Self Help Books

I think the explosion of self-help books is a wonderful thing.  For so long, life’s most emotional issues were considered taboo conversations.  When I was growing up, I remember people whispering the word ‘cancer.’  I recall a friend in high school who had two female parental figures; never was it acknowledged that they were a lesbian couple.  Divorce, sex, mental illness, domestic violence, depression were among the serious, hard topics that were not open for discussion.  Most adults were very uncomfortable talking about these subjects with other adults, not to mention, with their children.

The plethora of these books on all the various topics has made an excellent contribution to the education of the general public.  Talk shows, articles, the internet, even advertisements for medication, have helped desensitize us, make us less squeamish about having frank discussions on difficult subjects. 

The one area that I think is not as well served by self-help materials is that of understanding our personal/intimate relationships.  If books encourage a person to reflect upon their lives and the patterns of behavior in their interpersonal lives, that is a good thing.  However I am not sure that reading about relationships alone in a room or on the internet can be as powerful a tool of change as actually being in a relationship with a trained professional.  Marriage and Family Therapists are psychotherapists/counselors specifically trained to deal with relationship issues.  There is nothing more powerful than experiencing a felt emotion in the office in a controlled setting with a person who can help you make sense of it.  And the feelings always make sense given the person’s belief systems that have been established over time. 

I love the bumper sticker:  Don’t always  believe what you think.  Find a therapist you can connect with and build a trusting relationship.  It really is an amazing process.