Reviewed Books & Films

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Stepping Up to the Challenge


In the review of Treatment-Refractory Schizophrenia: A Clinical Conundrum Philip Harvey explores the failure to respond to pharmacological treatments observed through “cycles of treatment, medication discontinuation, and relapse” (para. 1) among patients who are schizophrenic. Despite the dominant focus on pharmacological treatment, with particular attention to clozapine, Harvey reminds readers that “all interventions for schizophrenia are not medical or pharmacological” (last para.). He notes that various psychosocial treatments that are potentially important for patients with poor antipsychotic response are rarely used. Harvey calls for mental health professionals to recognize this fact and address the role that all have in treating patients with schizophrenia who “fail to respond to adequate treatment trials with antipsychotic medications” (last para.).

There are hints that awareness of the importance of psychosocial interventions in the treatment of schizophrenia has lagged among treating professionals in the United States. Have psychologists and other mental health professionals failed to keep abreast of treatment evidence and options for this disorder?

Perhaps we have become intrigued by newer disorders that receive greater media attention; or have we been lulled into an overconfident belief in the effectiveness of pharmacological treatments and abandoned our role in the care of those with serious mental illness?

How likely is it that a population approach to addressing the needs of patients who do not respond to adequate treatment will reengage psychologists in the care of another community of those who may need us?  

Read the Review
ReviewWhen Treatment of Schizophrenia Fails, What Happens Next?
By Philip D. Harvey
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(45)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Is the U.S. Criminal Justice System to Blame for Creating the Next Generation of Offenders?


Kathleen Malley-Morrison and Ellen Gutowski, reviewers of Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children: Cross-National Comparative Studies by Joseph Murray, Catrien C.J.H. Bijleveld, David P. Farrington, and Rolf Loeber, provide several examples of violence in American culture and how this violence is embedded within a context in which undesired behavior is punished through a criminal justice system focused primarily on retribution rather than rehabilitation.

In Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children: Cross-National Comparative Studies the detrimental effect of a punishment-oriented criminal justice system on children of offenders is explored. As the reviewers describe, the book presents evidence that incarceration contributes to crime rates “in the next generation as part of a system of cyclical violence in which a punishment-oriented society maintains or heightens the problem through its retributive efforts to suppress violence and other unwanted behavior” (para. 3).

Several theoretical frameworks to guide understanding of this issue are discussed in the book, and Malley-Morrison and Gutowski offer an additional viewpoint: that an unequal distribution of power and wealth in the United States contributes to both the disproportionately high incarceration rate and the negative outcomes associated with it.

Do you agree that unequal distribution of power and wealth is a contributing factor?

How can policy be changed to mitigate the negative impacts of incarceration on children and families? 

Should the United States’ criminal justice system move beyond its focus on retribution to a more rehabilitative-focused system, like those found in the Netherlands and Sweden?


Read the Review
ReviewThe Enduring Legacy of Punishment
By Kathleen Malley-Morrison and Ellen Gutowski
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(40)

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Why Do Wealthy People Steal?


John Gonsiorek recently reviewed The Psychology of Theft and Loss: Stolen and Fleeced by Robert Tyminski. In describing the last two chapters of the book, Gonsiorek says, “One squarely anticipates a critique of this work: that theft is primarily socioeconomically driven. True to his eclectic style, Tyminski gives socioeconomic causation some due—but no more. The book concludes with a chapter exploring the internal thief in everyone, and considering possible positive features of this in the overall psychological economy” (para 8).

One issue that came to my mind, and about which many people are perplexed, is, why would someone with more than enough money steal?  

Read the Review
ReviewNo Fleecing Here
By John C. Gonsiorek
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(46)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Can Darwin Explain Being Down in the Dumps?


Jonathan Rottenberg’s The Depths: The Evolutionary Origin of the Depression Epidemic points to a great deal of research suggesting that mild depression has evolutionary advantages. These include increases in problem-solving ability, attention, and the capacity to more realistically appraise certain situations.  However, in his review of the book, Irwin Rosenfarb writes, “it was never clear to me how an evolutionary approach could explain severe depression”  (para. 6). Can you see any good reasons why severe depression would offer an evolutionary advantage?

Read the Review
ReviewIs Depression an Adaptation?
By Irwin S. Rosenfarb
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(44)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We Will Age, But How Well?


We will all age and we hope to age well; however, we will carry health and mental health issues into that process and may also experience new issues. In his review of The Evergreen Guide: Helping People to Survive and Thrive in Later Years, Alan Swope notes the aging of our population and the lack of preparation to deal with its mental health needs. The Evergreen Guide describes a program, based on efforts initiated in Ireland a decade ago, that focuses on psycho-education designed to promote mental health and successful aging.

Swope highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the book:

The strengths of The Evergreen Guide are its clarity and the applicability of the psychoeducational modules. Its glaring weakness is its lack of any coverage of older adults' sexuality. The sex life of people over 65 seems to be the last taboo of geropsychiatry. (last para.)

