I’m often asked by clients what books I could recommend that would support their self-discovery.

There are SO MANY books that I love, but these are my top picks for today. I love to read an actual book, but many of these are also available on kindle or audio-book.

Reasons to Stay Alive, by Matt Haig

I love this book for the vivid and eloquent descriptions of what it feels like to have anxiety and depression. It has a huge value in widening our collective understanding of these two common human experiences. And provides nuggets of how we can make the most of our time on earth.

Counselling for Toads, by Robert de Board

The title of this one is talking about toads because it’s based on the Wind in the Willows characters. ‘Toad’ is in a very depressed state and his good friends Ratty, Mole and Badger are ‘worried that he might do something silly’. Finally, Badger could stand it no longer ‘There is only one thing left. You must have counselling!’

The book cleverly describes the counselling process, with Heron, the counsellor uses the language and ideas of Transactional Analysis as his counselling method. Toad learns to analyse his own feelings and we watch him develop emotional intelligence. Students of counselling, as well as clients, will find this book helpful to see how the counselling process can work. Its written in such an appealing style, I am now wanting to stop writing this to read it again!

The Choice, by Edith Eger

This book earns its place in my list easily. As a survivor of Aushwitz, we see how the horrors of the Holocaust didn’t break Edith. In fact, they helped her to learn to live again with a life-affirming strength. The wisdom in this book is remarkable. It’s a true story that will leave you changed forever.

The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel Van der Kolk

This book is about healing from trauma. It contains scientific research alongside human stories, which make for a powerful read. The effects of trauma can be devastating for sufferers, their families and future generations. This book offers an alternative approach that heals mind, brain and body.

You might find the book and intense read. Perhaps the audiobook or shorter you tube videos might be more accessible for some people. The writing in the book that I have is quite small, which made it feel like an intense read for me. But the content and concepts are important to our understanding of the pathways to recovery.

Unshame, by Carolyn Spring

I would highly recommend any content by Carolyn Spring. This book details her journey through psychotherapy to heal and resolve trauma-based shame.

She describes shame as “It is a sense that I would rather be anyone other than myself. It is a belief that I am fundamentally and impossibly flawed, that I will never change, that there is no-one in the universe as unacceptable as me.”

Suitable for counsellors and survivors alike, it’s a great insight into the private and mysterious process of counselling.

Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before, by Dr Julie Smith

This book contains many of the tools and concepts that might be used in therapy. They are life skills that help us to navigate through difficult times and flourish. It’s written in very simple language and is so easy to understand. I think this book is a great start to understanding how to deal with our emotions in a healthy way.

Self Compassion, Kristin Neff

For anyone who has ever worked with me, it is rare for a session to go by without me mentioning the importance of self-compassion!  This research based book gives guidance on how to limit self-criticism and emotionally destructive patterns and to learn how to be kinder to yourself. Here is a link to a book review for this book.

Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown

Reading anything by Brene Brown is a great way to spend some time. This book is about embracing our vulnerability as a way of connecting authentically. It is an invitation to be courageous, to show up and let ourselves be seen.  The courage to be vulnerable can transform the way we live, love, parent and lead.

Lost Connections, by Johann Hari

This book is most definitely on my list, as it explains that there are 9 causes of depression and anxiety, all based on disconnection. This includes disconnection from meaningful work, from other people, from meaningful values, from childhood trauma, from the natural world, and ultimately from a hopeful future.

He argues “What if depression is, in fact, a form of grief – for our own lives not being lived as they should? What if it is a form of grief from the connections we have lost, yet still need?”

The themes raised in the books are all things that can be worked on in your counselling sessions.

Day by Day, Emotional Wellbeing in Parents of Disabled Children, by Joanna Griffin

Some of my work is with parent carers, so I was over the moon to discover this book and hear more about Joanna Griffin’s research. This book had me nodding at every paragraph, from both a personal and professional point of view.

For many parents the focus can become solely on the needs of their child. The re-focusing onto the wellbeing of the parent in this book is so helpful, because it explores the complex emotions that can arise for parents. It also goes on to lay out the importance of self care and finding your own meaning and purpose.  As you will have already guessed, these are all aspects of yourself that you may wish to spend some time on in your counselling sessions.

As I say, these are counselling books that I have found useful and I hope that you will too. And please send any more reading recommendations my way.

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