I love books and read a lot so naturally I tend to recommend them often to my clients. In my opinion, educating yourself about what you are experiencing allows you to understand it better rather than be scared or confused by it. Books also offer numerous strategies for combating symptoms, improving well being and dealing with people and situations.
Below is a list of suggested readings on various topics that come up often in therapy. These are all books I either own, have personally read, or have looked through based on recommendations by colleagues. They are written by psychologists, psychiatrists and/or authors which are considered experts in their relevant fields. The language is accessible and the books are practical and geared towards self-help.
General Self-Help Books
One of my favourites by psychiatrist David Burns on how to deal with anxiety, guilt, pessimism, procrastination, low self-esteem, and other “black holes”, as well as develop a positive outlook on life.
Probably one of the most recommended cognitive-behavioural self-help books by therapists, this is well worth a read and putting it in practice.
“Buck up.” “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” “Don’t ruin everything.” When you are anxious, sad, angry, or lonely, do you hear this self-critical voice? What would happen if, instead of fighting difficult emotions, we accepted them?
I love this book that teaches you how to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy self-esteem, how to uncover and analyse negative self-statements, and how to create new, more objective and positive statements to support your self-esteem rather than undermine it.
One of my absolute favourite books that I recommend over and over to clients. I think we would all benefit from learning how to let go of unrealistic expectations and focus more on effort, rather than on results.
Books on Anxiety, Panic and OCD
Fear, worry, anxiety, panic, and depression block people from living fully. This book does an excellent job of unraveling the mysteries of the brain and how it causes anxiety, thus allowing you to take control of anxious symptoms and manage life more effectively.
An excellent, fun, fully illustrated and very easy-to-read guide for dealing with panic attacks by Australian Bev Aisbett, herself a survivor of panic disorder. The book has three basic messages: You can beat this; You are not alone; You will recover.
Another great book by Burns on how to deal with all kinds of anxiety and with most other emotional problems.
Reid Wilson, one of the leading world experts on anxiety and OCD, proposes his paradoxical approach to overcoming anxiety, worry, OCD, panic, and phobias by moving away from comfort, confidence, and security and willingly moving toward uncertainty, distress and discomfort. Love it because it works.
This classic book presents a simple four-step method for overcoming OCD that is effective and used in academic treatment centers throughout the world. It doesn’t rely on medication but teaches you to use cognitive self-therapy and behaviour modification to develop new patterns of response to obsessions.
Books on Depression
Michael Yapko is a world renowned psychologist and a leading expert on depression, as well as an excellent trainer that I have seen several times in person. This book is simple, straight-forward and in my opinion, has everything you need to know to deal with depression.
One more book by Michael Yapko because it’s that good and there is enough different material from my previous suggestion.
A good read by investigative journalist Johann Hari who goes on a journey across the world to interview the leading experts about what causes depression and anxiety, and what solves them. He presents scientific evidence for nine different causes of depression and anxiety―and that this knowledge leads to a very different set of solutions than what we are used to hearing.
Using mindfulness, a simple yet powerful way of paying attention to your most difficult emotions and life experiences, can help you break the cycle of chronic unhappiness.
Books on Trauma and Childhood Emotional Neglect
This book is written by one of the world’s leading trauma experts and offers an understanding of the impact of trauma on the body, its physiology, the phenomenon of somatic memory and what to do about its manifestations.
An astonishing amount of information on almost every aspect of trauma experience, research, interventions, and theories is presented in this book. In addition, it investigates the effects of adverse childhood attachment patterns, child abuse, and chronic and long-term abuse.
There are several key principles to trauma recovery that can help make the process safe and effective. The skills to understand and implement successful trauma healing are: mindful identification of what is helpful, recognising survival, having the option to not remember, creating a supportive inner dialogue, forgiving not being able to stop the trauma, understanding and sharing shame, finding your own recovery pace; mobilising your body, and helping others.
Full of practical strategies for coping and self-care, the book helps readers develop a solid sense of safety, self-worth, trust, and control, as well as the capacity to be close to others. The focus is on finding the way forward in life today, no matter what has happened in the past.
A practical guide for people who have experienced childhood trauma that includes reflective questions and easy to use exercises that can be implemented immediately.
Books on Abuse in Relationships
The only Australian book on domestic violence by Australian psychologist Carmel O’Brien who I know personally and greatly respect. It includes practical advice for victims of domestic violence and for those who know someone who may be suffering abuse.
An insightful and revealing look into the minds and motives of perpetrators, this book is written by Lundy Bancroft who set up the first anger-management programs in the USA over 25 years ago.
This book teaches how to recognise abusers, identify the patterns that have kept you emotionally trapped, decide whether to walk away from an abusive relationship or take a stand and stay, heal the damage of abuse by building self-esteem, and open yourself to healthy relationships.
Books on Setting Healthy Boundaries
While this is a Christian book, if that is not your thing you can still get a lot out of it as it is the best I have read on the topic of boundaries. Well worth persisting through some of the Christian passages.
Books on Relationships
Excellent book that introduces the EAR concept – this stands for Empathy, Assertiveness, and Respect in how t manage any type of communication successfully.
I love this book which uses family systems theory and goes beyond communication techniques to explain how family dynamics intrude and affect our relationships.
With more than 5 million copies sold, this is an absolute classic and for good reason.
This book will help you make sense out of the chaos that a relationship with an unstable partner can bring. It teaches you how to stand up for yourself and assert your needs, defuse conflicts, and protect yourself and others from violent behaviour.
Books on Dealing with Narcissistic Partners or Parents
The best book on the topic, it will teach you how to set limits with a narcissist and when it’s time to draw the line on unacceptable behaviour.