Best Psychology Books For Therapy

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated July 18, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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There are a lot of things you can do to help you get the most out of therapy, such as following the advice of your therapist and doing your homework assignments. But there are other things that you can do to get the most out of your therapeutic experience and enjoy a happy and healthy life.

Books on psychology that are recommended by top psychologists can help you understand your condition or disorder, help you learn new coping mechanisms, and help you more fully understand what your therapist is trying to tell you in your sessions.

Below, you’ll find the some of the most popular psychology books to get the most out of your therapy.

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The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns

The Feeling Good Handbook is a manual on the benefits and techniques of cognitive therapy. Based on behavioral research, cognitive therapy is frequently used by psychologists and therapists to help people cope with depression, anxiety, phobias, PTSD, and more. The book outlines techniques that you can use at home in a self-help fashion to grow your self-awareness and to complement what you are learning in therapy.

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

This book takes you through one man's journey to find peace and the meaning of his life. It is frequently recommended as a tool for therapy because the scenarios in the book can be analogies for our own modern lives. Though based on the early life of Buddha, clients who are themselves confronting the meaning of life may uncover some modern truth and can greatly benefit from this interesting and helpful book.

Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life by Steven C. Hayes and Spencer Smith

This book presents a challenge to clients in therapy to step outside their comfort zones and find new meaning in life. Based on a type of psychotherapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), this award-winning book explores why human beings suffer. The book gives you reasons and tools to step into, rather than avoid, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are uncomfortable so that you can learn and grow. This can be very challenging for many people, but the book gives you a new perspective on the challenge that can be more in-depth than an hour session with a therapist.

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne

This book is invaluable to people who have anxiety. It outlines the causes of anxiety and phobias and how to overcome them. The book includes a comprehensive overview of available treatments that you can discuss with your therapist. It also includes at-home exercises and techniques that you can use to manage your anxiety between sessions and as a complement to your ongoing therapy.

The Worry Trap by Chad LeJeune

This book is another excellent resource for people with anxiety. Acceptance and commitment therapy is a fairly new type of cognitive therapy that has been proven to help people overcome their anxieties and put their worries aside. The book outlines exactly how to use this type of therapy to overcome your anxiety. If your therapist is recommending this type of therapy, the book can help you more fully understand it and how it works.

Hope and Help for Your Nerves by Claire Weekes

This short, easy-to-read book with case studies and real-life examples has helped numerous people manage, and even overcome, anxiety and panic attacks. Dr. Weekes purposely wrote a book based on her scientific research that was short and easy to understand because people with these mental health conditions have difficulty concentrating at the time they’re experiencing them. With her straightforward approach, it’s as though Dr. Weekes is there with you as you implement practical strategies and techniques to help you deal with anxiety and panic attacks. Additionally, this gem of a book is affordable for most people.

More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD by Ari Tuckman

This book is a must-have for adults with ADHD. Many people do not consider that ADHD is not just a childhood disorder. It follows clients into adulthood, and many of the prescription medications used to treat ADHD are not appropriate for long-term use by adults. This resource offers a better understanding of how the human brain with ADHD processes input. It provides practical advice and new techniques for adults with ADHD to learn to focus their attention and cope with their disorder so they can enjoy a more successful life.

Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson

One of the most well-renowned psychology books for couples in therapy, Hold Me Tight outlines a new way for couples to develop their communication skills and work through their problems. The primary point of the book is that perceived emotional loss leads to changed behavior and a lack of communication, which ultimately leads to breakdown in human relationships and prevents healing. The book outlines how to avoid these pitfalls and helps you and your significant other heal properly.

The Six Pillars of Self-esteem by Nathaniel Branden

This book does an excellent job of breaking down exactly what self-esteem is, how it becomes degraded, and how to rebuild it. This is a great psychology books for individuals going through therapy due to self-esteem issues. Low self-esteem can be the root cause of many of life's problems as well as difficult emotions and anxieties. Learning how to increase your self-esteem can be of great benefit to anyone in therapy.

Self-compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff

One of the things that most therapists will tell you is that you have to be kind and gentle with yourself as you make changes in your life that impact your mental health in positive ways. Not everyone moves at the same pace when it comes to personal growth, emotional intelligence, and learning. This book outlines exactly why self-compassion is important and teaches you ways to learn to be kind to yourself in all aspects of your life.

The Deepest Well by Nadine Burke Harris

This book is an important one for anyone who is dealing with the aftermath of a difficult childhood. It goes through how childhood abuse, neglect, parent addiction, and mental illness shape a person both mentally and physically. One of the most well known psychology books about the effects of trauma, The Deepest Well elucidates the connection between childhood trauma and physical health in adulthood. It also gives some helpful information on how to cope as an adult after a difficult childhood.

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Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself by Mark Epstein

Epstein is not only a psychologist but also a Buddhist. In this unique book, Epstein uses the eightfold path of Buddhism combined with psychoanalysis and therapy to help people understand how to move past the ego that could be holding you back from important personal growth.

Cringeworthy by Melissa Dahl

This book is based on the personal research of psychological science writer Melissa Dahl. Social psychology explores how our perception of ourselves and how others perceive us affect our feelings and behaviors. In this book, Dahl explains that “cringe-worthy” moments tend to unfold when the way others perceive us differs from the way we view ourselves. The book outlines why awkwardness occurs and how it holds us back from personal growth and new opportunities. As part of her research, she put herself in increasingly awkward situations intentionally. She recommends that everyone do this to some extent and explains how growth and opportunities can occur when you embrace awkwardness instead of avoiding it.

