(Click on the title to be taken to the review, or reviewer's name for biodata, or simply scroll down the page)

Seeing Double  by J. Richard Block - Reviewer Joe Sinclair

Pure Madness by Jeremy Laurance - Reviewer Abigail Freeman

English Only Europe by Robert Phillipson - Reviewer Joe Sinclair

Handbook of Solution-Focused Therapy by Bill O'Connell and Stephen Palmer - Reviewer Robert Cumming

Nature's Building Blocks by John Emsley - Reviewer John Ewing

The Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin - Reviewer Stephen J.M. Bray

Teaching Toward Solutions by Linda Metcalf - Reviewer Mark Edwards

Heart and Mind by Mary Midgley - Reviewer Irene Hayes





Seeing Double  by J. Richard Block.  Routledge, London, 140 pages, 175+ illustrations and more than 200 illusions .  ISBN 0-415-93482-6.  Price 11.99 

Ive been a fan of optical illusions, visual tricks, and surrealist art for most of my life.  Want some proof?  Looking for credentials? 

My London home has Dali and Klee reproductions on its walls.  My seaside pad boasts six  Archimboldo full size prints the Four Seasons, the Librarian and the Gardener.  My bookshelves in both places have volumes of illustrations by Escher.  My ABC of NLP has two cartoons featuring optical illusions.  My novel The Torturous Scheme has the well-known faces in profile or vase design for its front cover.  Enough already!  I hear you cry.   

But you can guess how delighted I was to be sent for review a book that includes every one of these illustrations and much, much more, mostly in glorious colour, and comprising a really informatively written commentary to accompany the pictures.  It comprises more than 175 illustrations that trick the eye into seeing alternative images; plus double illusions, pictures that may be viewed both ways up, ambiguities, cartoon strips that may be viewed upside-down for a completely different story.

How many people can you find in this picture?

So why do I go overboard for this type of design?  I believe it is probably the fact that I love the metaphors implicit in each of them.  I do not take them at face value.  And many of them have repaid frequent and repeated perusal over the years, with additional metaphorical elements being revealed each time. 

And when I began to study NLP it was very reassuring to learn that we none of us see the world as it really is, but merely our interpretation of it, from our personal frame of reference, using our individual maps of reality.  And that satisfying concept was illustrated in Anthony Robbins book Unlimited Power by the old woman/young girl illusion that also figures in Seeing Double  

Old woman or young girl?

Whether they are your cup of tea, I cant say.  They are certainly a specialised taste.  The book does, however, make a good coffee table addition and you can be sure that visitors waiting patiently for attention will be hard to drag away from this volume.  And with Christmas so close, it will also make an attractive gift. 

What more can I say?  Its a fascinating book.

Joe Sinclair  




Pure Madness by Jeremy Laurance.  Routledge.   Hardback: 0-415-36979-7: Price 45.00
aperback: 0-415-36980-0: Price 9.99 

Comprehensive, easy to understand, accurately reflecting the needs and perspectives of those with mental health difficulties, this book has qualities that the mental health services it describes desperately lack.  This book will come as no reassurance to those who feel their local mental health services are inadequate; the national picture is gloomy, with good practice struggling against lack of resources and government policy. The Institute of Psychiatry's response to Frank Dobson's statement that community care had failed following the closing of asylums, was that community care had never been fully implemented. 

Jeremy Laurance, health editor of The Independent, describes how our current services have been shaped, with a shift away from therapeutic concerns to social control and risk management. Drugs, which can be administered without consent, remain the first-line treatment. What patients often want - someone to talk to and ongoing support with practical problems - is not sufficiently available. The lack of appropriate help from mental health services, and the growing stigma associated with mental illness, act together to discourage people from approaching mental health services. Laurance describes how the draft Mental Health Bill, against which The Independent launched a campaign, confirms the public association of dangerousness and mental illness. At the same time he examines homicide statistics to find no evidence of increased risk from mentally ill people since the closing of the asylums, and that the proportion of homicides committed by mentally ill people has declined. In the final chapter he highlights the consensual treatment approaches and help with social problems that really can make a difference.  

