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Doing Good: Passion and Commitment for Helping Others.

Doing Good: Passion and Commitment for Helping Others

Jeffrey A. Kottler Taylor & Francis Philadelphia, PA 131 pages 2000

I will start this review by saying I am a fan of Jeffrey Kottler's work. I started reading his books as a master's student in Counselor Education, and have often recommended them to students who want to learn more about the "human" side of counseling. Dr. Kottler has worked as a counselor and a counselor educator for over 25 years and has published numerous articles and books that address a wide variety of counseling topics, so he brings considerable expertise to this book. As with all of his other books, Kottler's writing style is clear and concise, and the book is well organized and well presented. While the book is an "easy read," readers should be careful not to rush through but rather to stop and think about what has been said and how it relates to their work as counselors and helpers.

In the preface, Kottler states that the purpose of the book is to "inspire [helping professionals] to make a difference in [their] work with others [and to help] beginners feel good about their commitment to service" (p. vii). While he designed the book primarily for people who are new to the helping professions, Kottler also intended the book to be useful for more experienced professionals. Because of this focus, I believe the book would be most appropriate for rehabilitation counselor educators who want to use it as an additional text for a class, particularly a practicum or internship course, or a counseling theories course. Given the intended audience, I appreciated Kottler's consistency throughout the book in encouraging new counselors to be patient in their learning process and in making suggestions for them to increase their altruism and ability to empathize with others. I also think the book would be useful and informative for counselors and other helping professionals who are relatively new to their careers, as well as to seasoned professionals who may be experiencing burnout.

The book consists of eight chapters, with titles including "Why do people help others and what do they get out of it?" and "Helping others to help yourself." Kottler starts with an academic approach to the topics of helping and altruism and then moves into a more personal approach using stories of helpers, focusing on why they help others. In the first two chapters, Kottler does a nice job of highlighting research from the social sciences, as well as explaining helping from an evolutionary perspective. I was not that familiar with this literature so it was interesting to read how helping appears to be functional from an evolutionary perspective, not just as an altruistic gesture, and that sometimes people and animals do things for the greater good of the group, even if they may be harmed in the process. Kottler does an effective and unbiased job of presenting literature and research that support a variety of theories about why people and animals help one another.

The chapters that follow focus on helping from a human services perspective. Kottler divides each chapter into topics, often including a story of a helper in support of the particular topic. I found the most meaning in the topics where he included a story because it gave me more context for the point he was making. I find the same is true for my students. They are much more apt to remember a point in class if I talk about a client who exemplifies the point, of course veiling the information to respect the client's confidentiality. In the third chapter, "Voices of Those Who Help," Kottler focuses on people who "sing the glory of doing good for the most noble purposes" (p. 29). He lists 13 reasons why people help others, including being a part of something bigger than themselves and giving something back. In the fourth chapter, Kottler talks about helpers who "do good" for personal benefit and gain, again using excerpts to support the information given. Reasons for helping others in this section include forgetting their own troubles, vicarious living and voyeurism, and intimacy without rejection.

In the fifth chapter, "What Matters Most," Kottler addresses topics that helpers think make the biggest difference in their work. In the sixth chapter, he addresses some of the more negative aspects of being a helper, including "compassion fatigue," the stress of caring for others, and self-doubt. Rather than have this particular chapter end on a note that may be discouraging to readers, particularly new counselors, Kottler includes steps professionals can take to protect themselves from burnout and from feeling discouraged in the helping process. I think this chapter may be especially helpful to more experienced helpers because they may see themselves or their colleagues in the stories and they can take some of the actions noted to change their perspective about their work. In the seventh chapter, Kottler gives explanations for some of the reasons people do not help one another and discusses ways to change those reasons. In the final chapter, Kottler summarizes suggestions the people he interviewed had for new professionals. Although directed toward new professionals, I think more seasoned counselors and helpers could also benefit from this information, either to reinforce some of things they are already doing or to remind them of ways they can take care of themselves as professionals and as people.

The only thing I would change about the book would be to have Kottler include more excerpts from the people he interviewed. In the preface he said the book would be "told through the experiences of those who `do good' for a living" (p. vii). I found that I savored those parts of the book and wanted to hear more from the people themselves because they gave voice to the actual experiences of being a counselor. Other than that, I think he did what he set out to do, which was to give an overview of why people help each other and how, in the end, they end up helping themselves as well.

Brandon Hunt, Ph.D., CRC, NCC Associate Professor Department of Counselor Education, Counseling Psychology, and Rehabilitation Services The Pennsylvania State University
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Hunt, Brandon
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 2000
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