BOOKS OF THE WEEK
Two recent books bring greater clarity to aspects of mental health care.
One book is “The Power of Therapy” by Joshua Newman, a psychotherapist in private practice in Albuquerque. It directly and clearly addresses basic questions about therapy.
The other is “How My Brain Works” by Barbara Koltuska-Haskin, a neuropsychologist in private practice also in Albuquerque. It’s an informative guide to what may be a little known specialty of psychology.
Newman cited two previously published books that are in part comparable to “The Power of Therapy.”
“One of them is an overview of what therapy offers. The other gives advice on how to get more out of therapy. I think my book does both and goes beyond those concepts,” he said. “I have a whole section on finding a therapist, trying to anticipate what to expect and how a client can avoid pitfalls in order to get the most out of therapy.”
Those therapy-related points are discussed in detail in the book’s first part.
Part Two, called “The Journey,” reviews such concepts as the healing power of the outdoors and exploring the psyche. Many of the concepts can assist readers in better understanding the assessment and treatment of a range of mental health issues, Newman wrote in an email.
Part Three is about relationships, that is, the client’s relationships with family members, with prospective companions, with conflicts within relationships.
“It’s been my experience that the quality of relationships have a huge impact on our mental health, whether it is with couples or individual work,” Newman said.
The fourth and last part is “Issues Commonly Addressed in Therapy.”
Chapters in this part deal with such issues as addictions, grief and loss, and depression. Depression is an emotion that goes deeper than sadness or having the blues, Newman writes. It can include such symptoms as energy loss, decreased motivation, difficulty concentrating, distorted thinking, changes in appetite or thoughts of death.
One form of clinical depression, he said, is Seasonal Affective Disorder. In some cases the disorder is brought on by changes in weather or in fewer hours of daylight at this time of year. Based on his observations, Newman said, there’s often a social dimension to the disorder. Holiday-related stress or trauma may occur if you spend more time with family members or others may experience greater feelings of loneliness or loss.
“The holiday season magnifies that (social dimension),” Newman said.
“The holidays are a reminder for people to practice self-care, maybe change expectations of ourselves and of society and not be afraid to reach out to a health professional, a friend or family member.”
Newman said he wrote the book for two audiences – people already in counseling and wanting to explore issues more deeply, and those who have never been in therapy and want to know what to expect. Both audiences would seem to benefit from the author’s coherently presented suggestions, among them are how to achieve therapy goals and keep them in focus and how to get the most out of each therapy session.
The first half of Koltuska-Haskin’s compact book, “How My Brain Works,” explains what neuropsychology is, what the elements of a neuropsychological evaluation are and what an evaluation can accomplish.
The author writes that the main purpose of the testing is to assess a person’s cognitive functioning or how well the brain is working.
She considers the evaluation process as a bridge between medicine and psychology. “It helps doctors to understand what’s going on and is also helpful for the patient,” she said.
Issues that should be addressed in an evaluation are “memory function, attention/concentration, processing information, problem solving … Also, your emotional functioning, such as depression, mood problems and anxiety, need to be assessed because problems in these areas affect the way your brain processes information,” Koltuska-Haskin writes.
If your brain is not working as it should, you might be suffering from dementia, sleeplessness or high anxiety, she said, and the result is that you don’t have quality of life.
The second part of Koltuska-Haskin’s award-winning book is about maintaining a healthy brain. It outlines steps individuals can take to improve the brain’s health. Those steps include physical exercise, proper nutrition, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, gratitude and compassion, and active learning.
In the preface, Dr. J. Mitchell Simson, an associate professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, stressed that neuropsychological testing, as the author writes, can help those working with patients with various coexisting medical and psychological disorders. Among the disorders he mentioned are PTSD, chronic pain and substance abuse.