Book Reviews: 'The Reflective Journey'
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Review by Ana Kennett (@anaskind2003)
What is the book about?
McDonnell’s (2019) book; ‘The Reflective Journey’ makes the point that our own ‘arousal’ has an impact on the way we manage ‘high arousal situations’ and that staying ‘calm in crisis situations’ is more effective in managing ‘behaviours of concern’ (McDonnell, 2019). In other words, the feelings of being stressed or irritable within ourselves may compromise the way we deliver our care for others who are also feeling out of their depth; this may in turn create a response that is highly negative towards the client e.g. restraints rather than reacting in a calm and rational manner. McDonnell (2019) moves away from traditional methods of behavioural techniques, such as punishments and restraints to show that managing the behaviours of others can be supported through self-reflections of our own thoughts and behaviours.
McDonnell (2019), himself, provides an honest, personal reflection of his earlier time working with individuals with disabilities which allows the reader to fully understand his need to change the way in which organisations perceive and react to ‘behaviours of concern’ (McDonnell, 2019). McDonnell (2019) goes further by drawing on a wealth of personal research experience, both individually and working with others where much of his work has centred on perfecting the ‘low arousal approach’ which is evident throughout the book. Furthermore, the embedded psychological component of this book means that not only do you receive the advice from McDonnell (2019) but that it is also backed up with relevant literature and studies that have gone before. McDonnell (2019) does not judge the reader but simply explains each factor that contributes to ‘behaviours of concern’ so that the reader looks upon behaviours in a more rational way using the ‘low arousal approach’. The author clearly has a drive to improve the lives of individuals and families where there is a high degree of support needed for ‘behaviours of concern’ and this is evident throughout the book.
How well the book covers its topic and whether it breaks new ground.
Using an informative approach, McDonnell (2019) can sustain the attention of the reader as they navigate their way through the book. They are taken through a process of explanation, real life examples, activities and reflections to build on the readers knowledge of the ‘low arousal approach’. McDonnell’s (2019) book takes the reader on a ‘reflective journey’ where we are tasked with the objective to look within ourselves and question our whole being in order to recognise our own triggers. He takes us through stress and its compounding effects; making us feel safe in the knowledge that if we take care of our own stress levels that we can better manage the stress levels of others more successfully. McDonnell (2019) also reminds us to be aware of and have empathy for the life events of others where they may have experienced trauma whilst also remembering that empathy may be something that some clients find difficult. The questionnaires and activities throughout the book offer the reader an insight into their own thought processes which allows the reader to fully reflect and understand the concepts within the book. McDonnell’s (2019) examples and statements throughout the book allows the reader to build empathy, not just for individuals displaying ‘behaviours of concern’ but also to ourselves. This allows the reader to understand that their need for self-care and reflection is just as important to the dynamics of care work as it is to care for someone else. McDonnell (2019) also reminds us that human beings are complex and that through understanding other people’s perspectives we can fully understand that there are triggers to their behaviours which needs compassion in order to manage them effectively. However, Andrew McDonnell’s (2019) book does not just get you to reflect on your work as a parent or a practitioner, but it compels the reader to question all aspects of the readers life and this in turn creates a ‘low arousal approach’ that has the potential to last a lifetime.
The Intended Audience
McDonnell (2019) explains thoroughly the terminology and concepts used within the book which makes reading his book accessible for both practitioners and parents. The book itself has been designed to provide moments of refection for the reader and although the topic focus is one which we would expect from a high class academic, the content itself is carefully designed in such a way that makes the book easy to follow. As a parent, I have found this book to be incredibly supportive in those moments of ‘high arousal’ where the suggestions in the book have been helpful in managing them better. However, as a practitioner, I have been enlightened and encouraged to reflect further on my practice and the practice of others in order to ensure that the ‘low arousal approach’ is used through-out my future career. Overall, I would highly recommend this book to the parents of children displaying ‘behaviours of concern’, practitioners working in the teaching profession or those working in the field of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. However, the flexibility of the ‘low arousal approach’ does not mean that it must be restricted to these professions; and therefore, I would also recommend this approach to anyone who wishes to learn more about the psychology of human interaction.