Characters on the Couch: Exploring Psychology through Literature and Film. By Dean A. Haycock. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2016. 334 p. Acid free $68 (ISBN 978-1-4408-3698-5). Ebook available (978-1-4408-3699-2), call for pricing.

Inspired by what appears to be a growing trend for training mental health care professionals, the author (Dean A. Haycock, a freelance science and medical writer) conceived of this work as a resource guide to help students assess psychological conditions and psychiatric disorders using fictional characters drawn from literature and film. The entries contain 101 profiles of mostly well-known fictional characters found in novels, novellas, short stories, plays, poems, graphic novels, comic books, and films. The characters’ psychological profiles are highlighted by using key quotes to demonstrate their particular disorder. For example, the diagnosis of Dorian Gray in Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray from his uttering, “How sad it is! I shall grow old and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. . . . If only it were the other way!” (134) indicates that his most defining trait is (surprise!) narcissism. Charlie Brown, from the comic strip Peanuts, with his declaration, “My anxieties have anxieties” (146) is evidently a neurotic with avoidant personality disorder, and so forth. It may be helpful for the non-specialist to know that the arrangement of the selections in the “Mental and Personality Disorders” subdivision is presented in the order found in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and that the six “Positive Psychological Traits” are those identified by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman in their pioneering work in the field of positive psychology.

The helpful appendixes contain lists of characters and their psychological traits, the VIA Classification of Character Strengths, a bibliography of sources consulted and recommended reading, and a glossary of psychological and literary terms. Users looking for a separate list of the works or characters referred to in this volume will need to consult the general index.

As best as this reviewer can tell, there is no other comparable work for this purpose and it is recommended for libraries supporting clinical psychology programs—Robin Imhof, Humanities Librarian, University of the Pacific, Stockton, California


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