Written By Samantha Carter

When’s the last time you read a good book? From managing stress to healing trauma, books can serve as powerful tools for self-reflection, growth, and healing. Whether you’re seeking practical advice, spiritual guidance, or personal insights, we’ve compiled a list of 20 therapist-approved book recommendations for mental wellness and healing.

1. “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk

“The Body Keeps the Score” is a classic psychotherapy book that transcends traditional publications. While it delves into the therapeutic approaches for healing trauma, it also draws on neuroscience, psychology, and somatic experiencing.

By exploring the complex interplay between trauma and the body, van der Kolk offers insights into how past experiences shape our present reality. Drawing on decades of clinical experience, van der Kolk appeals to a broad audience with his illuminating connections between mind, body, and healing.

2.”Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl

Based on his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl explores the human quest for meaning in the face of incredible adversity. While “Man’s Search for Meaning” does not provide the same kind of applicable guidance to trauma healing as “The Body Keeps the Score,” Frankl offers a powerful message of resilience and hope that may be perspective-shifting for people experiencing adversity of all kinds.

3. “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown

In this transformative book, author and social scientist Brené Brown explores the power of vulnerability and authenticity in cultivating a wholehearted life. Through personal anecdotes and research-backed insights, Brown invites readers to embrace their imperfections while cultivating a radical kind of self-compassion.

She explains how vulnerability is a strength to be celebrated, rather than a weakness to reject, calling on others to step into the truth of who they really are. “The Gifts of Imperfection” is a great read for anyone looking to increase their sense of self-love and acceptance.

4. “The Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness” by Kay Redfield Jamison

In “The Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness,” renowned psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison shares her personal journey with bipolar disorder in this candid and compelling memoir. Through vivid prose and introspective reflections, Jamison offers a poignant portrayal of living with mental illness in a way that is both raw and courageous.

5. “The Body Image Workbook: An Eight-Step Program for Learning to Like Your Looks” by Thomas F. Cash

I think a lot of people can relate to not loving every aspect of the way they look. After all, we live in a society that photoshops imperfections and encourages young women to reach unattainable physical ideals. That’s why books like “The Body Image Workbook” can be really helpful.

This practical workbook offers a step-by-step approach to improving body image and self-esteem. Through cognitive-behavioral techniques and experiential exercises, readers learn to challenge negative beliefs and cultivate a positive body image.

6.”Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma” by Peter A. Levine

Drawing on principles of somatic experiencing, Peter Levine offers a revolutionary approach to healing trauma in “Walking the Tiger: Healing Trauma.” Through a combination of mindfulness, body awareness, and gentle movement practices, Levine guides readers on a journey toward healing and wholeness.

7. “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times” by Pema Chödrön

Buddhist nun and teacher Pema Chödrön offers timeless wisdom for navigating life’s challenges through grace and resilience. With compassionate insights and practical teachings, Chödrön encourages readers to embrace uncertainty and find peace amidst turmoil. While it is certainly not easy to do, the author explains to readers the benefits of undergoing this kind of radical surrender with practical tips on how to do so.

8. “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” by Julia Cameron

In this beloved classic, Julia Cameron takes readers on a transformative journey to unlock creativity and self-expression. Through a series of exercises and reflections, readers learn to overcome creative blocks and tap into their innate creativity to improve mental wellness and illuminate a deeper sense of meaning.

9. “The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun” by Gretchen Rubin

In “The Happiness Project,” Gretchen Rubin chronicles her year-long quest for happiness in this engaging and insightful read. Through practical experiments and personal anecdotes, Rubin hilariously explores the science of happiness while offering actionable strategies for living a more fulfilling life.

10. “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” by Eckhart Tolle

Spiritual teacher and author Eckhart Tolle offers profound awareness into the nature of consciousness and the power of presence in his literary work “The Power of Now.” Through simple and thoughtful teachings, Tolle invites readers to transcend egoic thinking and awaken to the eternal Now.

11. “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz

Drawing on ancient Toltec wisdom, Don Miguel Ruiz offers four simple yet powerful agreements for living a life of freedom and authenticity. Through practical teachings and perception-bending anecdotes, Ruiz guides readers on a journey toward personal transformation and liberation.

