Thursday, May 9, 2013

What are the best psychotherapy books that you have read in the past 3 years?

Cook, Biyanova, and Coyne (2009) surveyed over 2,400 North American psychotherapists and asked, "What are the best psychotherapy books that you have read in the past 3 years?" Here are the top results:

Table 3: Top-10 Books by Mental Health Practitioners: Differences Between Psychologists and Nonpsychologists

Psychologists made up only 16.7% of the sample (Social Workers = 35.7%; "Professional Counselors" = 22.4%; Marriage and family therapists = 16.6%), which was 75.6% female and 91.4% White. The mean age was 51 years. Over 11% of the self-identified psychologists did not have a doctoral degree (you see this sometimes with "school psychologists").

This study was a partial replication of Smith (1982). Smith's sample was 85% male, versus 34% in the 2009 study. This isn't sampling bias, it's just reflective of the "feminization of psychology."


Definitely read

The book that I would most certainly recommend to anyone with an interest in psychotherapy, or an interest in finding out what psychotherapy is really like, is Irv Yalom's The Gift of Therapy. (It came in third among psychologists.) Yalom is an existential psychotherapist with a real gift for writing about patients and the psychotherapy encounter. I have liked all of his books, but Gift of Therapy is the best place to start. The chapters are very brief, as if intended to be read during the 10 minutes we schedule between one patient and the next (the "fifty-minute hour").

Sure, go ahead and read
The books by Linehan certainly deserve to top the list. I think that even an interested undergraduate could benefit from reading the DBT skills manual (and trying out some of the techniques). Siegel's books are extremely popular (and I have to admit that I am usually skeptical of anything that is popular); nevertheless I am assigning Parenting from the Inside Out in my next Developmental Psych course. The Motivational Interviewing book is certainly important, but if you don't actually have patients to try the techniques on, I don't think the book would be very interesting. I like John Gottman's empirical approach to marital therapy, and many people say that his 7 Principles book is a great gift for young newlyweds or soon-to-weds. David Burns' Feeling Good handbook is a great compendium of cognitive-behavioral techniques and has demonstrated efficacy as a bibliotherapy for mild depression. That is, reading the book and using the techniques described can effectively treat mild depression (no drugs and no therapist required).

Not interested

I never read the book by Harville Hendrix (Getting the Love you Want). I had a colleague who was treating a couple who insisted that he read this book in order to treat them properly. Can you imagine? The best that can be said of such people is what Samuel Butler wrote about historian Thomas Carlye and his wife: "It was very good of God to let Carlye and Mrs. Carlye marry one another, and so make only two people miserable instead of four." That's why I don't do couples therapy -- why make three people miserable instead of two?

I have owned Trauma and Recovery for years but I have never finished it, despite my interest in PTSD. I think that says a lot. I have never read The Body Remembers, again despite my interest and work in PTSD. I can't recall a single scientific study that cites that book as a reference.


The Art of Psychotherapy, by Anthony Storr

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