Psychological Self-Help

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methods are, at best, effective only 80-90% of the time, even though
you are working on just a small aspect of your life, such as a fear of
public speaking. The only way to know if you are among the 10-20%
for whom a particular self-help method doesn't work is to try it out
yourself and see what happens. The profession, of course, needs to
research self-help methods much more than it does (Rosen, 1987;
Christensen & Jacobson, 1994), but, in any case, you must research
your own self-help methods and efforts (see understanding #5). You
are a different and unique person. 
It may surprise many of you that so little is known with any
certainty about self-help methods. Why is this so? Partly because few
funding agencies and scientists are interested in this area. Also,
because there is a dis-connect between personality and stress
researchers and practitioners who would actually advocate or write
about practical coping techniques. Approximately 14,000 research
articles about "coping behaviors" were published between 1967 and
1999, but this research has yielded very little in the way of practical,
personally useful methods for handling stress (Somerfield & McCrae,
2000). That is very unfortunate. Part of the reason is that academic
researchers tend to look at group differences on a single measure;
that's quicker and easier but very different than observing (within
many individuals) the connections over time between an individual's
use of specific efforts to cope and his/her immediate and long-term
outcomes. Only the latter measures tell us much about how-to-cope. 
Fortunately, a meta-analysis review of 40 well designed outcome
studies of self-help treatments has been done (Scogin, Bynum,
Stevens, & Calhoon, 1990). The focus was on written or audiotaped
material used by persons with various problems (bad habits, fears,
depression, poor skills) without regular contact with a therapist or a
teacher--typical self-help material, like this book summarizes. The
overall conclusions were that self-help is clearly more effective than no
treatment at all and just as effective in most cases as treatment
administered by a therapist. Do the results last? One study of
bibliotherapy with depression found the benefits lasted for three years
(Smith, Floyd & Scogin, 1997). These are important and impressive
findings, if they hold up over time, suggesting that self-help can
potentially offer you cheap and effective help. However, much of the
self-help material evaluated by these researchers was written by the
researchers; they may have been biased. Also, Scogin, et al. didn't use
the popular self-help material available in the bookstore. However,
another meta-analysis by Clum and Gould of 34 published self-help
books and videos confirmed that popular material also seemed to be
about as helpful as therapy by professionals. Gould and Clum (1993)
concluded that "self-administered treatments achieve outcomes
comparable to those of therapist-administered treatments." Indeed,
some types of problems and patients benefit more from self-help than
from therapy. Altogether 50 to 100 studies have shown that certain
self-help books or methods have been helpful to certain people with
certain problems; that doesn't mean a specific self-help method will
help you with a specific problem. But it means that self-help isn't
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