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Positive psychology is rooted in the idea that human beings want to thrive and engage in things that enrich their experiences and cultivate a meaningful life. In his 2014 book, Mindfulness and Character Strengths: A Practical Guide to Flourishing, author Ryan M. Niemiec discusses how practicing mindfulness can help individuals identify, understand, and apply their character strengths and create a pathway to a fulfilling life. He takes readers through Drs. Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman’s program Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP), relays inspiring success stories about finding meaning via MBSP, provides useful handouts to guide readers through MBSP, and gives tips for practitioners such as how to apply MBSP to different settings and situations.

Mindfulness and Character Traits received praise for its revolutionary perspective. It reads like a self-help book, perfect for individuals who want to learn how to personally achieve mindfulness and discover their character strengths; however, it wasn’t written with the goal of teaching practitioners how to implement MBSP in their practice with their clients. With that in mind, Niemiec (2018) wrote his recently published book, Character Strength Interventions: A Field Guide for Practitioners for Practitioners. Additionally, he focuses more on the core of positive psychology, character strengths and less on how to achieve mindfulness. He educates the reader on the foundations of character strength interventions, relays evidence to support his claims about the usefulness of character strength interventions, and explains countless interventions step-by-step providing practitioners with a useful handbook.

Reviews

Trauma is pervasive in our lives, from smaller situations that trigger feelings of inability and fear to larger catastrophes that render our entire being useless as we careen out of control. Be it a result of human inflicted acts of violence—war, terrorism, genocide— or the result of natural occurrences such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and wild fires that leave us feeling victimized, isolated, abandoned, people walk through their lives numb to their reality. Their senses are overwhelmed; scenes flash in as if happening now, not then. People exist in the past as if it is the present. And when these people become our clients, when in fact these people are in part, ourselves, we, as therapists, need to offer hope and possibility to move from then to now, to live a better quality of life than what we are experiencing in the current moment.

But, how?

Reviews

“This book proposes a new code for reading the body that allows us to discover the intelligent sense of difficulty and to understand why we are the person that we are. It is presented within narratives of life stories from group supervision sessions.
The body has sense because of the marks incised left from life’s experiences. It has sense in the highest and deepest meaning of the word because of its multi-sensorial intelligence that reads between the lines of communications and relationships, with the tastes and flavours, with visual and physical contact, with the tone of voice and the field atmospheres. “

Reviews

Babies and children can often be our greatest teachers in life. They remind us of our deep human connection to each other and to the world. An Integrative Approach to Treating Babies and Children, edited by John Wilks, persuades us to listen to everyone’s own “baby history.”

In other words, Wilks has us look into the history of our birth in order to have a greater understanding of its effects on our adult life. Wilks suggests in the introduction that, “One of the major themes in this book is that it is much more important for us to create the right space in ourselves and in our clinic setting to work with babies rather than what we ‘do’ to a baby” (16).

Reviews

For many it can be easy to harshly judge the person sitting on the street corner asking for change. Perhaps we might believe they are taking up too much sidewalk space or too much space in general. So, we step over them without stopping.
Psychoanalyst and poet, Merle Molofsky makes us stop before we judge. In this visceral piece of poetry, she asks important questions about psychoanalysis, life, death, sex, love and violence. Her exceptionally engrossing writing style takes us onto the streets and in the presence of her characters. As if we stand face-to-face with the burdens and torments of each person we encounter, we come to realize our own connections to it all. She delves into topics that are still relevant today including topics of greed, drug addiction, heartbreak, loneliness and feelings of hopelessness and depression.

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Family life can be difficult; the interconnectedness of family can spark conflict that is hard to avoid. Family difficulties take many forms therefore there is no easy solution or magical fix for dysfunctional families. Family members can influence each other but can only control how they, as an individual, respond to the conflict. In his self-help book Overcoming Your Difficult Family: 8 Skills for Thriving in Any Family Situation, Eric Maisel presents eight skills anyone can acquire and utilize to help themselves through difficult familial circumstances, and in turn hopefully influence the whole family unit in a positive way.

Reviews

“Writing has helped me heal. Writing has changed my life. Writing has saved my life.” These powerful first sentences of Louise DeSalvo’s Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Stories Transforms Our Lives immediately conveys the author’s strong belief in the curative power of writing. She posits that writing helps people recover from “thorny experiences” and can help heal those suffering from a variety of situations, from dislocation and violence to rape and racism (4). DeSalvo is a professor of English and Creative Writing at Hunter College and is the author of over a half dozen books, so her advice is rooted in her own personal experience using writing as an instrument of healing.

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Doctors generally begin their journey as eager medical students determined to change the world one patient at a time. With intelligence, compassion, and a desire to help others, medical students muster up enough drive to fight through medical school and residency, accepting the hours of work, sleepless nights, and giant holes left in their bank account in pursuit of what they believe to be a worthwhile, fulfilling profession both morally and economically.

However, in Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician, Sandeep Jauhar suggests that it’s difficult to maintain this view within the current medical climate because it’s dominated by the government and large corporations set out to generate income, even if it’s at patients’ expense. In this powerful and thought-provoking memoir, Jauhar utilizes case studies and anecdotes as he reveals his journey as a doctor facing what he refers to as “the midlife crisis in American medicine” and his attempts to understand why “medicine today is as fraught as it’s ever been” (15).

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Intimacy from the Inside Out (IFIO) by Toni Herbine-Blank, Donna M. Kerpelman, and Martha Sweezy is geared toward psychotherapists who are seeking an alternative method for practicing couples therapy. IFIO therapy stems from Internal Family Systems therapy (IFS), a model developed by Richard Schwartz in the 1980s as an approach to working with individuals and families, then later expanded to include couples. IFIO couple’s therapy involves a two-step process of planning for the predictable universal issues that couples face and responding skillfully to other unexpected factors. Couples entering IFIO therapy often hold the two goals of feeling safe within their relationship and reestablishing intimacy. In the initial session, the therapist meets with the couple to inquire about hopes and goals, assess their ability to accept differences in each other, and then offer a perspective on the possibilities of treatment.

Reviews

In Psychotherapy East & West, Alan Watts attempts to bridge the gap between Western psychological thought and Eastern ways of life. Originally published in 1961, his goal was to provide an updated perspective on Western versus Eastern psychological ideas and provoke thought and experimentation in the reader. The 2017 reprinting of this classic instills new life into Watts’ argument that using psychotherapy without an understanding of Eastern ideologies will fall short of helping one to reach a feeling of true liberation. He posited that the groundbreaking insights of influential psychologists such as Freud and Jung synthesized with the Eastern spiritual philosophies of Buddhism, Taoism, Vedanta, and yoga could liberate people from the internal struggles within themselves.