More reviews

A round-up of other reviews from the February issue.

Does the ‘crisis’ in psychology continue today?
Psychology After the Crisis: Scientific Paradigms and Political Debate
Ian Parker

This book is part of Ian Parker’s Psychology After Critique series, which brings together key papers produced from his career to date. I was particularly keen to read this book to find out how he would address the ‘crisis in psychology’ debates more than 20 years after those historic debates and challenges between experimental and critical psychologists.

In this first book in the series, he discusses key issues including: what the ‘crisis’ was and how this has informed contemporary psychology today; how discourse analytic research emerged in relation to cognitive laboratory research and finally, consideration of the extent to which debates about perspectives and theories in psychology is important for considering the type of discipline that psychology is today.

Each chapter in this book includes a summary box, which is placed at the introduction of each new chapter. This was a useful addition to this text as it contextualises each paper and enables Parker to reflect on each work. In the first few chapters, Parker begins with charting the ways in which discourse analysis and critical psychology emerged during the 1970s as well as outlining core critical psychological approaches such as: Marxism, feminism, psychoanalysis and post-structuralism. Other chapters in this book include coverage of how universities are ‘not a good place for psychotherapy and counselling training’ as well as considering issues for psychologists, such as climate change and why it is important to consider how politics and radicalism should be an important part of the research and practice that we engage in, both within and outside of psychology. Finally, I think that this book would be particularly useful for psychology and counselling undergraduates, postgraduates and scholars as well as students and researchers in fields such as language studies, cultural studies, sociology and anthropology.

Routledge; 2014; Pb £22.65
Reviewed by Dr Alexander John Bridger who is Senior Lecturer at the University of Huddersfield

Note: There are reviews by Alexander Bridger of two more books in Ian Parker’s Psychology After Critique series in this month’s online-only reviews at www.thepsychologist.org.uk/reviews

 

Showing the human condition
X + Y
Morgan Matthews (Director)

With a suitable amount of background knowledge in my pocket, I expected to be overly critical of X + Y. If its depiction of a boy with autism stepped out of line of what I deemed to be accurate characteristics of someone on the spectrum, then I had little hope of enjoying it. Of course, individuals are individuals, but we know too well that cinema can often go over the top given the opportunity.

Diagnosed as having autism with aspects of synaesthesia, young Nathan (Asa Butterfield) plods along through his youth as an apparently emotionless and cold child, much to his mother's despair. However, after discovering his love for maths and the support of an uncharacteristically likeable teacher (Rafe Spall), Nathan attempts to take on the International Mathematical Olympiad to prove his worth, but along the way his social struggles may make the task harder than it first seems.

With compliments needed across the board, X + Y should be considered as staple viewing for its importance in bringing autism back to the forefront of cinema. Most significantly, the film focused on an aspect of the autism so often forgotten about in the provision of care. The effect on the family, portrayed emotively through Nathan’s mother (Sally Hawkins) reminded me so vividly that help is necessary not only for the one with the diagnosis.  

What I enjoyed most about X + Y was how my scepticism quickly washed away as the film unfurled. Every time a key situation came along (and believe me there were many) I worried about sensationalism and tarnishing the essence of the film for the sake of cinematic licence. Fortunately, the film continued at an ebb and flow that was not only insightful to the world of autism, but also played on the innate human drive to find solace in each other when times get hard, even for a disorder so often characterised as lacking in empathy. Nathan, the supporting cast and everyone involved in X + Y brilliantly show the human condition runs through everyone, just in different ways.

Reviewed by Ben Carroll who is an Assistant Psychologist for Autism Care UK

 

Managing psychological disability
Mental Illness in the Workplace
H.G. Harder, S.L. Wagner & J.A. Rash

If one in four people experience mental illness at some point in their lives, then it is quite possible that
a given employer will, sooner or later, encounter a mental health concern amongst its workforce. What should the employer do about it? This is the main question to which Harder and colleagues address themselves here.

The authors begin with some scene-setting: what we understand by ‘mental illness’, and why it should matter to employers. Importantly with regard to the latter point, they put forward both the moral argument (inclusion and engagement in work can be beneficial for well-being) and the business argument (a workplace that promotes good mental health is likely to be more productive and have lower staff turnover). The text then turns to the examination of depression, anxiety and stress as specific mental health conditions that could be encountered in the workplace. For each, there is some discussion of aetiology and treatment, followed by the implications for the management of staff within an organisation. Finally, some further general issues are discussed: integrating employees with mental health conditions into the workforce; involving mental health professionals; and creating a psychologically healthy workplace. In discussing the last topic, the authors draw from positive psychology as well as traditional work design models. Those who may find themselves putting forward a business case for an intervention in their own organisation will find the appendices on calculating return on investment particularly useful.

This book is largely intended to provide practical guidance, grounded in relevant concepts from clinical and occupational psychology, on dealing with mental health issues at work – both the prevention of problems in the first place and the management of problems that do occur. While it is accessible to a general management audience, I suspect that such readers would find it a little too technical to read in its entirety. It is, though, ideal for a human resources professional or administrator of an employee assistance programme. It would also be a helpful read for a psychologist who requires an introduction to managing mental health at work.

Gower; 2014; Hb £85.00

 

Job satisfaction
Workplace Wellbeing: How to Build Psychologically Healthy Workplaces
Arla Day, Kevin Kelloway & Joseph Hurrell Jr (Eds.)

