Bibliotherapy

Bibliotherapy for anger issues

'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 much more useful for them to read up about their particular issue and for us to discuss their findings next week. But I also find that many people like to understand why they might be having problems and find their own strategies for solving them – another important idea in cognitive therapy, because ultimately I am trying to help my clients to be their own therapist.

You can read one or all of these books, depending on which appeal to you. You can also read the whole book or dip in to the chapters that seem most relevant to you.

1. Overcoming Anger and Irritability: A Self-help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques, by William Davies. Part of the excellent Overcoming... series, this is designed as a CBT workbook, which you can use either instead of or alongside a course of cognitive therapy. As with any issue in CBT, problems with anger (either struggling to express or control it) are seen as a consequence of unhelpful thoughts and beliefs. So if you change the way you think, you will change the way you feel and behave.

CBT is proven to be an excellent tool for tackling unhealthy anger, with plenty of good-quality research confirming its effectiveness. This book is easy to read; packed with useful information about why we develop anger problems and how to overcome them; and provides a step-by-step programme of exercises to tackle your own problematic anger. And at just £9.99, it's a fair bit cheaper than a course of CBT too!

2. The Compassionate Mind Guide to Managing Your Anger, by Russell L Kolts. I am currently reading – and thoroughly enjoying – this warm, wise and helpful book, so can strongly recommend it. Kolts is an American clinical psychologist specialising in anger issues, with vast experience of working with groups such as prisoners, for whom destructive anger is clearly a major problem. He draws on Paul Gilbert's compassion-focused therapy (in which I am currently training) to explain the evolutionary/psychological basis of anger, especially its role in protecting us from threats, either real or perceived.

As Buddhists have known for 2,500 years, compassion is a wonderful antidote to anger, aggression, hostility and hatred – a fact that is increasingly recognised by Western mental health professionals. Learning to treat ourselves and others with greater kindness, compassion and tolerance is a major step on the road to reducing the destructive impact of anger on our lives. If you only read one of these books, I would choose this one, as it is both profound and a pleasure to read.

3. The Superstress Solution, by Roberta Lee MD. Don't let the title throw you off – I have included this book in both the anger and stress sections of my bibliotherapy course, because anger and stress and often inextricably linked. Think of it this way: if you are prone to irritability, remember how you felt after your last holiday. I'm guessing that all the little things that normally drive you to distraction didn't seem like such a big deal – and you probably dealt with them without becoming in the least bit cross or frustrated. Why? Because you had de-stressed and were relaxed, so your levels of patience and what's known as 'frustration tolerance' were far higher than in your pre-holiday, stressed-out state.

That's why, if you have a problem with anger, managing your stress levels is extremely important. Dr Lee is an integrative physician who takes a holistic approach to reducing the stress levels many of us suffer from in our always-on, over-stimulated, over-caffeinated, under-rested modern world. Covering everything from diet and exercise to meditation and lifestyle changes, this is a wonderfully clear, sensible and helpful book. Follow her advice and both your stress and anger levels should reduce significantly.

I hope these books prove helpful – if you would like to book a session with me, email dan@danroberts.com

Warm wishes,

Dan

Bibliotherapy on compassion

'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 much more useful for them to read up about their particular issue and for us to discuss their findings next week. But I also find that many people like to understand why they might be having problems and find their own strategies for solving them – another important idea in cognitive therapy, because ultimately I want my clients to be their own CBT therapist.

In this post I will focus on compassion and compassion-focused therapy – a new form of cognitive therapy designed to help with deep-rooted issues such as long-term or cyclical bouts of depression, low self-esteem or unhelpful self-criticism. 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. The Buddha's Brain: the Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius. If, like me, you are interested in the science behind meditation and talking therapies like CBT, this is the book for you. The authors explain how our brains are actually shaped by the things we think every day – think negatively and you build neural pathways that make negative thinking your default approach; but focus on feelings like kindness, pleasure, gratitude, generosity and warmth and you build a brain that naturally focuses on these self-nurturing qualities. Don't be put off by the science – it's also a rich, wise, beautifully written book that's packed with common sense techniques you can use to help yourself feel better. This is one of the books I recommend to all my clients, because it just makes you feel so good to read it. 

