Book Reviews

We are constantly reviewing various books relating to the field of psychology. We hope these reviews will be of interest to our visitors. We always select books that relate to subjects of interest to our visitors. We only review books that are directly related to our field of expertise. Our clients often request references of books to read that deal with subject matter of interest to them. Our team of doctors continuously review various authors and books in their respective field of expertise and publish these book reviews in our web site. A list of these books is available further down on this page. As reviewed by our psychologists

Dr. Iris Jackson

Dr. Sandy Ages

Dr. Catherine Pink 

Dr. Karen J. Coupland 

Dr. Alex Weinberger

Dr. Frances Smyth 

Important notice: You may order directly with Caversham Bookstore by clicking on either the bookcover (when available) or book title (in orange). This will link you directly with Caversham Bookstores where you can place your order.


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LIFE LESSONS / Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach us About the Mysteries of Life and Living

By Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and David Kessler, Simon and Shuster, New York, January 2001, 224 pages, $18.24 Reviewed by Dr. Catherine Pink, C. Psych., August 2001

Kubler-Ross and Kessler have written an inspiring book about living life in the moment, with open-heartedness and less fear in our relationships. They have compiled the “lessons” from decades of work with people who are dying. The wisdom of their teachings comes from their patients, those living “at the edge of life” and is passed down to those of us who still have time to “make changes in our lives and enjoy the results”.

Kubler-Ross is the famous author of “On Death and Dying” and the first contemporary Western writer to identify the different stages experienced when we grieve a loss. Kessler is a hospice worker and pupil of Kubler-Ross. Some of the material in “Life Lessons” comes from Kubler-Ross’ own experiences of being close to death several times over the last few years, after suffering a paralyzing stroke. She wanted to write this as perhaps her last book. Both authors have dedicated their careers to helping the dying and their families through death and grieving. In the course of their work, they realized that many of their patients had similar thoughts about the meaning of life, similar regrets and wishes, and transformed ways of being with themselves and in relationships now that they were close to death. The “lessons” are essentially a compilation of the communal reflections of their patients. In many ways, the teachings also provide a lost connection with our elders. This loss in many contemporary cultures has meant that we live without the wisdom of those who have gone before. Kubler-Ross and Kessler wanted to provide a link, and have done so. The “Lessons” are presented as 14 separate segments or chapters, e.g. Love, Authenticity, Loss, Guilt. These can be read in any order and are little gems that can easily be referred to again. In each section, the authors speak as one voice and then separately, with their initials as headings to indicate the speaker. I found this style disjointed and somewhat irritating. However, I did appreciate hearing Kubler-Ross’ individual thoughts, having followed her work for many years. Not surprisingly, the singular message that stands out is about the enduring importance of love and connectedness, along with self-acceptance. After all is said and done, as Kessler remarks about his patients, no one wishes they had spent more time at the office, or had weighed less. I especially enjoyed the stories of people who had had the time and courage to make radical changes in their personalities and relationships when they had so little time left. The authors urge us to aspire to the same changes before we are close to death. The practically-minded “How To” reader may not find enough “recipes” here. Likewise, anyone put off by occasional references to God and Spirit (in a non-denominational way) may want to give this book a miss. The philosophically/psychologically/spiritually-minded will enjoy the insights and reflections of the dying and may be inspired to make changes in their own lives. Those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, or who are facing a loss, will be comforted.

Emotional Alchemy: How The Mind Can Heal The Heart

By Tara Bennett-Goleman (2001) Harmony Books, NY, 321 pages, $18.24 Reviewed by Dr. Karen J. Coupland, PH.D Reviewed April 30th 2001

If you find your psychological well-being  is frequently interrupted or transformed by troubling emotional habits then I urge you to read this book. Tara Bennett-Goleman, the wife of Daniel Goleman (author of Emotional Intelligence), in her book Emotional Alchemy shows us how to calm the mind and free it from the tyranny of disturbing emotions.

She accomplishes this by combining the insights and methods of cognitive and brain science, as well as state-of the-art psychotherapy (schema therapy), with Buddhist psychology and mindfulness practices. This is not just a book about theory; it also offers us a very rich and practical guide for achieving greater emotional adaptation. Tara Bennett-Goleman draws on Jeffrey Young’s work (author of Reinventing Your Life) to illustrate how most of what troubles us falls into ten basic emotional patterns, or schemas such as: fear of abandonment, with its attending anxiety that a partner will leave us; unlovability, the fear that people would reject us if they really knew us; mistrust, the constant suspicion that those close to us will betray us; social exclusion, the feeling we do not belong; failure, the belief that we will not succeed at what we do; subjugation, always trying to please others at the expense of our own needs; deprivation, the belief that we will never get enough attention and nurturing; and entitlement, the sense that one is special and therefore does not need to conform to ordinary rules and expectations. Most of us have at least one or two primary schemas (what Young refers to as “lifetraps”) which influences the way we structure our experiences in both our intimate and nonintimate relationships. She highlights the fact that neuroscience reveals to us that there is a crucial choice point, of about a quarter of a second, when we can reject a self-defeating emotional reaction. The practices of mindfulness can change our relationship to these moments when we are most upset and allow us to see the possibilities for change they offer. Emotional Alchemy is a very effective handbook that outlines clearly and precisely how we can use our minds to heal our emotions. This is a beautifully written book full of personal stories, psychological insight and spiritual wisdom – a skillful synthesis of Western psychology and Eastern practices.

