The self-help book industry is sometimes referred to as bibliotherapy (book therapy) and competes with other forms of therapy for the attention of people with a range of mental health issues: Depression, anxiety, relationships, life adjustments/direction, obsessive compulsive disorders and sexuality, etc. etc.
One of the more obvious drawbacks to this industry is the one-size-fits-all approach and claims of how quickly change can happen by the methods pronounced in a book. What is known from research is that people and the relationships they are in – with themselves, friends, work, family, lovers – are complex and not always fixed through a single method or in the amount of time it may take to finish a self-help book.
Additionally, the method of change used by a therapist is a honed craft. The success of what a psychologist or therapist can obtain from an intervention is based on hundreds and thousands of hours of trying - sometimes succeeding, other times failing.
Yet, bibliotherapy has its draws.
There may be less stigma and a lower cost associated with a self-help book, or bibliotherapy may provide the busy person with the ability to squeeze in a little bit of mental health exercise when he or she gets the chance.
For others, it may be the beginning of their journey to seeing a therapist or the book may have been recommended by a therapist and is used in conjunction with psychotherapy.
In America, the self-help industry is booming, to the tune of $11 billion in 2012, according to Marketdata Enterprises. The self-help book portion of that total is about $776 million in 2011. It's a market that keeps growing, and not always with blockbuster book releases that stand out and make a sea change. Rather, it's a regular crop of new books that keep trying to catch on.
For some, these books do provide some help. Studies have shown some positive effect, though the studies are generally limited, small, focus on just one book and are compared to a control group who do nothing to tackle the diagnosis being studied. Or these books can be part of a a spiral as the person goes from book to book in search of the help he or she can't find at the end of each prior read.
A few things to beware of when considering self-help books:
• What is the background/experience/education of the author? TV appearances and previous books do not make an expert;
• Is the book based on research or psychological principles? Does the book cite any such work?;
• Consider the severity of the problem you are dealing with, professional treatment may be a better solution;
• If the book is notable enough, has it been used in any studies showing its effectiveness?;
• Is there a financial incentive for the therapist recommending the book?
In the field of psychotherapy, the idea of forming a working relationship between client and therapist and using that as the basis for creating change is a well-researched and documented concept.
There is a great feeling of curling up with a good book that makes you feel better and if it helps you find the answers to the questions you've been asking yourself, even better. But for some people, the work involved requires a more active third-party (the therapist) who can tailor the therapy to specific needs and change accordingly.
in clientele, methods of therapy and depth of work. If you're interested in therapy, give us a call for a non-judgmental, friendly session and see if psychotherapy is right for you.