Anyone involved with the mental health services, whether as worker, patient, or relative, will welcome this informative argument. To anyone without that experience, this book could come as a shocking eye opener about how people in mental distress are treated. It is an essential read for anyone whose work, care, or relative's care is affected by the new Mental Health Bill - and with one in four people suffering from mental illness at some point in their lives, that could mean most of us. 

I have only one quibble with the book: I would have liked a bibliography at the end to supplement all the references listed within the text. 

Abigail Freeman


English Only Europe by Robert Phillipson, Published by Routledge, 2003,  Hardback: 0-415-28806-1: Price 45.00; Paperback: 0-415-28807-X: 12.99.  246 pages.

"Languages have expanded and contracted throughout history," writes Robert Phillipson, "and there are many languages that are currently expanding at the expense of other languages, but the way English is impacting globally is unique."

So how are the nations of the European Union and the EU itself dealing with the concerns of multilingualism in a community where theoretically all the languages have equal status, yet English is inevitably dominating communication?

This is the issue that predominates in Phillipson's intriguing and clearly written book.  The European Union has 15 member states and eleven official languages (Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish) and every member state has the right to determine a language (in the case of Belgium, actually two languages) to be used between itself and the EU. This has produced the paradox that a Union established to unite nations is committed to diversity in languages.

Because of the complexities of working within such a cumbersome structure, to say nothing of the costs to the EU of translation and interpretation between eleven languages, it is inevitable that policy needs to be redefined.  And the situation will become even more acute if the number of official EU languages grows from the present 11 to 21, as is expected to take place when the EU takes on new members next year.  

Unofficially, by common consent, the working languages have been restricted to three: English, French and German.  But English has insidiously continued to take precedence.  For example, three years ago France, Germany and Spain merged their aerospace industries.  It was not only given an English name, but English was made its language.  In Italy, the manufacturer Merloni adopted English as its language in the 1990s.  Going even further back, the Finnish lift maker Kone adopted English in the 1970s.

In the face of this persistent and increasing encroachment of the English language in the areas of politics, economics, academia, science, industry and commerce, what real hope is there for the EU to reverse the trend and introduce multilingualism? 

In Finland, for example, English is more and more becoming the main language spoken in the boardrooms of the larger corporations.  According to a recent article in Finland's Helsingin Sanomat, knowledge of English is no longer just a virtue - it is a necessity for success at work.  The newspaper goes on to say: "Finland has shifted from being a Finnish-speaking industrial economy to an English-language financial economy in which corporate representatives must speak the language of investors in London and New York. That language is rarely Finnish." 

It is clear from Phillipson's book that the situation in Finland is duplicated in most of the countries of the EU.  The question for those countries has become not whether to use their own language or English, but how to use them alongside each other.  Inevitably they will use the language that best serves them.

English-Only Europe is written by one who certainly has all the right credentials, for not only is he Research Professor in the Department of English at Copenhagen Business School, but he has "lived as an immigrant in Denmark for thirty years, after shorter periods in French-, German-, Serbian-, and Spanish-speaking countries."  This information was only imparted on page 62 and I would have welcomed his auto-biographical detail in an introduction section rather than in Chapter Three.

But that's a minor quibble.  I found the book exciting, provocative, and highly topical.

Joe Sinclair



Handbook of Solution-Focused Therapy, edited by Bill O'Connell and Stephen Palmer, Sage Publications, August  2003, 200 pp, 17.99 (paperback)   ISBN 0-7619-6783-4.

This book has 14 chapters on diverse applications of Solution-Focus, between introductory and closing chapters by Bill OConnell. The book relates to work being done in the UK and in Ireland, excepting Alasdair MacDonalds piece on research in SFT which is an up-to-date and welcome review of research findings world-wide. All the chapters are succinct and they convey a clear impression of the lightness and excitement of this approach, for service-users and therapists alike.  

Subjects dealt with include working with: families in social services, groups, parenting classes, couples, women, mental health services, psychosis, school and university students, sexually traumatised clients, and people addicted to drugs and alcohol. The chapter authors have approached their work from various angles; Tom Dodds chapter on mental health deals with the congruence of SFT with current views of mental health services, while  Dave Hawkes chapter on SFT with psychosis gets quickly down to a description of practices and assumptions used in therapy. I found this range of approaches made for stimulating reading, especially as I am a working therapist and trainer and I need to know what every level of the hierarchy of statutory services in the UK may be thinking about my work! 

