Popular Self-Help Books for Anxiety, Depression, and Trauma: How Scientifically Grounded and Useful are They?

Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol. 39, No. 5, pp. 537-545, 2008

9 Pages Posted: 12 Nov 2008 Last revised: 3 Jun 2014

See all articles by Richard E. Redding

Richard E. Redding

Chapman University

James D. Herbert

Drexel University - College of Arts & Sciences

Evan Forman

Drexel University

Brandon Gaudiano

Warren Alpert Medical School

Date Written: November 11, 2008

Abstract

Self-help books for psychological disorders have become increasingly popular, yet there is surprisingly little research on their scientific status or overall utility. The authors identified 50 top-selling self-help books for anxiety, depressive, and trauma-related disorders. Using a scale derived from the literature on bibliotherapy, expert psychologists rated each book on overall usefulness, grounding in psychological science, the extent to which it offers reasonable expectations, the extent to which it offers specific guidance for implementing the self-help techniques and for monitoring treatment progress, and whether it offers potentially harmful advice. The results revealed strong intercorrelations among the scales, such that books scoring high along one dimension tended to score high along others. There was wide variability in the overall quality of the books, but several factors emerged as predictors of book quality. The most highly rated books tended to be those having a cognitive behavioral perspective, those written by mental health professionals, those written by authors holding a doctoral degree, and those focusing on specific problems. Implications of the findings, including specific recommendations for authors and consumers of self-help books, are discussed.

Keywords: bibliotherapy, self-help, best sellers, anxiety, depression, trauma, CBT, cognitive-behavioral

Suggested Citation

Redding, Richard E. and Herbert, James D. and Forman, Evan and Gaudiano, Brandon, Popular Self-Help Books for Anxiety, Depression, and Trauma: How Scientifically Grounded and Useful are They? (November 11, 2008). Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol. 39, No. 5, pp. 537-545, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1300004

Richard E. Redding (Contact Author)

Chapman University ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States
714-628-2688 (Phone)
714-628-2564 (Fax)

James D. Herbert

Drexel University - College of Arts & Sciences ( email )

United States

Evan Forman

Drexel University ( email )

3141 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Brandon Gaudiano

Warren Alpert Medical School ( email )

Providence, RI 02912
United States

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