Therapeutic healing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. For many in therapy, this means they find themselves practicing self-reflection and considering salient topics between sessions. Sometimes this leads to more frequent meetings and exploration with a therapist, and other times it leads to exploration in other avenues. One common place for exploration? Literature.
The world of psychological literature is vast and covers a great number of topics from a great number of perspectives. As a result, it can be challenging to know where to start. Below are a few titles recommended by the therapists at Start My Wellness, spanning a number of areas of interest.
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk
Written by a neuroscientist and trauma researcher, The Body Keeps the Score dives into the effects of trauma on the brain and body. Dr. van der Kolk uses case examples from his research to explain what trauma is and how it shows up in our lives, and he offers pathways of healing along the way. This book is great for anyone who is looking to better understand trauma and the ways in which past experiences impact beliefs about the self and the world.
How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad): A Creative Workbook by Lee Crutchley
If you are looking for a task you can physically do to work towards feeling better outside of the therapy room, Crutchley’s workbook might be a good place to start. It provides a series of prompts and exercises to help readers reconnect and find joy in the small things, and to rediscover elements of happiness in their daily lives. Readers describe it as “light, gentle, and accessible,” which is important because depressive states often make it challenging to engage with the world.
The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esmé Weijun Wang
Psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, are not often written about from a first-person perspective, which makes Wang’s beautiful collection of essays even more important. Award-winning writing aside, these essays offer a window into Wang’s experiences living with severe and persistent mental health diagnoses and also offer a deeper understanding of the ways in which the continued stigma about mental health is oppressive.
The Color of My Mind: Mental Health Narratives from People of Color by Dior Vargas
Vargas, a Latina mental health activist, recognized the discrepancies that exist in mental health care along racial lines, and she set out to explore how people of color experience mental illness in the United States through interviewing people of color across the country. Her work considers topics such as mental healthcare access, culturally competent care, and what it is like to live with a mental health diagnosis.
Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive by Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzell
This book explores findings in neurobiology and attachment research to explain how our own stories and experiences shape the way we parent. Through reflection and careful consideration, Siegel and Hartzell offer readers ways to think about themselves as both people and parents.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
For anyone who is considering therapy but wonders about what it might be like to be in therapy, Gottlieb’s memoir offers some insight. It traces both her own work as a psychotherapist and her time in therapy as a patient. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is a vulnerable look into the process of therapy and the truths that can be hard to reveal to ourselves.
As a bonus: Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom provides similar insight in the form of short stories about patient progress rather than the therapist’s own journey.
As noted, there are lots of titles available in the world of psychological literature. It may be worth asking your therapist for recommendations if there is a particular area you are interested in exploring. Happy reading!
Author: Samantha Voss, MSW, LLMSW
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