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Family Desk Reference to Psychology Review - Family Desk Reference to Psychology
by Chuck T. Falcon
Sensible Psychology Press, 2002
Review by Peter B. Raabe, Ph.D
Jul 18th 2002 (Volume 6, Issue 29)

This is an informative book meant primarily as a quick and easy resource for the general public and mental health care consumers in dealing with their own problems and issues.  It’s very similar to the typical “Family Medical Book,” except instead of physical ailments it deals with personal problems, emotional and relational issues, and  (dare I say it?)  Philosophical issues.  It could be a useful reference for new therapists and counselors because of its concise and practical approach to helping suffering individuals.  The author has intentionally refrained from theorizing in favor of brevity and immediate utility.  Falcon offers many simple and straightforward self-help suggestions as well as suggestions on how to help others in a non-professional and caring way.

The text is divided into three main sections. The first is titled  “General Information and Advice” and covers topics such as love, humor, thinking, emotions, problem solving, stress management, and communication skills.  The second section is titled  “How to Solve Personal Problems” and covers a wide range of topics including shyness, flirting and dating, sexuality, job hunting, raising children, old age, death and suicide, depression, self-esteem, addiction, and getting over the past.  The third section is titled simply  “Conclusion” and is a miscellany of discussions about how to understand yourself, dreams, gun control, sex education, and the field of therapy and counseling itself.

Many chapters end with suggestions for additional reading, support group information, US hotline numbers, and resources such as national associations and societies specializing in dealing with specific issues such as addiction or childhood abuse.   There are also a number of handy lists, such as a list of ways to begin conversations and things to talk about in the chapter on social life, a list of interests and activities a person could pursue in order to make a life more interesting and fulfilling in the chapter titled  “Interests and Activities,” problematic communication styles, both verbal and non-verbal, that can make life difficult in the two chapters on communication skills, and a fascinating list of feelings in the chapter on emotions.

To the author’s credit there are two chapters near the end of the book titled “Warnings about Psychology” and “Important Advice about Counseling.”  In the first he points out the notorious unreliability of diagnoses of mental illnesses made by psychologists and other trained experts, he doubts the existence of so-called multiple personalities, he criticizes the use of electroshock therapy, he warns against the reliability of memories recovered through hypnosis, and he draws attention to the fact that decades of scientific research has proven the uselessness of traditional psychological testing that is none-the-less still being taught to university students and employed by clinicians.  In the second he draws the reader’s attention to the fact that cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy is the only kind which has been proven to be more effective than placebo treatments, he cautions against unethical therapists, and he reminds readers to not simply settle on the first therapist they come across but to shop around to find both the best service and the best results for their money.  This is welcome honesty from a professional working in the field. 

I have only two specific concerns about this book:  first, Falcon writes,  “If you want to stop homosexual behavior, you can work on this as you would work on any other addiction.  Make heterosexual friends and practice flirting with and dating members of the opposite sex. . . ”  (p.138).  This odd perspective on homosexuality raises a number of important questions, such as, Is homosexuality really like an addiction?  Does having too few heterosexual friends bring on homosexuality?  Is it true that dating members of the opposite sex will change a homosexual person’s sexual desire?  In other words it raises questions regarding the author’s beliefs concerning the “cause” of homosexuality.  It makes me wonder what “causes” heterosexuality!

Second, there is no discussion of how to deal with the many problems that can be generated by religious or spiritual issues.  With the revival of fundamentalism in various parts of the world, including the US, religious beliefs and institutions can have a major negative impact on individual, family, and community life.  In fact, quite coincidentally, I’ve had three unrelated clients recently whose distress was in large part due to a serious conflict between the teachings of the religious organizations to which they belonged and their own spirituality and personal values.  I think Falcon ought to add a chapter to the next edition of his book devoted to this topic.

A more general concern I have is that, like the family medical book, this book may be helpful to those individuals who are able to define exactly what their problems are.  As with physical ailments, it’s often difficult for the one in distress to determine exactly what the problem is, not to mention adequately treating it.  This book is a good source of “first aid” but I would recommend professional care for serious problems.  Otherwise this is a very well organized book full of helpful information that I think is well worth having. 

 

© 2002 Peter B. Raabe

Peter B. Raabe teaches philosophy and has a private practice in philosophical counseling in North Vancouver, Canada. He is the author of the books Philosophical Counseling: Theory and Practice (Praeger, 2001) and Issues in Philosophical Counseling (Praeger, 2002).


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