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Book club: your reviews

All posts from: November 2012

Responding in mental health – substance use

28 November, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Responding in mental health – substance use

Edited by: David B Cooper

Publisher: Radcliffe publishing, 2011

Reviewer: Stuart Sorensen, trainer and consultant at

What was it like?

Responding in mental health – substance use is one of a series of six equally excellent guides on the subject. Drawing as it does on the strengths and combined knowledge of a host of illustrious authors, it is a remarkably thorough and helpful manual for practice.

Rather than merely representing dry theoretical accounts of academic understanding, the various contributors successfully merge theory with practice and encourage the reader to participate in their own development throughout. Extensive use of exercises and “thought experiments’ support both students and experienced practitioners alike to refine and hone both their understanding of dual diagnosis and their practical interventions alike.


What were the highlights? 

Every reader will have their own particular areas of interest based upon their particular circumstances and areas of practice. For my part I found the chapter on older adults especially helpful, not least because this is an area that traditionally has been neglected in services for far too long. I also enjoyed particularly the chapters on ”cognitive impairment” and ”first aid”.

The book covers a range of settings and situations from emergency responses to different environmental and demographic contexts. Integrated service provision and multi-agency teamworking are emphasised with a whole chapter devoted to how such teamwork may be achieved and the current integration debate.

Strengths & weaknesses:

As with other books in the series this volume appears to have been structured around themes which create a constant thread to aid understanding. The themes of family, common humanity and motivation stand out as particularly helpful in this light. The order and content of the various chapters make perfect sense and can be read sequentially or as “stand alone” guides in their own right.

My only criticism of the book relates to the language used by some of the contributors, which, although aimed at a range of readers including students, may at times become a little too complex for those new to this field of study. Experienced professionals will have no difficulty here but I wonder about the problems some students might have. However, part of the students’ task is to acquaint themselves with professional terminology and it is difficult to see how this might be achieved without being stretched in this way from time to time. It must be said that if any professional reference book is going to be worth the effort, it’s this one. The insights to be gained within its pages more than compensate for the occasional linguistic difficulty.

Who should read it?

Comments about language aside, I would heartily recommend this volume to anyone wishing to learn more about how to work with people experiencing substance-related problems and mental health difficulties. Indeed, I wish such a text had been available when I was a student. Its insights would undoubtedly have helped me immensely as I struggled (and still do struggle from time to time) to understand and respond appropriately.

Whether a student or a qualified professional you will find much that is of value here.

Developing Services in: Mental Health-Substance Use

22 November, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Developing Services in: Mental Health-Substance Use

Edited By: David B Cooper

Published by: Radcliffe Publishing

Reviewer: Michaela McAndrew, community mental health nurse

What was it like?

This is one of a series of six books that explore the interface between substance misuse and mental health. This particular volume focuses on developing services in this field. The books in this series are edited chapters from a number of experts. This volume includes information regarding conceptual models of service delivery alongside those describing innovative service development both in the UK and internationally. It also focuses on evaluating services against clinical guidelines and examines difficulties in the interface between services and ways of overcoming these.

In addition to these areas specific to substance use and mental health the book addresses general concerns in service development such as teamwork, developing policies and procedures and managing the stress of change.


What were the highlights? 

As a community mental health nurse in a generic setting I really enjoyed the chapter about developing integrated services. Many of us experience service users who don’t quite fit into any services and this chapter made me think about ways we could be more inclusive and adaptable. I also enjoyed the chapters about team working and communication as they picked up pertinent issues around attitudes and inter-team relationships that I identify with from my own practice.

Strengths & weaknesses:

This book is user friendly, it is set out in text book style and uses exercises to strengthen understanding and lots of diagrams and tables to support the more complex theoretical points. Each chapter stands alone so the book would be a useful reference guide though the contents do complement each other. I do wonder if the title may alienate many nurses not directly involved in service development, if so it would be unfortunate as the content is of value to all in contact with this client group both in providing and accessing quality care in a number of settings

Who should read it?

I believe the target audience for this series is professionals working in substance use and mental health settings. It would be misleading to assume that this book is only for those involved in commissioning and developing services however. The diverse authors, subject matter and extensive reading lists make it a good reference for a better understanding of delivering services and the pressures our colleagues face in these specialist areas.

Speaking Honestly With Sick and Dying Children and Adolescents: Unlocking the Silence

20 November, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Speaking Honestly With Sick and Dying Children and Adolescents: Unlocking the Silence

Author: Dietrich Niethammer, MD

Publisher: The John Hopkins University Press, 2012

Reviewer: Kim Shrieves,child health nursing

What was it like?

This book examines how children think, feel and deal with death and dying and highlights they are both capable and want to talk about it, particularly when it concerns them. Niethammer familiarises readers with the open approach to communication during his investigation of why truth telling and the psychological guidance of a dying child was so long neglected and is still not fully accepted today.

