Psychological Self-Help

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associated with gaining awareness or with working hard to learn new
skills may be a necessary part of growing. No one promised you that
life would be easy. 
It is possible that trying to help yourself and failing to do so could
cause problems. For example, it harms your body to go on diet after
diet, losing a few pounds each time and gaining them back in a few
weeks. Failure at efforts to solve interpersonal problems may worsen
the conflicts. Repeated failure at self-helping would surely be
depressing and may lower your faith in yourself, in self-help methods,
and in therapy (Rosen, 1987). Repeated success might yield the
opposite positive effects. 
Research has shown that individual and group psychotherapy do
harm (relative to no treatment) in about 5-10% of therapy cases
(Bergin, 1975; Bergin and Lambert, 1978; Mays and Franks, 1985). In
therapy, the harm seems to frequently be done by the critical,
probing, hostile personality of the therapist, not by the treatment
method itself. Since self-help does not involve a critical, pushy
therapist, perhaps it is not as harmful as therapy. But it is probably
harmful in ways we just don't know about yet. Popular psychology
books, like the ones available at your local library or bookstore, have
been criticized, however, because (1) the reader may misdiagnose or
not realize that he or she has a serious problem and, thus, may not
seek appropriate help. Of course, attempting to relax to cure a
headache caused by a fast growing tumor is foolish. That's why, in a
case like this, you must seek professional help right away. Regardless
of the problem, if self-help doesn't work, get help! (2) As discussed
above, a therapist may be needed before some people can change or
correctly use a method. (3) Many self-help authors may promise much
more than they can deliver. This harms by raising false hopes. (4)
Self-help books sometimes encourage self-centeredness, i.e. only
taking care of your self, not others. (5) Supposedly, "a little knowledge
is dangerous" (Barkas, 1977; Levin, 1975). But how often is having a
little accurate knowledge more dangerous than having even less
knowledge? These may be valid faults; they haven't been thoroughly
researched yet. 
I tend to agree with the above criticisms, except for point (5)
above, as you can tell from my question. There is also an old adage,
"The doctor who treats himself has a fool for a client." But, in this
case, we all have to be self-helpers! Of course, we should seek help
when we are ineffective self-helpers. Some people have feared that
self-helpers will not seek professional help when it is needed. Early in
our work, this was a concern. But, research does not support this fear;
in fact, students in self-help classes seek counseling more often than
other students (Rasche, 1974). Other people worry that self-helpers
will attempt to treat others. There is no evidence for this either. In
fact, an experienced self-helper would be more aware of his or her
limitations, know how hard it is to change, will respect professionals,
and encourage others to be self-directed or get professional treatment. 
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