How to Understand People and Predict Their Behaviour – Anytime, Anyplace By Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, PhD, and Mark Mazzarella 1999.

Ballantine Books, 320 Pages; paperback, 19,50$. Reviewed by Dr. Alex Weinberger, C.Psych . Reviewed 8 February 2001

Although advertised as co-authored, this book is actually written exclusively by Dr. Dimitrius, and in the first person. Dr. Dimitrius is a psychologist with extensive experience in assisting lawyers in courtroom jury selection, that is, she is hired to advise on screening and triaging prospective jurors to make sure her ‘client’ gets the most favourable people.

Dr. Dimitrius has had involvement in numerous high-profile criminal cases, including that of O.J.Simpson. In this book, she presents what she knows, and she knows plenty it seems to me, about the fine art and subtle science of bringing your senses and intellect to bear on all that there is to discover about a person – no matter who, no matter where – if you care to hone your skills at it. The book tunes you in to the ‘meanings’ of a person’s every nuance of behaviour and being. Nothing is left untouched, because everything is information. There is the to-be-expected attention to body language, voice quality, what you say, and your trail of actions. But there is more: what you eat, who you see, how you spend your free time, how you decorate your home or office, how you treat the lowly and how you treat the most noble, the type of car you drive, the colour of your garbage can, and what bugs you and what fascinates you. These and almost anything else imaginable, are all grist for the interpretive mill. Who you are, and who you care to be, and whether you are happy or but a pretender – it’s all there, ready for the picking by the keen observer. If you’re beginning to feel stripped and naked, that there’s no privacy to be left once you expose yourself and your surroundings to the onlooker, don’t despair. Rarely is there a one-to-one correspondence between a single strand of behaviour and a major revelation about your deeper insides. And, much depends on finding the patterns, the consistencies, between a slew of different behaviours and tendencies, before entertaining any serious conclusions about a person. And even then, one still has to be able to read the pattern and distinguish what it means from a bunch of possibilities. Indeed, for all the deceptive simplicity of what we can come to know about a person purely by observation, it’s not something just anyone can do well or could make a living at. Knowing one’s colours, buying all the right supplies and putting brush to canvas does not an artist make. And Dr. Dimitrius I can assure you did not build her wealth of knowledge and experience overnight. That being said, the book does contain some wonderful insights and offers quite a compilation of what to look for and what it all may mean. It gets you thinking, and prompts added awareness. It offers something to the more serious and even professional people observer, from counsellors to those conducting job interviews. And, anyone engaging in people-reading for the sheer everyday inquisitive fun of it, will have lots to chew on. As well, there is much you can learn about how to package your own image, to create the desired impression, once you know what others look for in determining what to make of you! Personally, I liked the book. It’s an interesting and easy read in the main, although I would not recommend that it be read in one quick sitting – like a truly enriching excursion into mother nature or into oneself, it should be unhurried, slowly absorbed, and explored but parts at a time, if one is to appreciate the layered and full effect. And, I found much in the book that made good sense once explained, and that I could agree with. However, some of the minutiae listings of all that one can look for in and about a person could have been left out without taking away from the book. I also found the final chapter, on super-quick reading, to pander to those who want maximal and accurate information while on the fly; it’s flimsy stuff and I thought a rather poor and disconnected way to end an otherwise well thought out work. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate this book an 8; in its field, it’s one of the best that I’ve seen.

 The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

By John M. Gottman and Nan Silver (1999); Crown Publishers Inc, New York. 266 pages; hardcover. Reviewed by  Dr. Iris Jackson, C. Psych .

There are many good books on how to have a healthy intimate relationship. In my opinion, Gottman’s book is the best of the recent books. As a psychologist who is a scientist-practitioner in Seattle, Gottman has spent the past twenty-plus years studying both happy and unhappy couples, using real life observations as well as electronically monitoring heart rate and other indicators of distress or calmness in these couples.

