I am not a psychologist; is there a book that lets me play one in the mirror?
June 22, 2012 9:27 AM   Subscribe

It seems like a lot of what psychologists do is provide tools for processing troublesome beliefs, experiences, etc. in a healthy way. Are there books that the hive mind would recommend that teach some of these tools to non-psychologists for the purpose of being able to use these techniques in their own lives? I've envisioning something less dense than a college textbook but more rigorous than a walk through the self-help section at a bookstore. Recommendations are welcome for general techniques/tools as well as topically oriented works, such as books focused on techniques specific for relationships, money problems, or other common sources of stress and conflict.
posted by philosophygeek to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
The Feeling Good Handbook is very popular on Metafilter as a way to sort of walk yourself through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
posted by brainmouse at 9:30 AM on June 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

nthing the Feeling Good Handbook and its dad, Feeling Good. Also its brother Intimate Connections, applying those techniques to romance.

But you have to do the exercises.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:41 AM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's not a book, but I got a lot out of the explicit training in MoodGym.
posted by Miko at 9:45 AM on June 22, 2012

Less Wrong, especially the Core Sequences.
posted by tantivy at 9:46 AM on June 22, 2012

Feeling Good, yes.
posted by callmejay at 9:53 AM on June 22, 2012

I can't recommend a particular book, but the thing I'd look into is the modern wave of mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy -- practical therapies backed by tons of theoretical research, incorporating something that looks a lot like Buddhist mindfulness. They're all about how to live well in a life where we can't avoid suffering. There are a bunch of these right now arriving at more or less the same set of techniques, which seems like a good sign.

One example is dialectical behavior therapy, developed by Marsha M. Linehan. I've heard that whether a psych hospital has a DBT program is a good proxy for whether it's keeping up to date in general. Linehan herself has some books on Amazon (along with a whole bunch of other people).

Another example is acceptance and commitment therapy, whose primary researchers also have some books. ACT is based on relational frame theory, "a comprehensive theory of language and cognition" that was developed in research programs for decades before they decided to weoponize it reduce it to practice. So there's a lot to explore there if you get interested.

If these work for you (or lead you to something that does), there's a range from "academic textbook" to "training for therapists" to "self-help book," so you could maybe read the first few pages on Amazon and pick something that hits your preferred level of detail.

Oh, by the way -- the deservedly-loved self-help book Getting Things Done probably isn't thought of by most people as a psychology manual, so much as a manual of how to organize your office and calendar. But if you read a little bit about mindfulness-based therapies and come back to Getting Things Done, it's eerie how many sentences could be copied directly from GTD to a mindfulness-based therapy book without anyone noticing the difference. All of these therapies are of course somewhat related to Buddhism, but I don't think that's why they're so similar in detail -- I think it's that people who spend a lot of time thinking about and dealing with suffering end up stumbling on more or less the same techniques, because they're dealing with more or less the same human condition. It's really neat stuff.
posted by Honorable John at 10:01 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, the Feeling Good Handbook does pretty much exactly what you've described.
posted by whalebreath at 10:15 AM on June 22, 2012

This is a bit of a side-track but I feel like the OP asked for it.

Last Child in the Woods isn't as hand-wavey as you'd think at first glance and it does focus on treatment/identification from the point of view of their theory.

Mrs. Eld (who is approaching the end of a clinical psych Ph.D.) didn't have anything distinctly bad to say about it which means it's anywhere from "meh" to "great" on the rigorousness scale with regards to their research methods or lack thereof.

That said, we're kinda hippy-nutty-crunchy folks ourselves, so take what I'm saying with a grain of salt of course.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:17 AM on June 22, 2012

If you may be interested in the intersection of psychology and Buddhism, I'd suggest Mark Epstein's Thoughts Without a Thinker or Psychotherapy Without a Self.
posted by scody at 11:22 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll recommend Do One Thing Different.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:34 PM on June 22, 2012

I've done dialectical behavior therapy in a group setting and using Linehan's books. I found them to be generally equivalent.
posted by xyzzy at 9:17 PM on June 22, 2012

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