Reviewed Books & Films

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August 2015

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Is Narcissism Necessary to Lead?


For many years, I have been amazed that narcissistic characteristics can be one's weaknesses (e.g., they cause problems in the workplace, with interpersonal relationships) but also one's strengths (e.g., confidence, the ability try again after a failure).

C. Albert Bardi reviewed Narcissism and Politics: Dreams of Glory by Jerrold M. Post. Bardi states,

My last question, whether the act of finding narcissism in so many highly achieving people is merely a relabeling of ambition and achievement, is also not adequately addressed in this book.  Nevertheless, the question is an insistent one, especially given that in several instances Post uses an individual’s belief that one can lead (or rule) as evidence of narcissism. (para. 6)

So do leaders, even benevolent ones, have to be narcissists to be leaders?   Are these characteristics a strength? 

Read the Review
ReviewNarcissism, Narcissism Everywhere
By C. Albert Bardi
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(31)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

How Can We Bridge the Research-to-Practice Gap in Schools?


In Implementation of Mental Health Programs in Schools, Susan Forman discusses the myriad of issues that need to be considered for effectively implementing evidence-based programs in schools. Implementing evidence-based behavioral interventions is complex, labor intensive, and requires great attention to detail to ensure fidelity to the intervention. Add to the mix the pressures teachers and administrators face in this “age of accountability,” and it becomes clear as to why, in spite of school professionals having knowledge of evidence-based interventions, the school community may not be all that eager to implement them.  As reviewer Rosemary Flanagan points out, the problem of failing to utilize a knowledge base that is supported by research is not limited to school-based professionals; there is a broad and extensive literature on implementation spanning fields illustrates this (para. 2).

 What is your experience, as a psychologist either working within a school setting or outside the school setting as a consultant, with implementing and/or evaluating evidence-based programs implemented in schools?  What strategies have you used to gain the stakeholder support needed for implementation?

 What should be the role of the developers of evidence-based programs in helping close the research-to-practice gap and supporting high-quality implementation?

Read the Review
ReviewDon’t Put the Cart Before the Horse: Implementation of Mental Health Programs in Schools
By Rosemary Flanagan
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(31)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rose-Colored Moral Development


“Are We Getting Better?” is the title of Geoffrey Cox’s review of Michael Shermer’s The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom. My answer to Cox’s question is, I doubt it, no matter who this collective “we” is. As the subtitle of Shermer’s book states, it is science and reason that are making us better. That must include big science (as in theories of everything), practical science (e.g., fiber optics), and the scientific enterprise in general. This somehow gets to all of “us” and makes us better.

Shermer uses 17th-century witch burning in Salem as an example. When other causes of unacceptable behavior were found, women were no longer burned. Perhaps science found other ways to deal with misbehaving women. Science then made great progress so that in the 19th and 20th centuries “we” lynched more people than the number of witches who were burned 200 years earlier. Now in the 20-teens our moral development has progressed to where we can use drones to blow up buildings and kill innocent people along with, probably, terrorists. The Holocaust of the last century continues into this one in other forms and other places.

Shermer’s book appears to be part of the social science genre that selectively assembles data so as not to spoil a good story. His optimism seems unjustified, especially if “us” is the world population over the past 100 years. Even if “us” is only the United States, the answer to Cox’s question seems unclear. Do our current forms of prejudice, greed, and violence show a positive moral arc from past forms? Cox concludes in the final paragraph, “faith in human progress is mere utopianism,” and “after all, entropy—the gradual decline into disorder—is also a force of nature and all too often, of social systems.”

Read the Review
ReviewAre We Getting Better?
By Geoffrey M. Cox
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(30)

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Is Psychotherapy All About the Relationship?


PsycCRITIQUES Associate Editor Fred Heide is enthusiastic about Irvin Yalom's new book, Creatures of a Day: And Other Tales of Psychotherapy, and he compares the work with another of Yalom's books, Love’s Executioner: And Other Tales of Psychotherapy.  Love's Executioner is a remarkable little book that I have had a generation of clinical psychology and social work students read.

In his review, Dr. Heide notes:

That psychotherapy reduces suffering seems increasingly clear. Meta-analyses indicate that typical clients emerge from therapy in better shape than almost 80% of those untreated (Wampold, 2007). What accounts for these effects, however, remains shrouded in mystery. Many have proposed that the alliance between therapist and client contributes substantially (Horvath, Del Re, Fluckiger, & Symonds, 2011), as do a host of other common factors that transcend theoretical camps (Laska, Gurman, & Wampold, 2014). However, robust disagreement continues about whether the role of specific techniques is major (Hofmann, Asnaani, Vonk, Sawyer, & Fang, 2012) or relatively trivial (American Psychological Association, 2013; Wampold & Imel, 2015). (para. 2)

After a lifetime reading about, thinking about, practicing and teaching psychotherapy, I still don't know how much of the variance in outcome is associated with technique and how much is simply due to the relationship the therapist establishes with his or her client.  I edit a book series for the Society of Clinical Psychology that is predicated on the idea that evidence based practice (technique) is an essential part of good practice, yet with individual clients, I often find myself agreeing with Yalom: "The one thing I’ve come to know with certainty is that if I can create a genuine and caring environment, my patients will find the help they need" (p. 81).

Will this dilemma be resolved in my lifetime?

Read the Review
ReviewSoon You Will Be No One
By Frederick J. Heide
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(29)

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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