Book reviews February 2017

(online only)

Trauma, Survival and Resilience in War Zones: The Psychological Impact of War in Sierra Leone and Beyond

David Winter, Rachel Brown, Stephanie Goins & Clare Mason

In recent years’ news about conflict in war zones, migration and the displacement of people has been an ever present story. When the opportunity to review this book arose, I was very interested in knowing more about this issue from a psychological research perspective, rather than through media documentary work. My hope, particularly given the research interests of the authors was that it would be a thoughtful, respectful and considered read. I was not disappointed.

Naturally, the subject matter does not make at times for easy reading, but I feel that the authors have probably held back on describing some of the worst stories that they have heard to keep the balance of the book appropriate.

The layout of the book initially describes the background sociopolitical context to the war in Sierra Leone, research on psychological responses to warfare, as well as the reintegration of society after the fighting had ceased. It was poignant to read about how previous warring factions were living together and reconciling their differences, given the horrific events that happened during this period. The text then moves on to discuss survivors’ stories within specific areas such as child soldiers’, amputees’ and refugees’ stories. The final section of the book looks at issues such as post-traumatic stress, growth and resilience as well as forgiveness and reconciliation.

This is an excellent text that provides a very well-researched, sensitive and highly thought-provoking insight into people’s experiences of living within war zones. It is a very expensive book, if you buy the hardcopy version, meaning that it is probably most likely to be bought by people whose work is connected to this area. However, if, like me, you have an interest in such dominant issues, then it would make a very informative, stimulating and poignant read.

Routledge; 2016; Hb £95.00

Reviewed by Dr Mark Wylie, Consultant Clinical Psychologist


Handbook of Qualitative Organizational Research

K.D. Elsbach & R.M. Kramer (Eds.)

You: An organizational researcher seeking methodological adventure, or just some different ways of thinking about your work. Elsbach and Kramer’s volume: Just what you need.

Over the course of its 44 chapters this textbook draws together the experiences and insights of several organisational researchers, all of whom share an interest in doing innovative things with qualitative methods. The contributors take us from business schools to prisons, from hermeneutic circles to social networks, from concept maps to multilevel discourse; and in doing so, they provide a wealth of ideas for study design, data collection and analysis. The content strikes a nice balance between the conceptual and epistemological issues underlying the research methods and the practical considerations of deploying them in organisational settings. A basic familiarity with qualitative approaches, and an interest in exploring possibilities for their use, is assumed on the part of the reader. However, those with more quantitative tastes may find a couple of the later chapters, which address mixed-methodology designs, worth a look.

The material is suitable for graduate (and possibly advanced undergraduate) students as well established researchers who are looking to build upon their knowledge. So, if you are in search of inspiration for your applied research, then make this text your first port of call.

Routledge; Pb£66.99

Reviewed by Denham Phipps, University of Manchester


A Beginner’s Guide to Structural Equation Modeling (4th edn)

Randall E. Schumacker & Richard G. Lomax

Although a difficult statistical concept to master, A Beginner’s Guide to Structural Equation Modeling breaks down the process in a clear and understandable way.

Schumacker and Lomax guide readers through the entire process of structural equation modelling (SEM) from the beginning steps of analysis such as data entry and correlation, to the more complex areas of SEM, which include multilevel and latent-growth modelling. Each chapter provides the reader with an overview of the technique being described, definitions of key terms and a guide to conducting the analysis including guidance for conducting and interpreting analysis in a variety of SEM software packages.

One real strength of the book surrounds the inclusion of instructions for a variety SEM software packages, such as AMOS, R and MPlus to conduct analyses. This aids readers to follow the process in a step-by-step process to complete their SEM. Schumacker and Lomax’s clear approach provides novices in this area, like myself, with a real sense of understanding about the analysis they are performing. This is done without overwhelming the reader with statistical jargon.

This book is a must for anyone using SEM techniques. It is important to have a resource that you can dip in and out of, being able to pick up the essential parts of the analysis without reading the entire book. Schumacker and Lomax do this by breaking each chapter down into digestible chunks whilst providing instructions and interpretation of output for different software packages. Overall, a valuable resource that I will refer to over and over for this type of analysis.

Routledge; 2016; Pb £34.33
Reviewed by Natalie Harrison, University of Central Lancashire


The Art of the First Session: Making Psychotherapy Count from the Start

Robert Taibbi

Taibbi presents an accessible guide to the difficult task of developing a strong, positive therapeutic relationship with a client from the very first session – a challenge that remains present for novice and experienced practitioners alike.

Taibbi suggests that the first session is essentially a sales pitch. He uses supporting evidence from business and marketing to demonstrate the best way to ‘close the deal’, ensuring a potential client becomes a guarantee.  

The book explores the process of the first session rather than its content, meaning that the principles, skills and goals described – including creating rapport, changing the emotional climate and anticipating problems – can be applied to any therapeutic session regardless of the practitioners’ theoretical standpoint.

The book is logically presented with each chapter progressively building on the skills from the last. Indeed, later chapters move on from managing individual sessions to working with couples and families. Taibbi uses interesting case examples and vignettes to help the reader generalise the theory and apply it to practice.

The Art of the First Session is an engaging, useful and very readable book. For me as an aspiring clinical trainee, I found this book has helped to increase my confidence for clients’ first sessions through pragmatic information and advice when things don’t go to plan! Highly recommended.

Norton; 2016; Hb £18.99

Reviewed by Charlotte Jewell, Young Person’s Practitioner at Skills for Living (Action for Children), Pontypool


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