by Rona L. LoPresti and Edward L. Zuckerman
Review by Ruth E. Nieuwenhuis-Mark on Sep 28th 2005
LoPresti and Zuckerman's book, Rewarding Specialties for Mental
Health Clinicians: Developing Your Practice Niche (henceforth referred to
as Rewarding Specialties) should be in every University career office
and psychology department in the world. It would also serve not only
psychologists working in diverse workplaces but also business people wanting a
refresher course on how to market their services. There are lots of tips here
aimed at starting up a private business. Despite the fact that it is clearly
written for an American audience (Medicare, Medicaid and other U.S.
legal/insurance issues are discussed in detail throughout) it can nevertheless
be applied to psychologists from diverse cultures, training backgrounds and
Written in clear, relatively jargon-free language,
the authors set out their stall in the Introduction. They advocate a positive
future for generally-trained psychologists (although their emphasis is on those
from the clinical specialties) as long as we are prepared to move with the
times. All professions must evolve and psychology as a discipline perhaps more
than most, as we try to help people adapt to ever-changing societal mores.
The authors' message is above all a positive one,
"We psychologists learn skills that have
universal applicability" and they ask "Does any human activity not
have psychological aspects?" (p2)
They also clearly state what the central goal of Rewarding
Specialties is in the first few pages:
"We must specialize to continue our mission of
helping people and to survive as a profession. This book is simply about some
of those specializations." (p2)
The authors go on to give suggestions of possible
niches or specializations we might consider developing in a comprehensive,
non-preachy way. Above all, this is a book to get your imaginative juices flowing.
LoPresti and Zuckerman make it clear that the specialties discussed here are
only suggestions, and that:
"Trends are opportunities. In this book we
offer information on viable, currently unfilled, or underfilled niches, but
society is dynamic; it continually generates opportunities for those who are
The gift this book has to offer is the fact that it will open your eyes
to the possibilities waiting for you out there. It breaks the barriers
suggested by such traditional terms as Occupational
Psychology, Developmental Psychology
and the like, suggesting that clinical psychologists have a wealth of talents
to offer both within and without their profession's gates.
To recap, LoPresti and Zuckerman have written this
book for trained clinical psychologists, especially those who regularly use
psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), and other such treatments. The
emphasis is on making a living utilizing the skills (both professional and
personal) we clinicians possess. The authors also recommend thinking outside
the box, learning how to effectively market ourselves and they show us ways to
build both private clinics and/or collaborate with other professionals on our
way to career fulfillment.
The lay-out of this book is excellent. Following
the Introduction there are five main sections: The Psychological Sides of
Medical Illness; Couples, Families, Children, and Schools; The World of Work;
Forensics; and Underserved Populations and Developing Needs. Within each
section they begin with an Introduction, Overview and Commonalities, then go on
to discuss the various niches they have chosen to represent.
How they selected the specialties portrayed in this
book is detailed in the Overall Introduction. This included answering the
following questions (pp6-8):
1.) Is There a Knowledge Base for This Specialty
2.) Are Learning Opportunities, Training, and
3.) Does the Specialization Provide Autonomy?
4.) Does the Specialization Provide Satisfactions
5.) Does the Specialization Offer a Real
In each section the authors focus very much on helping their readers
decide which niche might be for them.
I particularly found the paragraphs on "Your Potential Satisfactions"
throughout the book to be very enlightening.
Other paragraphs which are common to all sections
and subsections are: Nature of the Work (including practice models which exist
or which are currently being developed, financial considerations and cautions);
and Prospects (including Where is the Need? how to reach client populations,
how to market and who your competition is likely to be). There is also
cross-sectioning and overlap is highlighted in a very useful, easy-to-follow
This might be all very well but how do we go about
specializing? The authors suggest three steps can be sought on our path to
becoming experts in a niche:
(where we use the same skills
we currently use and thus there is less need to retrain)
(where we need to acquire some
specific skills and credentials via reading, continued education, finding a
mentor - especially one who is already an expert, and workshop attendance, for
c.) Retooling ("acquiring a whole set of new tools and
mastering them", p13)
This book focuses mainly on Recycling with some suggestions for
Retreading. Many clinicians will be as relieved as I was to discover that major
retraining (or, in the authors' words, retooling)
is often not required.
The sections on marketing are also particularly useful. I'd suggest that
most psychologists rarely think about selling their services and yet Rewarding Specialties motivates us and
offers multiple suggestions on how to do just that. The fact that it focuses on
the practicalities makes this book a special one -- it's not just full of empty
promises with no direction. It actually shows us how to go about making a
career out of helping often forgotten populations.
Of the five sections covered in Rewarding
Specialties I found two to be the most relevant for my own particular
background (Section 1 with its information on sleep disturbances, working with
chronic illnesses etc. and those covering various aspects of Gerontology,
especially working with the elderly and their caregivers). All the sections
were interesting however, especially (for me) Section 4 on Forensics and also
that on working with gifted children (see Section 2).
This is a fabulous book, one in which the authors have clearly done their homework. They talk a lot of
sense; most of their suggestions are supported by relevant, empirical research.
I found their pointers, further reading and resources at the end of subsections
particularly useful and impressive. At times, in their enthusiasm the authors
are guilty of overgeneralization (e.g. surely not all stepfamilies are dysfunctional "highly stressed family
systems" p235), and only once (as far as I could see) did they succumb to
pop psychology in their cheesy statement on p 234:
"Select a few books for careful study that
appeal to your YEARNings, from which you could LEARN some things of value, and
whose activities could be a source of EARNings for you." (capitals and
layout -- authors' own)
I'd also have liked them to provide the website addresses for the
professional journals they quote but that's only a minor grumble and probably
the reflections of a busy psychologist wondering when they will find the time
to read all these interesting papers! On the whole their chatty writing style
and personal asides throughout serve to make this a very accessible, very
human-friendly book. That can definitely not be said for the vast majority of
psychology texts that appears on the shelves these days.
In conclusion, Rewarding
Specialties impressed me so much that I'm going to recommend it to my
colleagues and students. Everyone who is interested in the direction psychology
as a profession is taking should make the time to read it whether they are
living on the North American continent or not. Perhaps someone will be inspired
to write a European equivalent some day in the near future. Above all, Rewarding Specialties is the book to motivate any psychologists
out there who think opportunities in the workplace are shrinking. LoPresti and
Zuckerman refute this wholeheartedly and give us hope for a bright, fruitful
(financially, professionally and personally) future. Rewarding Specialties is both a practical how to towards finding your niche and should be an inspiration to
all who read it.
© 2005 Ruth Mark
Ruth E. Nieuwenhuis-Mark is lecturer of neuropsychology at the
University of Tilburg in the Netherlands. She specializes in Alzheimer's
disease, stroke, epilepsy and other neurological disorders. Her personal
website can be viewed at: www.remark.be