Book reviews

Going solo but staying sane

Essentials of Private Practice: Streamlining Costs, Procedures, and Policies for Less Stress
Holly A. Hunt
New York: W.W. Norton ; 2005; Pb £19.99 (ISBN 0 393 70448 3)
Reviewed by Barry B. Hart

American psychologists in private practice are generally working harder and earning less than they did some years ago, due to managed care pushing out higher-paying insurance, panels closing, and contracted fees dropping. Holly Hunt was in this position for 10 years when working in a group practice and various expense-sharing arrangements, before deciding to go solo in California. In Essentials of Private Practice she shares the strategies that she found to be useful in increasing her efficiency and eliminating unnecessary costs. Having had a private practice in England and now the USA, I approached this book with two questions in mind: To what extent are its suggestions relevant to British practitioners? and What would I change about my own practice as a result of reading it? The promises of feeling less stressed, making more money, and getting home at a reasonable time were also very alluring!
The nine chapters in this book are organised along three main strategies: lowering overhead expenses; simplifying daily procedures, and implementing efficient client policies. Hunt’s advice is very practical, covering issues such as how best to choose your office location, handle calls, bill for services, and prevent bad debt accruing. To the extent that dealing with insurance, late cancellations and no-shows are often the most stressful aspects to private practice, the chapters dealing with these issues were particularly welcome (e.g. ‘Streamlining for the first appointment’).
In fact, I wish I could have read this book before launching my own practice 12 months ago, as I now find myself in some of the difficult situations that Hunt warns us against – like having to bill a client $650 for therapy after having my claim to her insurance company denied, because I didn’t ask all the right questions before our first appointment; or being too lenient with no-shows and late cancellations, causing me to lose income and feel annoyed.
The short answer to my first question above is that barring Hunt’s advice on getting medical insurance, virtually everything in this book is relevant to British psychologists venturing into private practice. To the second question, I’ve decided to have 45-minute instead of 50-minute appointments; to collect fees at the start of each session instead of at the end; to get more information from insurance companies from the start; to review my cancellation policy during the first contact with clients and be firmer in enforcing it;
to alter my greeting on my answering machine; and to have new clients come early to their first appointment to fill out paperwork instead of sending it to them.
The only omissions from this very useful book were advice on marketing
and making use of free business advisory services.

Dr Barry B. Hart is a clinical psychologist in private practice in York, Pennsylvania.

Understanding bereavement 

First Year, Worst Year: Coping with the Unexpected Death of our Grown-up Daughter
Barbara A. Wilson & Michael Wilson
Chichester: Wiley; 2004; Pb £12.99 (ISBN 0 470 09359 5)
Reviewed by Claire Worsley

BARBARA Wilson, the world-renowned clinical neuropsychologist, and her husband Mick wrote this book following the death of their daughter Sarah in a canoeing accident in Peru. My interest in reading this book was that as a clinician, although in my personal life I have come across a number people going through emotional onslaught following the death of a loved one. With no real personal experience of losing someone close to me, I wanted a greater insight into the experience of grief.
This book is a deeply personal and revealing account of the Wilsons’ experience. As such it is engaging and frequently moving. I was captured by their story, and eager to read on because of my desire to see their sorrow ease. They integrate Barbara’s diary of the time, with reflections from three years on. This thoughtful analysis allows them to deal with this subject with a degree of optimism. It does not set out to educate the reader about psychological theory, but it does aim to give them an understanding of grief, its nature and progression. The experiential nature of this book has enhanced my understanding of grief, beyond factual knowledge. I also feel more of a sense of what is likely to be helpful to a bereaved person. Those with a lust for adventure, like Barbara herself, will be interested in the accounts of Barbara’s many travels, including her trip to Peru to see the sight of Sarah’s death. This book also stands as a tribute to Sarah, whom the reader comes to know well as a happy and adventurous woman, who was surrounded by an especially close and loving family.
I think this book may be useful to clinicians working with grief, or as a resource to bereaved people, particularly for those who have lost a child.