The more hands-on chapters come from a variety of positions. Chris Iveson for example, writing about working with couples, comes from a fairly pure SFT point of view. He could even be said to be minimalist among SFT therapists and SFT is a very minimalist therapy to begin with. In contrast John Sharry gives an account of joining SFT practices and assumptions to psychoeducational work in parent training groups. Other authors emphasize integrating SFT with legal and workplace demands which may enforce some problem-focused thinking. Questions are being asked by these authors along the lines of How much simpler can we make this approach? And How can we include SFT thinking in to our agency? It is not surprising that these and other very diverse questions produce very different answers.

It becomes clear reading this book just how adaptable SFT is proving to be. Many authors here re-emphasize just how much difference we can make by enquiring in detail about our clients capabilities and small successes (while being sure to listen well about difficulties and failures too). Solution-Focused Therapy had radical beginnings questioning the value of assessment and diagnosis for example and these beginnings are represented well here by authors who have found ways to work with a relatively free hand. It is also clear from many of the contributions that SFT can be joined up with contrasting approaches and attitudes. It can be put to use in quite rule-bound agencies without losing its character and without losing its capacity to unburden workers and clients alike.  

The book is a good read for any therapist, professional helper or service manager.

Robert Cumming 

Nature's Building Blocks, An A-Z Guide to the Elements, by John Emsley, Oxford University Press,  2003, 540 pp, 12.99 (paperback) ISBN 0-1908-5034-0.

Dull old fustian science?  Not by a long CaCO.  Try this for size:

In 1952 Britain's Ministry of Defence carried out cloud-seeding experiments with silver iodide crystals over the West of England.  A subsequent flash flood tore through the seaside resort of Lynmouth, demolishing houses and killing 31 people.

The deaths of Scott and his companions in the Antarctic has been partially laid to tin.  Cans of paraffin soldered with tin had been cached against further use, but when needed it was found that the tin-soldered joints had decayed to dust, allowing the contents to leak away.

The victims of thallium poisoning appear to die of natural causes.  Having read this in Agatha Christie's novel The Pale Horse, Graham Young put thallium sulphate in his workmates' coffee: several became ill and two died.  The cause was a mystery until Young himself suggested that thallium poisoning be investigated: this, however, resulted in his being arrested, tried and sentenced to life in prison.
When a piece of indium metal is bent it lets out a high-pitched shriek.

Iodine has a molecular weight of 126.90447, an atomic number of 53, a density of 4.0 kilogrammes per litre.  Blood contains 0.06 parts of iodine per million, bone 0.3.  The total amount in the body is 10 to 20 milligrammes, whereof most is in the thyroid gland.  Tin but you get the idea. 

Now collate and classify such data for every element in the Periodic Table.

Or rather, don't, because this is exactly what John Emsley has just done in his wonderful book.  He has given a chapter to every element that has been discovered, with extra chapters on the lanthanides and the transuranics.  For each element he gives paragraphs on physical and chemical data, economic interest, medical, military, historical and "surprise" data, whereof my first few paragraphs are examples.

Since the review copy arrived on my desk I have been virtually incapable of leaving it alone.  My file of visiting cards has been severely depleted as they migrate to mark places I intend going back to once the current interruption has terminated, but I never get there because in leafing through to them I find myself waylaid by something else. I bless the absence of broadband in this area: megabytes of download afford me stolen minutes, and I am developing a tendency not to look up at the screen again before I finish the element in hand.  I am hooked,  what else to say?  Dr. Emsley writes well, too.

Want another snippet?  OK, then, here's one picked at random: The blood of the octopus is blue, ditto that of spiders, snails, and oysters.  This is not because they are upper crustaceans, but because they rely on a copper compound to carry oxygen round the body.  The name of this compound is haemocyanin, and it does the job just as well as the iron-based haemoglobin we of the common herd make do with.

Another?  Well, here's one that definitely isn't in the book because it just happened, but it just might make a next edition because, after putting it in here, I think I will send it to Dr. Emsley:  In the mid-1990s, 13 members of the Order of the Solar Temple were inspired by the supposedly iminent Apocalypse to commit suicide in the mountains of the Vercors in France, whereupon they would be instantly transported to Paradise, reliably located on the "planet" Sirius.  The last two to kill themselves apparently did so after setting fire to the other bodies with petrol, and arranged their own suicides so as to fall onto the pyre.

