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Helpful Self-help Books

Psychologists use a variety of approaches and techniques to deal with problems in living. I often recommend self-help books or manuals to supplement psychotherapy. These books give clients a reference to use between sessions and offer more detailed information than I can give during the session. Workbooks include exercises and questions to reinforce learning and to help in developing independent problem solving. Two that I have found useful are described below.

The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, 3rd revised edition by Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D. is a comprehensive and holistic approach to the anxiety disorders. It is described as "simple, concise, step-by-step directions for mastery of relaxation exercise; coping with panic; real-life desensitization; overcoming negative self-talk; changing mistaken beliefs; visualization; expressing feelings; assertiveness; self-esteem; nutrition; medication". Background information about the various anxiety disorders and their possible causes is detailed and thorough. The specific skills are practical and cover a wide range of behavioral, interpersonal and cognitive strategies. Most chapters are summarized for easy reference.

Cognitive therapy may be the fastest growing psychotherapeutic approach in the past several years. It is based on the premise that dysfunctional thinking (self-talk or internal dialogue) is related to many common mental health problems. Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think, by Dennis Greenberger, Ph.D. and Christine A. Padesky, Ph.D. explains cognitive therapy and applies it to depression, anxiety, anger, guilt and shame. Four fictionalized persons show how a 7-column approach can be used to develop alternative or more balanced self-talk. Subsequent chapters cover mistaken beliefs; how to use behavioral "experiments" to test new ways of thinking; and explanatory information on depression, anxiety, anger, guilt and shame. Ease of comprehension, chapter summaries, plenty of space to write and extra blank forms at the end make this workbook user-friendly.

Both books can be used independent of psychotherapy but I have found that clients often have questions and sometimes get stuck at one place of another. When this happens, it is helpful to turn to a professional for guidance in applying the suggestions that have been read

Carole P. Smith, Ph.D.
Staff Psychologist

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