Book reviews

Including women mind doctors, female violence, children's dreams and a host of web-only reviews.

Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present.
Lisa Appignanesi

This rich and detailed history of women’s mental health and its treatment makes a fascinating read. The meticulously researched volume is arranged around case vignettes tha illuminate topics fundamental to female mental distress, including passions childbearing, eating disorders and abuse.

Many fascinating cases are presented, beginning
with that of Mary Lamb, who committed matricide in
1796. Another is that of Sabrina Spielrein, who was
treated by C.G. Jung for ‘psychotic hysteria’,
becoming his mistress and later pursuing a career as
a fellow psychoanalyst.

In a neat summation of transference and countertransference, Jung comments on a paper of
Spielrein’s: ‘I have surely unintentionally swallowed
a piece of your soul as well as you mine.’ Elizabeth
Wurtzel’s more recent depiction of depression
also features.

The book is equally a history of psychiatry, charting and dissecting the contributions made by key players. Some highlights include Charcot’s exposition of hysteria via his photographs of the patients in Salpetriere in Paris and Kraepelin, the great classifier of mental disorder. Other notable contributions refer to the High Victorian alienism of Maudsley, whose misogynist degenerationist theories were influenced by Darwinian views and R.D. Laing and his anti-stigmatising, antipsychiatry movement.

The book also raises many questions related to the
influence of the pharmaceutical companies on modern
psychiatric treatment, and the potential for standardised measures of distress to encourage as well as identify mental disorder. It is recommended reading for those interested in women’s history, the evolution of psychiatry and cultural representations of mental distress.

I Virago; 2008; Hb £20.00
Reviewed by Victoria Tischler
who is a lecturer in behavioural sciences at the University of Nottingham

A psychosocial lens
Understanding Criminal Behaviour: Psychosocial Approaches to Criminality

David W. Jones

This is a timely book given the growth of psychosocial studies and the increasing political and cultural focus on criminality. Jones’s book is both comprehensive and detailed in its outline of explanations of Criminal behaviour, and Jones gives a convincing account of why psychological research has been increasingly omitted from criminological topics.

The book draws on a wealth of particularly non-experimental research to shed light on areas
such as youth crime, mental illness and violence. As a
general overview of what psychology and sociology can
contribute to this area, this book is excellent.

However, the ‘psychosocial aspect remains underexplored and the book tends to approac topics without fully engaging idebates about how atranscendence of these disciplinary boundaries mightusefully inform debates in criminology. Apart fromemphasising the role of emotions, there is little discussion of what a ‘psychosocial’ approach mightlook like. The chapter on‘gender and crime’ venture furthest, in its discussion of masculinities and identity, bu this book perhaps too tentativel suggests ‘amalgamations between biology, developmen and culture without unpickin these complexities.

I Willan; 2008; Pb £19.50
Reviewed by Amanda Holt


Something to reflect on
The Bullies: Understanding Bullies and Bullying
Dennis Lines

Dennis Lines’s message, to view bullying as an activity rather than a personal characteristic, is not new. This has been a dominant approach to the study of bullying for the last decade. What made this book such a
good read was how it pulled together a huge amount of
research, from work on animal instincts and genetic influences on human behaviour, to psychoanalytic studies and transactional analysis. This is drawn into an easily understandable and interesting format, making it accessible to anyone with a curiosity about human relationships.

I particularly appreciated Lines’s interpretation of the
bullying interaction, not by demonising and labelling
individuals but considering the relationship between ‘bully’,‘victim’ and context. Here the book discusses the cycle of bullying, and thus may also be of interest to those professionals who have to judge and discipline those found bullying.

The chapters on domestic violence and bullying in different workplaces extend the study of bullying beyond child and adolescent relationships, to
recognising it as occurring in all contexts. There is something here that we can all associate with and reflect on.

I Jessica Kingsley; 2008;
Pb £16.99
Reviewed by Hannah Boyd


The Psychology of Female Violence: Crimes Against the Body (2nd edn)
Anna Motz

What motivates a mother to abuse or even kill her child, or a woman to mutilate her own body? According to Anna Motz, profound and complex psychological distress both defended against and expressed through these perverse and violent acts. They thus become
powerful tools and weapons of communication.

Using forensic psychodynamic theory, Ann Motz attempts to decipher th violent language of women who abuse their children or themselves, or kill their violent intimate partners. The focus is on the inner world of (some)violent women and the psychological complexities of their acts.

This second edition has been thoughtfully updated with
more material on violence against children and a new
chapter on working clinically with violent women. Each
chapter is clearly introduced and the language personal and engaging. Powerful case examples from the author’s own clinical practice are discussed
and carefully analysed.

