An overlong but compassionate and optimistic psychological work.

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MOTIVATIONAL WORK

VALUES AND THEORY

Swedish psychologist Revstedt offers fellow therapists and counselors a self-empowering approach to dealing with supposedly hopeless cases.

It’s a vexing problem for a therapist: how to help the most destructive, least motivated clients. Revstedt believes the answer begins with the therapist’s mindset. Typical approaches are based on a client’s overt willingness to participate in the process. But Revstedt contends that this means that the people who most need help are the least likely to get it. Worse still, he writes, the professionals who are assigned the most difficult cases often get the least support. In this book, he aims to shake up these paradoxes with a theory of “motivational work” that emphasizes the relationship between the professional and the patient. Change can be effected, he says, through personal interaction. When “latently motivated” clients seem unreceptive, Revstedt writes, it’s really an indirect appeal for help from behind a defensive barrier. Rather than be discouraged, motivational workers should accept the challenge of deciphering the client’s “contact rebus”: a “masked attempt at making contact; it is an outstretched hand wrapped in barbed wire.” He then explores the idea of contact rebuses through vivid, often heart-rending case studies, which will give readers a deeper sense of empathy for people suffering from mental illness, substance abuse and psychological trauma. The book’s comprehensiveness, however, makes it exhaustive to the point of tedium. At nearly 700 pages—300 in Chapter Four alone—it’s an unwieldy tome that presents a daunting task for time-strapped professionals. It also lacks standard features to help students grasp abstract ideas, such as explanatory text boxes and takeaway lists. That said, these editorial shortcomings may not diminish the book’s potential for combating an urgent public health problem. Overall, Revstedt’s framework promises to turn around troubled lives, and give professionals a mental foundation to support their arduous work.

An overlong but compassionate and optimistic psychological work.

Pub Date: June 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1496181152

Page Count: 698

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2014

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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