By: Book Reviewers
Connecting With Socially Isolated Seniors: A Service Practitioner’s Guide, by Patricia Osage with Mary McCall, Health Profession Press, Baltimore, MD, 2012, 127 pages, $32.95.
Connecting With Socially Isolated Seniors: A Service Practitioner’s Guide is an easy-to-read primer and reference tool for direct service professionals. Topics addressed include: Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive health, disability, emotional health, substance abuse, hoarding, intimate partnerships, gender, friendships, pets, transportation, living in a new area, language, culture, spirituality, technology, and more. Written from the strengths perspective while embracing the diversity of the older adult population in the United States, this book will be particularly helpful to young professionals new to the field. In fact, I wish it had been available when I started my career as a social worker!
Packed with illustrative stories, thought provoking and witty quotes, and useful resources, this book is both a pleasure to read from cover to cover and as a reference tool. The “How to Help” section at the end of each chapter offers particularly helpful hints and resources while highlighting the key points from the chapter.
My only complaint would be that the chapter on transportation is already somewhat outdated, as a result of the recent reauthorization associated with transportation funding. However, as a travel trainer, I was ecstatic to find travel training highlighted in this section.
I recommend that in addition to Eldercare Locator, readers consider the following resources for additional information on accessible transportation: the National Center on Senior Transportation (seniortransportation.easterseals.com) and Easter Seals Project ACTION (www.projectaction.org).
Connecting With Socially Isolated Seniors is an excellent resource for interns and professionals alike. Readers will find themselves thinking not only, “So, that is why I got that response,” but also, “This is what I can try next time.” These insights will not only inspire more compassion, but, hopefully, also more passion for working with the older adult population.
Reviewed by Penny Everline, MSW, owner of Everline Consulting LLC and travel trainer for MTM, Inc.
Dying, Death, and Grief in an Online Universe: For Counselors and Educators, by Carla J. Sofka, Ph.D., Illene Noppe Cupit, Ph.D., and Kathleen R. Gilbert, Ph.D. (Eds.), Springer Publishing Company, New York, 2012, 290 pages, $55.00.
This book explores the use of modern technology and the benefits it may provide in the areas of dying, death, and grief counseling and education. The sixteen chapters are broken into four parts, each exploring how various aspects of modern technology can be utilized to provide outlets for individuals to mourn, find support groups, education, and even to create memorials for their loved ones. Each chapter is presented in a manner that is easily read and understood, and lists of references are provided at the end for those who want to delve deeper into the topic.
Part one discusses the evolution of modern technology and how it has affected how individuals feel about death and dying. Thanatechnology’s impact on the death system is also explained. In cyberspace, time and boundaries are not as rigid as they are in reality, and the possibilities are endless.
Part two focuses on building online support for individuals. The benefits of social networks, blogging, and online communities are explored and the benefits they provide for various individuals are detailed. Facebook memorial pages, virtual legacies, as well as cyber funerals are explained along with the benefits they provide to those who created them. Each topic is presented with cautions and ethical considerations. Chapters in this section also discuss the uniqueness of working with youth and how utilizing modern electronic media outlets actually can be very beneficial to this population, considering this is where their lives are lived. Many of today’s youth cannot remember when it was not appropriate to post notes to their loved ones on that person’s Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter feeds. The benefit of these pages remaining accessible is also discussed.
Part three explores the various online resources for education on dying, death, and grief. The advantages and disadvantages of having death education online are discussed, and the implications of each are presented.
In part four, ethical considerations for online grief counseling are presented. The evolution of smart phones and sophisticated equipment makes the ability to conduct video counseling much more accessible, and counselors need to understand the ethical aspects of conducting these sessions. In addition to ethics, the future of thanatechnology is also discussed along with current implications.
This book is a great reference book for anyone working within the field of death, dying, and grief. It contains a wealth of information, as well as resources to help individuals to cope in a variety of unique methods.
Reviewed by Cindy Galewski, MSW, Lead Resource Parent Advocate, West Grand Region of Tennessee.
The Profession of Social Work: Guided by History, Led by Evidence, by Catherine N. Dulmus and Karen M. Sowers (Eds.), John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, 2012, 275 pages, $50.00 softcover.
Dulmus, Professor and Associate Dean for Research at the University of Buffalo, and Sowers, Dean and Beaman Professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have taken the introductory textbook on social work where no other introductory textbook has gone before. The ten edited chapters present the profession of social work rather than the practice of social work. Readers will not find chapters focusing on specific client populations (e.g., seniors, substance abusers, or children) or on various forms of intervention (e.g., group work or trauma practice). Those desiring an introduction to social work practice are encouraged to look elsewhere. Students, social work educators, and social work practitioners who want to understand the social work profession of today contextualized in our rich history can stop looking.
