There are many self-help books available nowadays that it is hard to pick out the ones that can truly make a difference and are based on solid scientific research. Below is a list of the books that I personally recommend with confidence to my clients because I know they work and people find them genuinely helpful. I also like that all of these books have been written by leading practitioners in their respective fields of psychology and are based on solid research that backs up their advice.
Why does that matter? Well, it matters a lot because it means they are not simply one person’s opinion on what might work but instead are based on years and years of clinical practice and studies. The books below are well recognised by professional psychologists and some are considered the gold standard of what is recommended for specific issues.
Reinventing Your Life: The Breakthrough Program to End Negative Behavior and Feel Great Again
by Jeffrey E. Young and Janet S. Klosko
This is one of my favourite books to recommend to clients as it is so well written and I think anyone can find something relevant here. Just don’t be put off by the cheesy title and the old-fashioned cover! The book is by Jeff Young, the founder of Schema Therapy and director of New York City’s Cognitive Therapy Center. It is easy-to-read and helps you identify limiting patterns or lifetraps (or schemas) that originated in childhood and adolescence. It will help you find answers to questions such as: Why do you feel that you are essentially flawed, worthless, or incompetent? Why do you become extremely upset when someone close to you disagrees with you? Why do you find it difficult to form healthy relationships? Do you repeatedly get involved with people who abuse you? The book helps you identify your lifetraps through questionaires and offers tons of useful information on our misguided attempts to cope with them, which actually maintain the life traps. Finally the authors offer numerous cognitive, behavioral, and experiential strategies to challenge our limiting patterns.
Overcoming Depression: A self- help guide using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques
by Paul Gilbert
This is undoubtedly one of the best self-help books on depression amongst the myriad that are out there. It is written by Paul Gilbert, internationally recognised for his work on depression and Director of the Mental Health Research Unit in Derbyshire, UK. The book reflects new research on understanding and treating depression, particularly the importance of developing compassionate ways of thinking, behaving and feeling. It contains helpful case studies and easy-to-follow, step-by-step suggestions and exercises. Chapters include: Changing unhelpful thoughts and feelings; Styles of depressive thinking; and Changing your behavior: a compassionate approach. There is also a whole section dedicated to special problems associated with depression such as the need for approval, subordination, shame, guilt, anger, and assertiveness. Explore book
by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky
No such list of books should go without this one. It has been cited as “The Most Influential Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Publication” by the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies and with good reason. Both authors are clinical psychologists – Dennis Greenberger is the past president of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy and Christine Padesky is co-founder of the Center for Cognitive Therapy in Huntington Beach, California. The book is based on the core CBT idea that it is your thoughts that are what generates your moods. Control your thoughts, and you control your moods. But before we can do this, we have to slow down enough to take the time to see where our thoughts are coming from. The exercises will help you determine your “hot thoughts,” (automatic thoughts you hold about yourself that are linked to depressed/anxious mood), and examine evidence for and against your thoughts. You then use this evidence to create new thoughts which would in turn help you create new emotions. The book is particularly relevant in addressing depression, anxiety, panic attacks, anger, guilt, shame, and low self-esteem. Read a chapter
by Margaret A. Caudill-Slosberg
For over 20 years, this book has been the premier guide for managing chronic pain and is widely recommended by practitioners. It is now in its fourth edition which also tells you something about its reputation. Pain specialist and physician Margaret A. Caudill spells out 10 steps that can radically change the way people feel —both physically and emotionally. The book provides information about the causes and treatment of pain and guides readers how to identify what increases and decreases their symptoms, how to reduce pain and emotional distress, make informed decisions about medications and benefit from relaxation. The latest edition includes content on mindfulness, a “Quick Skill” section in each chapter with simple exercises and a range of supplementary reading and resources (including smartphone apps). Read a chapter
by Harriet Lerner
This is one of my favourite books on relationships and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I think anyone will find lots of useful information here regardless of whether your current relationship is suffering or not. It is written by H. Lerner, a psychologist at the Menninger Clinic for over 20 years and an excellent author and workshop presenter. The book draws on family-systems theory which I also use in my therapy practice but it is presented in a very conversational and easily-digestible format. A central idea of the book is the importance of women defining themselves, their needs and limits rather than over-focusing on their partner. I was sold from the very first definition of intimacy: “Intimacy is not the same as intensity, although we are a culture that confuses these two words”. There are also numerous case studies that explore what unhelpful patterns of behavior may be passed down from past generations. Explore book
By Joanne Davila and Kaycee Lashman
The reason why I am adding this awesome book to the list is that unlike many similar ones, it is written for intelligent women who are serious about finding a healthy relationship. It doesn’t present formulas for ‘catching’ a guy but instead, it helps you tune into your own feelings, plans, and desires. According to the authors (psychologists, you can probably see a repeating theme here), the key to finding the right guy for you is to shift the focus on you. The book offers evidence-based strategies and practical tools to help you figure out what you need to be happy and fulfilled—and whether he has what it takes. Realistic stories of women in their 20s illustrate how to approach dating with self-confidence, navigate conflict with communication and understanding, and recognize the red flags of unhealthy relationships. Read a chapter
by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Ok, this is not exactly a self-help book but I would argue that improving your relationship with your children is definitely being helpful to yourself too so I am adding it to the list. Also, there are so many parenting books out there that it is hard to pick out the really good ones and this is one book I would put up there with the best. Based on sound research, the book includes suggestions and methods to cope with children’s negative feelings, such as frustration, anger, and disappointment; engage their cooperation; set firm limits and use alternatives to punishment; understand the difference between helpful and unhelpful praise, and express your strong feelings as a parent without being hurtful.
Other great books on raising children:
Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman and Daniel Goleman
Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
by Robert Madigan
Do you wish you could recall the names of people you just met? What if birthdays, important errands, and online passwords rarely slipped your mind? Psychologist Robert Madigan provides practical, proven methods for improving the ability to retain and use information. Like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, it’s important to exercise memory in simple ways every day. That’s where this science-based book can help. It explains how memory works and presents innovative mnemonic devices and visualization techniques that will help sharpen your mental skills and remember faces, appointments, facts, numbers, lists, and much more. Read a chapter