Thus, his observations and suggestions for improving relationships are strongly based both in science and compassionate clinical understanding. He begins by describing, in a very entertaining way, how he set up his research and studies. He goes on to explain how he can predict divorce, discussing the signs in a couple’s behaviour with each other that indicate that a relationship is dead or mortally wounded. He has numerous games and exercises that couples can do together to analyze their relationship and repair it. He also has fascinating vignettes of couples interacting with each other that many couples will be able to identify with. In the course of this, he enlightens us about why miscommunication and painful interactions develop. Unlike many self-help books which just describe the problem without helpful suggestions about how to improve things, Gottman leads the reader through the elaborate maze of complex human emotions and relationships to a full range of practical strategies designed to improve the relationship. He does this without simplifying complex human experience or infantilizing the reader. As a psychologist who has worked in counselling with couples for over 27 years, I have followed Gottman’s research over the years and found myself agreeing with Gottman’s book in almost every detail,- a truly unusual experience for this practitioner. I think everyone in a relationship or contemplating a relationship would benefit from reading this book.

Laughter, Love & Limits Parenting for Life: Offers a humorous, practical and constructive approach to parenting issues

By Dr. Maggie Mamen (1998). Creative Bound Inc, 208 pages; softcover. Carp, Ontario. Reviewed by Dr. Sandy Ages, C. Psych .

With indefatigable wisdom, wit and charm, Dr. Maggie Mamen has written her second book on parenting (see Who’s In Charge? A Guide to Family Management, 1997). Her humorous, practical, constructive style affords parents the opportunity to easily and readily relate to  parenting issues . The sense that one is not alone in the struggle to do the right thing and be as good a parent as possible, particularly at emotionally challenging times, is validated throughout her book.

Recognizing that each child in the family has different wants and needs, and that each has uniquely shaped the parenting behaviour to fit their personality is an important tenet to the perennial whine “But that is not fair!!” Treating our children exactly the same has never worked and never will. In fact, Dr. Mamen notes, to treat them all the same would be totally unfair to their individual differences. Life can be fair, provided we do not confuse fairness with equality, is an important point in Dr. Mamen’s parenting philosophy. Parents need to teach their children skills to cope with realistic life issues like competition, anger, conflict. In this way, children learn skills that can empower them to be self- reliant to make changes themselves. They do not learn to be dependent and always expect that changes come about when others effect them. Dr. Mamen advocates a united team approach to parents. However, learning to appreciate parental differences and to recognize that different is not necessarily wrong are primary tasks of couplehood and parenting. Visions and values are an intrinsic part of the parenting dynamic and Dr. Mamen suggests a family mission statement to facilitate day-to-day decision making. She takes the reader through the steps to develop the mission statement by giving sample vision statements with sample policy and procedures. The reader will find practical suggestions for effective parent-teacher interviews, behaviour management, and positive focus of behaviour to name just a few other areas the author discusses in this helpful book. With her wit and wisdom as a psychologist, and as an experienced parent, Dr. Mamen notes that in situations where others do not want to change, an option that is frequently worth trying is to change what we do as parents. Using examples of parental challenges, the reader can readily comprehend the issues and techniques to feasible solutions. I highly recommend this positive and constructive book to parents of children of all ages for its practical and sensible application of ideas.

No More Sleepless Nights: Offering readers information as well as help with this common problem

By Peter Hauri and Shirley Linde (1996). John Wiley and Sons Inc., Toronto 245 pages; softcover. Reviewed by Dr. Frances Smyth.

Although insomnia is a problem as old as humanity and common to many people, information and treatment has only recently become available. In my opinion, No More Sleepless Nights, is the best book published to date offering the reader information as well as help with this common problem. Dr. Hauri, who has devoted his entire career to scientific study of sleep disorders , draws on both research data and a wealth of clinical experience, in writing this book.

He begins by presenting facts about normal sleep, describing the stages of sleep and changes in sleep patterns over the life span. He then presents extensive information on the different types and causes of insomnia, followed by an easily understood program that a layperson can use to assess the nature and causes of his or her own insomnia. Included in the text are questionnaires developed to assess sleep history, medical and lifestyle causes of insomnia as well as psychological factors such as depression and anxiety. He also discusses the types of sleep disturbance that can develop as a result of modern lifestyles (shift work and travel). The following chapters of the book present in a clear and practical fashion, methods that have been developed to treat the different causes of insomnia identified in the self assessment. Recognizing that insomniacs and their doctors have tended to rely on sleeping pills as the way to treat insomnia, Dr. Hauri discusses the use of sleeping pills extensively. The different types of sleeping pills and their different effects are discussed as well as the problems that can result from the use of sleeping pills such as rebound insomnia, habituation, side effects, and problems with daytime functioning. The dangers of interactions with other drugs and with alcohol are clarified. The judicious use of sleeping pills is described as well as the conditions under which sleeping pills should not be used. The final chapters of this book assist the reader in recognizing other sleep disorders aside from insomnia which warrant treatment. In summary this book can be an invaluable aid to both clinicians and the general public in dealing with this common but distressing problem.

