There’s a Book for That: Psychologists’ Top-Rated Self-Help Books

There’s a Book for That: Psychologists’ Top-Rated Self-Help Books

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Self-help books continue to proliferate on bookstore shelves and internet web pages.  Thousands of new self-help books are published annually, accounting for an estimated two billion dollars in sales per year, in an unregulated industry. Sadly, 95% or more of those books are published without any scientific evidence of their effectiveness as stand-alone, self-help materials.

The popularity and availability of self-help materials raise an important question:  Which of the avalanche of resources are meritorious?  Not a week passes in which most psychologists aren’t asked to nominate a book for a particular disorder or challenge.

Over the past 18 years, our colleagues and we have sought to establish an expert consensus on the value of self-help materials. The most recent of our dozen national studies, now involving nearly 5,000 psychologists, were conducted through the membership of the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology.  In this article, we summarize the psychologists’ recommendation of self-help materials to their patients and then identify the top 50 self-help books for particular mental disorder sand life challenges.

By way of review, surveys were sent in fall 2011 to members of the National Register across the United States.  Registrants rated only those books with which they were familiar on a 5-point scale:  +2 extremely good, +1 moderately good, 0 average, -1 moderately bad, and -2 extremely bad.
Table one below represents the mean and median percentage of clients for whom Psychologists reported recommending each self-help resource.  Clients were most likely to be given recommendations for self-help books (roughly 27% of clients), internet sites (23%), and self-help groups (16%). Autobiographies were less frequently prescribed by psychologists.

Norcross_books imageWhich Books?

The list below presents the highest rated 50 self-help books across the years in the national studies.   The mean ratings for the items were used to identify the top-rated resources.  To make the list, the books required at least 20 psychologists’ ratings.

Top Self-Help Books

  1. For Yourself by Barbach (Sexuality)
  2. Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Linehan (Borderline &
  3. Narcissistic Personality Disorders)
  4. Becoming Orgasmic by Heiman & LoPiccolo (sexuality)
  5. For Each Other by Barbach (sexuality)
  6. Taking Charge of Adult ADHD by Barkley (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  7. Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by Gottman & Silver (marriage)
  8. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Bourne (anxiety)
  9. What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Eisenberg et al. (pregnancy)
  10. The 36-Hour Day by Mace & Rabins (Dementia/Alzheimer’s)
  11. Your Defiant Child by Barkley & Benton (child development and parenting)
  12. The New Our Bodies, Ourselves, by Boston Women’s Collective (women’s issues)
  13. Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic III by Craske and Barlow (anxiety)
  14. The Courage to Heal by Bass & Davis (abuse)
  15. Managing Pain before It Manages You by Caudill & Benson (chronic pain)
  16. The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook by Davis et al. (stress management)
  17. Feeling Good by Burns (depression)
  18. The Seven Principles for Making Marriages Work by Gottman & Silver (marriage)
  19. The Explosive Child by Greene (violent youth)
  20. What to Expect: The Toddler Years by Eisenberg et al. (infant development and parenting)
  21. Infants and Mothers by Brazelton (infant development and parenting)
  22. The Grief Recovery Handbook by James & Cherry (death and grieving)
  23. Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Linehan (Borderline &
  24. Narcissistic Personality Disorders)
  25. Becoming Orgasmic by Heiman & LoPiccolo (sexuality)
  26. For Each Other by Barbach (sexuality)
  27. Taking Charge of Adult ADHD by Barkley (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  28. Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by Gottman & Silver (marriage)
  29. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Bourne (anxiety)
  30. What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Eisenberg et al. (pregnancy)
  31. The 36-Hour Day by Mace & Rabins (Dementia/Alzheimer’s)
  32. Your Defiant Child by Barkley & Benton (child development and parenting)
  33. The New Our Bodies, Ourselves, by Boston Women’s Collective (women’s issues)
  34. Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic III by Craske and Barlow (anxiety)
  35. The Courage to Heal by Bass & Davis (abuse)
  36. Managing Pain before It Manages You by Caudill & Benson (chronic pain)
  37. The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook by Davis et al. (stress management)
  38. Feeling Good by Burns (depression)
  39. The Seven Principles for Making Marriages Work by Gottman & Silver (marriage)
  40. The Explosive Child by Greene (violent youth)
  41. What to Expect: The Toddler Years by Eisenberg et al. (infant development and parenting)
  42. Infants and Mothers by Brazelton (infant development and parenting)
  43. The Grief Recovery Handbook by James & Cherry (death and grieving)
  44. The Feeling Good Handbook by Burns (depression)
  45. Real Boys by Pollack (men’s issues)
  46. Toddlers and Parents by Brazelton (child development and parenting)
  47. Your Perfect Right by Alberti & Emmons (assertiveness)
  48. Love Is Never Enough by Beck (love and intimacy)
  49. S.T.O.P. Obsessing by Foa & Wilson (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)
  50. The Stress and Relaxation Handbook by Madders (stress management and relaxation)
  51. The Assertive Woman by Phelps & Austin (assertiveness)

Although expert consensus cannot substitute for controlled research on the efficacy and safety of these self-help books, it is definitely superior to individual preferences, marketing claims, and best-seller lists.  Until and if such research comes along, we believe our surveys constitute useful guides for those choosing to embrace self-help.

Author

John C. NorcrossJohn C. Norcross, PhD, ABPP
Professor of Psychology and Distinguished University Fellow at the University of Scranton
Editor of Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session
Clinical Psychologist in Part-Time Practice

 

*The compilation of  books on these pages were collected from Self-Help That Works: Resources to Improve Emotional Health and Strengthen RelationshipsWe are indebted to the authors, including John C. Norcross, PhD, Linda F. Campbell, PhD, John M. Grohol, PsyD, John W. Santrock, PhD, Florin Selagea, MS, and Robert Sommer, PhD, as well as the publisher, Oxford University Press.

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Posted by on Apr 21, 2014 in Abuse, Aging, Building Resilience, Caregiving, Depression, Facing Death & Dying, Grief, Marriage & Family, Parenting, Spirituality, Sports Psychology, Stress, The Wire | 0 comments