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Book Review   |    
Tatyana Shteinlukht
Psychiatric Services 2009; doi:
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by Max Fink, M.D.; New York, Oxford University Press, 2008, 176 pages, $17.95

Dr. Shteinlukht is assistant professor of psychiatry at University of Massachusetts Medical School and director of ECT services at UMass Memorial Health Care, Worcester, Massachusetts.

As stated on its cover page, the book Electroconvulsive Therapy, by renowned expert in the field Max Fink, is a guide for professionals and their patients. The volume covers the history of ECT, treatment techniques, indications and side effects, possible mechanisms of action, treatment alternatives, and ethical issues of its administration.

Among many ECT books that cover similar content, this volume really stands out. It not only reviews evidence-based literature but also reflects the author's enormous amount of personal experience in taking care of severely ill and often treatment-resistant patients. Every indication for ECT is illustrated by memorable descriptions of patients. Both the physician's perspective and patient's experiences are described in each case study. By emphasizing clear benefits of ECT, well balanced with discussion of potential side effects, the author encourages the reader to further appreciate this effective but stigmatized and often underutilized treatment. This book is clearly written by a strong ECT advocate, but it presents a balanced view of concomitant treatment options and alternatives.

The book appeals to several audiences, which may find different sections of the book of particular relevance to them. For example, ECT practitioners may focus on the review of an ongoing debate of different modes of treatment and electrode placement. Referring psychiatrists may pay more attention to the overview of ECT indications and benefits versus side effects. Patients and caretakers may value learning about the positive individual experiences of the patients described as well as discussions about the stigma so unjustifiably associated with ECT. Residents and other trainees may be fascinated by the history and development of ECT as explained by one of the leaders in the field, who has devoted more than 50 years of his professional life to it, including as a founding editor of the Journal of ECT.

There is much to be gained from reading this book. Most important is the compelling information that may help to liberate providers, patients, and families from the unfounded fears regarding ECT and encourage them to pursue this highly efficacious and safe treatment.

The reviewer reports no competing interests.




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