Psychologist logo

Book reviews - August 2017

Writing, grief and job interviews.

04 July 2017

The Psychologist’s Companion: A Guide to Professional Success for Students, Teachers, and Researchers (6th edn)
Robert J. Sternberg & Karin Sternberg
Cambridge University Press;
Pb £29.99

This range of invaluable updates will benefit readers at different stages of their development as psychologists. The text has always offered psychology students and researchers helpful resources with writing and scientific communication, but the new edition has a broader focus to reflect the increasing media through which modern psychology students and professionals communicate.

Split into four parts, the text distils the experienced authors’ helpful advice on planning, writing and publishing psychological articles, before reflecting on other ways in which a psychologist might present themselves, including new content such as poster presentations, job interviews and in the media.

The authors have added explicit prompts for readers to reflect on topics as well as providing insightful examples from their own careers that keep the reader engaged. The updated guidelines for using the sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association will no doubt be used extensively by students and academics alike given the clarity with which they are presented.

The newest edition of The Psychologist’s Companion is an engaging, accessible and helpful text filled with useful and practical advice for psychologists at all stages of their career. The authors have created a text that will no doubt continue to be an essential resource for students and early-career psychologists amongst others.

Reviewed by Bryan McCann, who is a Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science


The Writer’s Diet
Helen Sword
University of Chicago Press
Pb £13.90

Is your text – er – a bit flabby? This short text uses the language of dieting to suggest how writers can improve their writing. Readers can skim or skip the explanatory text and use a computer-based program to analyse their writing ( You enter your text and it’s scored on five subscales (heart attack; flabby; needs toning; lean; and fit and trim) for each of five measures (verbs, nouns, prepositions, adjectives/adverbs, the use of it, is, that and there).

I used this program when writing the above (and I am not reporting on how many changes it suggested to my initial draft). Like all such tools, it is based more on experience and intuition than detailed quantification and research. It is a bit of fun, costs nothing, and will improve your writing.

Reviewed by James Hartley, who is Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Keele University


Grief – How It Harms and How to Cure It: The Question and Answer Model
Kottiyattil K. Aravind
Pb £7.99

Grief: How It Harms and How to Cure It claims to offer ‘a revolutionary single session approach to achieve a complete release from the suffering from any form of grief of any origin and duration and to regain normality for the rest of life’.

Dr Aravind talks about the rationale behind developing the approach – the Question and Answer model; existing theories and approaches for addressing grief do not tend to remove the adverse effects of grief entirely and/or permanently. Harmless and harmful grief are described, with the latter including aspects such as guilt, anger and shame, and typically requiring intervention. The majority of people who are grieving, whether arising from death of a loved one or a relationship break-up for example, will tend to ask questions. Different stages involved in working therapeutically with grief are discussed, such as building rapport, introducing the individual to the concept of harmful grief, and helping the individual to say goodbye.

The case studies provided are useful in demonstrating the application of the model and its effectiveness. It could have been beneficial to have more discussion on issues encountered in applying the model and ideas into practice, and how to deal with such issues. The book could be perceived as repetitive in places, and based on personal and professional experience to date I remain unsure as to whether it is feasible to reduce or eradicate an individual’s harmful grief within one session. Regardless of this, the importance of communication and rapport are emphasised, and valid points are discussed in relation to a very much-needed topic of research.

Reviewed by Charlotte Hague, who is a counselling psychologist with Worcestershire Health and Care
NHS Trust


The Psychology of Job Interviews
Nicolas Roulin
Pb £19.99

There are umpteen guides to job interviews out on the web, including guidance for candidates (e.g. how to prepare, what to say and not to say) and for employers (e.g. what questions to ask, and what to avoid). But none of these are backed up by research and evidence;, somewhat concerning as the traditional ‘triad’ of CV/application form, interview and references is still the selection method of choice.

Roulin’s slim book (six chapters, 166 pages) hence fills a clear gap guiding the reader through the interview process. Starting with the basic principles of what an interview is, it then considers the sides of the interviewer and interviewee to guide best practice. It covers process issues in terms of how best to prepare for interviews and how to make candidates comfortable, but also the structure (what questions to ask and in what order) and on what basis to formulate decisions (which candidate will you select?). The chapters also do not shy away from some more controversial topics, such as the inherent bias and subjectivity of interviews and how to manage this, or how to conduct panel interviews. These latter are very common in my world (academia), yet there is precious little guidance out there on how to manage them.

HR practitioners and managers, as well as job seekers, will have a lot to gain from reading this book, as it offers a solid overview referring to relevant research throughout. My only slight gripe is that some checklists, or guidance tips would have made the book even more accessible; maybe that’s a development point for a second edition.

Reviewed by Almuth McDowall, Assistant Dean, Department of Organizational Psychology, Birkbeck University of London