A key message of this book is that, if we want to understand and prevent female violence we have to stop pathologising and excusing it and start to fully
acknowledge female agency and aggression.

I Routledge; 2008; Pb £19.99
Reviewed by Mette Kreis


Suicide: Strategies and Interventions for Reduction
and Prevention
Stephen Palmer (Ed.)

For anyone working in mental health care, preventing suicidal behaviour is not only a professional duty but often a source of great personal anxiety. Stephen Palmer’s book is a welcome and compassionate
attempt to increase practitioners’ understanding and confidence, as well as their clinical skill.

It begins with an overview of some statistics and theories of suicide, the former being far more interesting and useful than it might sound. Three
chapters tell the stories of people personally affected by
suicides, including one woman’s honest and revealing account of her own suicide attempt. The book then covers a range of individual and group therapeutic
approaches to preventing suicide or supporting those
affected by it. One of its strengths is the repeated
consideration of the personal impact on therapists of working with suicidal clients. These chapters draw heavily on clinical material and most are extremely practical.

As with any edited book, the quality of the writing varies, but the content is well chosen and presented, making this a valuable resource for clinical practice.

I Taylor & Francis; 2008;
Pb £19.99
Reviewed by Emma Taylor


Children’s Dreams: Notes from the Seminar Given in1936–1940 by C.G. Jung
Lorenz Jung & Maria Meyer-
Grass (Eds.)
Newly published in English, thi text gives us an opportunity to see Jung’s seminar method inaction with some of his bes known students. More importantly, this text reminds us that Jung did indeed have idea about working with children an not just about adults reaching middle-age. As psychologists we are also challenged to consider our views on the dynamics of conscious an unconscious processes, which are fundamental to Jung’s theory of dreaming. In contrast to more familiar associative and deductive approaches, Jung’ radical, inductive approach amplifies images by reference to cultural symbols contained in myth and story.

In the introductory section, Jung gives an outline of his
approach to problems of cause and correlation and of how dreams are unintentional products of dynamic
unconscious processes. This is as good an introduction as may be found.

Later sections are devoted to the material of the seminars, arising out of childhood dreams.
These discussions are concerned with amplifying by
example the ideas presented in the introduction. In this way, the text is concerned more with developmental issues, an ‘ethnopsychology’ as Jung calls the undertaking, rather than with direct clinical technique
with children.

It is extraordinary how many of the observations Jung makes in this pre-war period foreshadow the theoretical
issues still current in psychology and phenomenology today. But these observations are presented in ways that should make us look from a new vantage point at our current assumptions, and that is the essential relevance of this text today.

Princeton University Press;
2008; Hb £23.95
Reviewed by Ralph Goldstein

Web-only reviews

The Science of Subjective Well-Being
Michael Eid & Randy J. Larsen (Eds)
Guilford Press; 2007; Hb £41.33

Happiness Quantified: A Satisfaction Calculus Approach
Bernard M. S. Van Praag & Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell
Oxford University Press; 2007; Pb £18.99

What is happiness? Can it be split into separate components? How is happiness brought about? Can it be predicted? Can it be measured? Quantified? Is happiness actually satisfaction? And does happiness demonstrate cultural variations...? Although the nature of happiness may at first seem like an obvious concept, these are some of the questions posed within two very different happiness and well-being texts,

Beginning with the first book, The Science of Subjective Well-Being combines contributions from a number of well-being researchers. The contemporary thinkers within this book offer a new insight into well-being research, suggesting that previous findings have concealed a number of oversimplifications and misunderstandings in the area, such as a correlation between money and happiness, and direct relationship between a set number of influences and well-being. This book not only aims to dispel such myths, it goes one step further in providing evidence as to why these myths should be ignored, in the form of contemporary research from some of the best social scientists currently working in the area of subjective well-being. This is a valuable resource for the social scientist interested in, or working in the area positive psychology.

The second book, Happiness Quantified: A Satisfaction Calculus Approach, takes a much more rigorous approach to the subject of satisfaction analysis, and is grounded within an economics framework, as opposed to the social science basis of the previous text. Nevertheless, there are some references to the associated disciplines of psychology and sociology. The text deals with subjects such as income, politics, gender, norms, health, climate, taxation and poverty, and attempts to quantify their contributions to ‘satisfaction’ or ‘happiness’ using rigourous econometric techniques. These techniques are synonymous with the Leyden School (headed by Bernard M. S. Van Praag), which is at the forefront of the economic analysis of satisfaction. This is not a book for general consumption as it offers in-depth complex analysis of economic data; it would be recommended only for those interested in the finer detail of such analytical techniques.