Global to small-scale companies are looking to create psychologically healthy workplaces to boost employee productivity and well-being, reduce sickness costs and show social responsibility. This edited collection from an international team of authors reflects traditional and recent work in organisational health psychology. Aimed primarily at practitioners, the book’s focus is largely on well-being rather than physical health.

Topics covered range from business-orientated areas such as financial benefits and agreeable leadership, to health-related aspects of positive psychology, stress and work–life balance. Learning styles in the workplace are also touched on, bringing in some work from educational psychology. Perspectives are given from both employers and employees, with discussion of benefits, obligations and legal rights for both parties. Step-by-step processes are provided displaying methods for installing healthy workplaces: useful guides for practitioners and those designing interventions. Each section ends with discussion of future directions, providing useful starting points for research projects.

Although detailed, this book is very text-heavy and would benefit from more model diagrams or photos to boost appeal. As a physical activity researcher, I was disappointed by a lack of consideration of activity and other health behaviours in the work environment. Work sedentary time is a hot topic at the moment, with increased popularity of standing desks and walking meetings. As there is such a strong evidence base for the association between physical activity and mental health, it seems the authors may have missed a trick here. However, this book will arguably be relevant to students and teachers of organisational and health psychology, as well as practitioners and HR consultants in the field.

Wiley Blackwell; 2014; Pb £34.99
Reviewed by Emma Norris who is a PhD student at University College London and Associate Editor (Reviews)
Reviewed by Denham Phipps who is a Research Fellow, at the University of Manchester

 

A practical and open message
The Small Big: Small Changes That Spark Big Influence
Steve J. Martin, Noah J. Goldstein & Robert Cialdini

The Small Big outlines how deceptively small changes can produce big results when influencing others. Social influence is introduced as the way in which individuals are shaped by the perception and actions of others. The title takes a practical perspective, distilling decades of research in persuasion science into easily digested chapters centring on a single factor of influence. The experience of the three authors, all prominent characters in the field, brings a critical and supportive presence to the bear on the title.

Though the individual ‘small Big changes’ discussed are highly diverse, loosely these follow Cialdini’s six weapons of influence (authority, reciprocity, scarcity, liking, consistency  and social proof). Real-world examples are drawn, both from the writers’ personal experiences and further afield, including: changes that lower tax avoidance rates; developing resilience in the face of failure; and building confident and effective communication skills.

The Small Big presents a very engaging and accessible read, providing practical insight in a well-supported yet succinct manner. Whilst some may grumble that the book lacks academic detail, this is insignificant criticism in comparison to the overall practical and open message conveyed and fulfilling reading experience.

Profile Books; 2014; Pb £11.99
Reviewed by Rory McDonald
who is a writer and researcher at the University of Central Lancashire

 

A therapist’s personal and professional intrigues
A Bird Stuck on the Sky: A Psychological Tale
Gerald Alan Fox

The author, as a practising psychotherapist has created an engaging novel depicting the life of a fictitious behavioural psychotherapist, Mike Daniels. The story entwines Mike’s work life, describing different client cases, and his home life. His wife is tormented by a family tragedy, and Mike decides to ignore all common sense and unwritten rules about working with one’s own family and tries to treat her.

Throughout the book the description of Mike’s work with clients is captivating, almost urging you to rush ahead and find out what is at the root of an issue. He seems to glide smoothly through to a denouement with most of his clients. In sharp contrast, his efforts with his own wife seem incompetent and difficult.  Mike, himself, also has a secret from his past that hinders his progress, narrowing his perspective in his personal life, putting his marriage and more at risk.

This book would make an interesting and easy read for those who enjoy a good mystery or Sherlock Holmes/Poirot case, not only in the fascinating patient cases that Mike encounters, but also the adventures in exploring and understanding his own issues and those of his wife. The reader gains an insight into how the mind and our memories can influence and profoundly affect our lives.

Overall, the author has written an entertaining novel, thought-provoking and enlightening for not just psychologists but anyone who enjoys the intrigues of the human mind.     

CreateSpace; 2015; Pb £7.99
Reviewed by Kate Sparks who is a Chartered Psychologist in health

 

‘We are here to help you be more like people like you’
Codename: REMOTE
Tassos Stevens (Director)

Codename: REMOTE transports its audience to a world where the character Dennis is pitching his vision, a theatre of the future. We have been brought together to help the final stages of development of a system that will enable theatres to learn to respond to our desires.

This project is part of Coney, an interactive theatre and game play company: ‘Our work is guided by principles of loveliness, curiosity and adventure and inspired by the belief that the world can be magical place where ordinary people can do extraordinary things.’

This fun piece explores themes of freedom of choice and the impact of an ever-growing internet. Working in the NHS with increased discussions about advances in technology and therelated pros and cons, this piece really struck a chord. How will things change with Google Glass and personalised consumer technology? With audience participation throughout, responding to simple questions, I was aware of the possible social biases at play. Are we really governing the decisions being made? Are we really responding truthfully or are we responding how we think we should?

This performance at Camden People’s Theatre was a ‘scratch’ performance to test out new ideas and is part of development, with the final piece scheduled for later in 2015. This is an exciting and thought-provoking piece, and if you are up for some gentle audience participation I recommend you go see it.

Reviewed by Harriet Mills who is an Assistant Psychologist with Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

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