Reviewed Books & Films

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Drug Companies, Developing Countries, and Psychiatric Neocolonialism


Dennis Nissim-Sabat recently reviewed China Mills’s Decolonizing Global Mental Health: The Psychiatrization of the Majority World for PsycCRITIQUES. In his review, Nissim-Sabat points out that huge profits are accessible to those drug companies that can successfully convince millions of citizens and their health care providers in developing countries such as India that they need to take psychotropic medications with the same enthusiasm and frequency found in more developed countries such as the United States.  A similar point is made in Wade Pickren’s (2010) PsycCRITIQUES review of Ethan Watters’s book Crazy Like Us.  

Do psychologists—and especially international psychologists working in majority countries—have an ethical obligation to oppose “psychiatric neocolonialism”?  If so, what form should this opposition take?


Pickren, W. (2010). Should the world be as apple as American pie? [Review of the book Crazy like us: The globalization of the American psyche, by E. Watters]. PsycCRITIQUES, 55(46).
Read the Review
ReviewPsychiatric Imperialism in India
By Denis Nissim-Sabat
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(49)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How Should Therapists and Health Psychologists Use Internet Social Support Groups?


Sarah Kass reviewed The Paradox of Internet Groups: Alone in the Presence of Virtual Others by Haim Weinberg. Given the advantages and disadvantages of using internet support groups in therapy, what two (or more) suggestions would you give to therapists and health psychologists who wanted to use such tools?

Read the Review
ReviewHidden Relating: The World of Online Support
By Sarah A. Kass
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(47)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Old Friends Needed


“Friends, Communities, and the Rest of Our Lives” is the title of Robert Intrieri’s review of With a Little Help From Our Friends: Creating Community as We Grow Older by Beth Baker. Intrieri says this book is an “analysis of why all of us should not be afraid to look forward into our future and make critical decisions now about how we wish to live our lives in old age” (para. 5). At the end of his review he says this book should be read by students, professionals, and anyone anticipating retirement.

What about those of us who already are there, and have been there for a while? Some gerontologists call us the old old. Baker’s “thesis [is] that community and relationships are essential to sustain us through the end of life” (para. 6). So, if we haven’t done so, we need to make friends and find community. There is an implication that not doing so may lead to loneliness, depression, and, well, the end.

To avoid that down side, an old old person may need some help. There will be a lot more people in that age range in the coming years, but to meet their needs Intrieri says we “will need a significant increase in the number of appropriately trained geropsychologists” and related professionals (para. 8). When I was doing accreditation visits, almost all programs had a specialty in child and adolescent clinical training. Training to work with older adults was unusual. Is that still the situation?

Read the Review
ReviewFriends, Communities, and the Rest of Our Lives
By Robert C. Intrieri
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(49)

Thursday, January 08, 2015

LGBT Voices: How Closely Are We Listening?


In her review of Queer Voices From the Classroom, Glenda M.Russell notes the importance of efforts to give voice to those whose voices have been silenced. In this instance, the focus is on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) teachers. Although social attitudes about the LGBT community have changed and are changing, Russell notes that changes in the classroom have come more slowly.

In the book, the experiences of those who provide instruction in diverse school settings—rural, urban, public, private—were captured. Narratives were solicited for which teachers were asked to discuss “(a) their identities as queer teachers, (b) how their identities influenced their decision to become teachers, (c) significant moments regarding their lives as teachers, and (d) their hopes as queer teachers” (para. 3). The chapters provide insight and inspiration, yet they also make it clear that there is work to be done. For example, although not addressed in the book, Russell questions whether LGBT people can freely decide whether they want to disclose or withhold their identities in the school environment.

As psychologists read this book, it will be important for them to consider similar questions. Does our profession parallel the school environments described? Are LGBT individuals able to find affirming environments within research and therapeutic psychological communities? Is our awareness of the costs and consequences associated with an inability to express a stigmatized identity adequate? Are we aware of the unique stressors and the needs of LGBT individuals and the concerns these may generate, or is a book that describes LGBT experiences in psychology needed?        

Read the Review
ReviewLGBT Teachers: Narratives of Bias and Challenge
By Glenda M. Russell
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(47)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Is Mindfulness a Religion in Disguise?


In their review of Lisa Dale Miller’s Effortless Mindfulness: Genuine Mental Health Through Awakened Presence, Melvin Miller and Melissa Sivvy point to a possible ethical problem in the surging mindfulness movement:

Can we offer a psychotherapeutic technique with religious underpinnings without running into ethical complications? If Buddhism is a religion (one of the five major religions of the world) and mindfulness, as declared by Miller, is a Buddhist psychology, then might it be said that psychotherapists who promote the use of mindfulness with their patients are offering a cure through the adoption of a religion and/or religious practices? (section "The Conundrum," para. 1)

Do you believe this is an ethical problem?  Should we continue to delve into Buddhist philosophy as an underpinning of mindfulness, or does that run the risk of endorsing a religious approach to the solution of mental health issues? 

Read the Review
ReviewThe Contributions of Mindfulness Practice in a Secular Profession
By Melvin E. Miller and Melissa Sivvy
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(47)

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)

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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