Book Reviews

Risk assessment, psychology and climate change; and more
Risk assessment, anyone? Treating Violence: A Guide to Risk Management in Mental Health Anthony Maden Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2007; Pb £24.95 (ISBN 978 0 19 852690 2) Violence in Mental Health Settings: Causes, Consequences, Management Dirk Richter & Richard Whittington (Eds.) New York: Springer; 2006; Hb £44.49 (ISBN 0 387 33964 7) Reviewed by Sarah Gladden Professor Maden’s book is a great introduction and guide to risk assessment and management in the UK. The text is written in an easy-to-follow style with interesting and helpful comparisons to illustrate the points made.

Risk assessment, anyone?

Treating Violence: A Guide to Risk Management in Mental Health
Anthony Maden
Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2007; Pb £24.95 (ISBN 978 0 19 852690 2)


Violence in Mental Health Settings: Causes, Consequences, Management
Dirk Richter & Richard Whittington (Eds.)
New York: Springer; 2006; Hb £44.49 (ISBN 0 387 33964 7)
Reviewed by Sarah Gladden

Professor Maden’s book is a great introduction and guide to risk assessment and management in the UK. The text is written in an easy-to-follow style with interesting and helpful comparisons to illustrate the points made. Readers are introduced to the history and development of the risk assessment field, with reference to the evidence base and problems with research.

Professor Maden reviews past homicide inquires in the UK, examining the advantages and disadvantages, and what we can learn from them. He examines case studies from inquiries and considers whether risk assessment tools such as the HCR-20 would have been useful in identifying and managing the risks. This was rather interesting. Maden’s main arguments are that risk assessment is here whether we like it or not, we cannot afford to hope for the best. We should anticipate the worst, make contingency plans, and attempt to manage, not ignore, risk.

A criticism of this book was that only one paragraph addressed issues related to violence and risk in women. Although Maden states this was ‘beyond the scope of his book’, and I recognise that much can be applied to risk management in women, we are still severely lacking in addressing the deficits in this area. This book is worth a read by novices in the risk arena but might not be as enlightening to those who are highly experienced in this field. However, it’s written in an engaging way, and worth a read.

The second book, Violence in Mental Health Settings, is aimed at educating the reader in research into violence in mental health settings and does so very well. Perhaps more of a reference-style book to dip in and out of, but it is crammed with research and case studies. It includes brief but critical reviews of theoretical explanations of violence and places an important emphasis on the interpersonal interactions and environments that can lead to violence, emphasising that violence is not something that comes solely from the patient – something we all often forget.
I like the fact that the book considers perspectives from both service users and healthcare providers, and considers issues that we all currently face, such as ‘security versus care’. It includes suggestions for improvement in recording violence and general problems with this, NICE guidelines on seclusion and restraint, pharmacological management, organisational management, and the effects of violence. It includes practical recommendations and will be useful to anyone working in an inpatient setting. It takes a critical stance on what we are still lacking in order to make our mental health services a safer place for staff and service users.

Some, if not, all of this book will be relevant to your work. To ease you in gently, start with Professor Maden’s book. If you read both, you will get a good overall view of where to start in dealing with violence and managing future risk of violence. Now let’s get back to those HCR-20s!

Dr Sarah Gladden is a Specialist Clinical Psychologist at Three Bridges, Regional Secure Unit, part of West London Mental Health NHS Trust.

 

Psychology and the planet

Creating a Climate for Change: Communicating Climate Change and Facilitating Social Change
Susanne C. Moser & Lisa Dilling
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2007;
Hb £75.00 (ISBN 978 0 521 86923 2)
Reviewed by Tony Wainwright

It is now clear that climate change and overexploitation of natural resources pose a very serious threat, and with each passing month further data reinforces the view that it is happening at a much faster pace than was thought. It is in this context that I have been puzzled by the silence of the British Psychological Society and its members. The one exception as far as I know, was when Ray Miller, then Society President, chaired a successful day with the British Ecological Society and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (see The Psychologist, September 2006, p.522).

