In the Room

A blog focussing upon cognitive behavioural & psychodynamic techniques & issues “in the room” rather than case or theoretical discussions.

Chris Allan is a Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Psychology Clinic at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia. His weblog In The Room addresses a range of therapeutic issues and the related literature.

Each post illustrates a problem encountered by therapists and offers insights into this problem, often with extensive quotes from relevant textbooks and journals. As a round up of “therapy tips & techniques you will find in your textbooks”, In the Room should be of use to any psychological therapist and is well worth a read by physical therapists also.

Dibs In Search Of Self

A detailed, session-by-session account of a therapeutic intervention. Written by the therapist and detailing all the detours & blind alleys that never make it into textbook accounts of the therapeutic process.

Many clients, some famous and some not so famous, have written of their experiences in therapy. Therapists’ accounts of therapy tend to be confined to heavily anonymised snippets of conversation illustrating a particular point in therapy textbooks, or case studies in peer-reviewed journals which focus more upon the diagnosis & outcome than upon the process of intervention.

Dibs In Search Of Self is that rarest of books, an account by a therapist of every session (and the related consultations with teachers and family) of her contact with a small boy, the titular “Dibs”.

Virginia Axline is the author of Play Therapy, which outlines the application of a Rogerian, client-centred therapy approach to the psychological treatment of children. Play Therapy is heavily illustrated with the usual one paragraph snippets of conversations with clients (including Dibs), but this book describes, one chapter per session, the actions & discussions comprising each session and the therapist’s reflections on her client’s disclosures & her own actions (including her errors).

Dibs In Search Of Self is accessible to any reader and is a fascinating, moving book in its own right. It is, of course, required reading for anyone working with children. Moreover, as an insight into the mind of a therapist as a case progresses, it serves as an illustration not just of Play Therapy, but of sensitive & reflective practice with lessons for any therapist, regardless of their profession or client group. Oh, and it has a happy ending.

Reference

Axline, V (1964) Dibs: Personality Development in Play Therapy. Penguin Books Ltd

BPS Research Digest 3rd anniversary

In celebration of three years of continuous publication, first as an email newsletter and now as a weblog, the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest has published a special edition.

The authors of seven psychology blogs have each provided an article detailing a psychology journal article from the last three years, one which inspired them or changed the way they think.

The topics range from the academic to the pragmatic: from whether psychology is a coherent scientific discipline to whether police officers can detect attempts to deceive them. Will Meek’s report on an investigation into maintaining happiness should be of particular interest to readers of this site.

BPS Research Digest

A newsletter-cum-blog from the British Psychological Society. Summarising a dozen psychology journal articles each month in accessible prose, the Digest is a good light read and a useful pointer to the full articles.

Unlike the American Psychological Association, the British Psychology Society does not make the members’ monthly journal available online, but does offer the BPS Research Digest: a round up of interesting and thought-provoking recent research.

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BBC Health

A source of good advice and good links to other reputable sites. BBC Health can be recommended by therapists who wish to encourage or support internet research by their clients.

Searching the internet for health related topics is a risky business. A site with a professional appearance need not have content of similar standard. BBC Health is a subsection of bbc.co.uk, the British Broadcasting Corporation’s website. The BBC has an international reputation for good journalism

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APA Monitor on Psychology

The newsletter of the American Psychological Association. Discussion articles and summaries of research which will be of interest and use to any therapist, be they American, psychologist or neither.

Online resources for therapists are relatively few in number and the authority of some is questionable. The decision of the American Psychological Association to make its monthly newsletter freely available online is therefore laudable.

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Demon Haunted World

An accessible argument in favour of the scientific method. The book provides tools for discriminating science from pseudoscience and knowledge from speculation.

The late Carl Sagan was a strong proponent of science and the scientific method. The Demon Haunted World (subtitle: Science as a Candle in the Dark) revises a number of his magazine articles into a larger argument.

Sagan’s central thesis is that we should take nothing for granted. We should acknowledge that what we “know” is a collection of theories which have not yet been disproved, but which should continue to be tested in order that, if they fail, they can be replaced by more complete theories. There is no place for ego or privileged beliefs in Sagan’s world.

The highlight of the book is the twelfth chapter, entitled “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection”. The earlier chapters cover phenomena ranging from crop circles to demons, faith healing to alien abduction. In each case Sagan highlights the personal and cultural biases which permitted or permit these memes to thrive.

“The Fine Art of Baloney Detection” lays out a series of tools for sceptical thinking. Sagan advises us not to get overly attached to an idea, but to examine why we like it and to ask ourselves if we can find reasons for rejecting it (because if we don’t, others will: in our case, our clients!).

The chapter ends with a list of fallacies of logic and rhetoric for us to avoid. These include arguments from authority (“trust me, I’m a doctor”?) and considering only the two extremes on a continuum of intermediate possibilities (biological or psychological?).

The Demon Haunted World is an interesting read for scientist and lay person. Chapter 12 is highly recommended to both therapists, clients and anyone hoping to make sense of the “evidence base”.

Reference

Sagan C (1997) The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Headline: London.

Psychiatric Drugs Explained

A guide to psychotropic medication for therapists and their clients. This book lays out the pros & cons of mind-altering prescription drugs from a critical but balanced perspective.

Books considering psychotropic drugs tend to one of two extremes: either uncritical accounts of their effectiveness and the presumed biophysiology underpinning their action or highly critical “anti-psychiatry” polemics which damn the entire concept.

Psychiatric Drugs Explained, now in its third edition, manages to occupy the middle ground. Explicit details are given of the desired action of commonly used psychotropic drugs (with both UK and US names), but equal attention is given to their side effects and alternatives to their use (eg: in the management of sleep disorders).

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Relaxation Techniques: A Practical Handbook

A compendium of relaxation techniques. This book supports the clinical practice of physical and psychological therapists seeking to explore the field of relaxation training or to tailor their approach to individual clients.

There are many different approaches to relaxation training. If this book doesn’t have them all, it certainly contains the vast majority.

First publshed in 1995 and now in its third edition, the book covers the physiology underlying tension and stress together with physical and cognitive approaches to relaxation. Each chapter expands on one approach, detailing the theory (if any) behind the approach, then offering scripts, variations on the main approach and benefits and pitfalls of the approach.

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Practicing Therapy

A collection of exercises for developing therapists. The insights to be derived from this book should improve the practice of any therapist.

Somewhere there’s a book that all the experienced therapists know about and it’s not about how to do therapy, it’s about how to do therapy better. It’s got all the secret little extra tricks they know about that aren’t in any of the models and that they forget to tell you about in class. And they won’t ever tell you where that book is – you just have to figure it out.

As Margaret Rambo admits in the introduction, Practicing Therapy doesn’t contain many secret tricks, but it is a book about how to do any therapy better.

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