More books that are part of the therapy conversation
October 9, 2020 9:44 AM   Subscribe

A year ago I read Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. (Loved it.) Right now I am reading The Body Keeps the Score. I am two chapters in and have some non-negligible doubts/reservations*, but I feel like it's a book people who think about mental health are talking about. I'm wondering, for career-related reasons, what some others are.

Neither of these books is anything like a textbook, but I think they are both books that, if I were to get a job as a therapist, a client very well might say "so I'm reading X and have the following thoughts and feelings about it." And, while you're never going to know all your client's references, and while it's actually fruitful to say "so tell me about that," this feels like a special case. Plus, while both books I've mentioned are sorta general-audiences, I know a lot of therapists have read them.

So any recs? Thanks!

*It has been presented to me that there are some real controversies about the book and the author, but yesterday I went into a bookstore that just reopened on a limited basis and saw it on the shelf and thought you know what, I'll read it with the knowledge it is part of a complicated situation, because it really does feel like the conversation about it is A Whole Thing right now.
posted by less of course to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
De Becker's The Gift of Fear (lot of good stuff, the chapter on domestic violence is *intensely* problematic) and one on my to-read list, Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft. These are books that come up a ton around relationship advice and are widely recommended.

(I think The Body Keeps the Score has a lot of useful insight in it - I have several friends with PTSD/C-PTSD who have gotten a lot out of it. The beginning is much less interesting/useful than the rest of it.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:52 AM on October 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ones I see recommended frequently are Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft, The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker, which also comes with some caveats about victim-blaming, and, for another whole set of questions, Come As You Are, by Emily Nagoski, which is about sex.

My only qualifications are that I read a lot of Ask and several other advice columns online.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:54 AM on October 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

ha, jinx r_n!
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:54 AM on October 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

We were recommended, as an alternative to The Body Keeps The Score, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, and it was an important fundamental jumping-off point for my family member who was just starting treatment. (Note that the title indicates childhood trauma but I think it is universally helpful anyway.)

I have recently come across multiple recommendations (for PTSD/childhood trauma) for Alice Miller's work, in particular The Drama of the Gifted Child (this is a misleading title - "gifted" is a bit of a misnomer, Miller says "When I used the word 'gifted' in the title, I had in mind neither children who receive high grades in school nor children talented in a special way. I simply meant all of us who have survived an abusive childhood thanks to an ability to adapt even to unspeakable cruelty by becoming numb.... Without this 'gift' offered us by nature, we would not have survived."), but also her The Body Never Lies (which may have pretty heavily influenced van der Kolk on Keeps The Score). I can't swear to Miller, I haven't read any of it, but am probably going to pick up Drama soon.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:04 AM on October 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

I recently read Attached, about adult attachment in intimate relationships, and I brought it up in therapy. Basically the exact scenario you’re describing! I have my own qualms about some of its conclusions, but did find it interesting and illuminating.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 10:05 AM on October 9, 2020 [6 favorites]

Feeling Good by David Burns is oft-recommended on here, as one of the classic CBT self-help texts.

On mindfulness, the works of Jon Kabat Zinn and also Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams et al.

Self Compassion by Kristin Neff.
posted by penguin pie at 10:44 AM on October 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Polyvagal Theory is something that is often referenced in current pop-psych books but might be more on the textbook side of things. I found it helpful to better understand related ideas, and maybe you might too. Some interesting criticism can also be found here.
posted by monkeys with typewriters at 10:55 AM on October 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

In some of the sections of the ThereIsHelp wiki there are book and article suggestions. A few that I haven't seen mentioned here yet, some of which are more than a little controversial.

- A Child Called It
- I'm Not Sick I Don't Need Help
- The Five Love Languages
- The Power of Now
- Who Moved My Cheese
- When Things Fall Apart
- I'm not sure if there's a canonical indigo child book but something there

Also worth understanding the general tenets of twelve step programslike AA/NA/OA and ACOA.
posted by jessamyn at 11:07 AM on October 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Judith Herman's Trauma and Recovery
posted by bricoleur at 11:14 AM on October 9, 2020 [4 favorites]

came in to say Judith Herman, but see bricoleur beat me to it. It seems to me (an interested lay person!) that Herman originally set the stage for these conversations today about ptsd an c-ptsd. I have also had periods of reading Harriet Lerner (dance of anger, dance of __ , etc. per the internet (so take with grain of salt); she set out to 'revise psychoanalytic and family systems concepts from a feminist perspective') and Sue Johnson, who developed "EFT", emotionally focused couples therapy, based on attachment theory.

