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Book Review: The Female Brain

29 Aug

The Female Brain by Dr Brizendine

The Female Brain By Dr Louann Brizendine,  ISBN 9781407039510,  Transworld Publishers, London 2007

This book is a fascinating read, it introduces some of the more recent research and ideas in neurophysiology.  It is a helpful book for all those who want to understand the human brain whether you are male or femaleBrizendine compares the differences between the male and female brain throughout the brains development and into old age. Each chapter discusses the impact of neurological growth and hormonal impact on the female developing brain at different ages.

She explains how hormones affect the female brain and the impact they have on our behavioural tendencies. She discusses why the female incidence of depression is far greater and that the divergence begins at female puberty.

We are given interesting facts, for example, that 99% of male and female genetic coding is exactly the same and there is only a 1% variation between the sexes.

Until the 1990’s very little research was carried out on the female brain as scientists thought it was just a smaller version of the male one!  In 1994 Brizendine founded the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California.  In hers and others’ continuing research we are beginning to uncover that the differences between the male and female brain are complex and widespread, albeit with only a 1% genetic difference.

It is only with the advancement of technology that these differences are now observable. Advances from the fields of genetics, molecular neuroscience, fetal and pediatric endrocrinology, cognitive neuroscience and psychoneuroendrocrinology are all gathering evidence that explain the differences that we as men and women have all been aware of for years.

Brizendine mixes scientific research and a wealth of case studies in an engaging style to explain some of the more complex scientific findings, making this book eminently readable and enjoyable.    It informs men and women alike on our differences enabling and understanding of how our chemistry and neurophysiology influences our behaviour.

I have recommended this little gem of a book to many of my clients to read and the feedback is that it has been hugely helpful to both men and women alike.


Review by Maggie Chapman Director and Co-Founder of CCBH


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Book Review: Mindfulness and Hypnosis

6 Feb

The Power of Suggestion to Transform Experience By M. Yapko (2011) – W.W Norton and Co. (New York and London)

Mindfulness and Hypnosis

Michael D. Yapko’s most recent book, is a treasure chest of inspiration and a must read for every aspiring Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist. Here, Yapko has lighted on the recent interest in the ancient Buddhist meditation of Mindfulness, which has been shown to be so successful in the treatment of recurrent depression and related anxiety problems.

In his usual style he goes straight to the point and explains his rationale simply and clearly, without obfuscating and without over reaching.

He draws a distinction between the practice of meditation as an individual pursuit, seen by some as a spiritual quest, or a strategy for self-help, and the clinical use of guided mindfulness meditation, GMM, as a interpersonal approach to emotional, cognitive and behavioural change.

The simplicity of Yapko’s approach is summarised as follows, “The very first thing you learn when you study hypnosis is this: What you focus on, you amplify. If I ask you to be aware of the sensations right now in your right hand, such as its temperature, the pressure or weight of anything you might be holding, or whatever else you might become aware of related to that hand, you can focus your attention increasingly on that hand and really become aware of it, and while you do so, you have no awareness of your left foot, until I draw your attention to it.” (Page 29)

In various ways, Yapko demonstrates the benefits of focussing awareness, to the exclusion of all else, and the practise of this strategy as a way of achieving change. CBH uses hypnosis for a variety of purposes from assessment to belief change, and so we are well used to focussing the awareness of our clients in this way. But Yapko uses this phenomenon to achieve an elegant approach to treatment.

“If you know the phrase, ‘he only sees what he wants to see,’ then you are already aware that people can notice what they choose to notice. By implication, we can also not notice what we choose not to notice. This perceptual phenomenon is referred to as selective attention, that is, the ability to focus on one portion of an experience while turning out the rest.” (Page 125)

By helping clients to recognise that they are paying selective attention to the events on their lives, past, present and future, we can help them to expand their awareness of those things that they habitually ignore or ‘turn out’, thereby restoring a balance, and improving emotional health.

There is much here to inspire, and a wealth of practical material for those already practicing and for those just starting out.

Ian Martin, Dec, 2011.

