Buy self-help books that focus on specific clearly described
types of problems and provide detailed explicit solutions to the
problems. As stated in 4, a few simple ideas or methods of
change will not solve all problems in all people. Likewise, be
cautious when an author explains almost all problems as having
the same causes, such as harsh parents, a hurt inner child,
addictive habits, codependency, unassertiveness, unconscious
motives, stress, past lives, etc.
Don't be swayed by slick writing and psychobabble. Vague
psychological phrases are to impress you, not to help you.
Examples: "get in touch with your feelings," "become motivated
to...," "show the real you," and "don't give off bad vibes."
These phrases don't give the detailed instructions and sound
strategies that one needs to cope with real problems. Likewise,
don't settle for just juicy, fascinating case descriptions or
emotional cheerleading. Sound self-help advice involves more
than well written literature; it must give you proven methods.
Most good self-help books are written by highly experienced
mental health professionals. Be skeptical of journalists,
novelists, professional writers, New Age writers, and other
people from other professions, such as CEO's, salesmen,
lawyers, and ministers. A writer who is a mystic, psychic, yoga,
etc. should sound an alarm. Also, anyone should be avoided,
professional or not, who is anti-scientific and claims to know
more than the current mental health professionals and
researchers. Of course, having a doctoral degree and 20 years
of therapy experience doesn't guarantee that you are wise.
Pay attention to the books or tapes recommended by mental
health professionals who are not being paid for their opinions.
Also, note a friend's comment that he/she profited from reading
something, especially if the change is obvious and lasting.
Please note the warning about certain self-help books given below.