Books reviewed by James Woodward

How much do we really understand about
the theory and practice of care

Visitors to this web-page and to the Leveson Centre web-page ( will be more than aware of my personal and professional respect for the work of Jessica Kingsley Publishers (  They continue to expand the horizons of our appreciation of the nature of care by producing a range of resources.  They are particularly skilled in giving practitioners a voice and designing books that are accessible and useable.

Shattered Lives, Camila BatmanghelidjhThose of us involved in care need to listen carefully to the experience of those whose lives are changed and sometimes shattered by life.  Camila Batmanghelidjh has produced an extraordinary and remarkable book that reflects her life-long fight for children and childhood (Shattered Lives, Camila Batmanghelidjh, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006, ISBN: 1843104342, 176pp, hb, £13.99).  Shattered Lives bears witness to the lives of children who have experienced abuse and neglect and is especially insightful in its exploration of the effects of these early traumatic episodes.  The reader is warned against their own prejudices that might stigmatize children for “problem behaviour”.  Batmanghelidjh is also critical of the existing structures and she challenges those who are responsible for the bureaucracy of social care to engage with marginalised children who are often overlooked.  This is one of the most difficult books I have ever had to read but inspiring in its energy and vision.

The Madness of Our lives, Experiences of Mental Breakdown, Penny GrayMental breakdown and recovery continue to be surrounded by silence and very limited understanding.  Penny Gray has produced a book which aims to help its reader understand the nature of mental breakdown and how people come to that particular point.  It gives voice to how they see other people’s interpretations and interventions.  Gray takes the reader through a journey of recovery, exploring how individuals get their lives back from these episodes.  Again, like Shattered Lives the author gives voice to eleven very different stories that help us see what it is like to be “mad” and whether treatment helps.  This book would be a useful introduction to some of the issues around mental illness and it is written with skill and engaging clarity. (The Madness of Our lives, Experiences of Mental Breakdown, Penny Gray, 2006, 208pp ISBN:1843100576, pb, £17.99)

Living Sensationally, Understanding Your Senses, Winnie DunnMany professionals working in the world of health and social care have had substantial academic training. The effects of this training can sometimes be narrowing.  In a health service that is dominated by the ideology of medicine, a broader, more imaginative approach to the individual and their care is often needed, to achieve change and wholeness.  The following three books offer a wider perspective on personhood and our sense of our own creativity. Winnie Dunn holds a Chair in the Department of Occupational Therapy Education at the University of Kansas.  She has become a leading authority for her research about how people respond to sensory experiences in their everyday lives.  In this book (Living Sensationally, Understanding Your Senses, Winnie Dunn, 2007, 216pp, ISBN: 1843108719 hb, £16.99) Dr. Dunn explains how people’s individual sensory patterns affect the way we react to everything that happens to us throughout the day.  Engaging in the text of this book was transformative in the way in which it explored the extraordinary way in which human beings see, hear, smell and touch.  Much more work needs to be done about the practical implications of such an approach to human personhood and the possibilities of change, growth, and integrity.

Expressive and Creative Arts Methods for Trauma Survivors, Lois CareyTwo further books look at the expressive arts.  Lois Carey has edited a book which looks at how play, art and music therapies as well as psycho-drama and story telling can be used to help the recovery of trauma victims. (Expressive and Creative Arts Methods for Trauma Survivors, Lois Carey, 2006, 224pp, ISBN: 1843103869, pb, £17.99). The book holds together both theory and practice and appropriate techniques are discussed with skill.  There is an excellent index and the reader is pointed beyond the essays to sources and further work in the area.

Suzanne Darley and Wende Heath have produced a rather more practical book in that it gathers together a range of accessible, flexible, tried and tested activities for a range of people in care settings, to help them explore their knowledge of themselves and make sense of their experiences The Expressive Arts Activity Book, A Resource for Professionals, Suzanne Darley and Wende Heath(The Expressive Arts Activity Book, A Resource for Professionals, Suzanne Darley and Wende Heath, 2007, 216pp, ISBN:1843108610, pb, £17.99). I was particularly interested in the activities that explored spiritual dilemmas.  This is rich; a treasure of a book. I hope that it will be used for the sake of those who find themselves in hospitals, schools, hospices or other settings and in need of a different way of understanding who they are and what the possibilities of change might be for them through their experience.

At a recent conference I was surprised about the negativity surrounding social work and social work practice.  Too often those working in the health sector, fail to understand some of the pressures and challenges of those working in social care.  Handbook for Practice Learning in Social Work and Social Care, Knowledge and Theory, Joyce LishmanMy appreciation of the nature of social care has been immeasurably enlarged by this book edited by Joyce Lishman(Handbook for Practice Learning in Social Work and Social Care, Knowledge and Theory, Joyce Lishman, 2007, 408 pages, ISBN: 9781843191864, pb, £19.99).  The book is a revised and expanded edition of an earlier popular handbook that attempts to provide a summary of the theory, knowledge, research and evidence relating to practice learning in social care.  It focuses on knowledge based practice and the inevitable necessity of outcomes.  It is well organised in to five areas and deserves its claim to be the standard textbook for students, practitioners and teachers in social work.

Partnerships in Social Care, A Handbook for Developing Effective Services, Keith FletcherPart of what I learnt from the conference, mentioned above, is the need for professionals to understand the context within which they work.  This is important, not just for professionals within their own area, but necessary if partnerships in social care are to be developed that deliver more effective services focused on the individual.  Keith Fletcher uses his huge experience, including being Deputy Chief Inspector in the Social Services Directorate in Wales, to discuss the key issues in establishing successful partnerships in social care (Partnerships in Social Care, A Handbook for Developing Effective Services, Keith Fletcher, 2006, 144pp, ISBN: 184310380X, pb, £17.99). The book is particularly impressive in its discussion of strategies for effective collaboration.  It is also admirably clear and brief!

These books offer an indication for the importance for all of us working in health and social care to continue to engage in strategies whereby our understanding and practice is constantly evaluated and reflected upon.  Invariably, Jessica Kingsley Publishers are key resources in this process.

James Woodward