The beginning chapters address how a child or adolescent deals with illness and what being seriously ill means to them. A chapter follows on the medical professions traditionally paternalistic attitude and the importance of taking patient autonomy, including the autonomy of children, seriously and to respect their opinions using open communication as a foundation from the first day of care and continually throughout despite our own personal discomfort. The final chapters consist of a historical review of various concepts of death in both healthy and sick children. The book includes a discussion of truth telling and children actively participating in the fundamental decisions regarding their life at the end as reflected in the literature.


What were the highlights? 

Other highlights within this book relate to the author’s strong and heartfelt message and how he conveys it to readers.This book is well written and despite the emotional intensity of the topic, once you face your personal discomfort with the subject it covers, Niethammer’s passion is contagious. The book challenges care givers and professionals involved in the care of sick and dying children to become more aware of the thoughts and behaviours of chronically ill children and their families, so they can talk openly and honestly with them from the start, allowing them the opportunity to express their fear and anxiety and cope with their disease on their own terms.

Strengths and Weaknesses?

The strengths of this book include a thorough analysis of available literature (English, German and French publications) beginning with Freud. It provides full references of works covered and hehe examines and evaluates the literature of psychoanalysis and developmental psychology. He also looks at paediatrics,concluding that an understanding of death and dying appears much earlier in human development than previously attested. He argues that now we know a lot more about the thinking of children we can support them much better than was possible for our predecessors.  Additionally, Niethammer presents his argument by outlining information gathered from this literature as well as utilising individual case studies from his professional life that report on his own successes and misjudgements. Literature and life examples assist to illustrate his case for an open approach well, however, the majority of available literature and case studies featured focus on children with cancer (although they could have application to children with other illnesses chronic and terminal). Furthermore, any guidance or specific practical guidelines are from the perspective of doctors and it is not easy for nurses to make recommendations that are aimed at doctors. Niethammer does however acknowledge that nurses interact most often with children and their parents, and in contrast to other staff, cannot withdraw during working hours.

Who should read it?

Despite the content being most pertinent and obviously related to professional practitioners within the field of oncology and more specifically doctors, I would still recommend this publication to all care givers for sick and dying children: including nurses and other medical professionals, psychologists and social workers as well as lay persons.


Dyslexia and other Learning Difficulties

20 November, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: The facts: Dyslexia and other Learning Difficulties

Author: Mark Selikowitz

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Reviewer: Paul Watson, teacher of secondary mathematics and PSHE coordinator.

What was it like?

I found this to be a well-presented book, which addresses problems many intelligent children face. It demonstrates that while having normal IQ levels many children still struggle to learn in the classroom setting. The book details how these children could suffer with short attention span, restlessness, an inability to write clearly, and reading comprehension well below age level. Selikowitz demonstrates through this book that there are indicators of learning disabilities, and offers a clear and sympathetic guide to the difficulties that parents and teachers face when working with a child with these sorts of obstacles to learning.


What were the highlights? 

As I move from nursing into a full time teaching position, I am pleased to be able to have a book such as this at my disposal. I am pleased to say it deals with difficulties in traditional academic areas such as reading, spelling and arithmetic, but also looks into lesser known conditions like clumsiness, social unease and hyperactivity. It is nice to see that Selikowitz views the whole child and in so doing is able to provide practical advice to parents to help understand their children’s difficulties. In turn this is able to help them overcome problems and improve their self-esteem, dyslexia and other learning difficulties.

Strengths & weaknesses:

I found this book to be an authoritative and compassionate guide to the full range of common learning difficulties, while also offering a number of suggestions for managing difficult behaviour. It is comprehensive in its approach to the associated problems often faced by those with learning difficulties, both children and adults, drawing on the most recent research on learning difficulties and some associated disorders and their treatments. It also provides information about electronic and computer aids that are now available to help individuals with learning difficulties. This encouraging approach and easy-to-read style will appeal to parents as well as to professionals who work with children with learning disabilities.

I particularly liked the diagrams within the text showing different types of hand writing or pencil grip, for example, all of which I am sure I will now be looking for in my new job.

Who should read it?

I believe that this book  would be a useful resource for many people with an interest in the subject of dyslexia. With this in mind I feel that  “The facts: Dyslexia and other Learning Difficulties” would be a useful tool for parents of children with learning disabilities, in particular dyslexia, speech disorders or ADD and especially professionals such as teachers, psychologists and speech therapists.

Working with children and teenagers using solution focused approaches

13 November, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Working with children and teenagers using solution focused approaches

Authors: Judith Milner and Jackie Bateman

Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Reviewer:  Kaye Johnson, student learning disability nurse

What was it like?

