by Bodie Morey and Kim T. Mueser, Ph.D.; Oakland, California, New Harbinger Publications, 2007, 227 pages, $17.95
Dr. Plasky is medical director, University of Massachusetts Memorial Hospital, Worcester.
The basic premise of this book is stated unambiguously in its title: it is a guide, for family members, for intervening in a loved one's mental illness. Step by step it walks the reader through recognizing the illness, obtaining an evaluation, initiating treatment, and maintaining wellness.
From the beginning it champions family involvement as a key to recovery, but the authors never become strident or political. There is no catastrophizing. Instead, family members are deputized and given alternatives to helplessness. These illnesses may be life altering, but they can be broken down into a series of manageable problems. It is no wonder that the book carries a front-cover endorsement from a director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The book is organized chronologically, starting with the first symptoms of illness. Sometimes the factual information is somewhat dry; a guide to the major DSM-IV diagnoses is probably not needed here. What works best are the vignettes and discussions. Problem situations are presented from various angles, sometimes in narrative form; suggestions are offered, always respectful of the patient. Also very helpful are the explanations of professional terms, such as "cognitive-behavioral therapy" or "the private sector." And the section on how to listen offers an excellent modern-day introduction to the techniques of client-centered therapy.
There is no ambivalence here about family involvement. There is some discussion of a patient's right to refuse medication and of privacy issues. However, the authors believe that family involvement in treatment is necessary, and to their credit they tackle the problems this creates. For example, they directly address the concerns patients may express to their families regarding medication: Will I have side effects? Will I become addicted? Will my personality change?
For clinicians working with patients and families who need more basic information, it may be best to offer this book paired with a more traditional diagnosis-based text, such as Surviving Schizophrenia: A Manual for Families, Patients, and Providers, by E. Fuller Torrey, or A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic-Depressive Illness, by Patty Duke and Gloria Hochman. But if you or your clients are determined to help out when a loved one becomes mentally ill, look no further; here is your road map.