“Here is the gold standard.” If I read that pathetic claim on the back of one more book cover, I fear going on an armed rampage through the publishing houses of New York. Has the hysteria of the world gotten so bad that we won’t give consideration to anything new unless we claim on the back cover that it is the best, most outstanding, or “the new gold standard?” It makes you want to puke. And damn if when I start to open Laurence Miller’s Counseling Crime Victims: Practical Strategies for Mental Health Professionals (Springer, New York, NY, 2008) right on the back cover it claims to set the new gold standard. I know this guy, digitally at least. How could he allow the publisher to make such a disgusting claim? I expect more from you Dr. Miller, except no way around it, this book is so good that it does set a new gold standard.
I started on an easy saunter through this book figuring I’d skim most of it, but frankly I started finding I was making a paralinguistic cue every two or three minutes, mostly nasal hums and head shaking, as I read many phrases that explained some interesting material about crime victims. I knew most of the stuff, but frankly I had gotten a little lazy as my familiarity was reduced by the lack of incidence in my practice. I don’t treat that many victims except after terrorist acts. There were sections like “PTSD in the Elderly” where I just didn’t have that many elderly clients so it was pretty new stuff, and research that explained what I practiced but never knew the science behind. Dr. Miller is thorough as hell and after the first half hour I had figured this was a book I was going to keep permanently as a reference for speeches I give, programs I was developing, or court cases that I was hired on. I felt like I had found a nice shiny piece of jewelry – okay, I’ll admit, a gold standard.
Dr. Miller has done all the work for you. There are tons of research studies, tons of useful information, tons of practical advice on how to organize you approach to crime victims in crimes from sexual assault, to domestic violence, to homicides, even to terrorist acts. He talks about what the people go through when they are a victim of a criminal act and what types of approaches work for each of the victims, at least in theory. The section on school violence and bullying was particularly useful to me as I was busy preparing for a civil trial where the parent’s frustration with the school in not handling a bullying incident was central to the trials actions. This was a profoundly useful book and the research really makes you stand up and shout “so that’s why we do it that way.”
If there is a criticism of this extremely thorough treatise it would have to do with style more than material. It is the same criticism I have for most academic material that speak about therapy. To make therapy material fully accessible to the largest number of readers, you must tell people what to say when they sit across from a patient, not just how to think about the treatment. Actually tell them what to say. Essential, more anecdotal stories intermixed with the research gets the obsessive minds of most therapists fantasizing about what they would say in that situation and then they start the rehearsal process for a patient in their future. Adler, Meichenbaum, Erikson, and especially Albert Ellis integrated the narrative with research to an art form. Dr. Miller’s book was not that type of book and Springer is not that type of publisher, but that would make it the most accessible to everyone.
Take this criticism with a grain of salt because Dr. Miller’s Counseling Crime Victimsis extremely effective just as it is, and it will occupy a central spot on my bookshelf as I expect to be referring to it a lot to remind me of what I know, what I have forgotten, and highlight some new ways to think about a doing therapy with a crime victim. You really might want to check this book out if you have a therapy practice. It is really a golden find, so to speak.
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Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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