Book Reviews

mp9004276851In a bid to highlight various books of interest to the profession, the College will start publishing book reviews written by members.

In each edition of the news magazine, there'll be a list of books available for review. The first member to email the Editor (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) requesting a  book will be sent it to review and keep.

The review will be published in the following edition of news magazine, here on the College's website  and sent to the publisher. The publisher may choose to feature it on their website as well.



What we're looking for

Reviews should be 200 - 400 words each and should adequately describe the book and its relevance to the profession, rather than just saying whether it is a good or bad read. The opinions of the book are entirely the reviewers and the College will not endorse the book (or the review!) in any way.

The review will be due by the deadline for the following edition of news, which will be confirmed when the book is sent to the member. Where necessary, the review will be edited for length and may be shortened.

When submitting your review, you'll need to include a recent high resolution photograph of yourself to be included in the magazine.



From psychic to psychotic and beyond

This book is a fascinating and honest exploration of how one person's psychosis impacted upon their own sense of reality, but also on the lives of those close to them. Kerrie, who was (is) a
very high functioning lawyer, found herself drawn slowly into a world of inner torment. It started with an interest in various psychic explorations which slowly escalated into full blown psychotic illness.

The book reflects in many ways how the internal torment that the psychosis Kerrie experienced impacted upon her and in some ways still is. Though at times difficult to follow, it is a realistic
representation of somebody who has experienced psychosis trying to reassemble that part of their lives that they have lost to the illness. It is a reminder to us all, that no matter how well we may be functioning on the outside, that we are all susceptible to experiencing mental illness and that this is not a disorder that discriminates.

Further perspective is given by Kerrie's mother's insights into the psychotic episodes as well as the comprehensive medical notes.

It is also a timely reminder to all clinicians that we should not forget what inner turmoil our clients are going through, that we are not defined by our status, our family, our incomes or any other
tangible item, but rather we should all be thankful for our grasp on reality whilst we have it.

I would highly recommend this book to anybody who is yet to work with clients suffering with psychosis, as well as those who need to gain a fresh perspective of just a small piece of what our clients go through when tackling psychotic illnesses.

This book review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.


Mental health in Australia 3rd ed.
Meadows, Grigg, Farhall, McDermott, Fossey, Singh, eds.
Oxford University Press

Review by Julie Manning

This is the third edition of a compendium of contemporary mental health professional practice and policy issues in Australia. The expanded scope of this edition addresses systems and services, Government and NGOs, and is intended to accommodate a potentially broad audience. New inclusions in this edition include budget and resource constraints in the sector and workforce planning issues.

The multi-disciplinary editorial group reflects the collaborative focus of the book – the subtitle is "Collaborative Community Practice" - and the diversity of the mental health sector in 2013 is well represented in individual chapters from mental health nursing, occupational therapy , social work, psychiatry, epidemiology and  academia. In keeping with contemporary Recovery principles, consumers, carers and consumer advocates also contribute.

The work is comprehensive, engaging and easy to read. The editors are hoping to reach beyond an exclusively professional audience to consumers who want to understand the sector better. It is certainly an invaluable resource for students of health or mental health at any stage in their tertiary studies.

The book is divided into 4 sections entitled The Context, Clinical Practice Principles, Disorders Considered in the Context of the Lifespan and Disorders Commonly Presenting in Adult Life. Within these sections are chapters devoted to research, quality, case management and general and specialist assessment skills, among other topics. There is an 80-page bibliography which serves as an invaluable resource for students, researchers and others with a curious mind, who wish to read further.

Omissions noted were the health of the mental health workforce and issues such as burnout, workplace  harassment and substance abuse. Refugee mental health is only cursorily addressed. And given the growing national and international evidence of the link between social and economic disadvantage and poor health outcomes, it is disappointing that the World Bank's increasing involvement in the health sector is presented as unproblematic in this text. There is no mention of the World Bank's undemocratic governance structures and structural adjustment programs which favour elite interests in the wealthy nations and denude social welfare infrastructure in developing countries.