12. “The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self” by Alice Miller

In this influential work, psychoanalyst Alice Miller explores the impact of childhood trauma on adult identity and relationships. Through case studies and clinical insights, Miller expounds on the dynamics of emotional repression while offering a path forward to healing and self-discovery. For any adult with an ACE score, this is a must read.

13. “The CBT Toolbox: A Workbook for Clients and Clinicians” by Jeffrey Riggenbach

“The CBT Toolbox” is a comprehensive workbook that offers practical tools and exercises for applying cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques to everyday life. With easy-to-follow worksheets and strategies, readers can learn to challenge negative thinking, better manage their emotions, and overcome lifelong obstacles to improve their overall mental well-being. While not necessary, this is a great resource for therapists and clients to use throughout their psychotherapy sessions together.

14. “Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN” by Tara Brach

Renowned meditation teacher Tara Brach offers a compassionate approach to healing and self-acceptance in their transformative book, “Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN.” Through the practice of recognizing, allowing, investigating, and nurturing (aka: “RAIN”), Brach guides readers on a journey to life-changing self-love and acceptance.

15. “It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle” by Mark Wolynn

In “It Didn’t Start with You,” Mark Wolynn explores the concept of inherited family trauma and its impact on individual well-being. Through case studies and therapeutic insights, Wolynn teaches readers how to break free from the legacy of generational trauma by healing the things previous generations were not able to release.

16. “The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression” by Andrew Solomon

Andrew Solomon offers a comprehensive exploration of depression in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression.” Through personal narratives and scientific research, Solomon sheds light on the complex nature of depression while offering hope for recovery and resilience.

17. “The Trauma of Everyday Life” by Mark Epstein

Drawing on Buddhist philosophy and psychoanalytic theory, Mark Epstein explores the nature of trauma and suffering in everyday life. Through provocative findings and practical wisdom, Epstein offers a path toward healing and awakening in this psycho-spiritual fusion.

18. “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed” by Lori Gottlieb

Therapist Lori Gottlieb takes a behind-the-scenes look at therapy in her page-turning book “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed.” Through candid anecdotes and reflections, Gottlieb explores the complexities of human relationships and the transformative power of therapy for all people.

19. “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity” by Nadine Burke Harris

Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explores the impact of childhood trauma on lifelong health in her eye-opening book, “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effect of Childhood Adversity.” Through research and personal stories, Harris outlines a groundbreaking approach to healing the long-term effects of adverse childhood experiences to offer hope and support for those looking to tend to childhood wounds.

20. “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig

In his candid and heartfelt memoir, “Reasons to Stay Alive,” Matt Haig shares his personal journey with depression and anxiety. Through humor and honesty, Haig offers insights into the challenges of mental illness while offering resilience and hope to his readers.

Feed Your Mind With the Gift of Knowledge and Insight

Not only do these 20 book recommendations offer valuable insights, practical tools, and transformative wisdom for promoting mental wellness and healing, but they also provide readers with a chance to soak up the gift of knowledge through differing perspectives. Whether or not you agree with what you read, understanding different approaches will help you to become a more well-rounded individual with a greater capacity to show compassion to yourself and others.

To get the most out of self-help literature, it’s best to work with a licensed therapist to discuss any questions, concerns, or feelings that may arise while reading. It’s important to remember you’re not alone and that you also don’t have to do this alone. Also, be gentle with yourself as you work through these kinds of books and make sure to split up your serious reading with some uplifting and humorous books if that helps.

Processing Powerful Reads

While reading a great self-help book can have a profound impact on our perspective and outlook, it can also sometimes be a lot to process. There may be aspects of the text we don’t understand or powerful emotions that are elicited as a response to the literature. If you want to get more out of your reading experience, you might want to consider working with a therapist.

A well-trained therapist can not only help you better understand books about trauma, the emotional landscape, and healing, but they can also help guide you toward practical takeaways and actionable steps to apply to your everyday life.

At Plus by APN, we work with a variety of highly skilled therapists who help clients achieve wellness through a holistic mental health approach. Our counselors can help you reach greater levels of understanding and growth on your personal quest for self-improvement. For a free consultation, reach out to us by calling 424.644.6486 or filling out the online contact form today.