Friday, January 30, 2015

#CBR7 Review #07: Case Approach to Counselling and Psychotherapy by Gerald Corey

This is a misleading little textbook in terms of how long it actually takes to get through it. I thought, “oh it’s so small compared to my other books, this will be easy!” But no. The writing is compact and while there is a lot of dialogue in the presented case studies to make things interesting, overall it is quite dry and I found it hard to focus on what I was reading. That is not to say that it wasn’t informative! But as compared to the other two textbooks I’ve read so far this year, it’s been the most difficult to get through.

In this book, Gerald Corey presents the hypothetical counseling case of “Ruth”, and provides information that might be acquired during an intake interview. Corey then invites counselors from a variety of different theoretical perspectives to describe what their style of counseling might involve when working with someone like Ruth. There is also an inclusion at the end of each chapter with discussion on what Corey’s process would be with Ruth within each specified theoretical framework. These theories involve perspective ranging from psychodynamic to humanistic, from family therapy to multicultural perspectives, from gestalt to cognitive behavioral, and more.

The range of practices and theories presented is a good, diverse spread, and each makes sense in their own way of working with the same patient. But of course, there are some that I myself am more drawn to than others, as is always the case with each individual person. Overall this book is full of great information on the subject of counseling and practically working with the different theories, however it is an instructional book, and not exactly the most fun thing to read (and let’s not even get started on the price of textbooks today. My heart weeps at the thought of it).

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Sunday, January 25, 2015

#CBR07 Review #06: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Achilles: No wonder the sky is so gray today, bro.
Patroclus: Why, bro?
Achilles: Because all the blue is in your eyes.
Patroclus: Bro.

There are a number of different interpretations as to what the exact nature of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus was in Greek Mythology. I mean, we know that they loved each other. For real. But was it a brothers-in-arms kind of deal? Nah. It’s pretty widely accepted that they were in fact lovers. Yet Patroclus is often seen as little more than a side-character in the Illiad, despite the fact that his death has such an effect on the outcome of the war. And so, Madeline Miller chose to write The Song of Achilles from Patroclus’ point of view, which largely focuses on the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles.

Patroclus is a great narrator for the tale, and you begin to feel for him even before he becomes entwined in the myth of the great hero, Achilles. Because how much do we hear about his life before the war in any of the other major Greek stories? Very little. It all begins as a coming-of-age tale for Patroclus and Achilles, whose lives are brought together after Patroclus is exiled from his home. Patroclus becomes a companion for the prince, Achilles, and really the whole thing is a matter of two people spending a lot of time together until one day they realize, whoa, I think I actually love you. The progression of their relationship feels natural and gentle, yet in the early parts of the novel I found myself forgetting just how young the two boys were, and picturing them as far more mature in my mind. But I guess that’s how things were in Ancient Greece, huh? At 16, you are a man (or so the novel says).

Soon after this age of adulthood is hit, however, the Trojan War inevitably begins, and we see how the boys grow old over the long course of the war. How Achilles’ want to become famous as a hero affects him and his decisions. How the politics of war can be shady and underhand and hurt relationships and the status of heroes. We know from the beginning that neither Patroclus nor Achilles will live through this war, and they know it too. And that just adds to the tragedy of their story together.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Song of Achilles, and the way in which this other side to Achilles and his life are finally shown. All we ever tend to see is the story of him in the war, and how he is finally undone by a shot to his heel. Yet this myth of him being immortal excepting the one spot on his heel is not even present in this novel. He is but an exceptionally great warrior, and a mortal one. His Goddess mother, Thetis, wishes Achilles to be a God, and so therefore hates that he loves a simple mortal man. But the temperaments of Achilles and Patroclus match, and I would say that Patroclus is indeed worthy of Achilles’ love, despite what Thetis might say.

The writing of this novel is also rich and beautiful. You can tell that a lot of thought and research additionally went in to being authentic with the story, as well as having Gods and Goddesses present to show how these rituals and beliefs inevitably affected many of the actions of people in Ancient Greece. Yet, if there was one thing that bothered me about this book, it would be the portion after Patroclus dies. He is the narrator, yet he is dead, and still present as a spirit to tell the story. While this definitely works, due to the belief that since Patroclus was not given a proper burial initially he is therefore forced to remain among the living world, it comes across as a bit awkward at the first. The wording of his narration when he first dies left me confused as to what was happening, if he was really dead or still in the process of dying, and even who was being talked about at certain points. After this settled in my brain, however, it all worked out. And then the end of the Trojan War is rushed through a little bit, just to wrap things up. Though seeing as Patroclus and Achilles were the focus of the book, it makes sense as to why things were a little bit breezed through at the end, even if it felt a tad anticlimactic to me.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Song of Achilles, and absolutely breezed through it because I just wanted to keep reading. So I would definitely recommend others to check it out and see if it strikes a fancy. 