I liked almost everything about this book. Ten chapters are very suitable for a typical 15-week semester. The chapter on the history of social work and social welfare hits all of the high points, but does not shy away from mentioning the rank and file movement. Those with a more radical bent may lament the single mention of Bertha Capen Reynolds, and others might have preferred the inclusion of Jane Addams’ anti-war peace efforts, but overall, this chapter is well-balanced.
The chapter on accreditation and social work curricula may be a bit heavy on the use of acronyms for casual reading, but every social work major will benefit from this information. The inclusion of a chapter on licensing and regulations answers many of the questions my advisees raise every semester. The chapter on professional social work organizations is quite comprehensive, even including the Wingspread meeting, but again, acronym heavy. Overall, all three chapters do a wonderful job of summarizing complex aspects of the profession and do so by providing a rich, historical context. If I have any complaint about these three chapters, it is that they all have the tone of the majority voices in social work. Victors may write the history books, but there is a sense in which some of these “victories” are still unsettled.
The chapter on social work values and ethics begins a slight change for Dulmus and Sowers from the historical to the future of the profession. I was quite pleased to see space devoted to the strengths perspective in the next chapter, perhaps because I personally value this perspective infinitely more than the ecosystems and psychosocial alternatives. Again, perhaps it is my personal preference, but I found the two chapters on evidence-based practice and scientific evidence to be excellent. Social work educators who favor these positions will find these chapters well-written summaries; those opposed should read them anyway. Many misconceptions are explicitly and tactfully addressed.
The closing chapter, perhaps in an attempt to balance the evidence-based chapters, addresses five contemporary issues from a perspective that is more friendly to perception than to empiricism. Many issues are repeated as the authors address postmodernism, globalization, evidence-based practice, ethics, and social work as a profession. The inclusion of this chapter speaks of the diversity of perspectives in social work and challenges readers to expand their own conceptual boundaries so that we are all included.
I do have difficulty recommending the single chapter devoted to social work practice, but my complaint is not related to content, but to form. This chapter is simply not accessible to the typical undergraduate student; it is just too hard to read. With this single exception, I am happy to endorse this book for any introductory course on social work. Undergraduates through doctoral students will find this textbook uniquely informative. Social work educators will find most of these chapters difficult to replace as overall summaries.
Peter A. Kindle, Ph.D., CPA, LMSW, is an assistant professor at The University of South Dakota and can be contacted by e-mail at Peter.Kindle@usd.edu.
The Inner Life of the Counselor, by Robert J. Wicks, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, 2012, 203 pages, $25/hardcover.
As mental health professionals, we are trained to guide clients to become more mindful of themselves, we are encouraged to recommend relaxation techniques to help our clients, and we recognize the importance of a client taking time for him/herself. Yet so often, we do not do the same for ourselves. After a full day of helping others in our professional lives, often we leave the job to head to a home full of others who need something from us as well. Such commonality makes Wicks’ book that much more necessary.
The book contains six sections: Creating Space Within, Valuing and Accessing Alonetime, Recognizing the Cues of Subtle “Mindfulness,” Learning the Art of Leaning Back, Experiencing a New Type of Counselor Self-Nurturance, and Alonetime as a University: Honoring the Wisdom of Mentors of Mindfulness.
Each of these focus on a different aspect of the overarching goal—to allow intentional reflection and self-care for clinicians. To aid in this, each chapter ends with issues to ponder and then “Some Questions to Consider at This Point.” Our clinician eyes allow us to recognize that these questions force the reader to go from being a passive part of this self-care process to an active one.
For those who need more than one author’s words, Wicks includes words and quotes by other practitioners and authors from their own inner revelations, from their own perspectives, and through their own eyes, which further allows and encourages the reader to personalize his/her experience as s/he reads this book. Wicks also includes very helpful checklists, adding to the reader’s ability to personally identify even more with the book and its intention. Wicks ends this book with 30 one-page reflections for the counselor.
Although this reviewer recognizes the difficulty in adding one more task to a clinician’s calendar, this book is certainly worth the reader’s time and, since social workers are known for having high levels of stress and a high burnout rate, this book becomes even more beneficial for every one of us who needs a hand guiding us to become more mindful and more aware of our own self-care needs.
Reviewed by Kristen Marie (Kryss) Shane, MSW, LSW, LMSW.
Unprotected, by Kristen Lee Johnson, North Star Press of St. Cloud, St. Cloud, MN, 2012, 256 pages, $14.95.
This is the fictional story of a new and very green social worker in Minnesota, Amanda, who works for the county social service agency. Amanda is fresh out of school and hired as a social worker. She has been on her own since her mother passed away five years earlier and is contemplating her choices and where her life is headed. This story follows her learning the ropes of her new job and facing her past. The story begins with Amanda and her co-worker Leah facing a parent who is upset outside of court.