Reviewed by Helen Henshaw

Suicide-related Behaviour: Understanding, Caring and Therapeutic Responses
Columba McLaughlin
Columba McLaughlin’s book is aimed at students rather than qualified practitioners, with ‘discussion points’ throughout the text. The author clearly has a wealth of clinical (nursing) experience in dealing with suicidal and self-harming clients, and uses clinical material to good effect throughout the book. Unfortunately he also relies a little too heavily on secondary sources, newspaper articles and gossip about celebrities.

I was pleased to see that this book promised to address self-harming behaviour (with little or no suicidal intent), but was left none the wiser about this particular area after reading it. McLaughlin’s writing style makes very heavy weather of the chapters covering theoretical issues, such as the distinction between suicide, attempted suicide and deliberate self-harm, and his literature reviews are lists rather than syntheses.

The book also seems to be poorly edited; even the blurb on the back cover is difficult to follow. The final two chapters, focusing on clinical interventions, at last allow the author’s obvious experience and compassion to shine through his unfortunately rather obscure writing.

Wiley; 2007; Pb £19.99
Reviewed by Emma Taylor

Emotional Processing: Healing Through Feeling
Roger Baker

Feelings and emotions are at last being brought effectively into mainstream psychological theorising and research. Roger Baker, a UK consultant clinical psychologist/researcher, describes a new theory of emotion, therapy and assessment – the Emotional Processing Scale.

Vignettes enable the reader to identify gently with the limiting experiences of panic, phobias, alcoholism and post-trauma, A natural ‘immunising protection’ against emotions that may be difficult to process is identified as taking place by three main routes: negative emotional schemas from childhood,somatisation (replacement by physical symptoms) or rumination Sufferers may be aware only of being stuck, or of a troublesome experience. Patient professional questioning focused on discovering underlying emotion and its context can lead to a degree of re-experiencing, catharsis, and a more constructive life for the sufferer, This approach offers an alternative to cognitive trends in brief therapy today.

Emotion embedded in autism, also in the experience of physical illness and borderline conditions (e.g. obsessional behaviour), is touched on briefly, with exciting clinical prospects. An accessible popular book, with non-technical language, well-referenced for professional readers – this could usefully be placed in clinical psychology and GP waiting rooms, and shared with non-psychologists, to engage with this long-neglected topic.

Lion Hudson; 2007; Pb £7.99
Reviewed by Erica Brostoff

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)
Carol Tavris & Elliot Aronson
This book is so insightful, I’m reading it with a wry smile thinking, ‘that’s me’, which is worryingly amusing on occasion. Do you ever wonder how people sleep at night? They are probably thinking the same about you, whilst you are blissfully unaware of having done anything wrong at all.

Based around Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance, the book explains how we convince ourselves we did the right thing. Cognitive dissonance is described as ‘the unpleasant feeling we experience when we have two contradictory ideas, beliefs or opinions’, and we can’t relax until we reduce it. How do we do this? The theory says if we make a wrong choice, we self-justify, until we change our entire viewpoint on a matter, and can’t believe somebody else thinks what we were thinking only yesterday.

In summary, the authors present the theory via anecdotes from politicians, teachers and lawyers, and scientific evidence from a clinical setting. A must for all psychologists, to improve our understanding of how we excuse all manner of decisions, and convince ourselves we did the right thing.

Pinter and Martin; 2007; Pb £8.99
Reviewed by Katrina Collinson

Clinical Psychology (from the Topics in Applied Psychology series)
Graham Davey
Occasionally you might read a book and say, ‘I wish I’d written that one’ – this is such a book. Graham Davey has done a superb job in bringing together writings from authors who are well versed in academic study and the applied skills of clinical psychology.

The book begins with a serious insight into the domains of clinical psychology, the general principles of clinical practice, and the structure of current mental health service provision. The book is divided into four main areas of service provision; mental health issues involving work with children and families, adult mental health problems and their treatment, clinical neuropsychology and learning disabilities.

It is significant that the primary aim of the book is to provide the undergraduate psychology student with a structured introduction to clinical psychology, covering both academic and professional issues by providing an insight into the nature and origins of psychopathology as well as describing what clinical psychologists do.

As a teaching aid, the book contains many learning features including case histories and focus vignettes on research methods. There are extensive references and suggested further reading to enable those interested to engage in some depth.

Hodder Education; 2008; Pb £19.99 
Reviewed by Ian Clancy

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber