Book Recommendations

Self-help books have gotten quite a reputation as being tomes full of baseless pop psychology and meaningless fluff. While those kinds of books are certainly available, there are some genuinely useful books out there. Take a look at reviews of some volumes that can be a perfect compliment to therapy.

The Feeling Good Handbook - A great book that does not need to be read cover to cover to appreciate its many lessons.  The book takes a problem solving approach to changing thinking patterns so a person overcomes stress, anxiety, fear, depression, and anger.  Virtually anyone would benefit from reading only a portion of this book and it makes an excellent companion to therapy.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work - A book for couples who feel on the brink of walking away from the relationship or those who want to tune up a relationship that seems stale. It is tricky finding a truly helpful book for repairing a relationship. This is written by John Gottman, a leading therapist in the field of relationship therapy. He offers sound, no-nonsense suggestions. The writing is engaging and appeals to broad groups of people. 

The Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships - Don't be deceived by the title. This is an excellent book for men and women who are feeling a deep-seated anger about the relationships that they are in. This is one of Lerner's many books. It is a short read and you can easily benefit from reading only the chapters that are interesting to you. This does not have the fluff of a self-help book. Lerner helps you shift your thinking about the anger in your life so you can make changes that helps the anger melt away. Lerner is an excellent and time tested author. Check out her other books. 

Ages and Stages: A Parent's Guide to Normal Childhood Development - Ages and Stages takes parents through the psychological development of kids from birth to age ten.  This is not a book  to help you solve problems with your kids.  It does help you get a sense of what is to come and get a baseline on the functioning of "average" kids.  This is a great book for new parents or parents who are questioning what is "normal".  

Loving Your Child Is Not Enough: Positive Discipline That Works - This short volume is full of practical help for parents who find themselves in power struggles with kids or are seeing behavior problems. It not only helps with correcting the behaviors, but teaches parents to respond to their children in ways that will help children grow into effective and independent individuals. Rather than giving advice on specific scenarios, Samalin provides a new framework for parents to use when interacting with their kids. 

Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child - This is a book about parenting from a leading marriage and family therapist. His approach is research-based and has twenty-five years behind it. It takes the approach that children need to be coached to be in tune to their own emotions and think for themselves. It helps parents listen to their children so kids' feelings are validated. The focus of this book is how a mutual respect can go a long way towards getting the results you are looking for when you are trying to restore a child's behavior or a relationship with a child. 

Loving without Spoiling : And 100 Other Timeless Tips for Raising Terrific Kids - This is the book to get if you are looking for specific how-to advice to deal with an array of issues that creep up when raising kids of all ages. One of many great books by Samalin, here she provides many small chapters that address all sorts of problems that come up for parents. 

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys - What this book lacks in actual tips and techniques it makes up for in thoughtful discussion about how parents and society raises boys. This book takes a critical look at how the collective "we" raise boys in our country. It discusses common pitfalls that leads boys to becoming angry, emotionless, abusive, and toxic men. Overall, a great book to read if you are raising boys. 

The Grief Recovery Handbook : The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death Divorce, and Other Losses - Helps readers deal with grief of all kinds. Most of the book's examples revolve around death and divorce but can be generalized to all kinds of losses. The vast majority of readers find this to be incredibly positive and like the excercises that help individuals take an action-oriented approach to their grieving. This will likely not be the last stop on a journey to help your grieving but will likely offer a great amount of support. 

On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss - This book is written by experts in the field of grief and focuses primarily on recovering from the death of someone in your life. In detail, the book helps you identify what you're feeling, why you're feeling that way, and how you can bring yourself to a place that isn't so incredibly painful. You may be feeling anger, guilt, and many other emotions beyond the expected sadness. This can be a great resource for anyone experiencing grief from a death and don't know where to turn. 

Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and Other ASDs - This is an especially useful book for parents who have a child with an autism spectrum disorder and need more information. The book starts out from ground zero and attempts to be a comprehensive tome that addresses accessing services, talking to doctors, getting treatment, and helping a child in the home. Parents who have been dealing with an ASD for quite some time and are relatively seasoned may take less from the book but it could still be useful. 

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls - Offering a similar theme as Raising Cain that addresses how parents and society raise boys, Reviving Ophelia looks at the forces that are turning girls into women with problems. This book can offer immense amounts of insight into raising a girl or a teenager but is not a book full of tips and techniques. It is a commentary on how our society is structured to raise girls and the negative impact it is having. The macro focus of the book doesn't mean that this book is useless to parents. To the contrary, the book highlights ways that parents often unwittingly contribute to problems and can allow parents to change their interactional patterns. This is a great book but do not expect a "parenting book". 

Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life - Who Moved My Cheese is both fantastic and awful. It can be read in under an hour and can be terribly repetitive. It takes place within the framework of an almost ridiculous fable. Having said that, the book has some excellent lessons. For the person struggling with change and suffering from stress, worry, and anxiety, Who Moved My Cheese can be a good starting point to offer some guidance and take the edge off some of those feelings. If you can get past the annoying elements, there is a lot to be learned from this short volume. 

The Courage to Heal 4e: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse 20th Anniversary Edition - This is the thoroughly revised and updated version of a book has been around for over 20 years helping women who were sexually abused. While this is not the "perfect" book, it does have an amazing amount of information in it. The book is large, but you can certainly pick and choose what you want to read. It covers all aspects of addressing your past abuse. Beyond that, the book discusses how past abuse manifests itself in other ways: depression, fear, relationship problems, and the list goes on. The volume helps women build self-esteem and reclaim themselves. Having said that, the book has been criticized at times for how it deals with "repressed memories", its apparent closed-mindedness to human sexuality, and other aspects. While there are valid criticisms of the book, there is much more positive than there is negative. If you are open to taking the helpful information and disregarding bits that don't seem to fit, this could be a great book to help with your recovery. 

A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain - This takes an empathetic approach to addressing self-mutilation (when someone harms him or herself--making cuts on one's arm, for example--commonly for the purpose of releasing emotional pain). Like nearly all "self help" books, this book has a mix of positive and negative elements but is one of the better books on self-mutilation. The book attempts to really connect with people on what brings them to harm themselves. It can really help individuals realize that they are not alone. It can also be a helpful book for friends and family members of individuals who engage in self-harm since it delves into what brings individuals to cut. The book has been criticized for referring to those who self-injure as "cutters" and implying that most people who self-injure were abused. Furthermore, the book is extremely graphic and can at times trigger individuals who self-injure and make them want to harm themselves. That being said, this is not recommended as a book that someone who self-injures should read without accompanying therapy. Parents looking to get this book for a child who self-injures should be cautious in doing so. 

How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To - Often we find ourselves the victims of circumstances that we cannot control that leave us hurt and angry because of the way we were treated by someone. We can feel forced between the choice of carrying around the anger or letting it go and feeling defeated. This book examines the idea of forgiveness--not in a religious sense--and how there are different levels of it. The book offers other choices to people who are hurting so that they can get beyond their pain and resume living their lives. 

Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You - Helps readers identify if they are in a relationship with or interact with an "emotional blackmailer"--someone who leverages a relationship to maintain control over another individual. The book discusses how a person can diffuse this pattern in an extremely helpful way. 

Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life - Pyschology has moved beyond a blame-the-mother framework, but sometimes a person's parents are truly toxic. This book helps individuals who have parents whose parents abused them, were emotionally unavailable, blaming, or otherwise harmful rewrite how they look at themselves and the world around them. 

When Your Lover Is a Liar: Healing the Wounds of Deception and Betrayal - For individuals who find themselves in relationships with someone who repeatedly lies, deceives, and covers up, this is a book that looks at how to address this situation. The book helps individuals identify patterns in their partner, address the behavior, and extricate one's self from the situation if necessary.