Book Reviews

Cross-cultural peer relationships; contributions to positive psychology; anger management; exercising the mind; and more
All around the world Peer Relationships in Cultural Context Xinyin Chen, Doran French & Barry Schneider (Eds.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2006; Hb £55.00 (ISBN 978 0 521 84207 5) Reviewed by Robert Brown AS our cities become more cosmopolitan, and the cultural origins of their populations increase, more families and children from diverse backgrounds pass through the health, educational and social services. These services try to be sensitive to the different backgrounds and circumstances of the children they see, but they are hampered by a lack of knowledge and understanding about the cultural environment within which the children grew up.

All around the world

Peer Relationships in Cultural Context
Xinyin Chen, Doran French & Barry Schneider (Eds.)
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2006; Hb £55.00
(ISBN 978 0 521 84207 5)
Reviewed by Robert Brown

AS our cities become more cosmopolitan, and the cultural origins of their populations increase, more families and children from diverse backgrounds pass through the health, educational and social services. These services try to be sensitive to the different backgrounds and circumstances of the children they see, but they are hampered by a lack of knowledge and understanding about the cultural environment within which the children grew up. This book is a valuable source of needed cultural knowledge. It examines patterns of socialisation across cultures and helps clarify differences in expectations of young people within individualistic and collectivist cultures. While the individualism–collectivism distinction is criticised as simplistic, it does alert the practitioner to issues they may not have considered before.
The book offers useful models for evaluating the cultural context, and several chapters offer specific information on parenting and peer relationships. One chapter compares Chinese and North American children, and reports Chinese children as more shy and wary than their North American counterparts. Another chapter on ethnic peer victimisation among early adolescents reveals the delicate nature of peer relationships between young people, and why cross-ethnic relations are relatively uncommon. Given the growing awareness of bullying in schools, the analysis of Dutch and Turkish peer relations is very informative, despite its rather pessimistic conclusions about the experiences of ethnic minority children.
Friendships play a critical role in socialisation of young people, yet much of the existing research on urban adolescents has tended to overlook culture and ethnicity. The chapter on American urban adolescents challenges this over-generalisation of the dominant culture and the ‘white youth’ model of friendships. In so doing, it helps practitioners raise their sensitivity to cultural differences in the exercise of friendship. American evidence shows that African-American and Latino adolescents, in contrast to white youth, formed close friendships with other adolescents because they knew each other’s families. The chapter on Latino-Heritage adolescents focuses on ‘familism’ or the interdependent orientation that characterises this community, and reveals the multiple influences of family on the socialisation of Latino youth.
Competitiveness and basic social goals appear to differ across cultures, as revealed in one chapter comparing Canadian, Spanish, Cuban and Costa Rican youth. The results show that gender differences are significant also. Boys’ hypercompetitiveness was greater than girls in all four nations, which raises interesting implications for the performance of mixed gender groups.
Overall, this is a good reference source for practitioners, where they can find research findings on parenting, socialisation processes and peer relationship-building across cultures. However, as for any work of scholarship, it shares its jewels only upon close reading, and should not be considered bedtime reading.

Dr Robert Brown is with Pharos International, Brussels, Belgium.

 

Help me! I’m paranoid!

Overcoming Paranoid and Suspicious Thoughts
Daniel Freeman, Jason Freeman & Phillippa Garety
London: Constable & Robinson;
2006; Pb £9.99
(ISBN 978 1 84529 5)
Reviewed by Lesley Allan

THROUGH the knowledge and experience of the authors, this easy-to-follow, motivating book, aptly rooted in theory, details a self-help programme for people with paranoid thoughts. In a comprehensive yet clear style the book translates cognitive- behavioural treatment components into a range of skills highly effective in recognising, challenging, coping with and overcoming suspicious thoughts.This book will serve as a precious resource for people experiencing paranoid and suspicious thoughts, can serve as a comprehensive aid for practitioners working with clients. It should be on the shelf of anyone interested in practical aspects of self-help CBT for these conditions.

Lesley Allan is a research assistant at the University of Glasgow.

