Impulsivity: Theory, Assessment and Treatment

Article excerpt

CHRISTOPHER D. WEBSTER AND MARGARET D. JACKSON, EDS.: Impulsivity: Theory, Assessment and Treatment. New York: The Guilford Press, 1997, 462 pp., $46.95, ISBN 1-57230-225-9.

Impulsivity is a topic that often crosses the lips of mental health practitioners, and yet a close look at the term leads to some questions. Do we mean only those acts without second thoughts, or do we include those that are well-planned but seemingly driven by a force that exceeds usual controls? And what of the adaptively rapid responses of sports figures and heroes?

This volume, based in part on two conferences held on the subject, offers a close look at this topic, with special emphasis on the related topic of dangerousness. Chapters are by various authors, although many are from the same or related institutions. The book covers the conceptual issues related to impulsivity, as well as assessment and treatment. Although the chapter names give the appearance of a comprehensive, textbook-style of coverage, the chapters tend to be more idiosyncratic than encyclopedic. This feature is a bit confusing, but makes for more interesting reading. The book tends to value structured assessment instruments, and it contains a number of chapters on that subject. While the chapters try to explain the terms used to assess the qualities of such tools, the discussion rapidly gets fairly thick for those less interested in structured assessment; such persons may wish to skip parts of some of those chapters.

While there are chapters that take a more practical, clinical view, and some that argue with the main thrust of the book from a sociological or social psychology viewpoint, the book in total tends to argue for a structured, empirical view of the topic. While one can scarcely argue against reference to published findings, there is some devaluation of the role of clinical judgment. More importantly, there is little discussion of the potential ethical difficulties in using actuarial data for assessments of impulsivity and dangerousness. …


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