These reservations excepted, this is as exceptionally well-written, inclusive and invaluable contribution to the mental health literature for anyone interested in the field. It will surely pique the interest and enhance professional practice of mental health nurses throughout Australia, those considering emigrating to Australia and students studying at offshore campuses of Australian educational institutions.

This book review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.


The Practice of Clinical Supervision
Pelling, Barletta and Armstrong
Australian Academic Press

Review by Bernie Stefan-Rasmus

I took up the offer to review this volume for the College Newsletter.

Another text on clinical supervision this one may really be summed up as a "same same but different" take on clinical supervision. The authors are largely from a psychology and counselling background. This is reflected in the style and content of this book.

The volume offers a range of chapters covering introduction to clinical supervision models and evaluation of supervision. Some attention is paid to the people within supervision and the development of those relationships. It does offer a good section on the alliance approach to clinical supervision. Ultimately there is not too much new in this work.  However students of CS or those with limited knowledge may gain something from the perspective of this work.

The style of this volume is not particularly user friendly for those who like to dip in out books. Layout and indexing lets this book down as it is somewhat cumbersome. There are more accessible texts on this subject such as those by Driscoll and Bond & Holland, which are contemporary.

The target audience of this book are counsellors and psychologists rather than mental health nurses. Another text on clinical supervision but not a definitive volume.

Barletta, J 2009, 'Introduction to Clincal Supervision ', in Pelling, N, Barletta, J & Armstrong, P (eds), The practice of clinical supervisionAustralian Academic Press, Bowen Hills, Qld.

This book review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.


Becoming a nurse: transition to practice
M Fedoruk and A Hofmeyer (Eds)
Oxford University Press

Review by Andrew Brown

According to the editors, the purpose of the book is to assist undergraduate nursing students transition from the student role to that of a registered nurse/midwife. The book is coherently  composed with the four main sections being relevant to the theme alluded to in the title, namely:

  1. Becoming a health professional
  2. Contexts and competencies of clinical practice
  3. The working environments of registered nurses
  4. Being ready for practice

Although the information appears extensive in its presentation, its introductory nature requires the reader to seek out further information. The concise and well-written text provides clarity through the use of appropriate but not overtly technical language.

The first five chapters of the book set the basis for what follows in the nine chapters that comprise the rest of the book. The chapter titled, Belongingness and teamwork, highlights succinctly the importance to patient care that working within a group is. Having learnt and mastered the practical elements of nursing/midwifery, working within a group can for some nurses be confronting
where differing personalities are concerned.

Students are requested to consider the subject matter at particular conjunctures within each chapter. Additionally at the end of each chapter, readers in groups are requested to consider answers to questions posed by the authors.

Whilst the subject matter is relevant to all registered nurses, mental health included, undergraduates considering a career in mental health may have been interested in having information specific to mental health nursing highlighted within the text.

Whilst the intended audience is said to be undergraduate students, I believe that this text would be valuable as a secondary school resource, made available to those school students contemplating a career as a nurse/midwife.

This book review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.


The Bravehearts Toolbox: for Practitioners working with Child Sexual Assault.
By Nadine McKillop, Carol Ronken and Sam Vidler
Australian Academic Press

Review by Wendy Hall

Bravehearts Inc. is an Australian charity dedicated to providing effective support and care to children who have been sexually assaulted. The charity has produced a number of publications on the subject of counseling sexually abused children and teenagers., this latest book consisting a "Toolbox" of Items that can be used by therapists.

Bravehearts has also been instrumental in increasing public awareness of child sexual assault nationally.

The publication helps readers to strengthen their therapeutic approach to young people affected by sexual assault. Throughout the book the authors point out that the tools they suggest must be part of an holistic approach and at no time, suggest that they take the place of an ability to create a safe compassionate space for young clients.

The book begins by outlining the nature of child sexual assault – what it is, what offenders are, how it impacts on those involved and their families. It then offers a whole chapter on dealing
with Disclosures which discuss legal aspects of child abuse across Australia, and how to help parents respond effectively to the issue. The book gives examples of good and bad
responses to the subject, and goes on to identify common presenting problems linked to child sexual assault, interestingly answering the common therapists question "Do we need to talk about the assault in counselling in order for healing to occur? " with a "No".

