Self-help books have helped millions of people to transform their lives through building awareness and by providing tips for activating one’s will and agency.
My first self-help book – The Road Less Travelled by Scott Peck – was one of the catalysts for my own transformational journey and recovery from addiction and disordered eating. 20 years later, it is one of many great books that I find myself recommending to clients again and again!
If you enter any therapist’s office, you will undoubtedly find a great bookshelf. In this blog post, 25 counsellors and psychotherapists from around the globe share 25 life-changing books that helped them and their clients to heal and grow.
Wherever You Go There You Are is an amazing concept in itself and this book invites us into a new way of living so that we can truly be wherever we are. It offers something for everyone, from the beginner to the more experienced practitioner of mindfulness.
The first part of the book introduces us to the present moment and foundational ideas of mindfulness, the second speaks to the practice of mindfulness and provides full scripts to integrate it immediately and the third part extends the practice of mindfulness into the spirit of everyday life.
I love how many of the chapters end with a ‘try’ section so that we are supported to apply it directly in our own life. This book has been a life changer for me and is the best book I have found on understanding and incorporating mindfulness into my life. Ellie Hodges, Counsellor & Coach, Adelaide, Australia.
by Lucia Capacchione Ph.D.
This book is an essential resource for anyone wanting to do inner child work and strengthen the Self.
Recovery of Your Inner Child provides structured exercises in creative expression and in this book we learn how to meet, accept, nurture and celebrate our inner child. After completing only a couple of chapters, I found inner resources that have enhanced both my psychotherapy practice and personal life. Terrye Vaughn, Expressive Arts Therapist, Grad.Dip. Counselling, Sydney, Australia.
by Dr David Beales and Helen Whitten
This is a solidly useful book. There is a lot of practical advice to help us to support ourselves when we are going through a difficult time.
The thing I most value about this book is the way the authors really understand that when it comes to emotions, there cannot be separation between mind and body: emotions are always both physical and mental.
To me, this book is a bit like a box of dozens of colourful crayons – each ‘crayon’ being a technique or idea which we might want to try out and blend as we gradually create a unique map of our own personal journey of emotional healing. Emma Cameron, Integrative Arts Psychotherapist, Essex, UK
by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.
This book highlights the ways that self-compassion can lead to greater happiness, health and success. Dr. Neff has extensively researched the benefits of being gentle, kind, and forgiving with ourselves and shows us how self-criticism fails us.
I enjoyed Dr. Neff’s honest and personal stories; they reminded me that we all make mistakes and deserve forgiveness and compassion. I notice that many of my clients are plagued with negative self-talk and self-defeating thoughts and they beat themselves up over all sorts of things without even realizing they are doing it. This book contains some great exercises for building self-compassion – the exercises help to gain awareness and teach how to make changes.
I have recommended this book to many clients and they have all found it relevant and easy to read. Sharon Martin, LCSW San Jose, CA.
by Brenda Shoshanna
Fearless helps us to develop practical skills for overcoming fear in life. This book is practical, grounded and full of wisdom and practical tips on fear and how we can overcome its debilitating grip. Brenda combines the best of East and West to show us how we can be courageous – helping us to be more authentic, accepting, loving as well as how we can have more fulfilling relationships.
For me, this book was immensely helpful as I could see where I was letting fear take over, such as being afraid to really be myself for fear that people wouldn’t like certain aspects of me. I learnt that we can all relate to wearing that mask of protection and hiding, and that the mask was actually stopping me from having a deeper connection to others – the opposite of what I wanted. In Fearless, I guarantee that you will find a few gems of wisdom (and exercises) that will help you to positively transform your life and your relationships. Selina Clare, Psychotherapist & Ecotherapist. BA, MPsychotherapy (1st Class Hons).
In the folk tale which the book is based on, a young man frees a wild and dangerous seeming giant called Iron John, who becomes his ally and mentor. With Iron John’s help, the young man endures poverty, protects the kingdom, and eventually wins the hand of the princess, to become king.
It’s a nice tale, well told and well analysed from a Jungian perspective, but why out of all the psychological books I’ve read, am I particularly recommending it to you? Firstly: it’s insights on the Male Mother’s (read mentor, if that seems too strange) irreplaceable role, and its effect on male identity, will strike a chord with all men. Men have got lots to learn from women, but there are some things they need to learn from other men. Second: this book is a guide for finding potency and wildness that is not abusive towards or rejecting of women or femininity. Third: because as a poet Bly really can write.
