Highly consistent with the style of Maciocia's other foundational works in oriental medicine, acupuncture and herbology -- this one is very well organized, the text is crisp and succinct. It contains many clarifying illustrations plus substantial details on the "how-to" for diagnosis, differentiation and treatment of mental disharmonies using acupuncture and/or herbs. It is a great starting place, even for persons relatively new to the Chinese medicine perspective to these disciplines. Yet it is constructed to serve as a rapidly scanned handbook on return visits with many summary visuals (drawings and textbox highlights inserted by the publisher).
There are several strong points for its use:
1. Inclusion of basic pulse and tongue patterns relevant to mental/emotional health questions
2. Discussion of constiutional or five element patterns
3. Detailed discussion for westerners of the components of the psyche in chinese medicine, integrating diverse sources including Buddhism, Confuscianism, and Jungian psychology
4. Good review of ancient and modern views regarding emotions and the "self"; including the ancient greeks,classic western european philosophers and modern neurophysiology in a manner that can be compared and potentially integrated with eastern philosophy.
5. Useful appendices including a bibliography on the classics of chinese medicine which outlines what each of these contain should the reader wish to pursue them.
6. Detailed coverage regarding common mental health issues from the perspective of Chinese Medicine (depression, anxiety, insomnia, bipolar patterns, night terrors, and attention-deficity hyperactivity disorder). These are primarily addressed from a diagnostic framework consistent with TCM, but there is still a substantial section relating to the channel concepts. It does not have chapters specifically for the severe psychoses (understandably as these likely require a more complete shift to and/or coordination with western modalities).
7. Its one of the few resources which includes not only case studies but some clinical trials, often with control groups (placebo or pharmacological controls)coming from both western medicine and oriental medicine journals for each of the common mental health issues listed in #6 above.
8. Good diagrams to remind the reader about point locations are included very close to where these are mentioned in the text. Extra points are defined and illustrated when applicable, thus diminishing the need for newcomers to routinely keep a point atlas nearby, just in order to follow the flow of the text.
9. A great deal of effort was clearly expended to create very memorable drawings using modern concepts such as circuit boards and town maps to illustrate how some of the point combinations or meridian interventions might work. Several of these seemed to settle into my memory in a way that had not worked before.
Potential weaknesses seemed relatively minor to me but included:
1. At times it was hard to discriminate what information might be coming from his translating classics versus drawing on his own opinions and clinical experience, though obviously the latter is substantial.
2. The written text and illustrations are in a 2-color format, black for the standard text and red/maroon for highlighted text as well as frequently interposed summary boxes. When I am tired -- the red is somewhat irritating and limits my ability to continue focused reading or scanning. I am used to red denoting serious cautions or extremely critical highlights -- here its use is more general. Probably a publishers' choice to distinguish this one from his other books that are in a different color. I can appreciate the symbolic connection between red and heart, mind, psyche, etc. However the ease of readabililty for me is reduced a little.
3. Some of the "summaries" and "clinical notes" feel overdone to me -- duplicating text I just read one paragraph before. I recognize that once I've finished several chapters, this provides a rapid overview of the most important points to be more easily relocated by scanning. However, on my first pass while trying to just read through the text it slowed me down slightly.
Overall Maciocia's book is well conceived and executed. It also serves as a nice complementary work to Shen: Psycho-Emotional Aspects of Chinese Medicine. They each have differing strengths. Maciocia's is likely to be more appealing to those just learning about chinese medicine or clinical psychology/psychiatry or those who want an easily accessible reference handbook for direct clinical application. Rossi's is more likely to appeal to a veteran in these fields who seeks more detailed philosophical and academic discourse.