The largest two Chapters of the Book, chapters 4 and 5 consist of the actual "Tools" that therapists can use in order to help sexually abused children to express their feelings, suggesting ideal age groups for each activity and a variety of psycho education tools to help kids keep themselves safe in the future.

The book then spends some time discussing the Toll of doing this type of work on the therapist. It describes vicarious trauma and the importance of self care for practitioners doing sexual abuse work pointing out that therapists working in the sexual assault arena are particularly at risk of becoming traumatized themselves by the nature of such repeated exposure to traumatic material. The book also points out organizational obligations to the workers undertaking sexual abuse work, and how instrumental good workplace support is to the prevention of vicarious trauma.This book
would be a useful addition to the library of anyone working with the sexually abused.

This book review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.


Personality and individual differences: current directions
Hicks (ed)
Australian Academic Press

Review by Scott Trueman

Interest and research in personality and individual differences, in why people behave the way they do and the implications for life and living, remain unabated around the world. Human beings are fascinating in how they are similar to one another and how they are different. The similarities and differences underpin many implicit and espoused theories of behaviour and of personal and  professional practice, informing the decisions that we all make on what we will do and when. This book is a snapshot of where we are currently in our understanding.

Most chapters in the book are papers presented at the Seventh Australian Conference on Personality and Individual Differences held in November 2008 (actually published 2010). There was a rigorous peer review selection of the presentations to decide which to include in the book thus providing current high quality studies, research and findings concerning personality and individual differences. The authors are leading researchers, writers and practitioners from Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and further afield.

The book reflects current understandings, trends and directions in research in both theory and application across domains such as work, leisure, health and community. The book is divided into two sections. Part 1 is titled 'On Personality Theory' and covers areas such as personality theory and context, goal setting and cognitive issues, questionnaires and their development and
use, emotional intelligence and moral judgment and decision making. Part 2 is title 'On Professional Context and Applications of Personality Knowledge', and covers areas such as education, school and university studies, personality and organisations, stress, health and wellbeing, cross cultural studies and clinical, forensic and general studies. The studies presented in this book range from examining the effects of the stars - the seasons and dates of birth - to the professional drivers of research that are related to efforts to make a difference for the wellbeing and survival of our world, whether as individuals or in groups at leisure and at work

The book consists of 341 pages containing 30 chapters. Each chapter concludes with a  reference list which is useful to readers wishing to then read more broadly the content of the chapter. Certainly some chapters will become required readings for those working in the field. The first chapter situates the book in context and background to Australian research in the area and is very helpful to the reader to understand the intent of publishing the book. The final page of the book is titled 'Closing Remarks' and again written by the editor and outlines firstly, "[T]his clearly is not a usual book", and secondly, that due to the diversity of topics covered it is unlikely a reader would read each and every chapter but that is not the purpose of the book. As acknowledged by the editor, as further research is undertaken there will no doubt be further 'up-dated books' of the same subject matter and format reflecting advances in knowledge in this area of enquiry.

This book review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.


The Charismatic Personality
Dr. Len Oakes
Australian Academic Press

Review by Scott Trueman

The title of the book may mislead potential readers that it's subject matter is too narrow and hence a highly specialized book for a targeted market – that would be a mistake.   

Much has been written about the lives of charismatic characters, but scientific investigation of the phenomena is rare. Oakes draws on a range of disciplines including theology, history, sociology and psychoanalysis to explore and examine a unique personality; one different and rare in the general population.  Case studies of individuals such as Winston Churchill, Sigmund Freud, Adolf Hitler, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Germaine Greer, Girolamo Savonarola, Mao Tse-tung and Franklin Delano Roosevelt add to the readability of the book by balancing psychological theory with short biographical sketches. Oakes focus around the charismatic elements of the personalities of historical figures, asks the reader to consider a number of questions; if so many people fall under the spell of these leaders, are they special, and if they are special, in what way(s)? The answer(s) are not one sided for it says quite a bit about both the needs of the people who fall under the spell of the leader as well as the needs of the leader.

