Informing and stimulating
Can the study of language reveal the process by which we have evolved, as a species, to think in incredibly sophisticated ways about the world around us? The answer to this would be a definite ‘Yes’ from Steven Pinker. Reassuringly, the work of the many researchers and theorists that he refers to throughout his latest book adds weight to this conviction.
In this thought-provoking book, Pinker is bringing together his previous work on language with his other, broader perspectives on evolutionary psychology, developed in The Blank Slate. This creates a more satisfying and compelling unifying theory about the processes involved in the evolution of human consciousness.
In the first, and larger section, he shows how language structure reveals how we have learned, in evolutionary terms, to extrapolate, through metaphor, from a few basic thought schemas. These start based on the three dimensions of the real world and our own, subjective interpretations of intentionality and causation, to go on to create the structure of our present conceptualisations and how we discuss them in language. In this he is expanding the ideas he has put forward before of the human brain as an almost limitless combinatorial neural matrix which has evolved to allow us to develop in these ways.
In the later section, he extends this to looking at how language reveals the fundamental ways in which we relate to each other: sharing, ranking and trading. This section is fascinating in what it reveals about our deeper motives and our use of disingenuous language to conceal them. It has, I feel, much in it to inform and stimulate debate within many departments of psychology, psychotherapy and even politics.
The book is a lengthy read, with the main argument developed slowly, but very surely; punctuated throughout with wit and contemporary relevance. I would recommend it to a wide range of disciplines of social sciences, not just those interested in linguistics and evolutionary psychology.
I Penguin; 2008; Pb £9.99
Reviewed by Steve Heigham
who is in private practice as a psychotherapist, and is also a lecturer of psychology and counselling in further education
Understanding Looked After Children: An Introduction to Psychology for Foster Care
Jeune Guishard-Pine, Suzanne McCall & Lloyd Hamilton
Understanding Looked After Children is written for current or intending foster carers, with the aim of explaining the psychological impact of being in care on children and on the families they join. There is growing interest in the significant mental health needs of such children and also in those interventions that may help. Foster carers are increasingly asked to become ‘professionalised’ as they are a key part of the ‘protective shield’ or team around the child.
The authors’ approach is twofold – to reflect the multidisciplinary world that surrounds looked after children and their foster carers, and to make accessible psychological language and concepts. Some of the theories explored are Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, attachment, and the development of identity. These are applied to the cultural, legal and social processes of the English care system, with useful chapters on assessment through intervention and on transition.
The authors have the authority of experience, and
they neither give an over-glowing picture of fostering, nor condescend. Their book will be suitable for adoptive parents and by professionals, whether trainee or experienced.
I Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 2007; Pb £14.99
Reviewed by Miriam Landor
All in your head?
Chronic Headaches: Biology, Psychology, and Behavioral Treatment
Jonathan M. Borkum
This is not for the faint-hearted – it is a highly structured and technical review of the latest theory, research and treatment of chronic headaches. It is enlightening and espouses treatment from the mind–body paradigm.
Borkum discusses the results of his 50 years of research and clinical trials into this all-pervading, disabling pain. The writing is adroit, comprehensive and scientific, drawing extensively from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, biology, clinical medicine and pharmacology.
Students in psychology, health sciences, counselling, psychotherapy or medicine can use this book as a medical and psychological primer in pain management. It succinctly discusses and analyses recent and historical research and integrates the findings. From the treatment perspective, clinical psychology benefits from a forthright coverage of psychological treatment and attendant clinical observations. GPs who do not have grounding in psychology can select pertinent sections of the book to enhance treatment of pain and headaches. Borkum covers all the major forms of chronic benign headache and concisely brings together the ever-expanding studies of psychology and medicine.
I Lawrence Erlbaum; 2007; Pb £36.95
Reviewed by Ian Clancy
28 years of PTSD
Handbook of PTSD: Science and Practice
Matthew J. Friedman, Terence M. Keane & Patricia A. Resick (Eds.)
The decision to include the construct of PTSD in DSM III in 1980 was a controversial one at the time (and remains so for some psychologists). However, it opened the door to a large body of research that has greatly developed the knowledge base on the psychological effects of trauma. This scholarly work attempts to summarise the current knowledge base and reflect on controversies in the trauma field.
Initial chapters provide a useful historical overview of psychological and psychiatric perspectives prior to 1980. The second section focuses on scientific foundations and theory from a number of angles – epidemiological, psychological and neurobiological. Issues of clinical practice include early intervention, psychosocial interventions, interventions for children and cultural issues and trauma. The final section explores ‘uncharted territory’ including more controversial forms of intervention.
This book is of particular interest to service developers, researchers and academics in the field and those searching for a thorough grounding of the literature. It is likely to be less useful to clinicians seeking guidance about intervention.
I thoroughly recommend it and I feel it should be a key text for psychology libraries.
I Guilford Press; 2007; Hb £50.00
Reviewed by Neil Roberts
A helpful guide
Ethical Practice in Brain Injury Rehabilitation
Joanna Collicutt McGrath
This book provides a resource for exploring and tackling the difficult ethical dilemmas that regularly occur in clinical practice. Although written from a brain injury perspective, the content is highly relevant to other areas of clinical psychology practice; those working in learning disabilities and dementia care are likely to find the text highly relevant and useful when negotiating ethical issues within their fields.
The book begins with an interesting and thought-provoking insight into the daily dilemmas inherent when working within pressured and limited NHS resources. Throughout, the reader is provided with practical guidelines and principles that can assist in managing difficult decisions; this includes a useful and accessible heuristic for managing ethical dilemmas, which many clinicians are likely to find a helpful guide.