2. The Compassionate Mind Guide to Managing Your Anger, by Russell L Kolts. This warm, wise and helpful book is written by an American clinical psychologist specialising in anger issues, with vast experience of working with groups such as prisoners, for whom destructive anger is clearly a major problem. He draws on Paul Gilbert's compassion-focused therapy to explain the evolutionary/psychological basis of anger, especially its role in protecting us from threats, either real or perceived. CFT focuses on strengthening the parts of our brain that help us feel calm, confident, strong, peaceful and safe; these act as a direct antidote to feelings like hostility or aggression, so are fundamental to feeling less angry and generally happier and more emotionally balanced.

3. Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill, by Matthieu Ricard. Another life-changing book for me – as someone with a strong interest in Buddhism and Buddhist psychology, I found Happiness at the same time inspiring and humbling because it showed me how much I still have to learn, both personally and professionally. Ricard was an eminent French scientist before his interest in Buddhism led him to become a monk, living in the Himalayas and studying with some of the great Tibetan Buddhist teachers. Developing self-kindness and compassion is a key focus in Tibetan Buddhism (which is why the Dalai Lama so often talks about compassion). The author explains, with great clarity and simplicity, how anyone can learn to free themselves of what the Buddha called the 'three poisons of the mind': greed, hatred and delusion. You don't need to be interested in Buddhism to love this book – its message will appeal to anyone on the path of personal growth or who just want to be happier. And that means everyone, doesn't it?

If you would like to book a session with me, email dan@danroberts.com

Warm wishes,

Dan 

Bibliotherapy on 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 post I will focus on anxiety disorders, an area that 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).

If you would like to book a session with me, email dan@danroberts.com

Warm wishes,

Dan

Bibliotherapy for depression

'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 much more useful for them to read up about their particular issue and for us to discuss their findings next week. But I also find that many people like to understand why they might be having problems and find their own strategies for solving them – another important idea in cognitive therapy, because ultimately I want my CBT clients to be their own therapist.

You can read one or all of these books, depending on which appeal to you. You can also read the whole book or dip in to the chapters that seem most relevant to you.

1. Overcoming Depression: A Self-help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques, by Paul Gilbert. Part of the excellent Overcoming... series, this is written by one of the world's leading experts on depression. It explains perhaps better than any other book I have read on depression exactly why we get depressed, with particular emphasis on the way our brains are wired to make us vulnerable to depression when we are threatened, or suffer major losses in our lives. Warm, compassionate and eminently readable, this book is also full of practical tools and techniques you can use to tackle your own low mood, with or without the help of a CBT therapist.

2. The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness, by Williams et al. This also serves as the perfect introduction to mindfulness meditation, if that interests you – and comes with a CD of guided meditations by Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the leading figures behind the marriage between mindfulness and modern psychology. As well as providing a wealth of information about why we get depressed and what we can do about it, this book is based on the principles of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), an eight-week meditation programme that research shows is highly effective at treating recurrent bouts of depression. Like Gilbert's book, it is warm, wise and kind-hearted, so is a soothing companion when you're feeling down. 

3. Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think, by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky. This seminal book remains the best introduction to CBT, almost 20 years after it was first published. Although not written specifically about depression (it is just as useful for any of the other issues mentioned above), if you are suffering from low mood it offers a clear, simple, step-by-step guide to modifying the negative thinking that is at the root of depression. Padesky is perhaps the world's foremost CBT therapist (she was taught by and remains very close to CBT's founder, Aaron Beck), so you can rest assured that the techniques and strategies outlined here are to be trusted.

I hope at least one of these proves helpful – if you would like to book a session with me, email dan@danroberts.com

Warm wishes,

Dan