Apparently except that examination of the recently-exhumed corpse of one of the victims has revealed the presence of phosphorus in unusual quantities, suggesting that a flame-thrower was employed.   None was found at the scene.

Another?  No.  The editor will throw me out...  Oh well.  The sea contains dissolved gold to a value in excess of $1,500,000,000,000,000.   Now, get a bucket, grab yourself some and go buy the book!

John Ewing



The Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin.  Sedona Press, Sedona AZ, 2003, 414 pages.  ISBN 0-9719334-1-3.  Price US$17.00 (Amazon price in sterling is 9.21)

The Sedona Method course, on which this book is based,  has changed many lives. Its effectiveness has been researched on a number of occasions including The Harvard Medical School Study conducted by Dr. Richard J. Davidson of the State University of New York in collaboration with Dr. David C. McClelland of Harvard University. In a comparative trial in which a group of 20 trainees were taught the Sedona Method  and compared with a control group taught progressive relaxation the Sedona Method scored higher across all positive variables.

The book is written for the layperson and is packed with exercises that describe the Sedona  releasing process, and the benefits that may be achieved.

The releasing process was developed by Lester Levenson a physicist and engineer who at the age of 42 found himself to be suffering from a range of physical ailments and was given just six months to live. Levenson took the prognosis as a personal challenge and dissatisfied with most answers from medical and psychological sources of the time, (1952), he developed his own system and devoted the rest of his life to teaching it.

The  process is incredibly simple:

Step 1: Focus on an issue that you would like to feel better about.

Step 2: Ask yourself one of the following three questions:

Could I let this feeling go?
Could I allow this feeling to be here?
Could I welcome this feeling?

Step 3: No matter which question you started with, ask yourself the simple question: Would I? In other words: Am I willing to let go?

If your answer is No, then ask yourself the supplementary question:
Would I rather have this feeling, or would I rather be free?

If your answer is still no, go to step 4.

Step 4: Ask yourself this simpler question: When?

Step 5: Repeat the preceding four steps until you feel free of that particular feeling.

Since the process is in the public domain, via the media and the Internet, why then do I recommend purchasing the book? Its really simple to answer this question. The reader can apply the Sedona Method  to a much greater range of phenomena than unwanted feeling via the variations in the original exercise, which the book illustrates.

For example on page 64, Kenneth a Sedona Method  graduate found himself an eyewitness to the September 11 attack on the World Trade Centre.  Kenneths account is vivid, almost poetic in his description of the outrage and its affect upon him. In a Sedona Method  workshop Kenneth expressed a range of feelings including: fear, anxiety, thought and sensations when describing his experience on September 11. But when asked if he could let these go, he frequently answered No.

It was at this stage that Hale Dwoskin, the author of the Sedona Method  was able to recognize that Kenneth was subtly proud of his story, due to his having been in such a unique situation in relation to September 11. Dwoskin asked Kenneth if he would be prepared to release this pride. When Kenneth did so, his fear and anxiety about life abated immediately.

Such case vignettes are presented throughout the book, and enable readers to apply the methods as they read through a vicarious identification with the human condition of all the subjects described.

And if this were not enough, the second part of the book is dedicated to those concerns, which all but the most enlightened of us share. In addition to letting go of fear and anxiety the chapter headings include: Beyond the Tyranny of Guilt and Shame; Breaking those Nasty Habits; Your Wealth Builder; Relationship Magic; Developing Radiant Health; and Organizing Freedom and Effectiveness.

It seems to me that currently there are many books on the market that point to personal liberation. Few techniques however are as simple to learn as the Sedona Method, or come packaged in a generous 414 pages, presented in a clear attractive typeface. The narrative is engaging throughout and I wholeheartedly recommend you to purchase this volume.

Stephen J.M. Bray


Teaching Toward  Solutions  by  Linda Metcalfe PhD,  Crown House Publishing, 248 pages, paperback, ISBN 1904424074, price 19.99

This is an interesting book about responding to challenging children differently.

