Does Self-Help Work?
June 11, 2020
Self-help “wisdom” is everywhere these days. New self-help books pop up every day, and social media is overflowing with inspirational quotes from self-help experts.
Although people want to improve their lives, many are skeptical of self-help books and personal development gurus because they wonder if it really works.
The good news is that research shows that self-directed therapy can work if done right.
You may not feel like a “new person” or the best version of yourself, like most self-improvement books promise, but you’ll probably feel less anxious and depressed. Plus, you’ll learn some skills that’ll stick with you for the rest of your life.
Here are some tips that can make the difference between buying countless self-improvement books that end up not working, and finding that one book that will change your outlook on life.
Find The Right Book
Anyone can declare themselves a “self-help guru” and write a best-selling book. However, the best books are backed up by solid science. The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies website (abct.org) has a great list of such books covering a wide spectrum of mental health topics from anxiety to bipolar disorder.
Sticking to books that have received the seal of approval from recognized institutions can steer you clear of every new book, podcast, and guru that crosses your path. It can also help you stick to battle-tested techniques, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), that licensed therapists use.
While it’s relaxing to curl up on the couch with a good book, that’s not the best way to get the most from a self-improvement book. It’s important to highlight things that stand out to you and take notes of the most important lessons from each chapter. Review your notes to identify the steps that would make the biggest difference in your life right now.
Unless you take action, your life won’t improve. To benefit from a self-improvement program, make room in your schedule to practice what you’ve learned. Experiment, play, have fun! Notice what works and what doesn’t.
Try at first to follow the program as closely as possible; it’s okay to skip a step if you have serious doubts about its usefulness in your specific situation, or if it compromises your beliefs. But don’t skip steps just because you’re eager to get to the end.
Self-help works if you do it the “right” way. Stick to books and resources recommended by reputable organizations, take notes as you read, and, finally, take action on what you’ve learned.
Keep in mind that self-help isn’t a replacement for counseling or therapy. Serious mental health conditions require the intervention of a qualified professional.