I love to read and often recommend books to my clients. Educating yourself about what you are experiencing allows you to understand it better. Besides knowledge and insight, books can also provide numerous strategies for combating symptoms, improving well being and dealing with people and situations.
Below is a list of my suggestions on topics that come up often in therapy. They are books I have read and 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
Written by psychiatrist David Burns, the book covers everything from 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 a good introduction if you wish to use the simple but effective method of thought monitoring.
Learn 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.
We could all probably 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
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.
A 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.
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 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. 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.
Written 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
Drawing upon the author’s four decades of working with survivors of childhood trauma, abuse, and neglect, this book teaches you to understand the emotional and neurobiological causes difficult relationship patterns. It describes effective strategies for learning how to trust yourself, how to assess other people more accurately, and how to take care of yourself emotionally so that you can have the healthy relationships that you deserve.
While many self-help books deal with what happened to you as a child, this book addresses the things that may not have happened for you. What goes unsaid—or what cannot be remembered—can have profound consequences that may be affecting you. This book helps you understand your experiences and give you clear strategies for healing.
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 aim of the book is to help you 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.
Books on Abuse in Relationships
An Australian book on domestic violence by psychologist Carmel O’Brien that 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
Learn how to recognize verbal abuse when it happens, respond to abusers safely and appropriately, and most important, lead a happier, healthier life.
Books on Setting Healthy Boundaries
This book provides the tools and insights needed to create boundaries so that we can allow time and energy for the things that matter—and helps break down limiting defenses that stunt personal growth.
While this book offers a Christian perspective, you can still get a lot out of it as it is the best I have read on the topic of boundaries.
Learn practical advice on dealing with difficult people, handling criticism, and expressing your feelings. You’ll also discover how to use humor in conflict resolution, ways to clarify others’ intentions, and how to distinguish between encouraging and discouraging communication habits.
Books on Relationships
A book that stems from family systems theory and goes beyond communication techniques to explain how family dynamics intrude and affect our relationships.
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.