Book Reviews

Including Frameworks for Practice in Educational Psychology: A Textbook for Trainees and Practitioners; What Should I Believe; Women at the Top; Grief in Young Children: A Handbook for Adults

Frameworks for Practice in Educational Psychology: A Textbook for Trainees and Practitioners
Barbara Kelly, Lisa Woolfson & James Boyle (Eds.)
Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 2008; Pb £22.99

Reviewed by Miles Thomas

This excellent book is a timely contribution to the field of educational psychology. It largely succeeds in its ambitious central aim of developing ‘a coherent approach to assimilating, understanding and applying necessarily complex theoretical perspectives with equally complex practice methodology’. This is an important ‘why we do what we do’ aim that has occupied educational psychologists since, as I sometimes read with amusement in essays, ‘Cyril Burt invented educational psychology’.

The authors, from the University of Strathclyde, highlight, and are mindful not to add to, the ‘ivory tower versus real world’ schism that has often troubled the profession. In fact they succeed admirably in building robust bridges between the two by linking theory and practice in a variety of elegant ways. Thus, their book is not just a welcome addition for trainees and tutors on professional training courses, who will probably consider it a ‘core text’, but an invaluable resource for practitioners delivering psychological services in complex and demanding contexts.

The book is arranged in six sections that signpost structure and purpose. The overall aim is summed up in Part 6, ‘Developing an Integrated Methodology for Training and Practice’, and is based on a system of complementary frameworks. The 12 chapters mostly focus on these frameworks. Highlights include Geoff Lindsay on ‘Ethics and Value Systems’, Ioan Rees on ‘A Systemic Solution-Oriented Model’ and Patsy Wagner on ‘Consultation’, summarising a massively influential but often misunderstood way of working. Wagner reminds the reader of the importance of ‘behaviour as a function of person and situation’ by citing Lewin’s B = f (P x S). There is also reference to Gergen’s view that ‘a psychology that simply contributes to the status quo has little to offer the culture’, perhaps inviting more critical engagement with practice. Interestingly, the two chapters by Rees and Wagner are rooted in a ‘therapeutic tradition’ yet emphasise ‘systems thinking’; and this book has much to offer trainees and applied psychologists from other fields including clinical, counselling and organisational psychologists.

Every chapter makes a contribution, and this text would be welcome simply as an interesting collection of papers outlining models such as the Constructionist Model of Informed and Reasoned Action (COMOIRA), Six Phased Problem-Analysis Cycle (a meta-conceptual framework to guide thinking and action), as well as chapters on activity theory, positive psychology and illuminative evaluation. However, it is much more than this because of the skill of the editors in systematically presenting these approaches within an inclusive epistemological, theoretical and conceptual framework that provides pragmatic support for practitioners working with children, adults and organisations. In true gestalt spirit, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; and it succeeds in offering direction during a time of significant challenge and change.  

What Should I Believe: Why Our Beliefs about the Nature of Death and the Purpose of Life Dominate Our Lives
Dorothy Rowe
Routledge; 2008; £9.99
Reviewed by Marie Stewart

Dorothy Rowe writes passionately about her concerns for how our beliefs about death and the purpose of life may lead us to live our lives in ways that may be unhelpful, uncompassionate and disrespectful. At worst, our beliefs can be inhumane for ourselves and others, if we consider our beliefs to be right and better than other’s, we may try to force them on people or punish those who don’t share them.

Rowe places these concerns in the context of the current world state-of-play of religion and politics and the inhumanity these have spawned, and also in the detailed descriptions of the beliefs of clients, friends and public figures, to illustrate how our beliefs develop. She refers to Greek mythology, various scriptures and a wide literature to confirm how stable, widespread and sustained these beliefs are held through different eras and cultures. When it feels so easy to despair about the inhumanity carried out in the name of belief, Dorothy encourages reflection, self-understanding and respectful self/other belief as the only possible panacea in order that we might peacefully co-exist, should we find the courage.

Women at the Top
Diane F. Halpern & Fanny M. Cheung
Wiley-Blackwell; 2008; £14.99
Reviewed by Lara Eschler

Sex differences in careers outcomes remain vast. This introspective book offers a realistic portrait of how female leaders have managed to balance both the pursuit of a professional career and caring for a family. It provides extensive information on self-management, character building, leadership style and the crucial role of mentoring.

Through extensive personal testimonies, 62 women recount the steps, events and strategies that led them to their current position and status, providing inspiration without discounting the difficulties and pitfalls. While there appear to be strong commonalities in the way dually-successful women organise their lives in both Eastern and Western cultures, ultimately this text shows that successful strategies can be varied. It also shows how flexible work policies might benefit both female employees and their employers, thus serving as testimony to how social science research could eventually inform public policy.

There is much here for women looking to energise their professional and home life, renew their perspectives and optimise their competencies as leaders and managers. Beyond this, the book will likely be of interest to psychologists and other social scientists alike.

Grief in Young Children: A Handbook for Adults
Atle Dyregrov

Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 2008; £9.99
Reviewed by Hannah Nelson

Written with an audience of carers and parents in mind, this accessible book makes a rewarding read for all those involved in working with children. Although the title may suggest the book deals more generally with grief in young children, it primarily deals with the difficult task of explaining death to pre-schoolers.