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Sunday, January 18, 2015

#CBR7 Review #05: The Death Cure by James Dashner

The concluding novel in James Dashner’s “Maze Runner” trilogy has a similar, helpless and not really know what the heck is going on feeling as the preceding two novels of the series. Yet being unsure and running around just trying to figure things out fell a little flat in this book, and almost seemed redundant and like they were treading water for far too long, until a hasty (though reasonably good) showdown near the end. I am glad to have gotten to the end and to finally have at least some answers as to what the maze and everything was about, though a few things still seem to be up in the air… and I don’t know if I’m entirely satisfied.

The first book of the trilogy (The Maze Runner) is very strong and interesting, and leaves you with so many questions that you just want answered. The second book (The Scorch Trials) were difficult for me to get through, and I found them tedious and not nearly as intriguing as the first novel, and even though it ended on a cliff-hanger, I found myself really not caring all that much about what happened after the final page. This concluding piece to the trilogy (The Death Cure) falls somewhere in the middle, and I finally brought myself to reading it after seeing the film for the first novel and realizing that, hey, I kind of do want to know how it all ends. Plus Dylan O’Brien has really pretty eyes.

The Death Cure picks up with Thomas and the rest of the Gladers at the WICKED headquarters after being picked up from crossing the scorch as a part of their second phase of testing. They learn that they were chosen for testing to read their brains due to being immune to the Flare disease that is infecting countless people on the planet (well, most of them are immune anyways), and WICKED plans to give all the subjects their memories back in order to complete the final phases of testing. Thomas, Minho, and Newt, however, refuse to learn about their pasts in helping WICKED and break out of the facility with Brenda, who they met in the scorch but happens to actually work for WICKED as well.

From there, they finally get to see what has become of the world and what cities look like now. Upon reaching the city of Denver, they realize they need to figure out what to do next, what the best plan is for not only their survival, but also others who may be threatened by WICKED’s continuing plan to wrangle up new subjects to put through grueling trials in a search for a cure for the flare. There is a lot of running around and not really knowing where to go or what to do, and new alliances are made with a group called the Right Arm who want to take down WICKED, and old alliances are put to the test. There is always a continual question of who is to be trusted and if what Thomas and his friends are doing is the right thing. Just like in the other books, we have as little knowledge of what is really going on as Thomas does, which sometimes can be intriguing, but can also be frustrating as there always seems to be more questions than answers. Inevitably, everything ends in a showdown between Thomas, his allies, and WICKED.

Dashner writes quite good action sequences, though sometimes they fall into the trap like what often happens in The Hobbit films: something or someone pops out of nowhere to save a person right before they are stabbed/shot/fall off something, etc. You could also see that there was an attempt to make an emotional piece with Theresa and Thomas near the very end and yet I found that I just stopped caring for Theresa a long time ago. And some others. Though not everyone. It was kind of mixed-bag in terms of affection for characters, to be honest. 

Overall I feel as though the ending somewhat makes sense and ties things together reasonably well, and yet I still feel like I wanted more. I’m not sure what it is that I think is missing, but there’s just… something.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

#CBR7 Review #04: The Silver Drawing Test and Draw a Story by Rawley Silver

When I tell people that I am studying art therapy they often say things like: “so if I showed you one of my drawings you’d be able to tell me what’s wrong with me?” Um… no. That’s not how it works. Everyone approaches artwork from their own experiences with their own perspectives, and therefore often interpret pieces very differently from one another. Sometimes they aren’t even close to what the artist themselves intended. But whatever comes from the artist through their creative expression is an extension of the self, and can possibly provide some clues, cues, or ideas that may be further explored, but as guided by the client’s needs (and not hasty therapist interpretations which may end up being misleading).

Yet there are some simple drawing tasks that have been developed that can act as basic assessment tests. Presented in this book are the Silver Drawing Test, which assesses cognitive and emotional development, and the Draw a Story assessment which may be used to predict depression and aggression. These are two widely uses assessment tools, which can be administered by a range of practitioners in the helping professions.

