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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Can Self Help Books Really Help?

Attribution Some rights reserved by victoriapeckham
Thought for the day: You've changed my life...& I thank you for it!  JCP 
This was my 4th correspondence from a reader thanking me for how the book & or therapy with the book helped them.
I tried to get the words on this photo to be clear like the original, but couldn't & decided that perhaps it's a sign that sometimes the lines between psychology & self help are blurred. What do you think? Has a self help book helped you gain self understanding? How has it helped you change your life? Stand alone or with the help of a psychologist?
To be honest, I believe that some self help books can help, but often their ability to change people's lives is limited. Usually, I see them as adjuncts to therapy or a starting point to stimulate thought & start people on a path towards change in their lives. I often suggest that clients read a book that I believe will speed up the process in therapy. 
I wrote my book to teach people how to use techniques I have developed over the years in therapy. I encourage readers to consult with a therapist if in the process they need some additional help. The book & the challenge it presents grew into something which encompasses more than me & my private practice. I have been focusing on helping the nonprofits I feature in the book. If I helped just this one person, it was worth it to me to have written this book. I know that it has the power to do much more & want it to reach as many people as possible. Here's what transpired with one of the first readers of my book:
A little over two weeks ago I received an e-mail from someone who heard me on the first internet radio program interview that I did for the book (To listen to the podcast ). Here's what she wrote:
Jan 12, 2012 Subject: Guidance?
Dear Dr. Lavi, 
After reading The Wake Up And Dream Challenge, I've come to the conclusion that I really like the way you think & I'm wondering if you might be interested in helping me...
Why am I turning to you? Your experience dealing with trauma, your credentials,... & because I trust that you could be the person to help me achieve a better life not just for me, but for my family as well.
I'm...pretty far from Connecticut...& I'm not a big fan of 45 minute sessions--they make me crazy. Just when I start to feel like the session is going somewhere, the bell rings & be continued next week. I hated that feeling... I was holding my heart in my hand & I would always leave counseling feeling empty.
I totally respect you as a professional & I hope that somehow we will be able to work together.
      We talked on the phone & arranged a 2 & 1/2 hour session for 1/30/2012. JCP had to drive 2 hours each way to see me. She had read multiple self help books in the past & spoken to many therapists over the years, but always left feeling worse than when she came. JCP mind you, leads a successful professional life with many outstanding accomplishments, but there were skeletons in the closet that were holding her back. She never allowed herself to share some of these issues with anyone till two days ago. She feared that these trauma needed to be addressed to be more present with her husband & children. 
     We met. She trusted me & left the gift of her heart-felt history in my hands. Tears were shed leftover from years of pain. We barely touched upon the issues she is concerned with today & planned to meet again soon.
I received this e-mail from her yesterday:

Jan 31, 2012 Follow Up to yesterday's meeting

Hi Dr. Lavi,
Thank you again for taking me on as a new client. I knew deep inside that you were the right person for me.
I felt such a weight lifted off of my chest that yesterday's experience almost felt like a rebirth. But one other thing had happened that I thought was worth noting. I had jaw surgery years ago & when they went to pull the tube out of my nose, the interior of my nose never properly healed. I got accustomed to not fully being able to breath fresh air into my body. When I left you yesterday, I realized almost immediately that I could breath more freely.  I told myself it's only a matter of time that I will have build up back in my nose. I know this sounds crazy, but if you could imagine living life with a cotton ball in your left nostril--that's what was happening to me...until yesterday. 
After getting into my car, I had such a light feeling I almost didn't want to talk to anyone. I wanted to stay pure. I didn't want anyone to taint my conversation I had with you. I didn't even want to go to sleep because I was afraid I would wake up with the weight on my chest that I was also accustomed to--but no, you freed me & I feel better than I have in years!
So if you went into your profession because you truly wanted to make a difference, in the world & in the lives of people--consider your profession well chosen & consider your job well done.
You've change my life...& I thank you for it! 

Clients have shared similar feelings in the past & it has been more than enough for me, but since I have just started to publicize my book, I decided to ask permission to share JCP's e-mail.

Jan 31, 2012 RE: Follow Up to yesterday's meeting

Dear JCP,
        Thank you for telling me. I am so glad that I was able to start working with you. Just self help books alone cannot do what therapy does. I wish I had seen you years ago, but am glad we did meet. if I had not written the book, I would never have met you!
         I know that I can & have helped people throughout my career. Can I post parts of your e-mail on my blog with just your initials saying you read my book & came for an appointment? I want people to find my book so that I can help more people!...
                   It is amazing how the psyche & the body are interconnected.

Jan 31, 2012 RE: RE: follow up to yesterday's meeting

YES! You absolutely have my permission to use my initials. JCP
What do you think? Do self help books really help?


Tahlia Newland said...

Not only do self help books help people, I believe that fiction can too if it presents healthy role models. That's the idea behind my fiction anyway.

Barbara Lavi said...

I agree completely with you, Tahlia. Great fiction & movies (based on fiction) can help people. In addition to letting them know that they are not the only ones dealing with a specific life issue, but also can give ideas on how to overcome the difficulty. I often recommend books & movies to my clients, as well as self-help books. I'd love to hear more about your novels.


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