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Stop reading the books and start reading yourself!

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

I created this mantra because just recently I have had a number of clients who I have identified the source of the problems have been from reading way too many self-help books about what to do about their mental health problems. As a result they are overwhelmed with so many things they think they 'should' be doing because the books say so that they actually increase their anxiety levels. It also encourages the use of the cognitive left brain through the act of reading and they forget that to mentally get well they need to be using both sides of their brain, meaning they also need to 'feel' themselves. It also encourages a constant seeking and searching through external sources, always keeping themselves at a distance from themselves.

You may have done this yourself where you read something in a book and feel that this is you. It's true, most mental health problems are actually quite common and so a lot will resonate with you. But what do you when you get this experience? Read more of the book hoping to find the answers? But nothing else really resonates. Because it is actually just a momentary sense of "somebody gets me". Instead of you saying "I get me and I know what I need for me, I don't need a book to tell me what is right for me".

Not one person is the same so we cannot prescribe a formula from a book or theory. We can take ideas from a book but how are you going to know what is the right thing for you to do if you don't more importantly read yourself. I have seen clients source of anxiety come from having this whole list of solutions from books that they are trying but nothing really works and so thoughts come up of "Am I doing it properly?", "Maybe I gave up to early", "I don't know which one is the right thing to do".

We all have the resources within us to find our solutions but so many times we look outside of ourselves for the answers. So worried about what you 'think' you 'should' be doing instead of 'feeling' what you 'need and want' to do. In turn this feeds into a sense that you are doing it wrong and therefore there is something wrong with me.

With the prevalence of solution focused and prescribed CBT formulas for mental health treatment this also inhibits an individuals capacity to find their own way of finding their own solutions by being told if you just do your homework and you just change your thoughts you will be all better. Unfortunately this gives other forms of counselling, psychotherapy and Counselling Psychology a bad reputation that all we do is give advice. This sets the client up with expectations that we are going to provide the magic formula for them. More and more I here parents ask me to see their child to give them some 'coping strategies'. But it really does not work like that.

Fundamentally based from Person-Centred practice most therapists are there to facilitate a space where the client can start learning to read themselves and find their own solutions. Whatever work the therapist may do is based on what the client brings, because they (should) believe the client is the expert, not them. They may have a few tricks up their sleeve based on the their theoretical orientation that may facilitate a greater awareness but they are only used with what the client presents.

If you were to still want to read a book I would recommend one on Mindfulness. Because this teaches you how to start reading yourself in order to find your own solutions.


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