining memory, symptom and recovery respectively. These themes are explored from a cross-cultural perspective, drawing predominantly on the contributors’ ethnographic fieldwork. The book’s layout, with each paper focusing on a different society, allows the reader to select those that are most relevant to their interests.

The first section, considers memory in a broad perspective. It embraces personal and public forms of remembering in the aftermath of mass trauma, such as commemorative rituals and collective images of ghosts in survivors’ dreams. Reading about cultural syndromes, idioms of distress and local healing practices in the following sections, made me reflect on my own assumptions about trauma and resilience. Whereas the growing field of traumatic stress studies has focused on the PTSD diagnostic construct, the text guards against one-dimensional approaches. The anthropological research presented here, highlights how different symptoms may have a very different meaning in a particular group, as well as how trauma is understood and coped with in different societies. From high rates of sleep paralysis in Cambodian refugees, to beliefs about terrifying attacks by evil spirits in Sierra Leone, an impressive range of explanatory models is introduced.

What is remarkable about this volume is its ability to communicate complex ideas by synthesising the insights of a variety of disciplines including ethnopsychology, psychiatry and history. This results in a genuinely holistic approach and each chapter is comprehensively referenced.

Far from being an introductory text, this is a demanding read; both intellectually and emotionally. Without a doubt, it will be invaluable for anyone wishing to get a deeper appreciation of the cultural variation in the experiencing of and response to mass violence and genocide.

Cambridge University Press; 2015; Pb £24.99
Reviewed by Roupen Baronian who is a graduate member of the BPS

 

Parenting know-how, but no how
Parenting Difficult Children: Strategies for Parents of Preschoolers to Preteens
Michael Hammond

As all parents will attest, raising kids is both fulfilling and frustrating. And when a child is ‘difficult,’ the mayhem and meltdowns may so outnumber the magical moments that parents are at the end of their tether, ready to snap, which then fuels another outburst from the child. Thus, parent and child are caught in an endless spiral. Unfortunately, Parenting Difficult Children does not address the core issue of trying to understand your child’s troubles from the child’s perspective. Instead of forging empathy between parent and child, the book offers an instrumentalist approach to behaviour management.

While the carrot-and-stick approach may work for most kids, it is likely to backfire with ‘difficult’ children if their fundamental need for being understood by their parents is not met. The author assumes that ‘difficult’ kids behave badly due to poor parenting; yet the parents of these kids are not necessarily incompetent or inconsistent, rather the commonsense approach of managing kids’ behaviour using rewards and punishments does not suffice. Nor can we blame the kids for their behaviour when they lack the basic skills to regulate their emotions or curb their impulses. The book tells parents what kids should or shouldn’t do without spelling out the crucial ‘how’. If parents are at their wits’ end, this book is unlikely to be the panacea they are looking for.

Rowman & Littlefield; 2015; Hb £21.95
Reviewed by Aruna Sankaranarayanan who is Director, PRAYATNA,
a centre for children with learning difficulties in India

 

A fascinating field
Primitive Expression and Dance Therapy: When Dancing Heals
France Schott-Billmann

France Schott-Billmann’s frequent use of the word ‘primitive’ is a little disconcerting and her messages may be misunderstood; she asserts that this title relates to her overall interest in understanding archetypal, or universal, patterns in human nature. Readers will be able to follow her reasoning and her way of framing these terms. Schott-Billmann’s central argument is that incorporating dance therapy into a patient’s treatment plan can motivate them to take a more active role in their healing process. Her views on dance therapy can remind patients and health professionals that the power of gestures sometimes outweighs the power of words.

 As a psychoanalyst and dance researcher, Schott-Billmann includes examples of patients and their use of dance therapy, which attests to the strength of her ideas. She observes that rhythm dance therapy could address a patient’s need for a positive body image. For survivors of emotional and physical trauma, this may help them gently recover and become healthier members of their community. This book focuses on how dance therapy serves as a breathing exercise, compelling readers to reconsider their relationship with their bodies. Schott-Billmann’s strongest point is that this ‘symbolic reorganization’ can help patients work through the separation anxiety they experienced during childhood.

She further argues that art can reach patients unconsciously in ways that psychoanalysis cannot. Schott-Billmann writes, ‘under the veil, art works to heal us’. I second that motion, however, this book is lacking a more nuanced critical analysis of the benefits and conditions of dance therapy. One way to reckon with this discrepancy is to acknowledge that not enough material has been written, or reviewed, to address a collective need in learning more about art therapy. The author’s writing style is effusive and superficial at times, but this book can be used as a beginner’s guide to a fascinating field.

IRoutledge; 2015; Hb £90.00
Reviewed by Nirmala Jayaraman who has a BA in cultural anthropology from Union College in New York

 

Clear, Supportive and Practical
Mindfulness for Therapists: Understanding Mindfulness for Professional Effectiveness and Personal Well-being
Gerhard Zarbock, Siobhan Lynch, Axel Ammann & Silka Ringer

With mindfulness being considered a ‘buzzword’ at the moment with the media, it means that whilst it is reaching a wider audience, it is now coming with both positive and negative connotations and expectations; in some cases heralded as a panacea, which can be difficult to challenge when introducing it to clients. Consequently, I looked forward to reading Mindfulness for Therapists as although I had been practising ‘informal’ mindfulness, my favourite being the morning cup of coffee, it gave me an excuse to integrate more ‘formal’ practices and explore it away from work.

Mindfulness for Therapists starts by introducing mindfulness and the key types, the authors then briefly gives a rationale for the benefits for therapists who practise mindfulness. The chapters that follow outline an eight-week course to follow and a short manual for running a group.

The instructions were very clear but, although aided by the companion website, I could not find the online recordings, which made the practices a little more tricky. Interestingly, I did notice my own cynicism of some of the more imagery-based mindfulness exercises, such as ‘tree meditation’, and this observation was one of the most helpful aspects to come out of it. This cynicism and the difficulties I had with practices echoed what clients say during mindfulness enquiry in groups in the service I work in: impatience, frustration, sleepiness, and finding time to fit practice into a day. Even though after completing the eight weeks I have fallen away from the ‘formal’ mindfulness practices I have noticed that I am now more present with clients and empathetic with their difficulties.

This is a clear, supportive and practical guide for clinicians with all levels of mindfulness experience and want to bring a more present awareness into both personal life and practice.

Wiley-Blackwell; 2015; Pb £31.99
Reviewed by Elizabeth Dewey who is an Assistant Psychologist, Glasgow Pain Management Programme, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. See also http://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/mindful-moment

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