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Some extra book reviews.

A hand-sized ‘handbook’

Introduction to Psychological Theories and Psychotherapy

Andrew Koffman & M. Grace Walters

There are many so-called handbooks one can purchase these days, but very few would actually fit in your hand; however, the aptly named Introduction to Psychological Theories and Psychotherapy is in a rare class of its own being hand-sized, alas it is not called a handbook. The book is in the Pittsburgh Pocket Psychiatry series – a series of small books packed with content but genuinely easy to carry around.

Whoever argued that size does not matter evidently had this book in mind – a well-organised, succinct yet informative collection of theory, research, and contemporary as well as more classical perspectives in psychotherapy. I personally enjoyed exploring each chapter, and reading the interwoven theoretical backdrop alongside the explanatory and illustrative case studies. There is no wasted space or ‘filler’ words, the book is straight to the point and achieves its main aim with aplomb – to provide an introduction to psychological theories and psychotherapy.

Be it a handy revision tool, a useful text to refer to, or a starting point for anyone with an interest, this book would certainly do you no harm. Genuinely easy to navigate and thoroughly informative, Introduction to Psychological Theories and Psychotherapy is surely a must for any student of psychiatry, psychology or any other mental health related discipline.

Oxford University Press; 2014; Pb £38.99

Reviewed by Marie Sara Louis Crooks, who is an Associate Psychology Practitioner and Graduate Member of BPS

Personalising learning G Is for Genes: The Impact of Genetics on Education and Achievement

Kathryn Asbury & Robert Plomin

Although the booming field of genetics has touched a wide variety of areas, including public health, medicine and law, the same cannot be said for educational practice. This book aims to change that by introducing practitioners and policy makers to a range of behavioural genetics research with serious applications for schooling. In doing so, authors Ashbury and Plomin defy the ‘blank slate’ narrative preoccupying education to date. Instead, a call for widespread awareness and adoption of genetically based personalised learning is stressed. In line with countries such as Finland, the authors emphasise a need for teachers to draw out and reward student-specific talents, in addition to the current focus on basic skills.

A key point made throughout this book is the need for society to recognise and reward a variety of skills and talents, as opposed to rigid curriculum criteria. Mental aptitudes in arithmetic, writing and reading as well as physical capabilities are discussed as largely genetically based, especially in the younger years. This has huge implications for primary school teaching. In PE for example, choice in physical activities is needed to allow matching of an activity to an individual’s genetic disposition. This is described as resulting in greater prolonged uptake of exercise in later years, thus providing support that has effects stretching far beyond typical classroom-based learning and into public health.

A clear vision for future practice in genetically sensitive education is provided. Suggestions to introduce personalised learning in schools include training all new teachers in genetic influences, providing an increased subject range for pupils and installing Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for all students. The authors recognise and reflect on the somewhat contentious nature of these claims and provide a useful implementation plan to install these techniques.

The book provides a great showcase of the work to date from TEDS (Twins Early Development Study), a longitudinal cohort following twins born in England and Wales between 1994 and 1996.  It also provides a summary of core genetics concepts in a highly accessible manner for the book’s wide intended audience. In seeking to unite educationalists, policy makers and geneticists with a unified aim, the authors have successfully given food for thought and indeed, action.

Wiley-Blackwell; 2013; Pb £16.99

Reviewed by Emma Norris, who is a PhD student at University College London and Associate Editor (Reviews)

An indispensable resource

Hard-to-Survey Populations

Roger Tourangeau, Brad Edwards, Timothy P. Johnson, Kirk M. Wolter & Nancy Bates (Eds.)

This is an excellent book that fills a gap in the methodological literature. With contributions from some of the most notable practitioners of survey methodology in the world, this collection is exceptionally comprehensive. The book contains discussions of how to survey groups as diverse as people with intellectual disabilities, the homeless, political extremists and stigmatised groups, as well as a fascinating chapter on the challenges of surveying linguistically diverse populations. One should not therefore assume that this is a dry statistical tome; there is much here for the student, applied researcher and clinician who need a jargon-free introduction to this topic.

There are also discussions of sampling methods for the more methodologically inclined, including explanations of location sampling, which has been used to sample the homeless, nomads and immigrants. Some of the explanations of sampling strategies may however be difficult for readers who are not comfortable with mathematics with Part IV on sampling strategies being particularly challenging in this regard.

Each chapter is, however, self-contained with useful references for the reader who wishes to investigate any topic in more depth. A chapter-by-chapter reading of the book isn’t therefore necessary. The book may profitably be read either as a comprehensive introduction to hard-to-survey populations or as a reference text for those who are thinking about surveying a particular group.

In short, an indispensable resource for any psychologist – irrespective of specialism or level of expertise – who wishes to collect robust data about the lives of people who aren't always given a voice.

Cambridge University Press; 2014; Pb £35.00

Reviewed by Paul Webb who is a Research Officer with Praxis Care

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