The book itself details the development and application of these tests, and presents research studies, case studies, and specific areas wherein the test has been used. In this way, it can be shown the different ways in which the tests have either been shown to be valid, typical results and differences in different populations, as well as certain areas wherein the test may still require room for development and further research into it’s usage and the administering of it. I am giving the book a strong rating due to the fact that it was very understandable, particularly as compared to a number of the other books I’ve had to read for school lately. There were a lot of numbers presented and some of them went a bit over my head, but overall it wasn’t too tedious to get through as far as textbooks go.

The Silver Drawing Test was first created as a means of trying to assess intelligence in some non-verbal children, as typically it is through language or words that our cognitive and intellectual abilities are assessed. For these types of clients, instructions may need to be written or pantomimed in order to be understood. The test itself includes 3 parts:
  1. Predictive Drawing: those being tests are given a task which involves them drawing a sequence or predicting how something should look in a certain situation, such as how water will sit in a bottle if it is tilted.
  2. Drawing from Observation: an arrangement will be laid out to draw by those being tested. Scores are typically made as based on how spatial relationships are portrayed between items, as well as the representations themselves.
  3. Drawing from Imagination: the clients are given a number of sheets/a booklet with various drawings of figures, animals, objects, etc. on them. They are asked to draw an image that tells a story that involves one or two of the figures within the books. The story is then written or dictated, so that they can be scored on emotional content, as well as representational and creative content.

Together, the three tasks of the test can be useful in determining different cognitive abilities of those tested, which may include observations of spatial relationships, ability to think abstractly, or ability to combine different elements cohesively, among other things. Depending on how the tests go, further assessment may be needed, or work on a particular area of emotionality, cognitive aspects of thinking to better align with their stage of development.

The Draw a Story test is similar to the Drawing from Imagination task within the Silver Drawing Test: clients are given a number of images of figures, people, animals, etc. and asked to create a story out of them in a drawing. The story is then recounted and titled, either by writing or dictating to someone administering the test. After this, the image is scored on three 5-point scales:
  1. Emotional Content: whether the image depicts a largely positive, largely negative, or ambivalent fantasy.
  2. Self-Image: is the person who created the image somehow represented within the drawing or not? Is the figure they identify with portrayed in a positive or negative fashion? How does the person seem to feel about themselves through their image.
  3. Use of Humor: though humor is not always present, a score is given based on whether the humor present in the image is morbid, self-disparaging, resilient, or playful.

Scores are then assessed together to determine if there are any indicators of possible depression or aggression within the individuals based on how they performed. In general, negative fantasies with high self-images tend to be predictors of aggression. Negative fantasies with lower self-image also tend to be predictors of depression. Yet it is important to keep in mind that other factors may be present, and this is just one assessment that may then be built upon. It is also often necessary to speak to the client about their drawing or have the story explanation to really see how they are identifying in their image (if at all), and to determine the true mood of the picture, given how misinterpretation may happen with artwork.

The one thing that I didn’t always necessarily understand within these tests was how to score for humor. Maybe it is more evident when actually administering tests, but the examples given, I saw things and would have no idea whether the person who depicted the story thought it was humorous or not. In general, however, The Silver Drawing Test and Draw a Story was very informative, and I appreciated the many cases and examples of application in practice to really understand how it might be used in a variety of cases.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Monday, January 12, 2015

#CBR7 Review #03: Art Therapy and Postmodernism by Helene Burt

In preparation for an upcoming course on issues of professional practice in art therapy, I read this book on postmodernism and art therapy, as edited by Helene Burt. The book itself is comprised of a number of different author’s contributions, who are practicing or researching art therapists themselves. The focus of the chapters vary, based on the practitioner’s area of personal research or practice. They include areas such as: language differences between clients and therapists, working with a diversity of culture in certain areas, feminist theory and art therapy, and working with transient youth populations. The one string that ties everything together, however, is the fact that the ideas presented all fall into what would be considered postmodernism ideas.

The one problem I found, however, was that how each author understands postmodernism is not specifically defined by them. In a book that emphasizes individual differences and the individual experience, it would make sense for the contributors to explain how they understand the concept, as this is not explicitly expressed in any manner. There are bound to be a few differences in conceptualization and understanding. The research portion presented is largely done so with studies involving small groups with qualitative data, as this field in itself is still in somewhat of a growing stage. Overall, however, the chapters are informative, though some of the writer’s styles do not exactly align with my tastes and come off as somewhat dry.

