I’m a massive advocate of self-help books; the term ‘self-help’ historically had some pretty naff connotations but, when we consider that so many of us are faced with mental health issues at some point in our lives and struggle to find the help that we need, isn’t it a welcome thing that there are so many self-care resources at our finger-tips?
In my ‘Ask Emmy’ shout outs I get asked a lot of questions about the best self-help books that are out there. As a result, I decided to create a monthly book club where I review the latest self-help titles or best spiritual reads out there. I’ve read a LOT of self-help books, both for my own personal development and for work, and I wanted to kick my monthly book club off with a summary of some of the best self-help books that I’ve ever read.
Though books are clearly no replacement for face to face therapy, when you are trying to recover from a mental illness, they can offer you great insight into your own journey and pose valuable practical tools that aid healing. All of the titles that I’ve suggested below are full of empathy and wisdom but light on patronising BS! If you do pick up any of these titles and find that not everything floats your boat, then I’d always suggest that you take what you like and leave the rest.
- You Can Heal Your Life – Louise Hay
During my early twenties, whilst I was still doing my clinical training, I spent some time working at a residential treatment facility in Pennsylvania, USA. When I arrived I was offered an induction by their lead treatment advisor and, as a gift, she gave me this book. She told me that it had changed her life and that she wanted to share it with me. I read it on my flight home and was truly touched. It offers a great introduction into reframing how we might think about our own mental health and allows us to consider the links between our minds and our physical selves.
- Healing The Shame That Binds You – John Bradshaw
I think that shame is a huge obstacle in so many of us trying to heal. This book allows us to identify our own shame and the root causes behind it. I feel that reading Bradshaw often feels as though I’m being guided by a safe friend that I’ve never met.
- Codependent No More – Melody Beattie
Codependency is a challenging concept to grasp but I think that Beattie guides us through the complexities of it in a kind but firm way. It helps us to understand how focusing on others distracts us from the work that we need to do in our own lives. It’s a book that I come back to again and again and probably one of the titles that I recommend the most.
- Facing Love Addiction – Pia Mellody
Struggling to build and maintain relationships is a huge issue that so many of us are faced with. Mellody educates us about the intricate dynamics of toxic relationships and helps us to release unhealthy patterns in favour of embracing a more nurturing relationship with both ourselves and others.
- Money A Love Story – Kate Norththrup
There are so many books out there about money but this has been the most helpful one that I’ve ever read. The emphasis is on gaining personal financial freedom but also on learning how to reframe how you feel and act around money. It’s very practical and helps you to plan to get you to where you want to be.
- The 5 Love Languages – Gary Chapman
Chapman has a really simplistic way of allowing you to learn about how you both give and receive love. With this insight, you are able to experience richer and deeper levels of intimacy, making what are often very small changes to how you engage with others. It’s a must read for anyone wanting to develop how they interact in their relationships with others.
- Daring Greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead – Brene Brown
Brown challenges the misconception that vulnerability is a weakness and suggests that when we are able to embrace our own vulnerability, we open ourselves up to a greater experience of what it is to be human. Brown has written numerous titles but this is still one of my faves.
- Home Coming – John Bradshaw
Bradshaw offers insight, empathy and practical tools into understanding and unlocking our relationship with our inner-child. He believes that the wounds we receive during our childhoods fester when they are left untreated and negatively impact our behaviours and choices as adults. This is a great book to work through with a trusted confident or therapist if you are able to.
- Adult Children: The secrets of dysfunctional families – John Friel & Linda Friel
Naming that so many family support books function on addiction, this book focuses on some of the less obvious dysfunctions that families can be faced with: depression, eating disorders and perfectionism to name a few. This book helps us to identify some of these unhealthy dynamics but also offers us tools on how to rectify issues.
Richo argues that love isn’t so much a feeling but more a way of being present in a relationship. He draws on compassionate Buddhist concepts to guide us through five milestones toward having a more real and connected relationship, both with ourselves and others. This is one of my favourite ever reads and I found it literally life-changing in how I interacted in relationships from that point forward.