Mind Over Mood: A Cognitive Therapy Treatment Manual for Clients

By Dennis Greenberg and Christine A. Padesky (1995). The Guilford Press, New York. 215 pages plus Annedix; soft cover. Reviewed by  Dr. Iris Jackson.

There are many excellent books on changing how we think in order to improve how we feel. Mind Over Mood is one of the best and most easily followed manuals for doing this. Distilled from years of research and clinical experience in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Greenberg and Padesky provide the reader with a clear explanation of how problems develop and what we can do to improve things.

They start by providing narrative descriptions of (pretend) “clients” with depression and anxiety. As the authors proceed through the examination of the causes and cures of depression and anxiety, they refer back to these clients to illustrate the process of CBT. It is as though the reader accompanies the “clients” on their psychotherapeutic journey to health. The authors walk the reader through written exercises so that the reader can do his/her own analysis of the nature and cause of his/her own low mood or anxiety. There are also written exercises designed to teach better ways of thinking so that the reader’s thoughts and beliefs can soothe his/her feelings and improve his/her mood. In the Appendix, they have several copies of each exercise so that the reader can photocopy the exercises to use over again. This very practical and useful book can be used in conjunction with psychotherapy for serious mood and anxiety disorders or on its own for readers with milder problems.

When Anger Hurts:Quieting the Storm

By Matthew McKay, Peter Rogers, Judith Mckay 325 Pages, Published September 1989 | New Harbinger Publications | ISBN 0934986762320, soft cover. Reviewed by Dr. Sandy Ages .

When Anger Hurts, Quieting the Storm Within , is an excellent book that is both easy to read and to apply to one’s everyday experiences. The book is written by two psychologists, Dr. Matthew McKay who is co-author of five popular self-help books and Dr. Peter Rogers who is co-author of two widely read self-help books, and a nurse practitioner Judith McKay. The latter author did research on the physiological effects of anger and patterns of healthy child rearing which are both informative and helpful to parents.

The book is structured in a practical format with the first section concentrating on  understanding anger This section examines the common myths of anger, for example, the myth that frustration leads to aggression which some individuals use to explain and therefore excuse their anger. In fact, anger is only one of many responses to frustration and the book offers the reader a new range of choices on how to cope with frustration. The authors suggest steps to take to personal responsibility for anger. Learning to set limits, learning about your own needs, learning to negotiate assertively, and learning to let go are some of the steps described. There are valuable points to remember in coping with an angry person including important self-statements, choices of behaviour, and handling the aftermath when the problem is unresolved. The next section concentrates on skill building with the focus on how to combat thoughts that trigger anger. The authors describe practical exercises with a step by step approach. Of particular interest is how to stop anger from escalating. Examples that are informative deal with husband and wife interactions, co-workers, and parent and teenage child. This book is chocked full of ideas to use on your own and to have as a helpful resource to read and reread as you review the steps to change. It is also a good resource for professionals working in the area of anger management.

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by by Edmund Bourne

448 Pages | Published July 1994 |New Harbinger Publications | ISBN 1572240032 Reviewed by Dr. Sandy Ages.

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, is a well written and practical book by an American psychologist who specializes in the treatment of panic, phobias, and other anxiety disorders . It has simple and concise step-by-step directions for the mastery of relaxation, for coping with panic attacks, and for learning desensitization to help with phobias.

The author gives a comprehensive description of the various anxiety disorders: panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia, generalized anxiety phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder , acute stress disorder, agoraphobia without a history of panic disorder, anxiety disorder due to a general medical condition, substance-induced anxiety disorder. There is a questionnaire to help the reader identify which particular anxiety they may be dealing with. The author gives the various causes of anxiety whether it is long-term predisposing factors like heredity, childhood circumstances, or cumulative stress over time, biological causes,short-term triggering causes, or maintaining causes like anxious self-talk, or lack of assertiveness., There are numerous exercises with either physical interventions like breathing exercises,behavioral interventions with techniques to abort panic reactions at their onset, emotional interventions like learning to identify and express feelings, mental interventions to counter negative self-talk, and interpersonal interventions to develop a more assertive interpersonal lifestyle. There are descriptive examples of individuals with different anxieties and how they master them. The book has easy to understand record sheets for the various exercises and activities that the reader can implement on their journey to understand and reduce their anxiety or phobia. There are helpful steps and strategies to build self-esteem. I highly recommend this book. It serves as a valuable source of information in my private practice with my clients.


 

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