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Book Review   |    
Writing for Money in Mental Health
Richard A. Bernstein, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 1998; doi:
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by Douglas H. Ruben, Ph.D.; Binghamton, New York, Haworth Press, 1997, 290 pages, $49.95 hardcover, $24.95 softcover

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According to Dr. Ruben, the creator of this engaging and authoritatively written guide, "We expect to be educated, entertained, and to feel better after reading a self-help book." By these criteria he delivered on two of three expectations for me; I did not feel better.

Is Writing for Money in Mental Health a self-help book? In tone and format it clearly belongs to that genre. Part 1, roughly a third of the book, is composed of three chapters, all of which beckon readers with catchy titles and breezy writing. They all say you can do it if you put your mind to it. If you feel you are not making the money you need from your psychotherapy practice, Dr. Ruben the consultant explains why this is so. If you don't think you have what it takes to write for money, Dr. Ruben the motivator gets the juices going. If you don't believe anyone would read what you write, Dr. Ruben the market strategist plies you with tips that convince you the world is waiting for your words.

So far I was entertained. My education began when Dr. Ruben defined for me the differences between academic and trade writing. There are two. The language of academic writing is "elevated," composed of "$25,000 words," while trade writing is "down-to-earth, straightforward." The purpose of academic writing, he continues, is to give readers a technical understanding of a subject. Readers of trade writing want "fast and simple solutions." They also want to know "how to be a better person."

Trade writers want to make money. They do so by the self-promotion and sales of their writing. Dr. Ruben is not shy in this regard. He references his previous work throughout the text, 34 books and 100 articles that, says the cover blurb, have turned him from practicing clinical psychologist to media specialist.

Part 2 of the book contains six chapters, five of them devoted to different writing markets and how to get published in them. The range includes books, magazines, computer programs, infomercials, and scripts. Each chapter is detailed and well referenced. The final chapter is 60 pages of useful resources.

Writing for Money in Mental Health is not a book about writing or about how to write. It is a book about what to write, where to sell it, and how much it may be worth. It is about the business of writing in mental health, not about the creative process. As a result, I know how much to charge for this review were it being written for a trade journal.

Why did I not feel better when I closed the book? Perhaps because of the realization that the economic forces that make buying the book appealing for mental health professionals are the same ones that make the purchase feel necessary.

Dr. Bernstein is clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington.




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