This book does what is says on the tin, it offers the reader solution- focused approaches to enable children to overcome challenges to reach their full potential. It is well written and does not over complicate the topic. Although the book does not go too in-depth, it covers the main points with plenty of references to further your knowledge if you wish to do so. Throughout the book, real examples of how a solution-focused approach can make a difference to the lives of children and teenagers. It also contains practice activities, some of which encourage reflective practice. I liked the design of the book. It was simple to find what I was looking for without having to go through every page.


What were the highlights? 

I found chapter three particularly interesting, it discusses the importance of setting achievable goals and describes ways of doing this, and having tried some of these I can say that there are simple to do yet effective.

Another highlight is the list of resources at the back of the book. I am currently on practice placement in a children and young person’s forensic setting  and I, and other staff members, have found these resources both accessible and valuable within this setting.

Strengths & weaknesses:

I found this book easy to read.It had plenty of case examples and practice activities to help put the theory to practice. If I had to have a weakness for this book it would be that it is not eye catching so it may get missed on the shelf. 

Who should read it?

An excellent reference text for anyone working with children and teenagers. As a mother of two myself, I think this book is useful for parents who may be facing some of the identified challenges. I found it relevant not only in my professional role but as a parent of a teenager.

Interventions in mental health – substance use

12 November, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Interventions in mental health – substance use

Edited by: David B Cooper

Publisher: Radcliffe publishing, 2011

Reviewer: Stuart Sorensen, trainer and consultant at

What was it like?

This book is packed with easy-to-understand theoretical principles and a wealth of practical techniques and tools. The list of contributors is impressive to say the least. Their insights, practice-based exercises and case studies are invaluable aids to understanding and, of course, to application “at the coal face” of health and social care.

When I first picked up the book I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it. Reading through the contents list it could easily have become just another superficial anthology that didn’t really take the reader far. But I needn’t have worried.

Alongside the many practical tools (and the theory needed to apply them properly) a number of themes run through the chapters, each one complementing the others with surprising regularity given the number of different authors involved. Themes, such as the importance of hope and therapeutic optimism or the need to acknowledge and work within limitations, lend the book an air of realism that shows the ”real world” experience of the contributors.

This is an excellent manual. It’s part of a series of six and I for one will certainly be reading the other five.


What were the highlights? 

It’s difficult to pick out any single chapter, or even two or three chapters of particular interest – there’s so much that is good about this book. But if I had to choose, I’d say that Jo Cooper’s section on therapeutic relationships was especially useful. Anne Garland’s excellent (and thoroughly referenced) overview of the cognitive model and its use in dual diagnosis work was also impressively well written. I was also particularly interested in and educated by Carlo DiClemente’s chapter on the transtheoretical model of change (AKA ”Stages of change” for dinosaurs like me).

Strengths & weaknesses:

There is little to criticise in this book but there are issues of personal preference and of course, some chapters will resonate more with particular readers than others. So in describing my own preferences I’m really saying more about my own tastes than about the work itself.

But for me, Rosenblum’s chapter on “mutual aid” (self-help) groups was a little too “12 step” oriented and I could have done without David Manley’s chapter on cue-reactivity, well-written and well-explained though it clearly was.

Who should read it?

Overall this is an excellent manual that will benefit nurses and others alike in a variety of settings. After all, substances use is a problem for people using a range of different services. These issues aren’t just limited to one particular service (a point that Cooper makes firmly and without apology in chapter one).

And he is right to do so. This manual could go a long way toward addressing the “caught between two services” problem that has dogged people with both mental health and substance-related problems for years.

Perinatal Mental Health: A clinical guide

8 November, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Perinatal Mental Health: A clinical guide

Edited by: Colin R Martin

Publisher: M&K Publishing 2012

Reviewer: Paul Veitch, nurse consultant, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust

What was it like?

Perinatal mental health is a comprehensive text concerning mental health care from conception to the first or second year. The textbook tackles this complex area of health and social care in seven carefully chosen parts, covering 38 chapters over 571 pages. The topics are many and diverse and would satisfy experts in psychiatry as well as those non-mental health workers seeking reference to a particular clinical challenge.

Chapters address those issues found commonly in clinical practice such as low mood, to those less common such as substance misuse or obesity. There is a welcome focus on the mental health of partners and the ”child health and development” section is essential reading.


What were the highlights? 

Clinical academics from psychiatry, nursing, midwifery, psychology, social work and medicine have been brought together in one carefully edited text. This virtual multidisciplinary team brings a contemporary and international expertise to the readers’ door. Before I ever opened this book, I asked it some questions from my own (adult mental health) practice. One of these was, “how should I respond to a woman who has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and was keen to have a child?” This book gave me clear answers, some new insights and practical advice. It then posed me some ethical questions but gave me a clear steer and road to follow in order to address these. This book went on to answer my other questions in a similar manner.