This book will capture your imagination in ways that other books trying to address these topics won’t. As a non-macho, thinking man, this book helped me to like men more, and it helped me to feel more independent and more intimate in my relationship with my partner.
Iron John is essential reading for men and anyone who wants to understand them – it is a classic, powerful, and very readable book. Michael Apathy, Psychotherapist & Counsellor, BA, MHsc, Sydney CBD, Australia.
This book is about the journey from being at war to being at peace. The intention is to look into ourselves and determine how we are approaching our interactions with those around us; if we are able to see them as the people that they are with struggles and pain or if we see them merely as obstructions that get in our way.
Anatomy of Peace is amazing because it highlights those areas that are difficult to put into words at times as shape is given to the struggles that everyone has. This helps me to realize when I am no longer being my best self and what that might look like when I interact with others.
This book is particularly useful for people who are angry – it shows them how to re-examine what it is that they are angry at and how to then move to a more peaceful existence. Matt Nelson, MS LMFT-intern, Las Vegas, NV
This book provides a gentle, effective and hands-on approach to how we can change our relationship with food and our body. Like all good mindfulness books, the emphasis is on actually doing mindfulness rather than reading about the theory.
There are pages and pages of useful exercises, but one of my favourites is “A Mindful Chocolate Meditation”. Albers believes that rather than cutting out particular foods, like chocolate, we should aim to eat food mindfully, which in turn will help us to eat in moderation.
A refreshing and welcomed alternative to the ever-growing dieting culture. Dr Jacqueline Baulch, Melbourne, Australia.
When someone discovers that the person they loved and trusted most in the world is hiding a secret life as a sex addict, the result can be devastating. Facing that heartbreak is what this book is all about. It weaves real life stories with practical therapeutic advice and specific tasks that gently educate, empower, and guide the partner of the the person suffering with sex addiction through a process of recovery.
This book is so incredibly accessible. It has amazing interventions that can be done at home with/or integrated into a client’s therapy process. The book is respectful, well-written, and transformational. This book was written by Mari A. Lee, LMFT and her co-authors who are experienced Marriage and Family Therapists and Certified Sex Addiction Therapists, as well as former partners of sex addicts.
Partners of people suffering with sex addiction need support to work through the trauma of betrayal. Facing Heartbreak is chock full of practical tools that are incredibly helpful in supporting the healing journey. Additionally, it is very important that they feel validated and honored and this workbook and information serves to help support, connect and validate the partner’s trauma while offering hopeful steps forward. Miranda Palmer, LMFT, Seattle, WA.
This amazing book teaches us how to identity our negative thought patterns and plug into more reasonable, rational thoughts. It allowed me to really hone in on thought patterns that weren’t useful and many of my clients are thrilled with the simplicity of it. It shows us that sometimes it REALLY IS that easy to become aware of and change our thoughts! Traci W. Lowenthal, Psy.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist, CA.
The book is about how to get more love, support, and companionship in our intimate relationships.
What I loved about it was the stories from Dr Johnson’s practice, which demonstrate practically how to nurture, protect and grow our relationships. It is really useful because it blends the best research findings about what works to improve better communication between couples, with a writing style that is practical and easy to read. Marg Ryan, Relationship Counsellor, Psychotherapist, BArts. MBusPsych. ClinDipSomPsych, Melbourne, Australia.
This book gives women survivors a context for their experience, what to expect in the phases of healing, practical exercises to help with healing, and stories of fellow survivors to let them know that they are not alone.
The Courage to Heal and the accompanying workbooks also provide guidance & support to help those close to survivors. The 20th anniversary addition has been updated and includes sections on Trauma and the Brain, as well as reassuring accounts of long-term survivors. The Courage to Heal has been an invaluable resource to every woman survivor of child sexual abuse that I have known — and there are many. Renee Beck, LMFT, Oakland, CA.
More and more couples are spending time apart due to long commutes or frequent business travel. This book is a resource for keeping those relationships strong. The first half is made up of interviews with people in a variety of super commuter relationships. The second half contains advice and tips for staying connected, the practical parts of navigating a super commute, and mottos for managing stress and overwhelm.
This book takes fresh look at couples in modern times and addresses the changing needs of couples staying connected in the fast-changing workforce and technological age. It’s a valuable resource not only for couples who super commute, but also for therapists who help couples deal with this growing trend. The chapters are short so it’s a quick read but full of useful information.
It provides readers with important information, super commuter couples’ experiences, and helpful resources to assist couples in being connecting despite not a lot of time together physically. It’s also great information for couples who find demands of everyday life taking time away from them being together. Deb Hennen-Bergman, M.A., LMFT, Minneapolis, MN.