 

More than just positive thinking

A Life Worth Living: Contributions to Positive Psychology
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi & Isabella Selega (Eds.)
New York: Oxford University Press;
2006; Hb £29.99 (ISBN 0 1951 7679 0)
Reviewed by Andrew Medley

THIS book introduces positive psychology as a scientific endeavour to understand the ‘right-hand tail’ of the curve of human experience; a study of joy, creativity and resilience in contrast to psychology’s traditional concern with deficit and pathology. There is early acknowledgement of the perceived incongruity of ‘value’ within the realm of science, but this is countered by the compelling notion that thoughts and emotions cannot really be understood without knowing what people value about their existence. Thus, the reductionist focus on objective measurement is counterpoised with an argument for ‘meaning’ as a core theme for research efforts. Subjective phenomena, it is suggested, can be studied scientifically and measured accurately. And a pursuit of this type of knowledge is argued to be the best means of exploring the elusive concept of happiness.
The following 13 chapters comprise essays by many of the prominent investigators in the field, often presenting their recent empirical work. These contributions should help the reader to arrive at a more informed judgement about whether the positive psychology movement is just another fad, or whether it represents a rigorous and worthwhile study of ‘the good life’.
Christopher Peterson begins by introducing the VIA (Values in Action) Classification of Strengths, which is intended to complement the DSM by focusing on ‘what is right about people’ beyond the mere absence of distress and disorder. Whilst this scheme may facilitate a helpful redirection towards quality-of-life outcomes, the idea of disorders of ‘justice’ or ‘temperance’ does have a slightly unpalatable sanctimonious quality about it. However, the book promptly demonstrates one of its real strengths: namely, to juxtapose different ideas and perspectives about how best to operationalise a unified theoretical model of positive psychology.
In the next chapter, for instance, Dmitry Leontiev calls for an emphasis on developmental processes and regulation mechanisms, rather than simply looking at traits and emotional states per se. Indeed, early hints of a dogmatic journey into ‘virtues’ quickly give way to a balanced and engaging collection of scholarly writings about the possibilities for a psychology of well-being. Topics covered include strategies for building resilience; emotional intelligence; goal pursuit and adjustment; optimism and intrinsic motivation; and alternatives to a materialistic value-orientation. What’s
more – in a revelation that should delight us all – it emerges that we might just become happier and more fulfilled with age!
This book offers psychology a number of seductive challenges: to become a science that takes values seriously; to prioritise health alongside pathology; and to develop interventions that aim to promote autonomy, resilience and enduring well-being. It upholds models and strategies that may help people to remain functional and optimistic in the presence of distress.Ultimately, it successfully frames positive psychology as rather more than just positive thinking.

Andrew Medley is a trainee clinical psychologist at the University of Birmingham.

 

How refreshing, how… Paddington!

Asylum to Action: Paddington Day Hospital, Therapeutic Communities and Beyond
Helen Spandler
London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 2006; Pb £25.00
(ISBN 1 84310 348 6)
Reviewed by Candy Wong

HELEN Spandler brings Paddington Day Hospital to centre stage in this refreshing account of the ups and downs of being a therapeutic community (TC). What marks this publication out from other texts about Paddington Day Hospital is its deeper evaluation of why things happened the way they did, making this an altogether well-rounded piece of research that has useful implications for the future of TCs – and indeed mental health rehabilitation.Spandler provides a narrative of what happened during the lifetime of Paddington Day Hospital between 1962 and 1979. Affectionately known as Paddington, the day hospital proves to be an invaluable source of information that Spandler uses in examining the interaction between factors of a social, political, as well as psychiatric, nature, and how all these affected the flourishing and demise of Paddington.
Spandler firstly sets out a strong grounding for the need for this book, establishing that Paddington holds an important position in the ‘social movements’ of the time that include therapeutic community, anti-psychiatry, and the service users’ movements. Drawing on current accounts of TCs and in particular of Paddington, given by Baron’s (1987) Asylum to Anarchy and Hobson’s (1979) The Messianic Community, Spandler questions the issues and assumptions raised within these texts that have so far implicated TCs as being too radical to be a feasible method of intervention within mental health rehabilitation. Asylum to Action highlights how the social and therapeutic spheres can change depending on the particular political, social, and psychiatric climates at the time. There are brilliant narratives on particular phases of Paddington’s life, namely that of the patients’ success in overthrowing the plan to close down the day hospital in 1972, and of the formation of the MPU (Mental Patients’ Union) in 1973 which sprouted many other pressure groups such as MIND.
Spandler impressively incorporates the fruits of her research and interviews with former patients and staff from Paddington, to form a coherent narrative of how the attempt to combine democracy and psychoanalysis developed through the lifetime of the day hospital. A chronology of events at Paddington provided on conclusion of the book proves indispensable as an overview of the melting pot of diverse factors that were at play.
Asylum to Action revitalises the issues surrounding TCs, and not just from a psychiatric perspective. Paddington is portrayed as a much needed breath of fresh air within the evolution of the mental health system, the breath of fresh air that lasts from the day hospital’s inception in 1962 to its end in 1979. Much can be learnt about the development of TCs from the Paddington Day Hospital, as Spandler realises, and this book should be one of the main vehicles for this learning.

