Do “Self Help” books work?

Personal Development Books
My own “Self Help Book Shelf”. Click for video with recommendations.

Self Help Books: can they help us heal?

My gosh, there are sooo many. And if you are like me, interested in this “let’s do this self-improvement thing”, there is enough supply to read for many lifetimes. Which ones to choose? And do they work?

In the video (click on the photograph of my book shelf) or click here you can find my personal favourites. The ones I picked focus on creativity, Buddhist ways of overcoming feeling anxious or low, Eastern Philosophy and finding or improving loving relationships.


Do they work?

Many clients tell me they’ve been reading books on the subject they are struggling with; finding Mr or Mrs Right, Being a Leader, Public Speaking, Overcoming Anxiety, Increasing Confidence. Amazon must have mountains of them in their big storage bunkers full of books. I quote from a freely adapted, but true in essence, mix of what some of my clients tell me “It was sort of good to read, and certain pieces certainly resonated with me, but I still haven’t really been able to change, to master the issue. And so, now I am here, having sessions with you.

An unspoken “now you please fix me” wish. I get it. When we’ve tried a list of things, hoping not to feel like this any more, and it still hasn’t gone away, we loose trust that there is anything, anyone out there who could make it better.

So why would coaching or psychotherapy do the trick, if honest, heartfelt, serious, devoted reading on the subject is not always enough? And why do some tell us that they read a book, all fell into place, and they haven’t been the same ever since? We rush to get the same book, read it cover to cover, full of anticipation, and…. nothing. Still struggling as before.

My answer?

It needs to be the right moment. I know, frustrating answer. But change doesn’t happen because the head or ego wants it. It happens when the soul, heart and more subtle parts of us are ready. We’ve been planting many seeds; each book, workshop, You Tube video, counsellor, alternative healer we’ve seen makes a contribution to the whole. When a seed grows we see nothing happening for a long time as the roots are forming under the surface of the earth, and then all of a sudden a green sprout appears. Follow your intuition, keep on planting seeds, and one day your tree is ready to burst out of the dirt and grow. Have faith.

Something else might need to happen first. And we know what it is, deep inside. But we are scared. Is there grief locked inside? Unresolved anger? A need for more confidence, setting boundaries, standing up for ourselves? A part of us wants a quick fix, a solution, a trick, a tool, saying “I want to move forward now. Get over it and have this solved“. But another part is saying “No, no, no by-pass this time. Let’s heal properly. Learn to love yourself, including the messy bits, than change will happen naturally.

It’s about truly feeling it. When the head “get’s it”, it’s not enough. We fool ourselves saying “Ya, ya, I understand, it has to do with my parents, and when this and this happened with this ex-partner, or when this work stuff blew up. But I get that now, so I should stop feeling low/insecure/wobbly/stuck/sad etc“. Yes we know. But no, it’s not yet healed. Our intellectual mind understanding what is happening is not the same as healing. Healing is scary at first, as we need to surrender to feeling our emotions.


Only when we are truly touched, we transform. Being deeply touched can happen all the time: a friend, a butterfly, a rock, a counsellor, a child, a sound, a smell, and yes a book. When we feel it, are deeply moved, experience the hurt and the joy, we heal. And then, as if by miracle, we have already changed. Just like that. We don’t need tools or techniques any more. The change has already happened and we will never be the same again.

That’s what I believe. What about you?

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