The newly revised and updated version of this superb book is 376 pages of user-friendly yet remarkably concise information for therapists, pharmacists, and anyone else working in mental health with an interest in medication. As a second year pharmacy student, I found the Handbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for Therapists quite readable, with compelling, brief case histories and sidebar sections that highlight particular subjects in more depth. Using a well-thought-out design, the book tackles a remarkable amount, starting with the basics of psychopharmacology and clinical syndromes, then strolling through individual disorders, and wrapping up with medications typically used for each of those disorders.
The authors incorporate a host of very helpful diagrams, charts, and illustrations to explain concepts, and provide depth without overwhelming the reader with superfluous detail or jargon. Some of the details that I most appreciated while digesting the compendium were that it offered the generic and brand name when referencing medications; that it included both the etiologies (causes) of listed disorders and the mechanism of action of many of the pharmaceutical agents; and that it gave compelling examples of many clinical syndromes. These details should not be taken for granted, as they are certainly not included in every clinical book and really do make the content more accessible.
The guide begins with an interesting historical perspective on mental health and a glimpse into who is actually prescribing many of the medications reviewed (very often, a non-psychiatric M.D.). Key players and milestones in the evolution of the science of mental health are included in these opening pages. There is also a nice, basic reminder that the goal of those who work in mental health is to improve the lives of those challenged by psychiatric diagnoses.
The authors — John Preston, John O’Neal, and Mary C. Talaga — touch on cultural and individual differences and discuss the idea that patients will view medication, side effects, and therapy very differently from one another. Someone with paranoid schizophrenia, for example, may fear losing control over themselves once they begin medication, whereas a depressed patient may quickly become frustrated with seemingly small physiological consequences of certain medications, like dry mouth.
The authors also illustrate cultural differences. They compare the way a patient from China and a patient from the West might interpret the same side effect, one called polyuria (frequent urination). The individual from China may view the side effect as a positive attribute, an indication that his or her body is efficiently ridding itself of toxins. The western individual may be more likely to view it as a burden or an inconvenience that hinders his or her daily schedule.
Herbal medications, abuse and toxicity of prescribed medications, special populations (children, adolescents, and the elderly), and future directions in mental health care are also targeted within this very reasonably sized edition. I found the book a comprehensive and well-arranged roadmap, a helpful guide to the most pertinent issues we face within the ever-growing discipline of psychopharmacology.
As someone who has a reasonably strong science background and is also pursuing an advanced degree in the pharmaceutical sciences, I’m elated to add this handbook to my shelf and expect that it will see good use throughout the years, both during my schooling and after.
It is hard to think of a valid issue I had other than that by including “for therapists” in the title, the authors may have needlessly limited their target audience. The book offers a robust collection of knowledge. And it does so without requiring that double espresso too often needed to slog through textbooks.
Handbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for Therapists
New Harbinger Publications, Seventh Edition, 2013
Hardcover, 376 pages