Dr Claire Worsley is a clinical psychologist working in adult mental health for Hertfordshire Partnership Trust.

Advertising nuggets

Advertising to Children on TV: Content, Impact, and Regulation
Barrie Gunter, Caroline Oates & Mark Blades
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum; 2005; Hb £31.95 (ISBN 0 8058 4488 0)
Reviewed by Jason C.G. Halford

This book seems long overdue. Unlike other books with similarly promising titles it does not disappoint. The text is thick with cited papers and yet is eminently readable, filled with little factual nuggets to keep you engaged. As I guess many of us are well aware, children now have incredible economic power and advertisers are well aware of this. Advertising during children’s TV is generally for toys and foods (high in fat, sugar and salt). Both are examined within the book. Whatever pocket money they get, children are able to influence up to 10 times its value in their family’s general purchasing decisions, particularly at the grocery shop. Did you know that adults who do the supermarket shopping accompanied by their children spend on average £7 a time more per trip? You can hazard a guess that this extra ‘pester powered’ £7 is not going on healthy eating.
Anyone coming new to this field of research would gain a lot from this one book. The three authors synthesise a disparate field of research into a classic introduction to the subject in 10 reasonably sized chapters. I read chapter 1 (‘Issues about television advertising’) and chapter 2 (‘Nature of advertising to children’) in one go, before skipping to chapter 7 (‘Advertising influence choice and consumption’). Before I was aware if it, I had read half the book in one day.
This book is a ‘must read’ for anyone with a passing interest in the effect of adverting on consumer behaviour, or a concern about the invasive promotion of products to our children. The Sheffield-based team of authors demonstrate a breadth of knowledge covering material from classical social psychology perspective, through contemporary theoretic approaches, to the nuts and bolts of marketing and promotion of products to children. Other chapters examine children’s early understand of advertising, the impact of it on children’s knowledge, attitudes and beliefs, and finally current advertising regulation and research. The book was written prior to the current debate on the advertisement of ‘junk food’ to children (the preface was written in September 2003). It would be interesting to have the authors take on the last 18 months of media and political wrangling – perhaps material for a second edition.
If, like me, you are a health psychologist with an interest in the advertised diet, there is much here for you. And for the interested student, I recommend this book as an excellent introduction to the subject.

Jason C.G. Halford is in the School of Psychology, University of Liverpool.

'Bully' – Verb not noun 

Dealing with Bullying in Schools: A Training Manual for Teachers, Parents and Other Professionals
Mona O’Moore & Stephen James Minton
London: Paul Chapman Educational; 2004; Pb £19.99 (ISBN 1 4129 0281 9)
Reviewed by Miriam Landor

I like this book’s message: Bullying is an activity rather than a stereotypical role. Its ‘no-blame’ approach aims to modify behaviour to avoid provoking a cycle of escalating violence.
O’Moore and Minton, from the Department of Education, Trinity College Dublin, are respectively coordinator and researcher at the Anti-bullying Research and Resource Centre. Their book is based on educational and psychological research, annotated throughout.
The aim is to produce a readable and usable training manual for the extended school community. The main sections cover the formulation of school anti-bullying policies
and strategies for both countering and preventing bullying. School management, staff, parents and young people are addressed in separate chapters. There are photocopiable pages and downloadable PowerPoint presentation slides for each group.
I believe a school could not go wrong by following the clear advice for all levels of their community. Am I quibbling when I wish they had addressed the young people’s section with more honesty? The book’s introduction refers to the context of bullying behaviour amongst and between staff and parents as well as students, but this context is ignored in the chapter on young people, where only student-on-student bullying is dealt with. These young people are tomorrow’s adults, and the anti-bullying message is not only for children!

Miriam Landor is an educational psychologist in training at Dundee University.

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