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Review of "The Insider's Guide to Mental Health Resources Online"

By John M. Grohol
Guilford Press, 2002
Review by Margo McPhillips on Mar 28th 2002
The Insider's Guide to Mental Health Resources OnlineThis is a very straightforward reference book for mental health professionals not familiar with the Web and its offerings. Divided into three sections; Basic Map and Tools, Getting Answers to Professional Questions and, Patient Education Resources; it is a wonderful book to peruse and keep on one's desk for ideas about "where to look next".

I like this book most because of its professional advice and warnings in the gray area covering the differences between the face-to-face world and the Internet that a Newbie wouldn't know about:

"There are some caveats to seeking online publication that you should be aware of. Publication in a peer-reviewed, print journal is the apex of professional accomplishment. Publication on a mailing list is equal to scribbling your study on a piece of paper and tacking it onto the department's bulletin board."

Sites are rated with a clear explanation of the rating system and it's kind of fun to check a few and calibrate one's own impressions with those of the author's. The warm, historical aside explaining "Awards, Badges, and Popularity Ratings on the Web" is lots of fun and that and other, similar asides, help create a friendly tone for the book.

Another of the things I like about the book is also the one I have reservations about; because it is for professionals, the book does not "baby" the reader but assumes they can understand what they read and keep up. That is especially evident and laudable in the areas discussing online research. However, I feel the first section explaining the Internet and its tools (and Appendix C, "How to Get Online") is sometimes not detailed enough and sometimes too tangential for a beginner.

My husband moderates professional computer newsgroups and loves them but in 10+ years on the Internet and with a university, upper level, Advanced Internet course containing assignments requiring me to search and join them, I have never quite understood how to make my way around and use newsgroups and many mailing lists. I have reservations about whether a new Internet user will understand either from reading this book.

I think I would find some sites online to help do some of the teaching about online topics and not go into such detail as, for example, the differences between subject guides and search engines, so early in the book. If one is not online-oriented yet, some of the text sounds like hairsplitting and doublespeak.

"The search engines listed in this section are for finding information on the Internet's discussion forums (Usenet newsgroups) or on specific mailing lists. Many of the search engines reviewed earlier also allow searching within Usenet newsgroups."

This book is great because of its wealth of information and pointers to where one can find additional information. I can only imagine how hard it is to write about a subject that is best taught and explained by one's personal experience. This book makes a good starting point for a mental health professional's online experience.

© 2002 Margo McPhillips

Margo McPhillips is a 1972 graduate of the University of Maryland with a Bachelors degree in Sociology. She is currently interested in the use of books on the Web, bibliotherapy, genealogy as an online family/generational activity, and and is enrolled in the UserActive program to earn a Certificate of Professional Development in Web Programming from the University of Illinois to help her with her seven Web sites. Visit her new UserActive site under development at

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