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Review of "The Therapist's Guide to Psychopharmacology, Revised Edition"

By JoEllen Patterson, Margaret E. McCahill, A. Ari Albala, Todd M. Edwards
Guilford Press, 2009
Review by Stephanie Moulton Sarkis PhD NCC LMHC on Aug 30th 2011
The Therapist's Guide to Psychopharmacology, Revised Edition

The authors of the book have varied backgrounds, lending to the cohesiveness of the book across both prescribing and non-prescribing clinicians.  Patterson and Edwards are professors in the Marital and Family Therapy program at the University of San Diego, while Albala and McCahill are psychiatrists.  Albala is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and McCahill is a Health Sciences Clinical Professor, both at the University of California, San Diego (USCD) School of Medicine.   

The book is divided into three parts.  Part I, "The Mind-Body Connection" has two chapters:  "How the Brain Works" and "How Psychotropic Drugs Work".   Part II, "Psychiatric Disorders and Their Treatment" has six chapters: "Mood Disorders", "Anxiety Disorders", "Schizophrenia and Other Psychoses", "Cognitive Disorders", "Alcoholism and Substance Abuse", and "Special Populations and Situations".  Part III, "Creative Collaboration", has three chapters: "Focusing the Lens: The Referral Process and Medication Evaluation"; "Sharing Care: Building Successful Collaborative Relationships"; and "Strengthening Bonds: Collaborating with the Family".  There are three appendixes:  "How Drugs Are Developed"; "Future Trends"; and "Professional Outreach".  Words in written in bold throughout the text can be found in the Glossary. 

Chapter 3, "Mood Disorders" contains a case study and several tables.  Tables in Chapter 3 include: "Classification of Antidepressants According to Their Presumed Mechanism of Action"; "Side Effects Commonly Associated Antidepressant Therapy"; "Benefits and Side Effects on Hypothetical Patient Treated with a Norepinephrine-Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor"; "Pharmacological Characteristics of the Ideal Antidepressant"; and "Patient Report of Most Common Reasons for Discontinuation of Antidepressant Medication".  Chapter 3 also has two helpful tables regarding electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): "Diagnosis Indications for ECT", and "Primary and Secondary Uses for ECT".  There is also a very useful section on ECT in the chapter, including information on patient selection and treatment procedures.  It is important for the clinician to educate themselves about ECT as "more than 100,000 patients currently receive this treatment in the United States each year"(p. 61).   

Chapter 6, "Cognitive Disorders", provides a copy of the Mini-Mental State Examination.  The chapter also includes a case study of a patient with cognitive impairment secondary to head injury.  The case study then describes the "Beginning Collaboration" between the patient's therapist, physician, and child protective services.  The case study also includes "Questions for Consideration", which address the legal issues of the case, and the treatment team's response to these issues.  The chapter includes a table which provides "Causes of Dementias That Are Reversible or Treatable", including names of the disorders along with how the symptoms are treated.  For example, for "Disorders with space-occupying effect", including metastatic brain tumors and subdural hematomas, the treatment is "neurosurgical management".  The authors also provide a table of the most common dementias, including selected features of each.  The authors' tables are thorough and well-organized.  A table listing the most common medications for dementia treatment in the United States includes the medications' brand names, generic names, improvement percentages, features, dosing, contraindications, and side effects. 

In Chapter 8, "Special Populations and Situations", the authors discuss psychopharmacology issues with the following populations and disorders: "Patients Taking Medications for General Medical Conditions"; "Sleep Disorders"; "Obesity"; "Eating Disorders"; "Chronic Pain"; "Impulse Control Disorders"; "Collaborative Opportunities with Patients in Specific Phases of the Life Cycle"; and "Patients with Personality Disorders".  Under "Collaborative Opportunities with Patients in Specific Phases of the Life Cycle", the authors discuss psychopharmacology in relation to issues that affect children, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); issues that affect women, such as postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis; and issues that affect the elderly, such as Alzheimer's Disease.  In "Biology and Biochemistry of Chronic Pain", the authors describe the physiological process of pain in an easy-to-understand way.   

The text has up-to-date information on medications and includes studies detailing the effectiveness of each medication.  The book even has an appendix containing detailed information on vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), including a helpful diagram of where the VNS electrodes and pacemaker generator are implanted in the body.  There is a section in Chapter 9, "Focusing the Lens", which provides three examples of referral letters -- the first to a family physician, the second to a psychiatrist, and the last to a psychiatric emergency screener.  This section alone is worth purchasing the book.   The therapist's guide to psychopharmacology is a must-have text for clinicians, and will help them provide the best standard of care to their patients and clients. 


© 2011 Stephanie Moulton Sarkis


Dr. Stephanie Moulton Sarkis PhD NCC LMHC is the author of four books on adult ADHD/ADD, including Adult ADD: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed (2011).  Dr. Sarkis is an adjunct assistant professor at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and is a sub-investigator at FAU Clinical Research Studies at Schmidt College of Medicine in Boca Raton Florida.  Dr. Sarkis also has a private practice in Boca Raton, and has blogs on Psychology Today and The Huffington Post.  Her website is www.stephaniesarkis.com