By: Book reviewers
Book reviews from the Fall 2010 issue of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER. Reviews of
Grief and Loss Across the Lifespan: A Biopsychosocial Perspective, and
Hope in the Age of Anxiety: A Guide to Understanding and Strengthening Our Most Important Virtue
Grief and Loss Across the Lifespan: A Biopsychosocial Perspective, by Carolyn Ambler Walter and Judith L. M. McCoyd, Springer Publishing Company, 2009, 373 pages, $55.00.
Grief and Loss Across the Lifespan: A Biopsychosocial Perspective, by Carolyn Ambler Walter, Ph.D., LCSW, and Judith L. M. McCoyd, Ph.D., LCSW, QCSW, examines grief and loss through the systems theory lens of person in environment, as well as incorporating death occurrences across the lifespan. Each chapter summarizes the findings discussed and includes recommended interventions. This is a hardcover book with a robust 336 pages, an additional 28 pages of helpful references, and a 7-page subject index.
The authors explain that “Current available texts for death and dying courses in social work, nursing, counseling psychology, and medicine have traditionally focused on topics such as the experience of going through the dying process, the delivery of health care during the end of life, and the experience of mourning the loss after it has occurred.... This text is different in that it is informed by a biopsychosocial perspective....” (preface, p. xv-xvi). This guide should therefore be helpful for graduate social work students studying the issues of grief and loss and also for mental health practitioners or clinical social workers who work directly with bereavement, as well as general practitioners who are regularly working with various types of loss and life transition issues.
The guide addresses every developmental stage from infancy through older adults. Each chapter includes a vignette specific to the age addressed with a loss relevant to that time period and a discussion of developmental issues normative to the time. In addition, adaptive and maladaptive coping methods and how significant others experience the loss are discussed. The first chapter covers an introduction to grief theory, both past and present explanations, the biological effects of grief, and issues of interventions. Other chapters focus on perinatal attachment and loss, infancy and toddlerhood, elementary school-age children, tweens and teens, young adulthood, middle adulthood, retirement and reinvention, and older adults. The final chapter offers a section entitled “Conclusions.”
Although this may be a difficult and emotionally charged subject for some practitioners and social work students to encounter, Walter and McCoyd present the content in a compelling and clearly laid out format that should make it accessible to most readers. The book provides a comprehensive text on grief and loss issues, as well as managing to weave in the developmental theories across the lifespan. The book’s organization gives further depth to a clinician’s understanding of how these grief and loss issues affect their clients throughout their lives. Tangible examples and vignettes are used throughout to illustrate the ideas being presented, and additional suggested readings are also included at the end of each chapter.
The text is a valuable addition to the other grief and loss book classics, and it is an excellent overview of a variety of specific losses that social workers regularly encounter. It is clear Walter and McCoyd are not only familiar with the subject, but also are passionate about sharing their knowledge in this specialty area. This is a helpful resource for social workers and practitioners in healthcare and mental health, as well as students learning about this area of expertise.
Kate Alson, MSW, ACSW, is an Associate Clinical Social Worker offering therapy in the areas of grief and loss/life transition, as well as relationship work in private practice in Hermosa Beach and Torrance, CA under supervision while she works toward becoming a LCSW. A Dean’s Scholar graduate of the University of Southern California School of Social Work, Kate also provides pro-bono grief counseling and group therapy work at The Gathering Place, a nonprofit bereavement center for loss and life transition in Redondo Beach, CA. She can be reached at http://www.katealson.com.
Hope in the Age of Anxiety: A Guide to Understanding and Strengthening Our Most Important Virtue, by Anthony Scioli & Henry B. Biller, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2009, 427 pages, $29.95.
In the field of social work, hope is considered a resource of strength for individuals facing life challenges. In the book Hope in the Age of Anxiety: A Guide to Understanding and Strengthening Our Most Important Virtue, authors Scioli and Biller present an inspiring multi-faceted view of hope. Through the lenses of psychology, religion, anthropology, philosophy, science, Greek mythology, and literature, the authors propose that essence of hope stems from the innate human need for attachment, mastery, and survival.
The book is presented in two parts. In Part One, the authors outline and examine different perspectives of hope. This includes a look at the evolution of hope, as well as its internal and external sources. The authors suggest that forms of hope can be traced back to human species that existed more than six million years ago. Examples of mastery, attachment, and survival behaviors are offered as evidence of the biological and prolonged existence of hope. The authors also examine the impact of religion and culture on hope.
A major feature of Part One is the introduction to the hope network theory. This theory describes hope as a complex emotional system that is “constructed from biological, psychological, and social resources.” The theory suggests that hope serves an emotional regulatory function and is operated by an intricate interchange among four interlinked channels including mastery, attachment, and survival systems. The ideal outcome of this network is the perception that liberation, power, and protection are possible. Each chapter in this section ends with a meditation exercise encouraging the reader to reflect on individual experiences of hope.
In Part Two of the text, readers will find guidance on incorporating hope into their own personal lives. The authors offer specific strategies to enhance attachment, mastery, and survival skills. An individual can increase his or her center of hope through healthy personal relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. The authors provide suggestions on overcoming hope barriers, such as extreme fear and hopelessness. For example, an individual suffering from fear of loss can be healed through increasing his or her hope for restoration. Likewise, fear of harm may be addressed by increasing hope for peace.
After reading this book, social workers may be more inclined to use hope as a tool to help clients in their journey to wellness. The concepts of hope presented by Scioli and Biller absolutely compliment the values of social work practice. Their views are applicable to all populations, including children and those suffering from serious medical problems. Social workers, counselors, nurses, and others who work in helping professions should consider incorporating the suggested hope building activities in their own lives to combat burnout and compassion fatigue.
Overall, this book offers its readers an inspirational account of the power of hope and its usefulness in empowering and promoting wellness.
Reviewed by Arlene M. Arias, LCSW, Clinical Social Worker, Connecticut Mental Health Center.
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