Reviewed Books & Films

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May 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Have We Failed People With Serious Mental Illness?


Ellen Dwyer, a professor in the Department of History at Indiana University, was recruited to review E. Fuller Torrey’s book American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System.  In her review, Dwyer alludes to our “disastrous failure” (para. 7) to meet the needs of people with serious mental illness.  She notes:

[E]ven Torrey’s critics agree that the “deinstitutionalization” movement was flawed and that many community mental health centers, especially in their early decades, treated ever larger numbers of the so-called worried well but failed to meet the needs of those with chronic disorders. (para. 1)

Dwyer concludes her review with this paragraph:

Torrey has been a passionate critic of American mental illness policies for more than half a century.  If this book generates yet more outrage, it merits widespread distribution. However, insofar as he generates fear and offers overly simple solutions to the problems that so disturb him, his recommendations may have undesirable, albeit unintended, consequences for the very people whom he wants to help. (para. 11)

Is it fair to call deinstitutionalization a disastrous failure?  If so, has the damage been repaired a half century later?   Will the Affordable Care Act result in more humane and more accessible care for those with serious mental illness?


Read the Review
ReviewThe Tragic History of the Community Mental Health Act
By Ellen Dwyer
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(17)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Gender, Genitals, Cutting, and Power


In their review of Genital Cutting: Protecting Children From Medical, Cultural, and Religious Infringements, Sussie Eshun and Irina Khusid note how long the circumcision debate has gone on, the differences in attitudes about male and female circumcision, and the need to provide parents with balanced education and information on the topic. However, the reviewers note the difficulty that parents have in obtaining clear, evidence-based information on circumcision. In Western industrialized nations there is little debate over female circumcision; it is considered wrong and is referred to as mutilation. The opposite is true for male circumcision. It is generally presented as a beneficial medical procedure and is deeply rooted in cultural and religious tradition. Medical and religious support for male circumcision creates a power imbalance in this culture that prevents debate, just as the strength of male power and cultural tradition limits discussions of female circumcision in those societies that practice it.

Eshun and Khusid suggest that parents receive information and education on male circumcision prior to the birth of a child and that they be informed that this is an elective medical procedure. However, is this recommendation sufficient, given medical and cultural sentiment? Can parents who see this practice as a violation of the child’s human rights who wish to decline it for other reasons comfortably do so? How do uncircumcised males handle the stigma of being uncircumcized?  Does decision science or social psychology have anything to contribute to this ongoing debate?


Read the Review
      By Sussie Eshun and Irina Khusid
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(19)

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Bringing Strengths to Populations With Disabilities


If there was ever a group who could benefit from a strengths-based approach to psycholgical well-being, it is people with disabilities. But, ironically, such individuals have been marginalized and stereotyped for decades. Michael Wehmeyer's edited text, The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Disability, offers a welcomed shift.

In their PsycCRITIQUES review of the book, Kara Ayers and Stephanie Weber highlight the importance of bringing positive psychology approaches to both research studies and clinical practice with people with disabilities. They observe,

The contributions of positive psychology to professionals who work with individuals with disabilities are immense, as the paradigm shift from deficit-based to strengths-based models could significantly improve treatment outcomes as well as the general attitudes of society. (section Pitfalls and Limitations, para. 3)

What are the necessary ingredients for a practitioner to make this paradigm shift from a deficit-based to a strengths-based approach with individuals with disabilities? How can this be sustained? If a paradigm shift can be achieved with practitioners, could it eventually impact societal attitudes?

Is there any benefit to taking a deficit-based approach to people with disabilities? Can one still be a good clinician if one overlooks a strengths-based approach among people with disabilities?

What are the most important strengths to help people with disabilities capitalize on? Skill-based strengths, external strengths (e.g., resources), talents/abilities, character strengths...all of the above?


Read the Review
ReviewApproaching Disability From a Strengths-Based Perspective
By Kara Ayers and Stephanie Weber
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(12)

Monday, May 05, 2014

What is More Important for the Quality of the Interracial Marriage: The Dyad or the Social Environment?


Bobbi Miller reviewed Kyle Killian's Interracial Couples, Intimacy, and Therapy:  Crossing Racial Borders. Miller notes,

A major strength of this work is the balance Killian is able to attain between pointing out areas of potential concern in the couple dynamic and remaining sensitive to how those dynamics developed and ways they have allowed couples to function in oppressive circumstances. (para. 2)

What is the greater challenge for interracial couples: coping with the possible lack of support from family, friends, and others in their network, or coping with race-related issues within their dyad? Which set of issues has the greater impact on relationship-related variables such as (to use an Investment Model perspective) perceived rewards, costs, investments, alternatives, and, of course, relationship satisfaction and commitment?

 Read the Review

ReviewCreating Space for Dialogue: Discussing Interracial Relationships in a Racialized World
      By Bobbi J. Miller
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(19)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Eliminating Bad Leaders: How Should We Do It and Should We Do It Now?


Alisha Francis reviewed Dennis Tourish's The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership:  A Critical Perspective. Francis states,

Dennis Tourish notes that many scholars seem to suggest no alternative to the idea that "oppressive power relations are inscribed on all human interaction, meaning that leader-follower relations remain inescapably tortured, conflicted, alienated, and incapable of resolution” (p. 14). Tourish goes on to indicate that the objective of the present work is to present a more constructive response by not only asking critical questions, but also attempting to offer alternatives (para. 1).

How can we quickly identify bad leaders before they do irreparable damage?   A friend of mine was recently denied tenure despite having the best publication record in her department, very high teaching evaluations, and three teaching awards, and she served on several university committees.  Every year her department chair gave her glowing evaluations and assured her that she would easily earn tenure.  She was denied tenure, partly as a result of the negative recommendation of this same chair.  The school's administration seemed to realize, too late, that the chair had shown poor leadership, but my friend's tenure decision was not reversed.  So, there was also failure of the upper leadership. The damage was done.

Does transformational leadership theory (or any other approach) speak to the quick identification of poor leaders?  And then what? Do these theories speak to improving such leaders through further training,  or to their termination?


Read the Review
ReviewYou Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto: Leadership, Management, and the Ethics of Influence
By Alisha Francis
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(15)

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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