of those books are written by experienced professionals and are quite
helpful. However, truly effective self-help education should emphasize
early detection of problems and prevention, as well as crisis
intervention. Prevention is sorely neglected (discussed later).
What are other consequences of primarily publishing specialized
(one topic), crisis-oriented books? For one thing it may discourage the
ordinary person from reading self-help books. If self-help books
become associated with weird problems and serious crises (such as
depression, addictions, abuse, divorce, etc.), it might strengthen our
belief, as long as we are coping barely adequately, that "I don't need
to know or think more about psychological coping unless I have a real
serious problem." That's wrong but it fits with our desire to feel
capable. (Note that talk shows have become so associated with rare
and bizarre behavior that many people have lost interest and become
scornful, feeling the talk show topics are weird and unrelated to them.)
There are other problems related to the emphasis on thousands of
books with a very limited scope. Examples: Could such books be used
in a group or class where people have many kinds of problems? No.
Will reading one specialized self-help book give you general knowledge
which you can apply to different kinds of problems? Probably not
much. When you are having serious problems, are the difficulties
usually limited to just one area? No. Is it common to buy a book for a
specific problem and soon discover that you don't really have that
problem? Yes (perhaps that is partly why 90% of self-help books never
get read beyond the first chapter). Is it reasonable for every specific
problem to require its own self-help books? No, although that would
sell more books, wouldn't it? Do the thousands of unique problems
require thousands of different methods for coping? No. This is an
important point; let's look at it more closely.
There are only 15-20 self-help methods for changing our own
behavior, no matter what problem or crisis we are having. Likewise,
there are only a few basic methods for controlling emotions which are
used in all upsetting situations. The same for learning skills, changing
our thoughts, uncovering unconscious factors, and so on. In short, it is
easier and better to know the general principles of behavior and the
basic methods for changing than to study hundreds of seemingly
unrelated problems. Therefore, 20,000 self-help books are overkill. A
case in point: this book deals with hundreds of problems (chapters 3
to 10), but the methods for coping with those problems are described
in entirely different chapters (11 to 15) because the same method will
be useful with many different problems. What we all need is
comprehension of the general principles of behavior and changing, as
well as carefully designed research (not necessarily by professionals)
testing the effectiveness of self-help methods. Our knowledge needs to
be integrated and unified, rather than split into little atomistic books.
This brings me to the last major point.
Why is it so hard to find the information you need?