As a clinical psychologist myself, I decided to test out
if this was just lack of being asked about these issues.
I e-mailed round the Managers Faculty in the Division of Clinical Psychology about an Ethics Committee meeting we were having on this topic and had very little feedback. It is quite clear to me that my fellow clinical psychologists are worried about anthropogenic climate change and are probably greener than most, yet as a profession we have said very little. Perhaps it is because we are preoccupied with regulation, or pay structures, or access to psychological therapies.
This book summarises the American work concerning communicating about climate change. The National Center for Atmospheric Research led a series of events which brought together an interdisciplinary group of experts. All the chapters are detailed on a website for the book (www.isse.ucar.edu/communication/book/toc.jsp) and other reviews and background material can be found there.

The book provides clear evidence that there are many significant overlaps between communicating about climate change and the challenges faced by health professionals in communicating about health issues. Professor David Uzzell, who attended the Ethics Committee meeting on sustainability, quotes compelling parallels with the way we have tackled obesity and our collective lack of success. As psychologists, we have access to the evidence-base about behaviour and attitude change, and we could do much more in sharing this with others who are able to influence organisations.The chapter by psychologist Professor Keith James et al., ‘Changing organizational ethics and practices toward climate and environment’, provides a useful blueprint for the work that needs to be done. How many NHS trusts include the environment in their mission statement or equivalent? Yet we know that the more an individual or organisation identifies itself as ‘green’, the more likely it is to behave in a sustainable manner.
Is this an issue for psychologists? Clearly we are all citizens of planet Earth, so in that sense certainly. There are also specific ways in which we as a profession are well placed to offer insights and guidance on policy and practice that will make a difference. This book is packed with useful information. While it is only the American literature, this is well covered, but there is much in our own, which we could and should be actively disseminating.

Dr Tony Wainwright is an honorary fellow at the University of Exeter.

 

Personality theory – A dramatic switch in mindset

No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality
Judith Rich Harris
New York: W.W. Norton; 2006; Hb £16.99 (ISBN 0 393 05948 0)
Reviewed by Mike Anderson

I loved Judith Harris’s The Nurture Assumption – and if you loved it too, then you will certainly want this one. In the previous book Harris launched a radical new theory of personality development that argued that the extent to which parents resemble their children is explained entirely by their genetic overlap. In so doing, she deliberately flew in the face of all the received wisdom of the influence of child-rearing.
This book follows up what she acknowledges was a gap in the logic of her previous argument. She proposed that it was (mainly peer) socialisation that provided the source of the non-genetic variance in children’s personality. But as she points out socialisation is largely
a process that makes children similar, and her attempt to account for the differences – differentiation within the peer group – was ‘vague and unconvincing’. In attempting to track down the source of this non-genetic variance on outcomes she pulls off a dramatic switch in mindset. Instead of working from the by now acknowledged (by all but the deranged) genetic cause of much of the variance in personality, she asked the complementary question – why are monozygotic twins different at all? I think this represents a stunning manoeuvre.
 

The result is a journey through evolutionary psychology, and to a lesser extent a consideration of the modularity of mind, to arrive at a new theory of the non-genetic sources of variation in children’s outcomes. Baldly put, the theory claims there are three modular systems that underlie a child’s social development and his or her sense of self – the relationship system, the socialisation system and the status system – and each of these systems is typified by different goals, motivations, emotions, inputs, typical behaviours and developmental trajectory.

The argument is detailed and complex but clearly explained. I for one am a big fan of modularity, but I am sceptical of its application here. I am also sceptical about how much work these putative modular systems can do to drag them free of the genetic influences that make identical twins alike. For example, it is hard to believe that a system that monitors ‘status’ is not going to be overwhelmed by the genetic differences in abilities, attitude, appearance, and so on – leaving precious little room for individuation. For me, too much hinges on chance happenings to make this a satisfying thesis. Nevertheless, it is challenging and just about the best new idea out there.

