As a psychologist, I can see how a quick reference guide — one that covers neuropsychology, anxiety, depression, grief and loss, abusive relationships, PTSD, anger, guilt, and behavioral issues — might come in handy. So could George Seber, a former statistics professor at Auckland University in New Zealand who took early retirement in order to dedicate his time to counseling. Seber explains that he began to write summaries of counseling guides for his clients to read, then realized they could form the basis of a book.
Certainly, that summative approach is apparent throughout Counseling Issues. But unfortunately, although Seber means well in his attempt to cover just about every topic a practitioner might need, he ends up covering not much of anything.
The book assumes that readers are equipped with a basic knowledge of psychotherapy and counseling. Each section provides just enough information to tease, but not even fully intrigue, before skirting to the next topic. Overall, it becomes less a handbook and more a CliffsNotes for counselors or for students of counseling.
Seber begins with a brief discussion of the brain and the importance of understanding physiology as the foundation of personality. From there, he provides a fragmented summary of personality along with cognitive processes and the parallel development of brain and behavior. Then come the many quick descriptions of disparate subjects.
Typically, counselors who seek insight into a particular subject turn to handbooks specific to that area, or perform their own focused research. That means that Seber’s fire-hose — or is it a faucet-drip? — approach makes it hard to glean any satisfactory understanding. For instance, he dedicates only six pages to counseling for trauma and PTSD — the bulk of which is just his regurgitation of the DSM definition.
Again, this is decidedly not a book for those who seek deeper knowledge on psychology, neurology, mental illness, or even common therapeutic intervention techniques. Instead, it seems most geared toward counselors with established practices who (a) are well versed in basic tenants of psychology, (b) have little time to conduct thorough research on new techniques or uncommon illness, and (c) seek a catch-all where they can whet their appetite on a topic and then decide whether it’s worth further investigation.
But Seber undermines his efforts on another front: Statistics. Given that he is a former professor of statistics, this is a bit surprising; however, he makes clear that his aim “is not for data accuracy but rather to provide a very rough idea of prevalence for the therapist’s interest.” While he does provide numbers on some topics, his workaround for not fully developing the quantitative data appears to be his offer of a provisional bibliography.
But why provide some stats, or any data for that matter, when you’ve already given us reason to question your accuracy?
In Seber’s defense, his intent does not seem to be one of providing comprehensive information, so, in that respect, he has succeeded. But I would recommend his book only for the overworked practitioner with a penchant for a buffet approach. And even then, a better option for any counselor, student, or psychologist would be to refer to their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — and avoid Seber’s book.
Counseling Issues: A Handbook for Counselors and Psychotherapists
XLIBRIS, February, 2013
Paperback, 660 pages