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Posted April 21, 2013
A very thought-provoking and illuminating book. (The previous "reviewer" was obviously a hooligan who only wanted to damage and deface. Actions and behavior like this devalues and destroys the whole customer reviewing process. Shameful, and I mean to report that review).
My review of this book, a real one, although brief:
The basic theme, that there is a significant negative impact on of the "pathology ideology" in the broad mental health field and that recognition of strengths/resilience/hardiness is incredibly important, if not more important in balance, is what came through compellingly. That said, I did not find all the essays equally illuminating. Some (more of the early ones in the collection) suffered from too much "academic referentialism," which tended to obscure the presentation with overly-numerous references to prior published work in the field, and too little straight-ahead explanation illustrated by cases.
But there were quite a few essays where the balance was much more effective, at least to this reader. Some of the more vivid examples and effective explanation of the strengths-based approach that stood out and were most vivid to me : the story of Ann, who lost several family members when young and overcame that, in the essay by Megan Barbera, Nancy Tsoubris, and Donna Zulch; the story of Patty and her mom, told by Steven Tuber; the story of Billy and the bird houses, told by Robert Brooks, the story of Michael and "the Lost and Found Story," told in the essay by John Seymour. Other cases and the essays on which they were focused were interesting but seemed less clearly connected by the author to the principles being developed in this collection. One such, which I found compelling on its own, was story of Randolph and his father, told by Gregory Barker in his essay - but the integration with the individual's strengths per se were not as clear. Instead it came across as a vivid case of re-introducing missing coming-of-age ritual between fathers and sons.
Some of the cases had truly horrific details, such as the stories of Charles and Samantha in the essay by Sueann G. Kenney-Noziska, and were hard to read - but very effective in illustrating the effectiveness of the approach.
If there is a future edition, I would recommend a division into two books, with Book 1 comprised of the appropriate essays from Part 1 and all of Part 2, and Book 2 collecting the more divergent/ "institutional"/ancillary material of the latter essays. I think an expanded Book 1, collecting the original essays and more like them - or maybe a new book by some or all of the contributors - would be accessible to a wider audience than otherwise might have been reached by this collection.
A final thought: Nassim Taleb, author of the recent best-seller, ANTI-FRAGILE, would have benefited from reading this collection - and I would recommend reading this collection, especially Part 2 and some of Part 2, to anyone (such as myself) interested in this common theme. The understanding of resilience/hardiness/pro-adaptive/anti-fragile in biological systems, including obviously in psychology, is advancing in more fields, and through the work of more thinkers, than Taleb realizes. And, if he had read this collection first, before writing his book, he may have had a slightly different (and less of a statistician's) understanding of where that resilient/hardy/pro-adaptive/anti-fragile power comes from.
Posted March 10, 2013