When you’re confused or upset, chances are there is someone you talk to–your best friend, your brother, or a favorite teacher, to give a few examples. Sometimes in difficult situations, these people might not be enough, or might even be part of the problem you’re having. Under these circumstances, people often talk to a counselor. This person may be a psychotherapist(clinical mental health counselors, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists may all be psychotherapists), a priest (or rabbi, or other spiritual advisor), or a drop-in counseling center or hotline volunteer. What’s helpful about people in this role is that they aren’t your friends, parents, or teachers. Because you don’t have a day-to-day relationship with them, they can help you step back and get some new insights on your problems. Ideally, you’ll learn new ways of being with your friends and family that are more satisfying and less upsetting to you.
Often, though, if there’s some part of your life that’s troubling you, you may feel very alone and without resources. You may not feel ready to share your problems with anybody. It may seem too difficult or overwhelming, or you may feel frightened that if people knew the “real you”, they wouldn’t like you. You may be having problems which feel very shameful or private, so that talking to other people doesn’t seem like the best option.
In this situation, self-help books can be an invaluable tool for you. These books (usually located in the Psychology of Self-help section of the bookstore or library) can provide you with information, question-and-answer and workbook-style exercises to help you get get to know yourself better, suggestions for getting a handle on your problems, and other resources. Most importantly, they let you know that you’re not alone.
A few popular self-help books are listed below. Some are informational, providing facts and discussion; others are geared toward exercises for problem-solving and self-exploration.
If you feel depressed, anxious, or are having trouble figuring out how you feel, take a look at:
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy (David D. Burns, M.D.)
I’m Okay, You’re Okay (Thomas A Harris, M.D.)
The Road Less Traveled (M. Scott Peck, M.D.)
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook ( Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D.)
Healing the Child Within (Charles Whitfield, M.D.)
If you’re having trouble with food, eating, or your body type, try:
Transforming Body Image (Marcia Germaine Hutchinson, Ed.D.)
Making Peace with Food: A Step-by-Step Guide to Freedom from Diet-Weight Conflict (Susan Kano)
Fat is a Feminist Issue (Susie Orbach)
For alcohol and drug problems (either your own or a loved one’s), read:
Adult Children of Alcoholics (Janet Geringer Woititz, Ed.D.
For dealing with physical or sexual abuse:
The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (Ellen Bass & Laura Davis)
The Courage to Heal Workbook: For Women and Men
For illness, death, or grief:
Death and Dying (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross)
Love, Medicine, and Miracles (Bernie Siegal, M.D.)
When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Harold S. Kushner)
For good all-around resource on women’s issues(health, psychology, sexuality, and others), look for:
The New Our Bodies, Ourselves (the Boston Women’s Health Collective)
To learn more about your self and reduce physical and emotional stress:
The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook , 3rd edition ( Martha Davis, Ph.D.; Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, M.S.W.; Matthew McKay, Ph.D.)
Journal to the Self: 22 Paths to Personal Growth (Kathleen Adams, M.A)
Special thanks to University of Oregon Counseling and Testing Center for these recommendations.