The language used is clear and helps a book written with expertise remain highly accessible.

Strengths & weaknesses:

This book is well laid out with strong sub-headings and uses clear tables throughout. It offers a range of boxes which summarise key messages and learning points. There are clear figures, an example of which is a two page spread on assessment that would serve as a useful reference in any antenatal clinic. The references are comprehensive and not artificially restricted to papers from the modern era.

There will be areas missing such a guide might have addressed but in everyday practice you are unlikely to need to go further than this.

Who should read it?

This book gives a wide coverage of the subject matter and one clearly aimed at practicing clinicians of any discipline, not just mental health workers. I thought it was full of ideas and innovation, answering my questions with ease.

Those studying perinatal mental health from any discipline will welcome this book and it will sit happily on a university as well as a hospital library shelf. Large primary care teams will see it as a valuable resource.

Importantly much of the text is written with clarity, which parents, or parents to be, will be able to access.

Neuroscience Nursing Evidence Based Practice

8 November, 2012 Posted by: -

Title: Neuroscience Nursing Evidence Based Practice

Edited by: Sue Woodward and Ann-Marie Mestecky

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell 2011

Reviewer: Debbie Quinn, MS specialist nurse, Northamptonshire Healthcare foundation Trust

What was it like?

This book is broken down into eight sections, with various chapters in each, covering all aspects of neuroscience nursing. It is excellently presented allowing readers either to pick and choose certain areas of interest or the ability to break down each part into easy to read chunks. I also found it a comprehensive overview of the specialities covered in an understandable format. I believe it will be a core resource for nurses wishing to practice in or have an interest in neuroscience nursing. 


What were the highlights? 

While being the first neuroscience textbook for nurses with a strong evidence base, it offers a solid foundation to all those who read it or provides a useful update to others who wish to refresh/update in the area. The illustrations throughout the book are clear and wide ranging, complementing the text. It covers all areas of practice with contributions from experts in each field; it really offers the reader an exclusive overview of neuroscience nursing.

Strengths & weaknesses:

This book offers the reader the unique experience of covering the wide range of aspects for neuroscience nursing. It maintains this throughout with each section and chapter providing strong evidence based facts and tips. It also has text from people actually living with a variety of neurological conditions. The all-inclusive content also covers the history of neuroscience to development and finishing with some of the legal and ethical issues around care of people with the conditions. 

Who should read it?

This book would be relevant to a wide ranging audience from students, to newly qualified, to those wishing to move into neuroscience and those who work within the field requiring a good resource book for updating their knowledge or as a reference.

Comments (1)

Excellence in Compassionate Nursing Care – Leading the change

5 November, 2012 Posted by: -


Title: Excellence in Compassionate Nursing Care – Leading the change 

Authors: Claire Chambers and Elaine Ryder 

Publisher: Radcliffe, 2012 

Reviewer: Kerry Bloodworth, assistant director of nursing, Nottingham University Hospitals  

What was it like?

This book is really relevant to nurses working in all settings and specialities and is perfect for 2012, with the current issues facing nursing. I really enjoyed reading this book, and in fact I found it inspirational. Nurses feel quite “downtrodden, disillusioned and undervalued” at the moment and this book gives nurses a pathway to find the road and confidence in themselves to get the heart back into nursing, and restore some of the negative media image that the profession has acquired over recent years. We frequently observe dedicated, talented nurses delivering good care in spite of the system, not because of it. We also observe that the difficulties that many nurses encounter are caused not by lack of resources, but by the way that the clinical area and its nursing team are organised and led.


What were the highlights? 

This book is about leadership (you don’t need to have manager or leader in your job title, to read this book). What I really liked are the case studies, in each of the chapters, which make the rest of the chapters come alive with the surrounding background text. The case studies used are from differing spheres of nursing, but as examples these case studies can be transferable to the reader’s current clinical setting. The chapters are underpinned with numerous references of current research and evidence.

Strengths & weaknesses:

The case studies give varied examples from differing healthcare settings, to attract the attention of all nurses working with patients. The book makes you think about the quality of care you are currently delivering to your patients. There are four chapters, “the important of leadership, the challenge of resourcing, taking the lead, the heart of compassionate care”. The book has a pragmatic approach and each chapter is underpinned by a case study, which develops with a series “thoughts for practice” and “ongoing practice” for nurses to start asking questions and not always “accepting their lot”. The book isn’t a “crystal ball” and doesn’t give the answers to all the “ills” of nursing but it does give a structure and format. Nurses at all levels are in a position, as valued clinicians to be at the centre of influencing innovating, leading and shaping high quality, compassionate care, now and in the future

Who should read it?

This book is for all registered nurses, midwives and health visitors, who are passionate and dedicated and want to deliver the best care that they are able for their patients/clients. 

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