The final chapter includes case studies that provide the reader with real-life examples of the principles previously discussed, providing a useful and informative resource for clinicians. With accessible and clearly written practical ideas, this book is likely to assist a wide range of clinicians in the management of daily ethical issues.
I Oxford University Press; 2007; Pb £24.95
Reviewed by Karen Addy
Not as we know it
In this book, an autistic girl describes her ‘home planet’,
a place of repetition, punctuality and sameness. Despite the clunky rhymes it is an admirable attempt to explain autism to young children, but in overgeneralising some very specific traits it will confuse those whose siblings or classmates are less able. Higher-functioning children with autism may enjoy recognising aspects of themselves in the caricatures (although they might prefer other diagnostic labels such as Asperger's syndrome).
It's an interesting book which includes some stunning illustrations, but it is probably best used as the starting point for a discussion about the topic of autism with a well-informed adult.
I Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 2007; Hb £11.99
Reviewed by Emma Taylor
Getting ‘a-head’ in mental well-being
Head Case: Treat Yourself to Better Mental Health
Pamela Stephenson Connolly
In a society that's becoming further removed from a misconception and fear of mental distress, Head Case drives the wedge deeper into the crack of the block that represents prejudice and stigmatism against mental illness. Having explicitly recognised the social barriers to people with mental illness, Dr Stephenson-Connolly sets out an accessible text that include basic information about neurochemistry – the latter, a scary word by all accounts, but refreshingly understandable as it's then brilliantly combined with practical tips and advice on ways of keeping well.
The author's approach is very human, and uses a specific case study in every chapter to exemplify the mental health disorder that the chapter then explores. The case study make for great introduction to disorders, setting the reader's mind within context of the mental health 'mind' field, before presenting concise practical advice on possible triggers of the mental illness experience and interventions.
For me, as a trainee mental health practitioner on an acute psychiatric ward, Head Case will be indispensable as a tool in translating the stuff of academics into humanised care of clients. I would recommend it highly to all mental health professionals in training, and certainly to users of mental health services in supporting them to maintain mental health wellness.
Headline; 2007; Hb £20.00
Reviewed by Candy Wong
Accessible and interesting
Frederick Toates (Ed.)
The more I read Pain, the more it fascinated me. In his book, Toates successfully explains how both biology and psychology are involved in our subjective experience of pain and he draws on this to discuss the less-than-straightforward link between injury and pain. For example, we can be physically injured yet feel little discomfort or be uninjured yet have intense pain.
This accessible book introduces the reader to types of pain, how the nervous system processes pain and how psychological factors affect pain, such as a person’s expectations or sense of control. It also discusses biological treatments (e.g. aspirin, morphine) and psychological interventions (e.g. cognitive-behavioural therapy). The book includes useful features to support learning, such as self-assessment questions and a DVD with animations and videos.
While Pain is an introductory level book, it will engage more knowledgeable readers with its content on, for example, plasticity and chronic pain. Toates’ clear writing style is effective in simplifying some complex concepts. This book, which is part of an Open University course, stands alone extremely well and makes an interesting read.
Oxford University Press/Open University; 2007; Pb £18.99
Reviewed by Amanda Albon
Psychological therapies for adults with Asperger’s syndrome
Cognitive-behavioral Therapy for Adult Asperger Syndrome
Valerie L. Gaus
Guilford Press; 2007; Hb £24.00
A Self Determined Future with Asperger Syndrome. Solution Focused Approaches
E. Veronica Bliss & Genevieve Edmonds
Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 2008; Pb £12.99
These books offer sound and practical advice on how to provide psychological support to adults with Asperger’s syndrome (AS) who may additionally suffer from a range of mental health problems. They fill a gap in what is a sparse literature. As their titles suggest, they offer contrasting approaches to psychological therapy for AS but both contain a wealth of information about AS and for that reason alone would be worth purchasing.
Gaus’s CBT for adults with AS is an impressively written and detailed book which, using examples from her own clinical practice, takes the reader from assessment, intervention, to ending treatment. Gaus suggests that the problems of AS relate to information-processing deficits in three overlapping core areas – information about self, information about others, and non-social information. She highlights CBT as an important way of teaching adults with AS to monitor their thoughts and perceptions in the hope that they will become more aware of their interpretative errors.
Bliss and Edmonds, who is a service user with AS, provide a short but readable introduction to the potential use of solution-focused approaches in AS. The book is written in a conversational style, full of humour, self-depreciation and anecdote. It succinctly describes the philosophy of solution-focused approaches and how they can be applied to AS. These approaches emphasise viewing adults with AS as being different rather than disabled; the focus of therapy then being to develop their existing strengths and coping skills as the basis for positive change.
Reviewed by Robert M. Walley
Bringing theory to life
Handbook of Coaching Psychology. A Guide for Practitioners
Stephen Palmer & Alison Whybrow (Eds.)
A handbook it claims to be and a handbook it certainly is! I found the Handbook of Coaching Psychology to be well written and structured, interesting and informative. I initially experienced ‘Part I: Perspectives and Research in Coaching Psychology’ as a frustrating barrier to finding out about different approaches to coaching psychology (Part II). However, once I settled into it I enjoyed understanding the development of the coaching movement, its dilemmas, struggles and achievements.
Part II provided a wonderful range of theoretical approaches to coaching psychology, some that were familiar (psychodynamic, CBT, solution-focused) and some that were not (conversational learning, NLP). I found these chapters succinct and accessible, with theory brought to life by case studies. I have even used the material as a resource for teaching I have provided to other healthcare professionals. For the individual wanting to know more about a particular approach, each chapter had discussion points and recommended further reading. Parts III and IV discussed issues and themes relevant to all branches of psychology, such as diversity and supervision.
Routledge; 2007; Pb £24.99
Reviewed by Justin Grayer
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