Oakes argues that charismatic leadership is a creative, problem-solving strategy that is often resorted to in times of crisis after other solutions have not worked. A reason it so often disappoints may be due to the magnitude of the problems it is called upon to address. However, when it is successful it is spectacularly so, such as when a single individual can change the course of nations, peoples, and movements through the force of their own personality - something both fascinating and more than a little confronting.

The book consists of 15 chapters and is 354 pages in total. The Introduction sets the tone of the book and outlines the fundamental 'big' questions which need to be addressed. Each chapter has relevant sub-headings which add to its easy readability. The book is well referenced and the Index is easy to interpret if seeking to locate a specific topic. I found the chapters on Hitler, Churchill and FDR the most enthralling. That said, a book I would highly recommend on a personality trait you rarely encounter in very day life.

This book review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.


Understanding Troubled Minds
by Sidney Bloch
Melbourne University Press

Review by Kimmi Rose

I found this book very readable, intelligently written and comprehensive in its understanding of mental wellbeing. It was easily negotiated and well set out with headings and sections that are easily manoeuvrable.

"Understanding Troubled Minds" is holistically written with the right amount of complexity and detail to satisfy both the intellectual academic and professional disciplines. It has a balance of generalist knowledge with just the right amount of specialist information to satisfy (or lead one in the right direction for more in-depth). The scenarios allow the reader to empathise with subjects of real life case studies and consolidate understanding of the complexities people face.

I tagged several sections in this book, with "love it" stickers and the following chapters really grabbed me. Chapter Four-"The Psychiatrist at Work", Chapter Five-"Stress, Crisis and Coping", Chapter Nine-"Eating Disorders", and in particular, Chapter Fifteen-"Women". I found the advice in these particularly sensitive chapters, acknowledged and validated difference without stigmatising the issues raised in them.

Although it doesn't elaborate in any great depth, with regard to actual therapeutic interventions, it does put one on the appropriate path and offers suggestions for those looking for guidance and direction. "Understanding Troubled Minds" knits together the concepts of holistic, collaborative healthcare provision and will, without a doubt, prove a useful and powerful tool in pulling this together.

 This book review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.


Deadly Healthcare
By James Dunbar, Prasuna Reddy and Stephen May
Australian Academic Press 

Review by Neville Baker

This book is a discussion of the unfolding story of Dr Jayant Patel and the Bundaberg hospital deaths that have been attributed to him.  The book is an examination of circumstances behind the context of the incidents and is well written by authors from a medical, psychological and publishing background.

The authors have drawn on the mass of public inquiry data and interviewed key figures involved.

The book can be divided into three sections:

  1. involves a discussion of Dr Patel's character and details of his work at Bundaberg hospital,
  2. involves an analysis of the hospital system in Queensland and the centralised management style by Queensland health,
  3. details a contrast of the Queensland health system with incidents in the NHS system in the UK and what can be learnt from the reforms in the UK.

A general premise of the book is that the personality type and style of Dr Patel combined with the system of bureaucratic management of Queensland health lead to exploitation and failure of patient care.

Staff shortages and the need to manage financial considerations contribute significantly worldwide on the health systems ability to manage patient care.

The book is skilfully researched and aides in thinking about how the situation in Bundaberg evolved, and suggests that it may be happening again in our own modern healthcare systems.  Therefore as a cautionary tale what can we learn from this book as nurses?

The learning from this book includes:

  • a need for all health professionals to play an advocacy role within health organisations
  • for all disciplines to seek to actively contribute within a systems framework to clinical governance and review, within the framework of our professions scope of practice and competencies.
  • for the views and contribution of healthcare consumers to be actively sought and represented in our clinical work.

This is a challenge in a system of healthcare which constantly needs to address funding considerations and a limited health workforce, particularly in rural locales.

This book whilst not providing 'answers' enables an understanding of the issues,  which may serve to encourage and support the individual continuing to or beginning to work in the current Australian healthcare system.

This book review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.


Ethics and Law for Australian Nurses
By Atkins, Britton and de Lacey
Cambridge University Press

Review by Scott Trueman

This book, whilst covering the usual and well published topics of the law relevant to nurses, takes a different and refreshing approach outlined in the first two excellent chapters.  They lay the foundational tone  for the rest of the book. The first two chapters  (49 pages)  are written through the prism of ethics and morals, and discuss notions such as personhood, human vulnerability,  philosophical  view of rights and obligations and  moral justifications,  all of which are explained as being inextricably related to ‘the law’. The rest of the book is imbued with the content of these two chapters, thereby linking legal subject matter to principles of ethics.

