July 1st, 2016

“Not So Abnormal Psychology: A Pragmatic View of Mental Illness”

“Not So Abnormal Psychology: A Pragmatic View of Mental Illness”

By Ronald B. Miller

American Psychological Association

Washington, D.C., 2015

 

Author’s tone brings textbook to life

Reviewed by Kerry Morrison, Psy.D.

This volume of abnormal psychology is not your typical introductory textbook, but reads almost as a personally annotated discussion of the theories and practices in the treatment of mental illness.

Miller’s goal was to provide undergraduate students and other interested parties with an overview of abnormal psychology that is theoretically grounded and historically informed while simultaneously promoting an understanding of self and others that is critical to emotional health and well-being.

These are aspects that he feels were missing from his own education and clinical training. Miller does a wonderful job illuminating the historical and contextual background behind the theories and in insightfully sharing personal material that has shaped who he is as a person and a practitioner.

Miller has selected concepts and theories that he has found to be pragmatic and have influenced his thinking. To prepare students to think effectively in the realm of clinical practice, the author believes that one has to start with concepts and theories that have emerged from clinical practice itself.

Miller’s self disclosure and inclusion of personal history (e.g. family tragedy, secrets, etc.) serve to deepen the reader’s understanding of the concepts and make for a very different type of text book.

Case examples from clinical practice highlight both the development and manifestation of psychopathology and in turn, how treatment can address and ameliorate symptoms. He frequently provides annotations to these cases as he was the primary clinician or the supervisor involved.

The author’s tone and personal voice make what can often be dry theoretical and clinical material come alive. This style of writing provides for a very enjoyable read, which I cannot say about most text books.

This is the type of text book I wish I had in my undergraduate, master’s or doctoral training as I think it would have greatly deepened my understanding of both the theories and concepts in abnormal psychology as well as given me insight into my own personal and emotional development.

Unfortunately, course books like this one were nonexistent then. I think this book is likely to become a standard in most contemporary abnormal psychology classes for both undergraduate and graduate students. I know that I will recommend it to both instructors and students alike.

Kerry Morrison, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Greenfield, MA.

By Kerry Morrison, Psy.D

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