The reviewer’s comments point to another area where biases may affect not only the care that we provide, but also our ability to identify concerns that are potentially important to the people we serve. We explore many issues of diversity in our training, but do we pay sufficient attention to aging stereotypes and myths? As a profession, are we doing enough to retain the wisdom of older psychologists, recruit older adults into training programs, and ensure a workforce that reflects the population that we will serve?

Finally, although the The Evergreen Guide considers cross-cultural issues, Swope offers some critique of the coverage. I am led to wonder to what extent we understand issues of aging in diverse communities, particularly the issues of diverse aging in the United States.

Read the Review
ReviewAn Agenda for Positive Aging: Lessons From Ireland
By Alan Swope
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(41)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Psychologists’ Academic History


Psychological science traces its history to academic institutions mostly in Europe and the United States. Much of that history is documented in research reports and biographies, but the academic context of that activity also is of great importance.

In his review of Essential Documents in the History of American Higher Education, Bruce Henderson describes that context broadly in U.S. colleges and universities. The documents in the book include curriculum reports, memoirs, and speeches by people who were not psychologists. Henderson points out that  psychology also has an academic history that goes beyond its research. His examples include James McKeen Cattell’s conflict with the president of Columbia University, John B. Watson’s scandal at Johns Hopkins, and “Edward Tolman’s response to the University of California’s imposition of a loyalty oath in 1950 (Carroll, 2012), a landmark in the history of academic freedom” (para. 12). I would add a European example in Wolfgang Kohler’s stand against the Nazis (Henle, 1978).

As students and faculty, psychologists have their own experiences that illuminate academic life in the last century. Several psychologists have been presidents of universities. That includes Robert Sternberg, the previous editor of PsycCRITIQUES’s predecessor journal, Contemporary Psychology—APA Review of Books. They should have some interesting stories to tell and perhaps some worthy speeches. Many departments have written their history, which may be mostly of local interest but are likely to contain incidents of more general interest.

What are your suggestions for documents that might be included in psychology’s academic history? Perhaps someone who enjoys editing books could put together our field’s volume.


Henle, M. (1978). One man against the Nazis: Wolfgang Kohler. American Psychologist, 33, 939-944.
Read the Review
ReviewGlimpses of American Higher Education’s Past
By Bruce B. Henderson
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(42)

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Truth Will Set Whom Free?


In reviewing James T. Hansen’s new book Philosophical Issues in Counseling and Psychotherapy: Encounters With Four Questions About Knowing, Effectiveness, and Truth, Milan Pomichalek offers a critique of Hansen’s postmodern stance toward counselling:

Adopting such a stance leads to the conclusion that counseling is most effective when the counseling  situation is characterized by the contextual factors common to all healing paradigms and when interventions are "judged by the degree to which they bring beneficial consequences to clients, not according to whether, in the practitioner's judgment, they accurately correspond to the intrinsic nature of some client reality” (p. 128). (para. 6)

But Pomichalek argues,

[T]he beneficial consequences of counseling interventions are not completely independent of “the intrinsic nature” of a “client's reality” (p. 128). True, it is not the reality represented by theoretical constructs of, say, id-ego-superego, but a reality nonetheless. Otherwise, how could the interventions be judged as meaningful or emotionally resonant (p. 127)? (para. 9)

Do you think it matters whether a therapist uncovers some actual truth about a client, or is it sufficient that the client benefits regardless of whether what is uncovered is literally true?

Read the Review
ReviewEncountering Encounters: Psychotherapy and the Challenge of Humanism
By Milan Pomichalek
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(41)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Is ADHD a Valid Disorder?


Robert Furey and Colleen Furey, reviewers of The ADHD Explosion: Myths, Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for Performance by Stephen P. Hinshaw and Richard M. Scheffler, describe the “ADHD explosion” in stark and alarming terms: in 2011, there were 2 million more children aged 4 to 17 in the United States with an ADHD diagnosis compared with 2003; an estimated one in nine youths (6.4 million) currently has an ADHD diagnosis; 19 percent of adolescent males in the United States have received the diagnosis at some point in their lives; an estimated 9 million U.S. adults have an ADHD diagnosis. The financial costs of ADHD can be measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars, including both cost of treatment services (direct costs) as well as “hidden” costs such as unemployment, underemployment, loss of productivity in the workplace, and costs incurred in the criminal justice system through higher rates of criminal behavior.

The diagnosis of ADHD, and its medication treatments, has not been without controversy—some say that ADHD doesn’t exist at all, that the symptoms can be better explained by other syndromes. Others maintain that ADHD exists, but it is overdiagnosed due to cursory assessments and failure to adequately distinguish it from other syndromes. There is also controversy about the medications used to treat ADHD—children are commonly treated with central nervous system stimulants, like Ritalin, that work on the neurotransmitter dopamine and carry potential for abuse.

What is your view of the ADHD explosion—is it “an epidemic of ADHD misdiagnosis” as recently characterized by neurologist Richard Saul (2014) (cited in the review, para. 7)? Is it a valid disorder? Is there need for concern about the safety and long-term impact of the stimulant medications used for treatment?

Read the Review
ReviewThe Economics of Inattention
By Robert Furey and Colleen Furey
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(40)

Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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