I found the chapters provided calm, step-by-step advice. Each statement is explained using psychological explanations of child development. Case studies and regular examples help illustrate the advice in practice. Atle Dyregrov signposts other specific or more comprehensive texts and resources throughout the book.

The book is open, honest and very direct. This is in line with the approach Atle Dyregrov believes one should take when telling young children about death. He reinforces the message that children often know more than you think and that it is imperative for their development to be told honestly about death.

I would certainly refer to it in the future and recommend it to those who may need it. At only 90 pages long it is a handy, comforting and inspiring read.

How to Write in Psychology: A Student Guide
John R. Beech
Wiley-Blackwell; 2009; Pb £9.99
Reviewed by Helen Henshaw

How to Write in Psychology: A Student Guide does exactly what it promises. With helpful pointers such as, ‘Starting to write: Ten ways to get you on your way’, to detailed explanations of APA formatting styles, Beech generously conveys the key elements of the writing techniques required by the discipline.

The friendly and humorous approach provides an enjoyable read, whilst at the same time being both highly informative and well-structured. Writing within psychology frequently requires students to adhere to predefined formats and styles which they are not initially familiar with. This text offers assistance at every stage of the process, from essay writing, to lab reports, to answering exam questions and more. Many of the common questions faced by those embarking on an undergraduate psychology degree are expertly dealt with in a clear and direct manner, which is accessible to students whether in the early stages of study or preparing for a third-year project.

Online extras...

A Crash Course in SPSS for Windows (4th edn)
Andrew M. Colman & Briony D. Pulford
It is many years since I have used SPSS and the thought of wading through a manual to update myself was off-putting to say the least. Therefore it was with relief that I came across this book. It does exactly what it says in the title. No prior knowledge of SPSS is assumed. You can choose to work your way through it or, as I did, dip in and out of it using it as a reference. The layout is simple, easy to read and there are useful diagrams of the dialog boxes (so you can double-check that you have clicked on the correct button!). Data sets are provided as worked examples.

This fourth edition is updated for SPSS versions 14, 15 and 16. It assumes a background knowledge of statistics and as such it is not a ‘how to’ on which statistics to use. Having said that, there is a brief summary of the particular statistical test being used at the beginning of each chapter. My only criticism is the ring-binder cover, which gives it a ‘tatty’ feel.

Wiley-Blackwell; 2008; Pb £16.99
Reviewed by Deborah Strachan

Concepts of Normality: The Autistic and Typical Spectrum

Wendy Lawson
This book was approached with keen anticipation. At last, I thought, a book that will challenge its readers to reconstruct their ideas of difference of whatever kind. The reality, alas, was far less inspiring. I was to be left feeling disappointed and more than a little frustrated.

The conversational style of the book was at once accessible and difficult to read. Mostly free of academic jargon, the narrative flowed like a fairground ride, at times plodding and tedious, and at times racing away in unconnected directions. Often the psychology was distinctly lacking, substituted often with supposition.

Although I desperately wanted it to, this book added very little to a potentially fascinating and engaging debate. It was not until late in the book that Lawson began to win me over. It is here that the implicit group dynamics continually reinforced in the prose, get left behind somewhat, and the focus shifts to those who find it difficult to ‘fit in’, autistic or not. Indeed, where this book is successful is in highlighting that it is an inflexible society that wishes to change the individual to conform, an issue that is increasingly relevant as more and more outgroups are seemingly constructed.

The book equips the reader with a new vocabulary of difference. However, if language and discourse construct worlds, and in turn societal reactions to those worlds, can any language of difference, on either side, ever challenge concepts of normality?

Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 2008; Pb £14.99
Reviewed by Ian Smillie, who is a trainee educational psychologist at Cardiff University

Emotional Freedom Techniques for Dummies
Helena Fone
The text, descriptions and suggested exercises are easy to read and understand, as one might expect from the Dummies series for beginners. The book claims to contain ‘absolutely’' everything a lay person needs to know to improve their own, and others’, emotional and physical health with EFT (emotional freedom technique); and almost everything in between, including limiting beliefs and habitual mental patterns. Which in the opinion of the reviewer is an extremely dangerous professional statement to make, especially to beginners.

EFT therapists, including the author, ‘claim’ many significant results in using EFT to treat anxiety conditions, including phobic (fear) reactions. However, there is little or no research that indicates that EFT is effective over more traditional therapies. Where studies (by EFT therapists) exist, they are generally limited to small populations, lack control groups and are unable to rule out placebo effects and none have proven to be replicable.

The book is well organised and divided into five logical parts that leads the reader through the basics of understanding EFT. If nothing else, the book appears to be a good marketing tool to further training on the subject.

The book is written as a reference and as a road map for the reader’s journey to self-healing and introduces readers to the background to EFT, helps to understand what emotional health is, and why it is important for physical health, illustrates EFT’s (basic) techniques and illustrates how the reader can perform EFT on themselves and others for physical and psychological issues, and provides (some) exercises for the reader to practice and experiment.

Without a doubt EFT is fairly popular amongst the alternative and complimentary therapy sector, liberally described as an emotional, needle-free version of acupuncture. A brief Google search resulted in hundreds of links.

Wiley; Pb; £15.99
Reviewed by Ian Clancy


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