This time of year, everyone is thinking about the goals they want to achieve and the changes they want to make. Oftentimes, we prioritize physical health when making New Year’s resolutions, but what about mental health? What about changes we’d like to make in our relationships? Our relationship with ourselves? One way to begin the process of change or to enrich your therapeutic journey is through bibliotherapy, a form of therapy that involves reading specific books to promote healing. I am a big believer in digesting therapeutic information this way and often recommend books to clients to complement the work that we are doing in session. The following is a list of my most recommended books:
1. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
I personally believe Brené Brown’s books should be required reading for everyone. In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené explains how to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and accept yourself the way you are. Often, we get sucked into the unhelpful idea that self-criticism will actually help us improve ourselves, when really it is keeping us stuck in a shame spiral. With her own refreshing vulnerability, Brené will walk you though overcoming shame, cultivating self-compassion, and living a more authentic life.
2. Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson
When you feel hurt by your significant other, how do you react? Do you pull away and distance yourself, or do you pursue them for reassurance of their love for you? How do they react to your reaction? In Hold Me Tight, Sue Johnson breaks down the different attachment styles that we all carry with us from childhood and explains how these styles affect our behavior in adult relationships. Johnson explains how to apply the theory of Emotionally Focused Therapy (a model that I use in my practice with couples) in order to strengthen and enrich your own relationship.
3. I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression by Terrence Real
This is an amazing book about how depression affects men. Terry Real explains how many men are silently suffering, appearing to be “high functioning” to the outside world but struggling with unspoken pain on the inside. Due to the way men are socialized, Real argues, depression can manifest as workaholism, alcoholism, rage, difficulty with intimacy, and abusive behavior – quite different presentations than the classical signs of depression we are taught to look out for. He also explains how trauma can be passed down from fathers to sons, and provides insight into how to break this cycle and heal.
4. Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski
As a sex therapist, this is by far my most recommended book. It. Is. Amazing! Emily Nagoski, brilliant sex educator, breaks down all the myths about female sexuality and explains everything you need to know about female anatomy, arousal, desire and orgasm. Most importantly, she explains how the cultural context around these things can influence the way we feel about our sexuality, often hindering female pleasure. If you’ve ever felt that something is wrong with you sexually – because of your anatomy, the way you experience desire or orgasm (or the lack of experiencing), etc. – PLEASE read this book!
5. The Defining Decade by Meg Jay
Because of economic and cultural changes, one’s twenties are now culturally seen as a time of exploration, a time to travel and have fun before settling down and beginning one’s career. This sounds great in theory, but Meg Jay argues that your 20s are actually incredibly formative years that should be spent wisely. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have any fun if you’re a twenty-something, but the key, she argues, is to be intentional. Jay breaks down how to take advantage of this time in your life while also being more forward-thinking to set yourself up for success in your thirties and beyond – career-wise, love-wise and more.