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Book Review   |    
Ledro R. Justice
Psychiatric Services 2008; doi:
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edited by Tom F. D. Farrow and Peter W. R. Woodruff; New York, Cambridge University Press, 2007, 532 pages, $99

Dr. Justice lives in Van Buren, Arkansas.

During a time when efforts to understand mental illness tend to focus on neurobiology, psychopharmacology, and genetics, a text that focuses on empathy lends itself well to enhancing understanding of behavior and human relatedness, both normal and pathological, as well as verbal and behavioral treatment interventions. Tom Farrow and Peter Woodruff, both at the University of Sheffield, bring together a distinguished group of international contributors who discuss various definitions of empathy and ways of learning about it by studying the behavior of persons who appear to have deficits in empathy. Anatomical, genetic, and psychological approaches are noted in some of the studies in Empathy in Mental Illness. Such efforts are intended to enhance knowledge about empathy, which may have a positive impact on early intervention and prevention, treatment approaches, further research, and social communication in general.

The text is organized into three sections. Part 1 pertains to several areas of pathological empathy in regard to deficits among "psychopathic individuals" and among persons with some other personality disorders, schizophrenia, depression, brain injuries, and autistic-spectrum disorders. Part 2, the largest section, looks at empathy from multiple viewpoints, including its early development in the neonatal period through childhood and its development from a social anthropological perspective. Other contributors note efforts to understand empathy from cognitive neuropsychological and genetic approaches and to define neuronal pathways that mediate empathy. Part 3 focuses on ways to measure empathy and contains relevant information for understanding interpersonal relationships. Understanding interpersonal relationships has special applicability for therapeutic work with small groups and couples.

The text closes with a chapter advancing the use of literature and arts to develop empathy among medical students. The strength of the idea is weakened by the impractical nature of such methods in medical education in the United States because of rather significant existing time constraints in meeting current medical education requirements.

Although there are some differences between British and American English in terms of diagnostic nomenclature, the text uses a very readable font, is well written, concise, and well documented. The stated goals of the editors are achieved. This text should be most useful for individuals who provide individual or group therapy and should be read by those responsible for writing treatment plans. It should prove to be a useful resource for clinical supervisors and medical educators.




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