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Responding in mental health – substance use

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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.

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