What I’m left with the most from this book is the idea that while we may think we understand people’s experiences and can generalize them based on some factor (race, gender, sexual orientation), each person has had their own experiences in life. It really reminds me of the ridiculous new trend of people to say they are “women against feminism” because they feel they don’t need feminism in their own experience. But just because one person in a group does not experience something that doesn’t mean others don’t. All the little subgroups must be taken into account as well: ie, women of color, transgendered women, etc, who not only encounter certain oppressions and experiences due to being women, but also other issues within their specific groups on top of that. While we may sometimes want to say that we don’t see or recognize differences in others (the “colorblind” theory), this often informs us as to some aspect of how a person might experience or perceive their world. Furthermore, being culturally aware is important when working with others, as this can inform us of how they might view certain acts or actions: for instance, what is respectful to one may not be so to another, based on how their are raised or certain cultural views. 

I suppose what I’m taking with me more than anything is the idea that while we should treat people equally and without prejudice, we cannot just not see or ignore the fact that differences exist and that these differences will have an affect on how a person experiences the world. This is incredibly important to remember in the helping professions, so I suppose taking that message with me is a good thing, even if some of the ideas related specifically to art therapy didn’t stick quite as well with me.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Friday, January 9, 2015

#CBR7 Review #02: Amelia Bedelia 50th Anniversary Library by Peggy Parish

Oh Amelia Bedelia. She can either be seen as the most terrifying character ever due to the way she takes things so literally, or as a reminder that not everyone understands things in the same way, and sometimes we need to adjust or learn to communicate in new ways in order to facilitate different ways of thinking/people and how they are. In fact, at the end of the first Amelia Bedelia book, her employer Mr. Rogers makes a point of saying he will learn to say things in new ways for her to better understand and so that Amelia can keep working for him. Because what Amelia does well, she does VERY well, and it’s clear she is always just trying to please everyone as best as she can, even if she doesn’t always get what she’s doing or why.

The 50th anniversary library contains three Amelia Bedelia stories. The first is “Amelia Bedelia,” the original story written about the literal-minded housekeeper on her first day working for the Rogers. The collection also includes two of Peggy Parish’s most popular stories of Amelia, which are, “Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia,” about her helping the local boys’ baseball team when they are down a member, and “Amelia Bedelia and the Surprise Shower” about Mrs. Rogers throwing a wedding shower for one of her friends. In the latter story, the children present especially enjoy Amelia and her nature, and there is a sense that even though things do not go according to plan for the shower, maybe it’s sometimes better for things to go unexpectedly, as people may have more fun and excitement in the process.

In any case, I can see why children would enjoy these stories. I myself still enjoyed them quite a bit now, too! And now I finally understand what my mother means when she refers to my sister and I as Amelia Bedelia when we sometimes do silly things or misinterpret one another. It’s been so long since I had heard one of these stories, I had forgotten! I might even look up and read a few more now, just for fun.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Friday, January 2, 2015

#CBR7 Review #01: Who We Are by One Direction

A new year means the beginning of a new Cannonball Read (or a half, in my case)! So before I get bogged down with reading and reviewing textbooks like last year, let’s start with something fun. And what makes me happy when all else fails? You guessed it: One Direction!

Of course there will always be differences between the publicly presented images of a person and who they really are, especially if the person in question is a public figure, celebrity, etc. So while it truly feels like the boys of One Direction want to be genuine about who they are as people, what they want to say, and how they want to grow and progress in their music, there is still something so controlled about how they are managed and how One Direction™ is presented. Not surprising, considering how lucrative being marketed at a young female fanbase can be (it worked for The Beatles during the time of “Beatlemania”, after all, right?). Therefore, despite the fact that this autobiography of theirs perhaps touches on some new information about the boys, their lives, their careers, and how they really feel about things, there is still missing something.

