Psychological Self-Help

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pictures and are well done because they are profitably sold to a
captive audience; they are expensive; they can be found in abundance
in college libraries but few useful self-help psychology books will be
On the other hand, popular self-help psychology books are more
explicitly helpful than textbooks, although based on the same research
as textbooks. They are also easier to read, more interesting, and
cheaper--not so slick, fewer colored pictures. Finding a good one is the
problem. Read (on the book cover) about the author's training and
experience. Be skeptical of books written by writers or journalists (who
have often merely interviewed several people with a specific problem
to write a book). Look for explicitly self-help books, not manuals for
therapists. Choose material written by well trained therapists with
many years of experience dealing with the kind of problem you have.
I will not cite more books in this section (see chapter 9 for books
on self-understanding and understanding relationships). Instead, I
have carefully searched for 25 years for the best books and
summarized them throughout this book. I should, however, comment
about Kaam and Healy (1983) and Fuhriman, Barlow, and Wanlass
(1989) who advocate reading the great literary masterpieces for self-
knowledge and psychological insight. That is a popular idea. It may be
valid, but my reservation is that the masterpiece writer's fantasy may
not accurately reflect the "lawful" behavior or thoughts of ordinary
people. Fiction is a break from reality, not reality. For self-help, you
need to know reality, the truth about behavior that is applicable to
you. A novel's characters are, of course, made to seem real, but they
almost certainly do not behave like you (or anyone else) would or
should in the same circumstances. For example, authors may labor
hours crafting a clever two-minute conversation. In short, great
literature may only seem true-to-life but really not be realistic. On the
other hand, a honest biography or autobiography describes actual
"lawful," not imagined, human reactions to specific circumstances.
With this caution in mind, you can get bibliographies for specific
problems from Dr. Fuhriman, et al. (1989) at the University of Utah,
e.g. identity struggles, loneliness-intimacy, alienation, feeling
inadequate, death, freedom, meaninglessness and others. 
Videotapes and TV talk shows are potentially a fantastic source of
information about interpersonal problems and abnormal behavior, if
they, like books, were available when you need them. They deal with
interesting, real-life experiences and are often infused with current
scientific information and expert opinions. What an opportunity to
learn useful psychology! However, let's be realistic. There are usually
10 minutes or less of useful, factual information on each 1-hour show,
considering the commercials, an introduction, a lengthy case
presentation or two, brief advice from an expert, questions from the
audience or on the phone, continuous questions or comments by the
host/hostess who may challenge the expert, etc. And we only get one
expert's opinion. The talk show format entertains us and displays the
host and advertisement much better than it helps us cope. But, in
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