Book Review: Act with Love

2 Feb

Russ Harris, 2009, New Harbinger Publications, Oakland

ACT with Love

ACT with Love

I was looking for new ideas for helping people in the workplace to resolve their interpersonal problems, and  this book was one of those Beverley Harper included in her recommended book list at the end of the CCBH Diploma course.  I very much liked it. I was able to use some ideas to help people sort out their problems with colleagues. However, the book is more useful for improving couples’ lives together. It  is aimed at couples whose relationship is ‘in reasonable shape’ or in ‘bad shape’, people who are not currently in a relationship but want to learn what went wrong in their previous ones, or for therapists looking for ideas how to work with relationship issues.

The volume is divided into three parts. It looks at what goes wrong in relationships, what commitment means if you want to make the relationship work, what kind of partner you want to be and how mindfulness can help you to handle your thoughts and feelings better. The basic principles of ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) are used, and you are taught how to apply them to make relationships work.  LOVE is used as an acronym for ‘Letting go’, ‘Opening up’, ‘Valuing’ and ‘Engaging’.  It encourages you to develop ‘psychological flexibility’, an ability to adapt to a situation with openness, awareness and focus, and to take action guided by your values.

Since reading the book I have been very motivated to help people with relationship issues, but unfortunately haven’t found the right situation to be  able to test out the ideas yet, so cannot tell you if they work! The exercises at the end of each chapter are designed to be used with a partner (‘If your partner is willing’), but also give useful ideas for the therapist for the homework assignments for clients – with or without a partner. I agree with the book’s claim that ‘it gives realistic hope without promising too much or raising false expectations’. The language is easy to read, light hearted but doesn’t  neglect the basic principles of ACT. What I would have liked to see more is the preventative side – how to build a good relationship from the beginning, and be prepared to share your life with someone you love – not waiting for things to go wrong first!  Because of the practical aspects of the book, I think it could also be very useful as a resource with groups.

So thank you, Beverley, for your great booklist!


Lea Clark

Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist

Book Review: A Guide to the Good Life

27 Sep

A Guide to the Good Life (the ancient art of stoic joy) by William B. Irvine

For anyone interested in a book, which helps us to understand the philosophical underpinning of todays CBH, this book is a fascinating and engaging read. Irvine explains not only the historical
perspective as it originates with the ancient Greek Stoics in the third century BC, including Epictetus who is commonly acknowledged as being Albert Ellis’s inspiration in the foundation of REBT, but he evaluates the philosophy in the context of twenty-first century living and offers clear and helpful advice on how to achieve the ‘tranquillity’ and ‘serenity’ that the Stoics valued.

‘Tranquillity’ and ‘serenity’ for the ancient Greeks didn’t refer to a new age or pseudo spiritual state, but instead had a very practical meaning which leads us to a modern day understanding of something akin to mental or emotional health.

The ancient Greeks also had a different understanding for the concept of ‘virtue’ than we do today. Today the word virtue is loaded down with religious and moralistic associations, but for the Stoics, living a virtuous life meant living in accordance with the observable design for all human beings. Consequently, all human beings have an appetite for food, therefore it is ‘virtuous’ to eat well, but not to over eat.

The book gives us a very helpful and easy-to-read perspective on the historical context and philosophy that underpins modern-day CBT and CBH. It is also very practical and helpful offering suggestions that help us to develop our own strategies for living a ‘virtuous’ life and achieve both ‘tranquillity’ and ‘serenity’.

By Ian Martin

Book Review: Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt, Routledge

23 Sep

Why love matters is about how affection shapes a baby’s brain.  It’s a great book that explains that love is essential to brain development in the early years of life. The book is well written and accessible.

It offers an interpretation of the findings from neuroscience, psychology, psychoanalysis and biochemistry.  Yet it is evidence based and full of interesting information and facts about the brain and its development.  It provides interpretations in that are grounded in psychodynamic psychotherapy.  The author is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist.  Essentially, many maladaptive patterns have their roots in early experiences.   I would have liked the author to have mentioned that change is possible and despite our past experiences we can change our beliefs and behaviours and therefore our emotional state in the here and now.   I still enjoyed the book immensely as it is written from the point that prevention is better than a cure.

What I found more interesting is the development of the higher brain capacities i.e. social, which develop in response to social experiences.  The author makes the point that it is appropriate to hold a baby rather than hold flashcards to him/her.  Further a baby can’t develop an orbitofrontal cortex on his/her own because it depends on the relationships with other people who are available.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in psychological health.