What’s In My Therapy Library: General Self-Help Book Edition
A thorough knowledge of psychology does not a good self-help book make. What? Are you surprised to hear that from the therapist who still brags about her college GPA four years postgrad? Well, lucky for you guys, my love for high-quality narrative and desire to ultimately be actually helpful trump my thirst for facts.
There are so many self-help books out there that just spit psychological facts at you in a language you can’t understand unless you’re in the field yourself. My gosh, some of them are so dry that I have a master’s degree and I still can’t get through them. For me, the best self-help book is the one that brings the stuff down to a level that regular people can understand. You know, the people who actually need the help.
So today, I’ll be sharing my list of books that do just that. No psychobabble, no dryness, no PhD necessary. Just the good stuff to help you grow. And when you finish, I hope you’ll head on over to the other book lists and find more specific goodies that take you even further.
**Affiliate Disclaimer- I may receive a small commission from either Amazon or Bookshop.org if you make a purchase from this page. This is at no extra cost to you, and I would only recommend books that I have personally read and truly endorse!
Related: Master List of Book Posts
General Self-Help Book List
These books don’t fit into any of the other categories of book lists I’ve made thus far, but I’d be remiss not to mention them! They offer powerful wisdom and inspiration. Enjoy, and leave me a comment below to share your personal favorites with me. They just may end up in the post!
By Rachel Hollis
Rachel Hollis has become something of a self-help icon in recent years. She wrote this book, it went absolutely viral, and she is now speaking her truth in sold-out stadiums across the country.
Girl, Wash Your Face debunks twenty lies and myths society feeds us about who we should be. In fact, Hollis teaches us that those misconceptions actually hold us back from reaching our full potential. She does a wonderful job of showing us the messiness of her own life in order to prove that you can be successful without having it all together. Or even pretending like you do.
My favorite anecdote in the book is about how she and her husband ended up getting together. It threw me for a loop and I ended up tearing up. Her stories about the trials they went through trying to adopt their daughter also hit me pretty hard.
by Esther Perel
When I grow up, I want to be Esther Perel. Seriously, she is so sharp and fierce. She is well-spoken and confident. She has done TED Talks and a Red Table talk. She speaks six languages, travels the world, and has a husband and two kids as well. When she’s not conquering the world, she’s writing eye-opening books like The State of Affairs. It’s about why people cheat on their partners.
Perel challenges the ideas society has fed us about infidelity. For example, why do we feel that men cheat because they’re bored or afraid of commitment, but women do it because they want intimacy? Why does everyone claim to hate cheating so much, but yet it’s existed since the beginning of committed relationships, and somewhere between 26%-75% of people have engaged in it?
Perel does such an amazing job of challenging her readers to be more openminded by humanizing what society has deemed wrong or irregular. Her books are extremely powerful.
By Brene Brown
Brene Brown researches shame, which I find endlessly interesting. There’s an entire anecdote in the beginning of I Thought It Was Just Me about how when she tells people what she does, they often shut down and ask no further questions. Shame is still extremely taboo in our society. We all experience it, but no one wants to talk about it. I think this book is really cool because while it’s individually oriented, implementing the information will make a huge impact on one’s relationships. Of course, that’s always the case (have you heard my mobile analogy yet?) but when we’re talking about vulnerability, the impact is even bigger.
As Brown’s books often do, I Thought It Was Just Me challenges the reader to reframe imperfections as the things that connect us to other people. Basically all of her other books are on my wishlist at the bottom of this post. Check them out as well!
by Alex Korb, PhD
Don’t be alarmed by the fact that Korb has a PhD, or the mention of neuroscience in the description. This book is marketed based on how straightforward his tips are, and I wholeheartedly concur. The Upward Spiral takes a huge, terrifying thing like depression and explains it, then gives you advice on how to conquer it.
Personally, I find it a little irritating when author/therapists try to upsell you on workbooks that accompany their actual book because I feel like you’re spending money without getting any new information. But in the interest of full disclosure, you can also purchase an accompanying Upward Spiral Workbook.
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
What a name, huh? Its Hungarian. When you’re done processing that (it took me some time) we can get to the really awesome research that he’s done. I learned about it in a class on Positive Psychology in undergrad, and I’ve been fascinated with the idea of “flow” ever since.
You know the phrase “time flies when you’re having fun?” Well, Csikszentmihalyi researched it and it turns out, it’s true! With some stipulations. He learned that time really flies when we’re having fun but also adequately challenged by our task. That feeling is what he calls “the flow state,” and the whole book is about how you can control flow rather than just hoping it happens.
By Bessel Van Der Kolk
This self-help book is truly a must-read for anyone who deals with trauma in their life. Your own or that of a loved one. I’ll be honest, it might be a little dry to some. SOME. I don’t find it dry, but I do recognize that it’s more clinical than the others on this list. Still, so many real-life client stories are peppered in with the science that any psychobabble is adequately translated.
Van Der Kolk explains how going through trauma literally re-wires the brain, so people with PTSD are less able to feel joy, trust, or even self-control. He covers lots of different types of treatment, which I think is especially cool, because often when doctors and therapists write books, they’re pushing one type of treatment they claim can fix anyone. Van Der Kolk covers EMDR, yoga, technology, even theater. His point with this book is really to teach, not preach.
General Self-Help Book Wish List
As usual, at the end of these book posts, I also write out a wish list of books that I think look really good, but I haven’t read them myself yet. As I read them, I will move them over to the review section. Maybe you’ll get the book first, and leave me a review in the comments! 🙂 I’d love to hear your thoughts!
The State of Black Girls by Marline Francois-Madden
Marline and I connected in a Facebook group for NJ and NY therapists and it turns out she has a brand new book out! It’s about creating a safe space for black girls. As a therapist, I always want clients to feel safe in my office. But as a white woman, I have to make more of an effort to help black people and other minorities feel safe and heard by me. I hope this book will help me do that and I can’t wait to read it!
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
The Stepfamily Handbook by Karen Bonnell and Patricia Papernow
The Co-Parenting Handbook by Karen Bonnel and Kristin Little
Growing Your Separate Ways by Leah Ruppel
Effortless Journaling by S.J. Scott and Barry Davenport
Bipolar Disorder for Dummies by Candida Fink and Joe Kraynak
The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton
The Psychopath Inside by James Fallon (NOT Jimmy Fallon, though that would’ve been cool.)
The Empathy Trap by Jane and Tim McGregor
Rising Strong by Brene Brown
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
Dare to Lead by Brene Brown
The Empowered Highly Sensitive Person by Amanda Cassil, Ph.D.