Reviewed Books & Films

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December 2014

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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