Exciting News at APA Books!

dictionaryWe are pleased to announce that in January, the APA Dictionary of Psychology, Second Edition, was named the Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2015!

A review of the dictionary was previously published in Choice’s October issue, in which it said, “Thorough but concise definitions remain the norm in this update, and the challenge of encompassing the diverse fields of psychology in a single volume makes this a triumph of cooperative composition and outstanding editing.”

Choice’s January 2016 issue highlighted the list of winners and best in scholarly titles.

Ron Miller: On Abnormal Psychology

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with APA Books authors and editors. For this interview, Mary Lynn Skutley, the Editorial Director of APA Books, interviewed Dr. Ron Miller, of Saint Michael’s College.

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.


Ronald B. Miller, PhD, is professor of psychology at Saint Michael’s College where he has also directed the master’s program in clinical psychology for 30 years.

He is the author of Not So Abnormal Psychology (2015), Facing Human Suffering: Psychology and Psychotherapy as Moral Engagement (2004), an associate editor for the Encyclopedia of Psychology (2000), and the editor of The Restoration of Dialogue: Readings in the Philosophy of Clinical Psychology (1992). He is a founding associate editor of the journal Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy and the former editor of the Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology.

A fellow of APA, Dr. Miller is currently the chair of the Vermont Board of Psychological Examiners.

It was just announced that your book, Not So Abnormal Psychology, won Honorable Mention in the Textbook/Social Sciences category of the 2016 PROSE Awards. Congratulations!

In the opening pages of this book, you describe personal struggles that ultimately lead you to reject mainstream diagnostic models. Personal revelation is unusual in scholarly scientific writing.  Why did you feel it was important to include?

I think the real challenge in psychology and many aspects of life is to integrate our subjective experiences, which are very personal and unique, with the world of other people—each having their own unique experiences. Sometimes when we do this we find a common or objective truth, and many times we don’t. Experimental psychology can only pay attention to the former, but the latter is as or more important in our lives. I always understood as a psychotherapist that this was a critical aspect of my work—honoring the client’s own experience while also looking for shared experiences that build a sense of relationship. The longer I taught college students, the more I realized they needed to understand that process too.

How do students react to that narrative?

Students always respond well to narrative accounts that illustrate psychological principles and theories. Every instructor knows that. That is why case studies are such powerful pedagogical tools. While this is generally acknowledged by authors of traditional textbooks in abnormal psychology, the justification given is usually that cases pique the students’ interest and sustains them for the “real (much more important) work” of studying the subject matter through quantitative or experimental methods.

My view is that there is a strong epistemological argument that can be made for the role of case studies in validating and communicating clinical practice knowledge. As Dan McAdams has argued more broadly, the creation of narrative is central to our very Being. When the case study is the professor’s own life, the power of the narrative is even greater. My students spontaneously will offer their appreciation for sharing with them the struggles I had as a young adult and graduate student. They say it makes them feel less alone with their own life struggles.

 You’ve said that students are often drawn to psychology by a desire to help others.  How can we teach them about the profession in a way that will kindle that desire?

I think students want to know that there are concepts and methods in psychology that can be applied in the real world that can make a transformational difference in their own and other people’s lives. They want to know how to turn their own lives around or help others they care about or work with to do the same. They have a vision of wanting to do good in the world, and they don’t want to have to give up their values of being a decent human being in order to practice experimentally validated procedures where everyone is following the same therapeutic script regardless of the differences among clients. Nor do they wish to practice techniques that produce statistically significant effects unless those differences are meaningful in the lives of those receiving services.

Why did you title your book, Not So Abnormal?

I was reviewing a number of undergraduate abnormal psychology textbooks at the beginning of the process, and as I read and summarized the descriptions and explanations for the causes and treatments of various diagnoses I found myself repeatedly writing after most of the summary statements, “Not So.” Eventually it occurred to me to simply insert the words “Not So” at the beginning of the title.

“Not so abnormal” makes a broader statement about mental health. What will readers of your textbook take away that they would not take away from a traditional textbook? 

I see the abnormal psychology course as both an opportunity for students to learn about an academic discipline and to contribute to the improvement in the mental health of the millions of students who will enroll in this course during the college years.  It is a rare opportunity to offer intensive mental health education, and this is badly needed in our society today.

I have attempted to provide a coherent integrated framework for understanding human psychological suffering (“psychopathology”) that is informed by pragmatic humanistic values, an awareness of the importance of unconscious developmental mental processes, and an understanding of the power of the family and social-political environment. The goal of this framework is to produce greater self-understanding in the reader, and to lay out a path for transformational psychological change. After reading the traditional abnormal psychology textbook, the student comes away with a knowledge of hundreds of terms and disparate facts that seem to have no coherent relationship to one another. It as though anxiety and psychosis are unrelated phenomena as opposed to the framework I propose where psychosis is the absolute extreme of the anxiety state we all experience from time to time.

Although this may sound like a self-help book, it is also a textbook that covers the philosophical, historical, and social/political context of the development of the sub-discipline of abnormal psychology and the field of mental health as a whole. Rather than ignore the theoretical models that do not fit into my integrated framework (viz., the biomedical and cognitive-behavioral approaches), I discuss their pros and cons, and cite evidence for where I think these models are or are not helpful.

What books do you recommend for students and therapists?

I was heavily influenced by philosophy and literature prior to entering the field of psychology. Some classics that stand out are The Myth of Sisyphus by Camus, War and Peace by Tolstoy, J.L. Austen’s, How to Do Things with Words and Freud’s Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis And I urge all my students to read Yalom’s  works on existential psychotherapy and Love’s Executioner, which is a great book of case studies.


