Bibliotherapy for anxiety
'Bibliotherapy' is an important part of cognitive therapy, either to run alongside a course of therapy or as a self-help tool. I often recommend books to my clients, partly because there is only so much time in a session, so it's useful for them to read up about their particular issue and for us to discuss their findings next week. And people usually like to understand why they might be having problems and find their own strategies to solve them – another important idea in cognitive therapy, because ultimately I want my clients to be their own CBT therapist.
In this series of posts, I am going to recommend some of the best books on a number of topics: depression, anxiety, mindfulness, compassion, stress, anger issues, eating disorders and low self-esteem. In this fifth installment I will focus on anxiety disorders, an area that I specialise in which includes health anxiety, social anxiety, generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The idea is that you can read one or all of these books, depending on which appeal to you. And you can read the whole book or dip into the chapters that seem most relevant to you.
1. Overcoming Anxiety: A Self-help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques, by Helen Kennerley. I often recommend books from the Overcoming... series to my clients, because they are excellent introductions to CBT, and can be used either as a self-help workbook or alongside a course of CBT therapy. Overcoming Anxiety is packed with useful information about what causes anxiety, how best to deal with and practical, easy-to-use techniques for reducing your anxiety levels. And at £10.99 it's also a good deal cheaper than a course of therapy!
2. The Compassionate Mind Guide to Building Social Confidence: Using Compassion-Focused Therapy to Overcome Shyness and Social Anxiety, by Lynne Henderson. This is one of the first wave of books based on the principles of compassion-focused therapy (CFT), a new form of CBT that helps you treat yourself more kindly and compassionately. Another book in the series (by Dennis D Tirch) deals with anxiety more generally - this one focuses specifically on shyness and social anxiety. Like Helen Kennerley's book, above, it's full of useful techniques you can use yourself to start feeling more socially confident. Given that social anxiety is often caused by harsh self-criticism and fear of rejection/criticism from others, CFT is uniquely well-suited to softening that criticism, which is usually excessively punitive and self-downing.
3. Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Self-help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques, by David Veale and Rob Willson. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can be a horrible illness, which may end up completely dominating someone's life. David Veale is one of the world's leading experts in the treatment of OCD, so he's certainly worth listening to. I have to say that, as someone who specialises in treating anxiety disorders such as OCD, this condition is probably too difficult to overcome on your own, but this book will certainly give you a good idea of why you suffer from OCD and what you need to do to banish it from your life. You will then need to work with a CBT therapist (OCD is one of the conditions that doesn't respond well to other forms of therapy).