Many people find benefit from doing work outside of the therapy session on their own. Of course this involves working on ideas that you and your therapist might come up with during sessions, and it might involve you finding inspiring, educational, or otherwise helpful reading. My best advice for someone looking for good reading is to spend time in a bookstore or library exploring the various titles and skimming through the content of the book to see if you find something of interest and help within it. Below I’ve listed some books that I think are particularly interesting and helpful for those who are struggling.
Honoring The Self: The Psychology of Confidence and Respect, by Nathaniel Branden
Sometimes wordy but quite helpful for many searching to raise their self-esteem. This is an area where a lot has been written. Also, clients react very differently to self-esteem books – some clients absolutely hate books that others love and vice-versa. Branden has written several books on self-esteem through the years. You might want to start here and see what else your own search comes up with.
Grief and Loss
A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis.
A moving account of one man’s struggle to overcome the death of his wife.
The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion.
Another gifted writer discusses the sudden loss of her husband from a heart attack and the debilitating illness of her daughter that occurred at the same time.
In the Midst of Winter: Selections from the Literature of Mourning, by Mary Jane Moffat. Wonderful writers describe the struggle of mourning in their own words. This book often helps people struggling to find the words to express their grief.
After Suicide, by Wayne Oates
. A helpful guide on how to deal with the complex feelings of guilt, anger, bewilderment, shame, and of course sadness associated with being a survivor of someone else’s suicide.
Substance Abuse / Addiction
Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs – from Alcohol to Ecstasy, by Cynthia Kuhn, Scott Swartzwelder, and Wilkie Wilson. An excellent encyclopedia and reference for anyone struggling with addiction or someone who cares about somebody with a substance abuse problem. It describes highs of drugs in straight, layperson terms and discusses the impact of these substances on the body and mind.
Drinking: A Love Story, by Caroline Knapp. A wonderful and gritty exploration of Knapp’s own addiction to alcohol and her subsequent recovery. Incredibly easy to read, Knapp writes beautifully and provides insight into addiction that is rarely articulated in this manner.
Spiritual and Existential Growth
Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor E. Frankl.
An incredible story of Frankl’s perseverance through the terror of Auschwitz during the Holocaust and his thoughtful words on how to make meaning out of one’s life even under the most difficult of circumstances.
Care of the Soul : A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life, by Thomas Moore.
Written in easy-to-understand but philosophical styles, Moore tackles such subjects as loneliness, happiness, love, power, jealousy, and envy in an entertaining and meaningful way.
When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Harold S. Kushner.
Powerful and heartening, this book provides support and guidance to those perplexed by how an orderly and just world can deliver such pain and suffering to people who do not deserve it.