Beginning Mindfulness by Andrew Weiss

Mindfulness is a technique from positive psychology that is often used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health issues. While it seems simple by definition, putting it into practice can be difficult for many people. This useful psychology book gives a great overview of mindfulness techniques and gives you practical applications for everyday life.

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh

Another popular psychology books on mindfulness, this book is more than just a how-to for applying mindfulness techniques to your life. Hanh shows you how mindfulness techniques can change human behavior by bringing joy and playfulness to your life in new ways. This is a helpful application of the miracle of mindfulness that many therapists have a difficult time conveying to their patients.

Overcoming Depression One Step at a Time by Michael E. Addis and Christopher Martell

This book will walk you through overcoming depression step by step. It focuses on using motivation techniques, tackling everyday tasks, and intentionally finding joyful things to do to help give your mood a boost. The book is very helpful for anyone with depression and is a great complement to therapy. Additionally, reading books about depression can be a helpful way to learn about the condition and how to manage its symptoms.

The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook by Martin M. Antony and Richard P. Swinson

Ever wondered why the human body tenses up in certain social situations? This book outlines a cognitive behavioral approach to social anxiety with definitive steps to help you overcome your shyness and anxiety in social situations.

The 60-second Shrink by Arnold A. Lazarus and Clifford N. Lazarus

This book is a quick guide to mental health, offering brief yet comprehensive advice on dealing with common psychological issues. It's an accessible resource for those seeking immediate, practical help.

This book is funny, witty, and extremely helpful. It covers several emotional and mood problems, including depression and anxiety. It also covers problems that many psychology books ignore such as procrastination, problem-solving, apologies, panic attacks, and anger. While the book doesn't go in-depth on any one topic, it does have some helpful strategies that can complement therapy.

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Books that discuss psychology with real-life examples

A First-rate Madness by Nassir Ghaemi

This book examines eight world leaders commonly known in the modern world, arguing that those with mood disorders can make the best leaders during a time of crisis.

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Phillip Zimbardo

Psychologist Philip Zimbardo is known as the creator of the infamous Stanford Prison experiment. During the Stanford Prison experiment, a group of college student volunteers were divided into guards and inmates. Within a week, the experiment had to be abandoned as participants took their roles to brutal extremes, abandoning the niceties of basic social interactions. Zimbardo discusses how the human mind is impacted by the social setting we’re in, and how to keep from being negatively influenced.

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori and Rom Brafman

Two psychologists discuss factors that prevent rational thinking and cause people to make unwise decisions, including loss aversion, diagnosis bias, and the chameleon effect, explaining how these factors have manifested in real-world examples. 

Insight: The Power of Self-awareness in a Self-deluded World by Tasha Eurich

Dr. Eurich combines her own research and work in the Fortune 500 world with hundreds of studies to discuss how to increase your self-awareness. In doing so, the goal is to help readers improve their work performance, relationships, and leadership abilities. 

Honorable mentions

A few additional books you may consider are:

  • The psychopath test: a journey through the madness industry by Jon Ronson
  • Games people play: the psychology of human relationships by Eric Berne
  • The happiness hypothesis: finding modern truth in ancient wisdom by Jonathan Haidt
  • The tipping point: how little things can make a big difference by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Human evoltuion: our brains and behavior by Robin Dunbar
  • How to be well: the 6 habits to a happy and healthy life by Frank Lipman
  • Cognitive neuroscience: the biology of the mind by Michael Gazzaniga, Richard Ivry, and George Mangun

Getting help

While psychology books will help you get more out of therapy, most people do not do well trying to use self-help books alone. These psychology books are very helpful and can complement the work with an in-person, or online, licensed therapist. The study that you do on your own can enhance the work you complete with a therapist to effectively process your issues, whether they be related to mental illness, situational emotional issues, or issues from the past.

If you’re considering online therapy but are unsure of its effectiveness, a literature review has shown that online therapy is as effective as face-to-face therapy. The review consisted of sixty-five articles, which found that client satisfaction was positive and clinical outcomes were comparable to traditional therapy for a diverse population receiving different therapeutic treatments. Recent research has continued to demonstrate the effectiveness of online therapy for a variety of concerns. Online therapy could be a consideration for you as you deal with mental health concerns and issues in your life.

Counselor reviews

“Carey has been a wonderful help. I sometimes have problems opening up in therapy but I was comfortable with her right away. She really seems to have a firm understanding of my disorder and has plenty of tools in her arsenal for helping me cope and live a healthier life. I look forward to continuing to work with her on my issues.”

“Angela is immensely helpful. She is not only experienced but also kind, and understanding with a realistic approach to any and all issues presented to her. She has helped me through the toughest times in my life and expertly given me new perspectives and coping mechanisms to help me overcome my issues.” 

Takeaway

A variety of books may help you to make the most of your therapy sessions by allowing you to learn more about your concerns, gain a new perspective, and learn new ways to cope. If you are interested in starting your therapy journey, you can connect with a licensed therapist online through BetterHelp.
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