For fear that you might get the impression that this is a bit of a stuffy theoretical tome, I cannot fail to mention that the book has caused a storm in academic circles. There are passages where the author gets pretty close to accusing highly regarded researchers of fudging data or at least embellishing reports of data to substantiate preconceived ideas at odds with her own. She harries them remorselessly in this book. While I might change my mind were I to be the butt of this attention, I found this to be spirited stuff and very entertaining – not least because the book is peppered with some great one-liners (e.g. ‘Wouldn’t you think that Woody Allen, of all people, would have heard of Ernst and Angst?’) – and at the end of the day something that conveys the excitement of discovering that, despite what everyone else says, you just might be right.

Professor Mike Anderson is Director of the Neurocognitive Development Unit at the University of Western Australia.

 

Children, don’t worry – be happy!

Worry Box: Managing Anxiety in Young Children
Hannah Mortimer
Stafford: QEd Publications; 2007;
Pb £5.00 (ISBN 978 1 898873 49 5)
Reviewed by Karen Bailey

Expertly but simply written and superbly but constructively illustrated, this well-structured little workbook is an absolute ‘must-have’ for any educational psychologist, teacher, teaching assistant or parent. Jam-packed full of practical ideas to help young children manage anxiety, this book brings together bits of cognitive behaviour therapy and solution focused therapy in a very clever and interactive way. Aimed essentially at individual children, I am sure that the 12 sessions outlined in this book could easily be adapted to working with small groups of children, which would then prove even more beneficial and cost-effective.

Karen Bailey is an educational psychologist at West Berkshire Educational Psychology Service.

 

East debates with West

Understanding Cross-Cultural Psychology: Eastern and Western Perspectives
Pittu D. Laungani
London: Sage; 2007; Pb £21.99
(ISBN 978 0 7619 7154 2)
Reviewed by Robert Brown

Few psychology books capture the reader through their table of contents like this one. This book contrasts dominant ideas from Eastern and Western psychology and, in so doing, challenges one’s own assumptions. The author gently leads the reader into questioning their perspective by comparing multiple conceptions of culture, and showing how cultures think differently. He spices the content throughout with many critical incidents and situations, and then presents the different cultural interpretations of these same events. These real-life examples reveal how differently people from Eastern and Western cultures make sense of, and respond to, the world.Psychologists working in multicultural environments will find the later chapters of this book very helpful, since there they discover important cross-cultural differences in many domains of behaviour, from family life, through health to dying and funerals. In particular, it provides clear explanations of key elements of Indian cultural life, including the family structure, child-rearing practices, the caste system and the role and performance of rituals. Western ideas are contrasted with Eastern concepts throughout, and their differential impacts are examined; but perhaps the book’s greatest strength is the holistic focus on life as a lived experience, which also makes it fun to read.

Dr Robert Brown is a clinical psychologist with Pharos International, Brussels.

 

It’s all black and white, isn’t it?

Seeing in Black
and White
Alan Gilchrist
New York: Oxford University Press; 2006;
Hb £38.99
(ISBN 019 518716 4)
Reviewed by Andrew Dunn

After 150 years of psychophysics you’d have thought that vision scientists would have solved the problem of how we see the world in black and white. Not so. Rather, as Gilchrist demonstrates, the task of seeing in black and white is anything but straightforward. The problem with lightness detection is that the light reflected by an object is affected by context. In order to calculate object lightness the brain must find a comparative anchor point in the visual scene. Unfortunately, the anchor can vary within a scene and can be affected by high-level cognitive process such as gestalt. Consequently, the brain appears to use a combination of mechanisms to do the job, but quite how and when is still not well understood.

Part history lesson, part lesson in good science, Gilchrist’s book is a labour of love; a polemic that is both warning and lesson to the lazy researcher; an exemplar of what it means to dedicate yourself to the pursuit of a question. Gilchrist’s command of his subject enables him to guide the reader through a rich history of research, to point out the needless repetition, and to show how the errors we make can uncover the software of the brain, before neatly arriving at his anchoring theory of lightness perception.
It is beautifully written and richly furnished with examples and illusions.

It could be trimmed down a bit in places and the subject matter may not appeal to everyone, but then not everyone is as clever or dedicated as Alan Gilchrist.

Dr Andrew Dunn is a Senior Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University.

 

Second edition… second rate?