There are a number of notable aspects to the layout of the book which enhance its value to readers;

  • the ‘Learning Objectives’ at the beginning of each chapter are clear and precise;
  • each Chapter commences with an appropriate real life or factual scenario which adds to the readers understanding of the principles to be canvassed in the Chapter;
  • the ‘Law and Ethics in Practice’ highlight questions which add a challenging dimension to the readers understanding of the point being discussed;
  • ‘Reflective Questions’ throughout the book are not so numerous as to be a distraction and  aid to the  reflective process;
  • the various ‘Tables’ throughout the book irrespective of the topic are redoubtable in their simplicity; and
  • the Appendix outlining the various Legislative Acts is clear, uncluttered and easy to understand.

As the author`s acknowledge in the Preface, there is much more which could have been included in the book but that is not fatal in recommending this book to students or recently graduated nurses.

This is not a book pitched to the market high in content and crammed with legal and case analysis and/or jurisprudential content - there are only 25 cases cited in 236 pages of content - which is reflective of the intent of the book; written by three very capable authors clearly learned in philosophy, bioethics, ethics and nursing but none grounded in the law. I suspect this why such a refreshing approach has been adopted.

This book review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.


Benign Bigotry: The Psychology of Subtle Prejudice
By Kristin Anderson
Cambridge University Press

Review by David Silkoff

Benign Bigotry is a study of the insidious nature of prejudice in the world today. It discusses the bigotry felt by, amongst others, gay people and people of colour in the USA.  Anderson argues not that outward racism and homophobia have disappeared, but that crude and obvious manifestations of it are far less visible. The book’s focus is on the “inconspicuous, indirect and often unconscious [bigotry] that continues to pervade our society”.

The author is a social psychologist, and the book explains well  the complex psychological processes that lead to such pervasive social phenomena. Anderson does offer solutions on an individual, workplace and community level, avoiding the risk of the book being an important but distressing study of bigotry. The solutions offered are applicable to individuals own cognitions, as well as to more community and workplace based approaches.

The book’s discussion is complex and convincing. Although it is easy to imagine some readers being put off by the exclusively US focus of the writing, this should not be the case. It is far from difficult to think of Australian examples; any doubts of the presence of Australian bigotry, should dispel after reading any newspaper’s online comments section on a topic such as immigration or on gay marriage.

In terms of application to mental health nursing, the book can be used in several ways. As advocates for the mentally ill in the community, it is important for nurses to be aware of the prejudiced ways in which discrimination occurs in the community and within health services, advocating for the rights of people with mental illness. A perspective on benign bigotry may help practitioners keep their eyes and ears open for signs of discrimination against their clients. A second way is to examine the bigotry in our own practice, working towards identifying it and excluding it.  Borderline personality disorder, for example, is viewed in negative ways by mental health practitioners, and the stigma exceeds all other diagnoses.1 I have found in my own practice extreme prejudice against drug users stemming from fellow mental health clinicians. A recognition that this is bigotry may be useful for individual clinicians and their managers to use as a reflection on practice.

Finally, nursing as a profession is also not immune to bigotry, despite its roots in care and compassion. Research published in the last decade found disturbing and profound bigotry experienced by nursing staff coming from Asia to work in Australia.2

This book does not directly address these issues. It is important, however, as an opener to discussion, thought and self reflection. Understanding and countering the benign and less than benign bigotry which is sadly so great a part of our world and our practice is important for all mental health nurses.


  1. Aviram, R.B., Brodsky, B.S. & Stanley, B. 2006, 'Borderline Personality Disorder, Stigma, and Treatment Implications', Harvard Review of Psychiatry, vol. 14, no. 5, pp. 249-56.
  2. Hawthorne, L. 2001, 'The globalisation of the nursing workforce: barriers confronting overseas qualified nurses in Australia',  Nursing Inquiry, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 213-29.

This book review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.