Top 3 Books For Handling Depression From The Past Decade

What are the best self help books for depression? Often I have found that self help books for depression or life struggles are not based on good science or are too prescriptive in what someone needs to do. This prescriptive approach comes at the expense of our individual differences. Here I outline the best three books I have come across to help understand and manage depression from the past 10 years.

Finding good books about self improvement is incredibly hard. Finding good books about depression is even harder. There are many. The quality is varied. Often it’s hard to know what training or incentive the author may have to have written their book.

In this post I outline 3 books that have been able to meet 2 important criteria. Firstly, they’ve been useful for clients who have seen me for treatment. Secondly, they touch upon approaches that carry support in the scientific literature for depression treatment.

1) Beat The Blues Before They Beat You : How to Overcome Depression by Robert Leahy

Who will like the approach of this book?

People who want to understand why depression exists and what makes it more severe.

People who value logical and clear thinking approaches to life problems.

What does it cover?

Each chapter is divided into ways to re-approach various aspects of depression such as low motivation, self-criticism, perfectionism, indecision, loneliness, managing relationships and overthinking. It has the best chapter I’ve come across for explaining why depression occurs, referencing the influence of human evolution, biases in human thinking and behavioural reinforcement patterns.

What approach to treatment does it follow?

Cognitive Therapy for Depression (Cognitive Therapy is one of the approaches to treatment we offer - more info here)

Quick hit thoughts about this book:

Robert Leahy is a very respected practitioner and researcher in the field of psychology. He presents here the range of best-practice approaches in the field of cognitive therapy while mixing in his own experiences as a practitioner.

This would be the go-to resource I would ask people to read if they were wondering what Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) treatment actually involves.

Rather than the over-simplistic version of CBT, which often seems to comprise of ‘just change your thoughts and you will feel better’, Leahy conveys CBT approaches with care and thoughtfulness. He asks a number of Socratic questions about the choices we make as humans, and leaves it to the reader to consider different perspectives and experiments to try in approaching depression and existence.

2) The Happiness Trap Pocketbook: An illustrated guide on how to stop struggling and start living by Russ Harris and Bev Aisbett

Who will like the approach of this book?

People who find themselves having trouble changing thoughts or modifying their emotional state

People who have a sense of meaninglessness or boredom in their lives

People who find themselves caught up in societal expectations

What does it cover?

Each chapter builds on the previous chapter to guide the reader through basic Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Specifically, it addresses why the ACT approach may make sense for some people battling low mood, how to accept what is out of your personal control, and options for committing to action that improves and enriches your life.

What approach to treatment does it follow?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is one of the approaches to treatment we offer- more info here)

Quick hit thoughts about this book:

This book is a quick and easy read. Its readability is assisted by illustrations on each page and it does well to deliver the core questions proposed by acceptance and commitment therapy.

For example, is there a futility in constantly make things easier for ourselves just so that we don’t have to face up to discomforting emotions? If one was to go about accepting the pain that comes with existing, how does one actually carry this out?

I will often ask my clients to read this if we are doing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy work in sessions because it packs so much of the core parts of that therapy into very short reading time. Like Robert Leahy’s depression book, it has a bunch of little experiments to try out and the ideas are not prescriptive. As I said earlier, any self help book without these two elements are the type of self help books that I am often wary of.

3) An Intelligent Life: A practical guide to relationships, intimacy and self esteem by Julian Short

Who will like the approach of this book?

People who wish to read a book that goes beyond depression or anxiety (e.g. relationships with the self, relationships with others, attachment and self respect).

People who wish to understand how self esteem and relationships affect each other.

People who wish to have an approach for handling difficult conversations and conflict.

What does it cover?

Human evolution and how this affects current day problems

Useful ways to understand and respond to our insecurities

Communicating with assertiveness or self respect

Confronting difficult aspects of relationships with friends, partners and family members.

What approach to treatment does it follow?

Nothing is explicitly referenced by Julian Short. My take is that it brings together evolutionary psychology, attachment theory, cognitive therapy and assertiveness skills. It does this in a way that is straightforward and doesn’t seem to have any contradictory information.

Quick hit thoughts about this book:

This book is not strictly about depression, but it touches upon areas of life that go hand in hand with depression for so many - relationships and self regard. It is full of wisdom but has a lot of respect for the reader. I also think it has the best guidelines I’ve come across for managing conflict and managing unreasonable behaviour from other people. I’d recommend this book if anyone wants an introduction to an life struggle beyond depression - it’s likely that the ideas discussed here will address most areas of living with thoughtfulness and clarity.

Patrick Sheehan is a clinical psychologist who works with adults and adolescents in his private practice located in Glebe, Sydney. If you want to enquire about an appointment, please head over to the contact page.

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