Candy Wong is with the Terrace Day Centre, Paddington.

 

Starting point

Anger Management: An Anger Management Training Package for Individuals With Disabilities

Hrepsime Gulbenkoglu & Nick Hagiliassis
London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 2006; Pb £29.99
(ISBN 1 84310 436 9)
Reviewed by Sarah Potts

COMING from a background of facilitating anger management programmes for offenders, I was interested to see the how the material could be adapted for those with learning disabilities. This is an easy-to-read, structured, 12-session programme package. The sessions flowed well, following the constructs of cognitive-behavioural techniques, with a heavy emphasis on pictographs to aid understanding. The authors suggest adding an individual session at the end to review and develop the learning made by participants.
I would have liked to see that designed as an actual session in order to promote the consolidation of participant’s learning, however, as noted in the small print at the bottom of the inside cover, this package is designed as a starting point for practitioners. Although it provides detailed session plans including relevant materials, the delivery of the programme will require modification depending on the learning difficulties affecting the client group.

Sarah Potts is a trainee forensic psychologist at HMP Bristol.

 
Helping people overcome ambivalence

Ambivalence in Psychotherapy: Facilitating Readiness to Change
David Engle & Hal Arkowitz
New York: Guilford Press; 2006; Hb £21.50
(ISBN 1 59385 255 X)
Reviewed by Rory Allott

REVIEWING can sometimes be an arduous process. Not so with Engle and Arkowitz’s Ambivalence in Psychotherapy, a subject long neglected by clinicians and researchers alike. Many assume that seeking help is, in itself, evidence that clients are motivated to participate in therapy and alleviate their distress. The early chapters of this book put this myth to rest. Its selected review of the literature on non-compliance highlights the frequency with which therapy is disrupted by so-called ‘client resistance’. Engle and Arkowitz helpfully reinterpret resistance as an ambivalence towards change.Having established the need to work with ambivalence, the authors offer an integrative model drawing from the four main psychotherapeutic approaches: cognitive-behavioural, humanistic-experiential, psychodynamic, and systemic. After a brief overview of working with ambivalence from these different orientations, they devote the latter half of the book to just two: motivational interviewing (MI) and the ‘two-chair approach’. Whilst they make a good case for the emphasis on MI, with its strong empirical support, the inclusion of the two-chair approach seemed more to do with one of the author’s (DE) experiential orientation.
Nevertheless, the descriptions of these two approaches are exceedingly accessible and greatly enhanced by the inclusion of excerpts from clinical sessions. They write in a lucid and engaging style, drawing on their own personal experience of ambivalence, in addition to that of their clients. Herein lies the strength of this book, they manage to write in a way that reflects the very clinical approaches they outline. They neither present themselves as experts nor suggest that any one method is best. The book is a practical resource for therapists and a refreshing change from the dogma that plagues other texts grounded in singular psychotherapeutic approaches. It would suit psychologists of all orientations and levels of experience. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Dr Rory Allott is a Clinical Psychologist working at Pennine Care Trust.

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