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Review of "Undoing Depression"

By Richard O'Connor
Berkley Publishing Group, 1999
Review by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on Feb 3rd 1999
Undoing DepressionRichard O'Connor knows what he talks about in one of the most thorough, comprehensive, and enjoyable books I've ever read on the beast we call depression. As a therapist, a supervisor, an administrator, and perhaps most importantly, as a human being. O'Connor brings more to this topic than a simple recitation of facts and self-help methods. He brings the human experience home to the reader, in a way few writers do in this book genre.

O'Connor warns in the introduction that this is a book filled with stuff that the two distinct audiences (mental health professionals and laypeople) may not ordinarily share. But as someone, like O'Connor, who has grappled with the beast at one point in my life as well, I concur with his recommendation -- the book is best read in its entirety, skipping nothing. Each chapter offers not only in-depth and balanced knowledge and information O'Connor imparts to the reader, but also a good dose of humanity and caring. For instance, interspersed throughout each chapter are personal stories from therapy, and clients' own stories, bringing home specific, important points. It makes what might otherwise be yet another impersonal self-help book (from a mental health professional) into a relevant, useful guide easy to relate to aspects of one's own life.

O'Connor's writing is fluid and down-to-earth; he never gets mired in details losing the main point of his argument or discussion. He gives specific examples throughout each chapter, and keeps everything understandable while not minimizing the complexity of specific subjects. The book seems to have struck a very good balance between information, discussion, and related stories, keeping it interesting to read throughout.

The book is extensive, and its length may be off putting (especially to those currently suffering from depression). But its length is also its greatest strength, because it covers so many topics relating to depression so well. Offering a single guide to depression is a big undertaking, since depression infiltrates so many aspects of a person's life. Undoing Depression, however, addresses nearly every one of the most important aspects and gives sensible advice on how to improve them. The book has 22 chapters covering topics such as: a background regarding depression, what we currently know and understand about depression, how it's diagnosed, what are some of the theories behind it, how people are good at what they know (e.g., depression); how to start overcoming depression by learning new skills regarding out emotions, behavior, thinking, the self, and relationships; aids to recovery; how to put new skills to work through self, work, love, marriage, families, divorce, and community. The four parts of the book are well-organized and logical, and it includes two indices: Organizations promoting recovery, and a self-scoring depression questionnaire. The book ends with footnotes for each chapter, a recommended reading list, and an index.

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