Does Self-Help Work?

Blog Home

Blog Archive




December 05, 2015 at 9:35 PM

I don’t really know. Self-help books have kind of a bad reputation, right? They’re like diets: you get the suckers to pay for each new one that comes along, and the sellers are the main beneficiaries.

Okay, I’m sure some legitimate self-help books are published, that provide useful information, and teach useful skills and attitudes. In my particular areas of interest, I can think of a few that were quite successful: One Two Three Magic, The Instinct To Heal, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Yeah, these (and some others) have done a lot of good. Phew.

It’s just that I’ve never wanted to join that club (of self-help authors), so I’m relieved to recall some honorable examples. Now that I’m coming out with a self-help book. Or at least the “beta” version – which means that if you send me comments, the book might get improved thereby, prior to final publication.

The book: Slaying the Dragon: Overcoming Life’s Challenges and Achieving Your Goals. I know everyone thinks their baby is the most beautiful, and I’m no exception. So never mind how great it is. What’s it for?

I’ve been training therapists in trauma-informed treatment for over 20 years now, and the therapists routinely report, post-training, that they are consistently getting much better, and quicker, results with their clients. The treatment model is good stuff, not to mention research-supported. This book teaches much of the same information to clients.

Can clients do their own therapy, to themselves? In my opinion: to some extent, yes, and to a greater extent, not very well. So why teach them the therapy approach?

Because information is power. And trauma-informed treatment is an empowerment approach. The trauma therapist is not trying to use secret techniques to cure patients. Rather, we want to work collaboratively with informed and empowered clients who are actively working towards their own goals, with our expert guidance. It is the client who does their work in therapy, as well as initiates positive changes in their life; only empowered people can do these things.

Also, the book does teach a fair bit that people really can do on their own. For example, the reader can:
∙    learn about the impact of trauma and loss
∙    understand their own life situation from a trauma perspective
∙    identify and commit to their goals
∙    stabilize themselves by avoiding high risk situations
∙    improve their self-management skills
∙    learn about trauma healing and its value
∙    learn how to identify a good therapist and work effectively with that therapist

For some people, some of these things will be done better with a therapist than on their own – even with the guidance of my wonderful book. I acknowledge that, and I don’t pretend that the book can substitute for therapy. In fact, I’m quite clear in the book that the primary action in therapy is the trauma/loss healing; and that the leading research-supported methods involve individual work with a specially trained therapist.

In short: yes, you can do some of it yourself. But I’m also trying to teach you what you can’t do on your own (or at least, not very easily), and how to get that from a therapist.

So does self help work? I don’t really know. But I hope to find out. And I hope to make it work.

If you read the book, or if you give it to a client, friend, or family member, I hope to hear from you (or the person you gave it to). I’d like to learn as much as I can about how people are using the book, and how their behavior changes – or doesn’t – as a result. Over the next several months, I’ll be seeking feedback to improve the book and make it work even better.

We’re offering the book in printed as well as electronic formats. If you are willing to provide feedback – immediately after reading the book, and again a month later – you can request the “feedback discount” when making the purchase. Thank you (in advance) for your contribution. The goal is to educate many people about trauma, loss, and healing, so that they can slay their own dragons and move towards achieving their life goals.


1534 hits

Please add a comment

Posted by Robin Shapiro on
Thanks for doing this. Now I don't have to. If you give me a discount, I'll give you my opinion.
Posted by Ricky Greenwald on
:^) When you go to order the book, you can check off your intention to give feedback, and that gives you the discount. I'll definitely look forward to yours!
Posted by Elise Bon-Rudin, Ed. D on
Sounds, good, Ricky. And seems to overlap or be much the same as the more collaborative forms of therapy (B. Duncan, Bohart & Tallman) -- not just the therapy "tasks" or "homework" (always disliked that term) -- done by some therapists for years, which often includes sharing core information about the approach, methods, etc. Best wishes on getting what you want from your big effort in this project.
Posted by Ricky Greenwald on
Elise, this treatment approach does incorporate the common factors, so in that way you are correct: lots of overlap. This treatment approach also goes beyond that with the specific factor of memory reconsolidation for trauma/loss healing. Thanks for your good wishes!
Posted by Lynette on
This can't come at a better time! I have exactly someone I think who can use some extra self help support while I work in parallel with her!
How do I get my copies?

Posted by Ricky Greenwald on
Thanks :^)
The link (also in the blog post) is: and then click on "Order."
Leave a Reply

(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)

Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.