When you decide to buy a self-help book, you want to get the one that will help you more than any other. You go to a bookstore and begin to look through the books that address your particular problem. Wouldn't it be nice if there were some guidelines to help you pick the best book? John Santrock, Ann Minnett, and Barbara Campbell, authors of The Authoritative Guide to Self Help Books, have come up with nine stratiegies for selecting a good self-help book and avoiding the “clunkers”.


1. Don't select a self-help book because of its cover or slick advertising campaign. Be an intelligent consumer of psychological knowledge and make your choices based on the next eight strategies.


2. Select a book that makes realistic rather than grandiose claims. Raising self-esteem, losing weight, solving relationship problems, and becoming more self-fulfilled are not easy tasks. They all take a lot of effort. Tasks and problems of life are lifelong projects so avoid promises of a quick fix.


3. Examine the evidence reported in the book. Unfortunately, many self-help books are not based on reliable scientific or clinical evidence, but rather on authors' biased, anecdotal experiences. Look in the appendix or at the end of chapter for references from which the book is based.


4. Select a book that recognizes that a problem is caused by a number of factors and has alternative solutions. Too many self-help books give simplistic solutions to complex problems.


5. Choose a book that focuses on a particular problem rather than one with a general approach to solving all of your problems. A person needs precise, detailed recommendations to solve specific problems. The books trying to appeal to everyone sell millions of copies; but are too broad as they pretend to be all things to all people.


6. Don't be conned by psychobabble and slick writing. Psychobabble is a vague language that will not improve your ability to cope with a problem. Slick books also offer little more than one or two basic ideas that could be communicated in two or three pages. Look for books that are written in language you can understand and that include detailed recommendations for how to cope with a specific problem.


7. Check out the author's educational and professional credentials. A Ph.D. or a MD. does not guarantee a wonderful self-help book, but it is a place to start. In the national survey Santrock, Minnett, and Campbell undertook with more than 500 clinical and counseling psychologists rating self-help books, 9 of the top 10 books were authored by mental health professionals, not professional writers or people with no professional training.


8. Be wary of authors who complain about or reject the conventional knowledge of mental health professionals. Some self-help authors attack the mental health professions as being too conservative and overly concerned with scientific or clinical evidence. Avoid such authors. There is nothing wrong with new ideas, but the ideas need to be supported by reliable evidence.


9. Use The Authoritative Guide to Self-Help Books as a resource for selecting good books. It's a jungle out there and, by accessing the knowledge of the most highly trained and experienced mental health professionals in the United States, you can use their evaluations to select good self-help books.

For your interest I thought you would like to know what  books were picked as the best self-help books overall regardless of the particular problem they addressed. All the following were rated 5-star or strongly recommended books:


1. The Courage to Heal

            by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis (abuse and recovery)

2 Feeling Good

             by David Burns (depression)

3. Infants and Mothers

            by T. Berry Brazelton (infant development

            and parenting)

4. What Every Baby Knows

            by T. Berry Brazelton (infant development

            and parenting)

5. Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care

by Benjamin Spock and Michael Rothenberg (infant development and parenting)

6. How to Survive the Loss of a Love

by Melba Colgrove, Harold Bloomfield, and Peter McWilliams (death, dying, and grief)

7. To listen to a Child

            by T Berry Brazelton (child

            development and parenting)

8. The Boys and Girls Book about Divorce

            by Richard Gardner (divorce)

9. The Dance of Anger

by Harriet Lerner (anger)

10. The Feeling Good Handbook

by David Burns (depression)

11. Toddlers and Parents

by T. Berry Brazelton (child

development and parenting)

12. Your Perfect Right

by Robert Alberti and Michael

Emmons (assertiveness)

13. Between Parent and T eenager

by Haim Ginott (teenagers and


14. The First Three Years of Life

by Burton White (infant development

and parenting)

15. What Color is Your Parachute?

by Richard Bolles (career development)

16. Between Parent and Child

by Haim Ginott (child development

and parenting)

17. The Relaxation Response

by Herbert Benson (relaxation,

meditation, and stress)

18. The New Aerobics

by Kenneth cooper (exercise)

19. Learned Optimism

by Martin Seligman (positive thinking

and self-talk)

20. Man's Search for Meaning

by Victor Frankl (self-fulfillment and


21. Children: The Challenge

by Rudolph Dreikurs (child

development and parenting)

22. You Just Don't Understand

by Deborah Tannen (communication)

23. The Dance of Intimacy

by Harriet Lerner (love and intimacy)

24. Beyond the Relaxation Response

by Herbert Benson (relaxation)

25. The Battered Woman

by Lenore Walker (abuse and recovery)




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