Doing Research with Children (2nd edn)
Anne Greig, Jayne Taylor & Tommy MacKay
London: Sage; 2007; Pb £20.99 (ISBN 978 1 4129 1845 9)
Reviewed by Margaret M. Clark

The first edition of this book was published in 1999 when there were few simple books dealing with the issues in undertaking research ‘with’ children, rather than ‘on’ children. This second edition updates and extends the chapters on methodology, with boxes highlighting issues. There are a number of illustrations and cartoons. However, I must admit to finding the text unstimulating, even boring. A first priority for me would be to bring research and its relevance alive for students. The book is in three parts: theories and approaches; reviewing, designing and conducting research with children; special issues (including ethics). The authors claim that they have drawn on the fields of psychology, sociology, biology, education and health in their discussions. There are so many interesting and challenging research topics in these fields. I would have hoped to find examples from recent research early in the book.I accept that a sound theoretical basis
is important as a grounding for research.

I turned to chapter 4 hoping it would bring research alive. The authors stress the importance of research adding to the body of knowledge of the profession. They select two articles for analysis, entitled ‘DNase and atelectasis in non-cystic fibrosis pediatric patients’ and ‘Views of teenage parents on their support housing needs’. There is a wealth of research on children from which to select articles for students to analyse in detail. I was disappointed in this choice – topics of more general relevance to those working with children might have been more appealing. In chapter 5 a colleague and I were disturbed at what we felt was a rather simplistic caption to an illustration, namely ‘a comparison between a neglected child and a normal child on the “draw a person/tree/house” task’. We were worried at what this appeared to imply.

Feeling very negative about this publication, one with such a user-friendly title, I decided to compare it with the first edition. Only the first two authors were involved in the previous edition. The two editions are roughly the same length, with an extra chapter and extended updated methodology chapters in the second edition. The headings and most of the text are the same in the initial and final sections, as are the cartoons and a number of the illustrations, though there is some change in the theories emphasised.

On the cover of the first edition it was described as ‘a lively and engaging book that provides a clear conceptual understanding of the key issues’. ‘The precise way in which the authors take the reader through the processes of doing research is helpful to anyone embarking on research with children’ is the claim on the cover of the second edition. I personally did not find it ‘lively and engaging’, and I can see why the wording changed.

Margaret M. Clark is a Visiting Professor at Newman College of Higher Education, Birmingham.

 

Encompassing individual differences

Introduction to Personality and Intelligence
Nick Haslam
London: Sage; 2007; Pb £19.99 (ISBN 978 0 7619 6058 4)
Reviewed by Andrew J. Wawrzyniak

Research on personality and intelligence spans numerous texts. Thanks should be extended to Professor Nick Haslam for providing a succinct introductory book on these two topics, and for writing in a style that makes these topics accessible. Subjects including trait psychology, biological approaches to personality, and measuring personality are well presented. The final chapter is devoted to intelligence. This structure acknowledges similarities between personality and intelligence research, both of which are encompassed within individual differences.The learning objectives followed by
a chapter overview help guide readers to the upcoming key points. Each chapter has one boxed description of a specific illustrated real-world example; this is complemented by an annotated further reading list at the end of each chapter. Importantly, the list at the culmination of the first chapter includes key websites in devoted to personality research. Overall,
the book provides an excellent overview
of personality research and a compendious coverage of intelligence.

Andrew J. Wawrzyniak is a postgraduate research student at the University of Edinburgh.

 

Guidelines for Telephone Counselling and Psychotherapy
Libby Payne, Roger Casemore, Patricia Neat & Marcia Chambers
Lutterworth: British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy; 2006;
Pb £8.00 (ISBN 978 1 905114 15 3)
Reviewed by Candy Wong

With the rise of telecommunications, mental health support has never been more accessible. Despite this frequently sought-after accessibility, guidance is needed more than ever to ensure that the human element of mental health support is not lost amidst the blur of technology. This guideline does just the trick, setting out clear points to ensure effective delivery of care over the telephone – points that can easily be taken for granted in day-to-day use of the phone, yet can impact so much within the context of counselling.

Candy Wong is a Mental Health Worker based in London.

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