We are taken in a flashback to the last months of Amanda’s mother’s life. Her mother is dying of cancer, and Amanda is befriended by a teenager who is also undergoing treatment. Jacob and his family take Amanda in and support her in her grief. Amada runs away the night her mother passes and does not see Jacob until the present. He is the attorney for a case that she is assigned. This story follows their connection and Amanda’s friend Lucy who is moving forward in her life, getting pregnant and married, and still includes Amanda in her life.
This book is a good read for a social worker’s take on the day-to-day struggles of a new social worker with a welfare agency. The author does explain some of the process regarding custody and legal proceedings. This novel is entertaining and at times informative. The experiences of a rural social worker are interesting to learn. It is apparent in the ease that Johnson writes that she is very familiar with social work and the process of helping people.
Reviewed by Thomas Proctor MSW, LCSW-C, school social worker.
Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles: Writing and Publishing in the Helping Professions (2nd ed.), by Rich Furman & Julie T. Kinn, Lyceum Books, Inc., Chicago, 2012, 160 pages, $23.95.
The Columbia Guide to Social Work Writing, by Warren Green & Barbara Levy Simon (eds.), Columbia University Press, New York, 2012, 336 pages, $34.50.
At some point in their social work education, nearly all students are introduced to the writing rules of the APA. Now in its sixth edition, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association continues to serve as the standard-bearer of precision for professional composition within social work. Derived from my experiences as a student and teacher of social work, I can readily evoke images of the tremendous distress that surfaces upon introduction to these guidelines. Although panic is often an initial response to the grammatical and stylistic rules advanced by the APA format, frequent and prolonged exposure to these guidelines can bring about a sense of certainty, or even comfort, as one pens professional manuscripts.
Irrespective of one’s position on the spectrum of fear/fascination in response to APA style, though, two of the newer books on social work writing are likely to induce fondness. Social work students, practitioners, and educators alike may experience a sense of encouragement and acquire essential support through encounters with the practical suggestions offered in the new text edited by Green and Levy Simon, and an updated edition of an earlier book written by Furman and Kinn, respectively. In fact, some may discover that these texts make for idyllic and complementary follow-up volumes to the aforementioned Publication Manual, answering the “so what?” questions that seem to follow perusal of the APA guide’s barrage of necessary but nerve-wracking formatting tips. Whereas both recent releases are certain to advance inscription skills, the divergence in their context averts the risk of redundancy, subsequently allowing readers the privilege of cultivating a variety of critical competencies.
One of the latest contributions to Lyceum Books’ series on contemporary issues within social work practice and the profession, Furman and Kinn’s Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles marks its second edition. This updated text emphasizes skill building, integrating into the work numerous practical exercises and an affirmative approach to the publication process. Accordingly, most of the ideas espoused throughout the nine chapters promote both access to and transparency in the many aspects of professional penmanship. In fact, Kinn makes these objectives explicit, commenting, “I’ve described it as a pep talk in book form” (p. xv). Indeed, extensive inspiration and information are easy to obtain within the succinct 128 pages. Namely, Furman and Kinn offer expert advice about academic authorship, including strategies for appropriately corresponding with peer reviewers and journal editors, tips for developing a regular writing routine, and recommendations for most effectively collaborating with colleagues during the drafting of manuscripts.
If Furman and Kinn’s strengths are most readily identifiable in their practical application and plentiful affirmation, The Columbia Guide to Social Work Writing, edited by Green and Levy Simon, excels at detailing the types of documentation drafted and critical approaches for conceptualizing issues within multiple domains of the profession. From academia to activism and administration, leading scholars contribute analyses on the state of social work scholarship, technologies, and knowledge development in their respective areas of research. At once an attestation to the legacy of exceptional social work science at Columbia University as well as a guidebook for probationers, practitioners, policymakers, and the professoriate, this novel volume is comprised of three sections: histories and methods of writing within the field, purposes for and varieties of social work composition, and perspectives on professional penmanship in numerous specializations. Importantly, advice on the construction of communications to effect change enhances the social relevance of this text; further, tips on proposal writing, appendices that illustrate process recordings, and sample advocacy letters may increase this title’s attractiveness to those primarily interested in differently crafting the vital documentation that dwells outside the Ivory Tower.
Compared to allied social science and health professions, systematic efforts to attend to writing within social work are limited, historically. Although there is a recent proliferation of workbooks aimed at improving communications within direct practice settings, accompanied by professional journals’ publication of much-needed treatments of social work communication skills, these two texts proficiently fill significant gaps in the occupation’s literature. As the social work profession heightens the rigor surrounding and subsequent legitimacy regarding our multifaceted contributions to communities, the updated text by Furman and Kinn, and Green and Levy Simon’s first edition of collected content, emerge as resources that can successfully accompany—and contribute profession-specific knowledge to—the etiquette of writing established by the American Psychological Association.
Reviewed by Jeff T. Steen, LCSW, a Ph.D. student at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work. In addition to involvement at NYU, he is an adjunct instructor at Adelphi University and the City University of New York (CSI). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.