The front of the book encapsulates the benefits of the book: “overcome depression, conquer anxiety and enjoy greater intimacy”.
This is the basic book I recommend to people who are suffering with anxiety, depression and who may have limited knowledge about thinking patterns, managing moods, dealing with anxiety and communicating. It is designed to provide psycho-education, while at the same time giving an opportunity to practice the skills taught through activities and assignments to complete. It breaks everything down, so it is easy to understand.
What I love about the book is how much my clients relate to it. They read it and say things like “Oh I do this” or “I used all-or-nothing thinking today”. Having my clients read this book helps to accelerate their therapy because they are now doing their work inside the session and outside. Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP, NCC, Pembroke Pines, Florida.
In Eating in the Light of the Moon (now available as an online retreat), the author discusses a range of issues related to body image and disordered eating through the use of myths and storytelling. It’s hard to articulate how powerful the chapters are but trust me – review after review also states similar sentiments! This is the best book out there for women to explore their relationship with their body and food. I found myself highlighting passage after passage that resonated with conversations I’ve had with clients.
I have recommended this book to many who have come to see me to work on perfectionism, negative body image, and negative relationships with food. Several have said “this book changed my life.” Megan Bearce, LMFT, Minneapolis, MN
In this wise and warmly written book, Harriet shares how we can develop a clear and authentic voice to define a clear position with those we love and are close too. This book has guided me towards how to behave with integrity and calmly navigate the difficult patches in my most important relationships, while also honouring my relationship with myself. Lerner gives instruction on how to have a clear but also flexible bottom line and how to respect our own intuition in relating to others.
I have often recommended this book as a resource in couple’s therapy as well as to couples who are undergoing marital separation and relationship breakdown. It helps them to have a clearer understanding of themselves in the context of what they are experiencing in their relationship, and their own reactions to those experiences. My clients have often commented that this book has saved them from saying that which they would later regret. They understand more fully their own reactivity under relationship stress and are able to move towards a more healthy and grounded response.
I cannot recommend The Dance of Connection enough! Marcia Watts, Counsellor & Psychotherapist, MCouns, B. Soc. Sci.
Daring Greatly shares Brown’s grounded theory research on vulnerability, imperfection, shame, and wholeheartedness. Throughout the book, she offers stories from real life around messages and experiences that have kept people feeling small and disconnected. She also unpacks examples of how people are embracing vulnerability to live more fully and courageously in their jobs, relationships, communities, and/or as parents.
Daring Greatly and Brown’s shame resilience model has rocked my world personally and professionally in profound ways. For the past 2 years, I have tried to live my life by daring with clients, supervisees, consultantees, in personal relationships and walking my talk.
Many of my clients have been to 5-20 years of therapy, coaching or spiritual work and read most self-help books and Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen or Elephant Journal articles before coming to see me. No matter how much time, money or energy they have spent, they have felt alone in their struggle, heartbreak, failures, perfectionism, shame or stuckness. I recommend Daring Greatly because it lets them know that they are not alone in their struggles. They can also begin to feel unstuck by practicing self-compassion and reaching out for empathy outlined in the book. This opens the keys to feeling more connected and knowing that they matter, belong, and are lovable. Amy Tatsumi, MA, LPC, ATR-BC Daring Way™ Certified Facilitator-Consultant, Washington, DC.
Yalom describes this book, as “open letter to a new generation of therapists and patients”.
He explores the therapist-patient relationships, the therapeutic process, content, different issues in therapy and the value of dreams.
For anyone who is in – or thinking of entering therapy – it provides a depth of understanding about what the psychotherapy process is all about, how therapy works, that we are not alone on our travels and how therapy is a unique journey for each of us. Julie Wooster, Counsellor, Sydney, Australia.
Psychosynthesis psychotherapist, Pierro Ferrucci’s latest book on crisis and resilience, “Your Inner Will”, continues in the current tradition of transpersonal psychology by taking a unique approach to post traumatic stress development and resolution from a soul’s perspective.
Providing a unique map of soul trauma, Ferrucci develops a map of the rocky terrain of crisis and resolution, with the hope of soul restoration. The key to the map is that it lets us know that we are not alone, even though we may feel temporarily lost.
This book brings light and hope, and gives purpose, meaning and value to the experience of a dark night of the soul. A great read and an excellent resource. Bernadette Devine, Psychosynthesis Psychotherapist, Buckinghamshire & London, UK
This is Bradshaw’s bestselling book looking at shame. He distinguishes between toxic shame, which is when we take on shame as an identity and healthy shame which is needed for society to function.
I first read this book in 2006 and loved Bradshaw sharing his own experience of shame as a recovering alcoholic and an abuse survivor.
Healing the Shame is written in an accessible way and can help us to understand and make sense of our feelings and behaviour relating to issues of abuse, addiction, abandonment, co-dependency and trauma through learning about the childhood roots of our adult shame. Laura Hollywood, Counsellor, BSc, Dip Couns., London, England, UK.
Facing the Shadow is an innovative workbook that helps readers begin meaningful recovery from an often misunderstood addiction. This book guides us through the first seven tasks in Dr. Patrick Carnes’ researched-based thirty-task model of treatment—the most respected therapy model available for treating people with suffering with sex addiction.
As a sex, porn and love addiction therapist, the primary reason I use this book is to support hope, recovery and focused non-shaming and safe healing in the recovering sex addicts I work with.
My clients share that having a workbook to support their healing with practical tools and real life examples is incredibly helpful in starting the healing journey. Additionally, this information serves to help build insight into many other aspects of life and relationships, while offering hopeful steps forward. Mari A. Lee, LMFT, CSAT-S, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist & CSAT-S Supervisor, Glendora, California
by Brené Brown
The Gifts of Imperfection is separated into different guideposts to help us learn how to let go of who we thought we had to be, and to learn a new way to be our true selves – without the masks and perfectionism.
Brené ‘s work came into my life as I was considering a major career change; I had burned out in corporate America. This book was like a permission slip to let go of all of the behaviors of the past and the freedom to finally be the person I wanted to be – when I grew up, lol (I’m 51 years old). I enjoy my life so much more now and no longer feel the need to be someone I am not. There truly are gifts in imperfections and when we can learn to accept ours, it’s easier to accept others as well 🙂
I like how Brené presents the information in a fun, friendly, Texas fashion! Linda MacIsaac, MS, LPC Intern, Aransas Pass, Texas
Hellinger’s book uses constellation work to make visible dynamics operating in the family system and how entanglements negatively impact what he describes as the natural flow of love. This flow according to Hellinger occurs when the natural order within the family is in harmony, which means all members have taken their rightful place and are acknowledged in that system.
I love how fearlessly Hellinger names the reality of each particular system; the pain, consequences and joy all equally without judgment. This was what changed my life, I saw my system in light of this and it allowed me a freedom I had never felt before even though it came with pain. I had respect for the order and let go of the struggle, welcomed the pain and also the joy and wonderful things happened within my marriage and for my family.
We can use constellation work to acknowledge and make visible our whole field of influence. This strengthens us and shows us that healing can occur at a much deeper level. Kylie Beattie, Managing Director Nungkari Treatment Centre for Addiction, Disordered Eating & Mood Disorders, Byron Bay
This book is great for young people. It does a wonderful job illustrating what various moods can look like and it helps to normalize behaviors through the rhymes. Today I feel silly shows the reader that everyone has moods that can change – day by day – based on various situations.
In addition, there is a feelings wheel at the back of the book where kids get asked to show how they are feeling today. Generally, I use this book as a jumping off point to help children understand that they are not alone and that other kids, such as the main character in the book, may feel similar to how they feel. Liz Morrison, LCSW, New York, NY.
Along with Attachment-Focused Parenting: Effective Strategies to Care for Children, No Drama Discipline is my new go-to self-help book recommendation for parents. Having been to the International Childhood Trauma Conference earlier this year to see Dan Siegel live, as well as being a mum through the local permanent care/adoption program, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book!
Attachment theory as the basis for parenting has been used for many years to help build connection in families who have found each other through foster care and adoption – Dan Siegel now brings this way of parenting into the mainstream. This is vitally important as there is a plethora of research emerging to back up the fact that disturbances in our early childhood attachment relationships contribute to a multitude of other concerns, disorders and impact all future relationships with self and others.
Much like with Hughes work, Siegel suggests a framework of connection before correction. Punishment such as time out – is out (because it leaves children feeling dysregulated) and time in – is in (because it creates connection and relationship)!
This book shows us how to discipline in a calm, loving, nourishing and empathic way – which in turn deepens the relationship and provides the child with tools for building emotional intelligence. Jodie Gale, Therapeutic Counsellor, Soul-Centred Life-Coach & Psychotherapist (Blog Author).
Sydney Counsellor, Soul-Centred Life-Coach and Psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie is also available for Private Practice Consultations for Therapists.