I opted to go through Who We Are as an audiobook, which had it’s pros and cons. On the one hand, it is always nice to hear some of the boys just talk about things, particularly Zayn who is someone more introverted and therefore doesn’t always get to speak that much in interviews with the other boys. However, even though these boys have beautiful singing voices (they are absolutely crushing their live vocals lately!), their speaking really isn’t all that suited to doing audiobooks. Though I will say that Louis’ speaking voice was quite nice to listen to, just because it’s kind of different. I do also know that the hard copy of the book has a whole lot of nice images of all the band members from when they were young, from their tours, etc, so it feels more like a collectors’ item than anything else. In any case, here is the kind of thing that I got to listen to as written in the book:

Who We Are features five sections, one for each of the boys, and hits on a lot of stuff that we’ve already heard before about One Direction: how they all basically went to X Factor auditions when they were teenagers and have hardly been home since, getting thrown together with four strangers into a world where they didn’t know what they were doing or where they were going or how their lives would change and become so crazy. The boys always make sure to mention how the fan reaction was really what created their success and the decision to keep their group going after they lost the X Factor, and they really do seem to be grateful for this contribution to their success. They talk a lot about the recording of their first songs and early tours, and it is interesting to hear now about how over the course of the past few years they have learned so much about the music industry, after basically just being tossed into it with no knowledge at the beginning, just doing what they were sort of directed to do. The five boys are becoming more and more involved in the decisions and writing of their new songs, which have progressed quite a bit since “What Makes You Beautiful“ came out over three years ago (speaking of which, I’m really hoping they choose to make “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?” their next single, because that song is an absolutely cracking tune!).
Even though a lot of this information is known and gets covered in typical interviews with the boys, there are some new items of information that I found to be somewhat interesting to hear the lads discuss:

For instance, it was neat to hear what being at the X Factor house was like for them, which Zayn tells as being a big part of how they formed such a strong bond with one another. I guess all the contestants who made the finals on X Factor how nice, big rooms to stay in in the X Factor house, yet the five boys of One Direction ended up sharing the tiniest little room in the house, leading them to become super close friends insanely quickly. And that’s one of the best things about One Direction in my opinion: you can tell that the boys all really love each other.

Zayn also discusses some things about his childhood, and about how he was treated by some of the other kids at school due to the different races of his parents. He didn’t really see what the big deal was, but hearing that makes me think of how even now, Zayn’s religion is so often focused on or used in negative connotations for jokes about him. (Oh, didn’t you know he’s the “mysterious ethnic one” of the band? Puh-lease! Can we not reduce people like that? He’s also passionate about art and it’s wonderful!). I will go to battle for that kid.

In the Louis section, there was also another piece that made me a little sad to hear about, just like in Zayn’s, and that is about how Louis didn’t feel like he contributed to the group at all in the beginning: he was never given solos to sing on the X Factor, and doubted that he really belonged in One Direction at all, even though all the boys clearly wanted him to be there. Louis talks about how he never felt confident in his voice after that, until their third album “Midnight Memories” was released. And while maybe he doesn’t have the strongest voice in the group, whenever I hear One Direction sing acapella or acoustically, his voice rings through during the chorus so clearly, filling out something that would be otherwise missing and tying all the harmonies together. I will go to battle for this kid, too.

Honestly, I’ll go to battle for every one of these kids. And I keep calling them kids despite the fact that they are… well, just a couple of years younger than myself. I absolutely adore One Direction and think the boys in the band are really interesting kids who seem like a lot of fun. But I like them better when they are unscripted, together, and just get to be who they are, not who they are told they should be. I mean, have you seen that Harry Styles boy in concert or in daily life? He’s a total weirdo. But an insanely endearing one that is always said to be nothing but polite and charming whenever someone new meets him. And that’s what I like to hear. (You keep doing you, little buddy!)

It’s clear when you read/listen to this book that One Direction works insanely hard, and that the boys in the band are trying really hard to grow and just be who they are. But there is still something reserved about them and how they are presented as a product, and I hope that they can overcome this in whatever way works best for them as they continue in the industry. I also just want them to be able to get some rest and time to spend with their families. Precious little beans.

Wow, now it looks like I’ve just wrote a novel about One Direction (surprise surprise) so I will leave with this note about Who We Are: if you are a fan of One Direction you might find it interesting. If not, I might suggest watching their movie This Is Us instead. Sure, it still has some of the same issues that this book has and is largely of the boys on tour for the “Take Me Home” album, (meaning that it won’t show as much of the growth that they have had during the creation of their 3rd and 4th albums), but it is a much more entertaining use of time. Plus the songs they perform in that are ridiculous but so much fun. 
All I know is that One Direction seems like they are all in on some big secret. And I really want to know what it might be.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]