It is based on the concept of Solution-focused Strategies and as such is basically an outline of how to apply positive reframing in a teaching situation. It uses a number of Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques without ever using the term NLP and one feels confident that the author, Linda Metcalfe PhD, has had extensive experience at putting the strategies into practice.

It is the word practice that is key here, but as a verb rather than an adjective. Changing how a teacher responds to a child looks easy enough on the page ; in the highly charged atmosphere of the classroom it is a different matter. The techniques she describes of refocusing attention on what the pupil has done positively take a long time to master and I think that point should be expressly stated in order to avoid the tried it and didnt work response which often subverts brave new approaches such as this. 

However, the biggest problem about the book is one of cultural difference. I have said elsewhere that many American books dont appeal to UK teachers because they seem to lack a certain realism about the way children and schools are. This one would benefit from some disciplined referencing to research; however, the main difficulty being that teachers simply do not have the time to do what Metcalfe suggests. Now, that may well be the fault of our current system, but it is going to put teachers off. She gives an example of a teacher who persisted way beyond the call of duty at trying to reach a disaffected child : she took the time and never stopped trying to reach her. Many young teachers are currently entering the profession with those kinds of ideals, and  jolly good says  I, but many are either burning out and leaving within a few years, or they are cooling down and adapting to the warts-and-all system that we have. Unfortunately that system does not include Solution-Focused approaches and that is a great shame because I believe that the book contains some nuggets of pure gold. 

For example I liked the section on externalising problems where the child is encouraged to view the problem as something that makes him act in a certain way. The listing of what my problem makes me do and how I win over the problem is clearly very empowering for the child. I also liked the examples of focusing the students attention on the times they succeeded and asking them how they did it. 

But this approach does take time and as I read the book I felt it was more appropriately aimed at a 1-1 tutor (or support assistant) rather than a class teacher. It also began to read like a manifesto for an alternative system of schooling and I wondered what would happen if an EBD (Education and Behavioural Difficulties) unit decided to adopt a whole-school solution-focused approach. 

Worth the gamble, I would say, but I dont think that its likely to happen. What a  shame. 

Mark Edwards


Heart and Mind by Mary Midgley, Routledge, ISBN 0-416-34430-5, Paperback, 14.99

This collection of nine essays is still as relevant and thought provoking as it was when it was it was first published in 1981.

Each essay is in itself complete, and part of the whole. Mary Midgley is no shrinking violet. She takes on and challenges the most highly esteemed and established thinkers and philosophers of our time. She encourages the reader to look beyond the simplistic and restrictive theories of her predecessors. She leads the reader past the stereotypes and classifications that have blocked our perceptions of what it is to be human and individual. It is an eyes-wide-open book. Readers are encouraged to view holistically the central forces that drive and motivate their actions and choices, taking into account their experiences and attitude to life and not only the outward symbols of achievement and environment.

It is not a lightweight read, but it is a reader-friendly and gripping book that draws on readers' previous knowledge and understanding and moves them on.

A no-nonsense book with a get real feel to it.



John Ewing is a Systems Engineer who has worked in various domains ranging from implantable cardiac devices to the measurement of low-intensity radioactive emissions.  He currently runs his own company in Alsace, France.

Joe Sinclair is a writer, editor, publisher, and non-executive director of a shipping line - amongst other activities - one of which is the publishing of Nurturing Potential.

Abigail Freeman is a mental health advocate and the author of The Chrysalid Years, a veteran account of manic depression/schizo-affective disorder.

Robert Cumming is a therapist, supervisor and trainer working from, and continuing to work on, an integration of brief therapy and other therapeutic models.  His website is at Links to many resources in Solution Focus and related approaches, as well as Robs training work, can be made there

Stephen Bray's career spans thirty years, beginning in social work and encompassing Adult Education, Business Consulting, Counselling, Journalism, Photography and Psychotherapy.  He is a consultant editor for Nurturing Potential.

Mark Edwards was a head teacher, who still teaches part-time but combines this with writing articles, educational consultancy and entertaining people who like to hear badly performed rock, pop and music hall classics.

Irene Hayes  manages a project for 14 -16 year-old disaffected students with many complex problems that present barriers to achieving potential.  Her conviction is that these young people are not 'bad kids' but are victims of a society that has let them down at too many levels.