Also if you have not already read the various editions of "Our Bodies, Ourselves" from the 70s through nine editions up to the most recent, out in 2011.. well, it comes to mind as another thing would be worthy of a spot on the list because of how iconic it's been over the years.
posted by elgee at 11:57 AM on October 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm fond of:

Boundaries: Where you end and I begin by Anne Katherine

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson

Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect by Jonice Webb, Christine Musello

Codependency No More by Melody Beattie

Seconding Attached and When Things Fall Apart. I recommend reading Why Does He Do That? slowly if you've been abused.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:36 PM on October 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Highly Sensitive Person
posted by sm1tten at 12:46 PM on October 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

Oh wow, quite a list. Thanks. (One or two enthusiastically stricken from list. I'm not saying which!!)
posted by less of course at 12:50 PM on October 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Source: play therapist working with parent child relationship problems, clinical supervisory to 4 other therapists, therapy book obsessive who reads everything. Here's my list for my top recommendations,some are related to children and some are not.

More adult related but important for everyone imo:
Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky
Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel (as well as her stunningly good podcast Where Should We Begin)
The Gift of Therapy by Irvin Yalom
Love's Executioner by Irvin Yalom
Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Griffin
You Are Here by Thich Naht Hanh
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Mindsight by Dan Siegel
Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman
The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy by Deb Dana
Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson

Related more to children but again I believe the concepts apply to all humans:
The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
Aggression in Play Therapy by Lisa Dion
Too Scared to Cry by Lenore Terr
Trauma Through a Child's Eyes by Peter Levine
Dibs: In Search of Self by Virginia Axline
The Boy Who Lived As a Dog by Bruce Perry
Brainstorm by Dan Siegel
Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship by Garry Landreth
Play in Family Therapy by Eliana Gil
Windows to Our Children by Violet Oaklander
posted by fairlynearlyready at 1:15 PM on October 9, 2020

If you've got a stable narcissist or entitled high-achiever Happiness by Mathieu Ricard is insufferable self-congratulatory ego worship. It could be replaced by two words ('acknowledge privilege') but instead you get 200+ pages of personal journey to get down from his plateau of vertiginous self-regard, and maybe there will be people for whom it's a helpful guide.
posted by k3ninho at 1:58 PM on October 9, 2020

I think probably this thread is petering out but again, I'm not looking for I-think-this-book-is-good recommendations. Just "this is a book that a lot of people talk about enough that it makes sense to have read it."
posted by less of course at 2:31 PM on October 9, 2020

An additional book that I have mentioned to my therapists: Burnout by Amelia & Emily Nagoski (author of Come As You Are; this book is co-authored with her twin sister)
posted by epersonae at 2:32 PM on October 9, 2020

(adding: mentioning here because it might be worth having a passing familiarity in order to discuss with a client who may have read it, which is what I understand the point of the question to be)
posted by epersonae at 2:33 PM on October 9, 2020

David Richo has a number of books that are frequently recommended here:
How to Be an Adult in Relationships and How to Be an Adult in Love are both really insightful.

Others I haven't seen mentioned yet:
Sex, Drugs, Gambling & Chocolate by Thomas Horvath
Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life: the New Acceptance & Commitment Therapy by Steven Hayes
Cutting Loose: An Adult's Guide to Coming to Terms with Your Parents by Howard Halpern
Eight Dates by Gottman & Abrams.

Seconding that Harriet Lerner's various Dance books are also frequently discussed/recommended. And in addition to Feeling Good, David Burns has a book called Intimate Connections that's pretty good.
posted by acridrabbit at 3:25 PM on October 9, 2020

Nthing Attached, or something else about attachment theory, as that's a very widely-understood and discussed framework.

Carol Dweck's Mindset, about growth vs. fixed mindset -- another book/framework that people interested in this stuff will be familiar with and have read.

The concept of narcissism and narcissistic parents/family members is also widespread, but I'm not sure what THE book or books on that topic is. Maybe someone else will have a suggestion.
posted by amaire at 3:43 PM on October 9, 2020

My therapist recommended The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck while I was recovering from the dysfunctional family system where I developed PTSD. The book became an essential part of the foundation that changed my life. I wasn't the only one. Multiple sources say it was on the NY Times non-fiction bestseller list continuously for almost 10 years. The first paragraph lets the reader know what they're in for:

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
posted by Homer42 at 1:45 AM on October 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ooh, a slightly older generation might have read Babette Rothschild's The Body Remembers - it's from 2000 but vol II updates it. I think Pat Ogden et al's Trauma and the Body on sensorimotor psychotherapy is important too as it has areas of disagreement with other somatic approaches + a Hakomi angle.
For the neuroscience side, Dan Siegel. In terms of book audience/marketing, a layperson is most likely to read Siegel - I think he has written quite a bit of pop-psych-ish stuff.
posted by ahundredjarsofsky at 4:21 AM on October 13, 2020

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