Good Design is in the Details (With Plenty of White Space in Between)

by Kristen Knight

Released in March 2015 with approximately 1,200 pages and 26,000 entries, the APA Dictionary of Psychology, Second Edition, is a behemoth of a book by any definition. But it was the smaller details in the text that garnered the attention of judges when they awarded it first prize in the typographic text category (large nonprofit) of the 2015 Washington Publishers Book Design and Effectiveness Awards.  Those details included good column width, the use of guide words and rule at the top of each page, and cleanly executed thumb tabs for easy navigation.

“We gave the nod to your dictionary because the design is technically effective and successful in all of the ways that dictionaries need to be,” said awards judge John Guthrie, who is the managing editor of the book program at the American Diabetes Association. “I’ve worked on dictionaries before, so I am fully aware that the apparent simplicity of a well-designed dictionary belies the amount of planning, skill, and expertise that goes into creating an effective one. We commented frequently during the judging process about how good design also exhibits restraint. The design of the APA Dictionary of Psychology represents creativity, attention to purpose, and restraint.”

Guthrie also praised the dictionary’s effective use of font size, boldface, italics, and small caps, along with the “incredibly descriptive” guide to format for readers, which appears in the front matter of the book.

DoP2 Award_Inside spread graphicFor you font nerds out there (yes, they exist!), this second edition of the dictionary was typeset in 9-point Photina. The design and composition of the text were produced by Anne Kerr at Market House Books, Ltd., in Aylesbury, England. With almost 45 years of experience in creating specialty dictionaries for various publishers, Market House is perhaps the premier reference compiler in the United Kingdom.

“The font was selected for clarity and economy of space,” Anne said about the design. “I think the font is easy to read and, as using this font meant we needed less space for the text, we were able to increase the interentry space. From the design point of view, the white space is as important as the text itself!”

Anne typically offers APA reference editors several samples to review prior to the production phase for a dictionary. “Generally, there will be different typefaces and variations in type size, leading, and kerning from which to select,” explained our Reference Director Ted Baroody. “For the APA Dictionary of Psychology, Second Edition, we chose the specs that seemed most generous for ease of reading while also being most closely aligned with our desired overall page length. It was a great plus for APA and Market House Books to be able to land on such an aesthetically pleasing set of specs.”

The collaboration between APA and MHB goes back more than 16 years, dating to work on the critically acclaimed first edition of the dictionary and encompassing several subsequent derivatives, among them the well-received APA College Dictionary of Psychology and APA Dictionary of Statistics and Research Methods. Ted describes the partnership this way: “It is certainly not overstated to note that APA Reference staff has learned substantially about the profession and art of lexicography from our English colleagues, and, perhaps, MHB staff has even learned a little bit about psychology from us!”

As you might guess, producing such a considered and inclusive second edition required years of effort on the part of a large team of psychologists and allied health professionals, editors, and designers. The reference team at APA is pleased that the Washington Publishers Association award recognized the result, and specifically the way in which all of that knowledge is so effectively presented for readers.


VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2015). APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

This Land is Your Land


by Katie ten Hagen

My friend DJ was in Washington, DC, on June 26, when the US Supreme Court finally legalized gay marriage nationwide. At midnight, he joined an elated crowd outside the White House, celebrating the victory and the powerful sight of the rainbow flag projected against the White House. That sight was soon surpassed by something even more powerful:  A man standing beside him spontaneously broke into song. He began singing “This Land Is Your Land” in a strong, unwavering voice that silenced the crowd. A minute later, a woman rode up on a bicycle and began to harmonize. Their impromptu duet riveted the crowd. And then it was over. The singers hugged and parted.

This land is your land. The marriage equality decision represents the culmination of a campaign for equality that has been remarkable and unprecedented in its speed and success. It means real change that affects countless lives for the better, and offers hope that the world is becoming a more equal and accepting place. Here at the APA offices just around the corner from Capitol Hill, we’ve been right in the thick of celebrations. This Day in June, published by our sister imprint Magination Press—a book that won the 2015 Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award for exceptional merit relating to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender experience—describes the vibrant and joyful celebration of a Pride Parade through a child’s eyes.

47365798At the same time, the world is not yet perfect. Legal does not necessarily mean accepted, and accepting those different from ourselves has been a hurdle for the human race for as long as we have existed. Just as the end of legalized racial discrimination did not eliminate racism, homophobia will remain long after gay marriage becomes the law of the land. In recognition of this, we recently published Happy Together: Thriving as a Same-Sex Couple in Your Family, Workplace, and Community, a book to help couples work together to identify, develop, and use their strengths and skills to successfully navigate relationship stress, while confronting external prejudice within families, in the workplace, and elsewhere.

Some prejudice is obvious, but sometimes it takes more subtle forms. Sometimes it is ingrained so deeply in our social interactions that it’s difficult to even notice—unless you are the one targeted. Seemingly inconsequential slights, as simple as a word, phrase, or tiny action, accumulate over time and weigh on members of targeted minority groups with feelings of victimization and exclusion. That’s So Gay! looks at the scholarly literature on microaggressions directed at LGBTQ people, and offers readers a blueprint for developing a culture of acceptance, instead of exclusion. An upcoming book from Magination Press, Ouch Moments: When Words Hurt, takes a stark and realistic look at microaggressions as they occur between children. Ouch Moments will be released in September 2015.

The world is not perfect, and it never will be. On June 26, we celebrated a momentous step forward. The work continues.