Psychological Self-Help

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don't expect the store clerk to wisely recommend a book for your
Many popular magazines depend on self-help material to increase
sales. Notice the featured articles--dieting, exercising, handling stress
or the blues, improving relationships, better sex, etc. Many of these
short articles are by professional writers who make their living writing
anything that will sell; they are not psychologists or therapists. Yet,
the short articles are often of interest and reflect some recent work by
a psychologist or psychiatrist. Because of the brevity, however, the
article usually deals with only one part of a problem and seldom
provides detailed instructions for self-improvement. 
The major problem with magazine articles is the same as books,
namely, how to find what you need. You may stumble upon a
magazine article of value to you, but if you were to set out to find an
article about your particular problem, your chances of success are very
slim. The lasting value of magazine articles is shown by the fact that
they are seldom kept more than a few months, even by libraries. 
Talk shows
Ten or fifteen years ago, I thought talk shows were the ideal self-
help education for adults. The early talk shows were informative and
practical, i.e., many dealt with solving common problems. They
discussed controlling bad habits, relieving stress or depression, gaining
confidence and asserting your elf, improving relationships, etc. When
watching the early shows, you might have said, "Wow, that's the way I
am. Maybe I should try that approach with my problem." When the
shows did deal with abnormal psychology topics, the thrust was on
understanding the behavior, helping relatives accept the patient, or
helping the patient seek help from mental health agencies. As the
years passed and competition among talk shows increased, the topics
became more and more sensationalistic. Sadly, now, they are usually
a waste of time, unless you are entertained by bizarre situations or
behavior. Now, if you watch, you say, "Wow, what a weirdo! Thank
God, I'm not anything like that." The great educational potential in talk
shows is being neglected because they focus only on the problems, not
the solutions (don't blame the shows or the sponsors, they give us
whatever attracts the greatest number of us). Heaton and Wilson
(1995) say the talk shows distort real life so badly that they harm the
mental health of all of us. 
The talk shows do not showcase psychological knowledge well.
Often the "expert" is given only a few minutes near the end of the
show under terrible circumstances: "OK, doctor, now instantly cure
these very long-term, disturbed subjects who have been whipped into
an emotional frenzy for 45 minutes." It is common for the talk shows
to also have a critic on the show to attack whatever the "expert" says.
It seems carefully planned to demean the value of psychological
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