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The Inner critic subpersonality (superego) is that critical inner voice that judges, attacks, demeans and beats us up. It usually stems from our childhood through:
-not being seen or heard
-a lack of emotional, psychological and spiritual support
-experiencing critical parents or high parental expectations
-pejorative cultural, religious and societal rules
The inner critic keeps us stuck in shame, low self-worth and maintaining cycles of addiction, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and unhealthy relationships. Living with a tyrannical, punitive and harsh voice inside our heads can be debilitating – it stops us from achieving growth and living life to our full potential.
By cultivating loving kindness and self-compassion, we can begin to silence the inner critic.
In psychosynthesis, the primary modality that I use in my clinical work, cultivating goodwill towards self and others is an essential part of the therapeutic process towards recovery, healing and overall well-being.
In the Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, Christopher Germer, PhD confirms this by stating, “self-compassion is the practice of repeatedly evoking good will toward ourselves especially when we’re suffering—cultivating the same desire that all living beings have to live happily and free from suffering.” He also writes that “mindful self-compassion can be learned by anyone.”
Compassion researcher and expert, Dr. Kristin Neff advises that there are three elements of self-compassion:
– “Self-kindness: showing warmth and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.
– Common humanity: self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.
– Mindfulness: the willingness to observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity and without judgment, so that they are held in mindful awareness.”
1. Practise Roberto Assagioli’s Evocative Word Technique using self-compassion as the seed word
2. Practise this Self-Compassion Break by Dr. Kristin Neff
Think of a situation in your life that is difficult, that is causing you stress.
Call the situation to mind, and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body.
Now, say to yourself:
This is a moment of suffering.
Other options include: This hurts. Ouch. This is stress.
Suffering in a part of life.
That’s common humanity.
Other options include: Other people feel this way. I’m not alone. We all struggle in our lives.
Now, put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest.
Or adopt the soothing touch you discovered felt right for you. Say to yourself:
May I be kind to myself.
You can also ask yourself, “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?”
Is there a phrase that speaks to you in your particular situation, such as: May I give myself the compassion that I need. May I learn to accept myself as I am. May I forgive myself. May I be strong. May I be patient.
This practice can be used any time of day or night, and will help you remember to evoke the three aspects of self-compassion when you need it most.
3. Take the Brené Brown ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ E-Course – letting go of self-judgement and cultivating self-compassion is a big part of this art journaling course. Sign up and then follow my #OLCBreneCourse on Pinterest.
4. Find a therapist in your area who is able to show acceptance, kindness, altruistic love, compassion and empathy – the lived experience of receiving these qualities through the therapeutic relationship will help to silence the inner critic.
Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist, Eating Psychology Specialist + Transformational Life-Coach, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being.
Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She is a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist practising in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
Guest blog by Damian Grainer, UK Addiction Specialist, Therapeutic Counsellor, Coach, Trainer and the Founder & Director of Emerging Horizons.
“You cannot transmit wisdom and insight to another person. The seed is already there. A good teacher touches the seed, allowing it to wake up, to sprout, and to grow.” Thich Nhat Hanh.
For me the starting point for recovery is hope, not abstinence. I see it as my job, and that of any counsellor or psychotherapist, to hold hope for the individual seeking recovery, until it can be fully internalised and experienced by the individual, whose current perception of themselves is often one of failure, helplessness and shame. Hope can be nurtured by exposure to success – people who have done it themselves and where recovery is visable.
Psychosynthesis psychology has a wonderful concept known as bifocal vision. Bifocal vision involves seeing both the being – with emerging purpose and immense potential – and also the person as they present in the here and now, with their current struggles and difficulties.
Far too often, I find practitioners who have set “glass ceilings” for their clients, often citing the client’s complexities of need or lack of motivation as the reasons why they cannot progress any further. If there is no hope, there is no motivation. If there is no vision, no purpose and no meaning, then sustained motivation is unlikely. There is growing evidence of the significant impact that the therapist’s own expectations have on efficacy of interventions and this is particularly so in addictions.
“If you treat an individual as he is, he will stay as he is, but if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.” Goethe.
A concept that has gained great ground over the last few years is that of ‘recovery capital’; a term used to describe the collection of personal, social and community resources that are available to individuals to help start and sustain recovery journeys. It is a way of looking at the strengths and assets that individuals have. For example:
I get up in the morning because I have to, I have a vested interest in my work and my family – this is part of my capital. Relationships and community ties are some of the things that help me to manage and adapt to adversity and the unexpected.
If the individual suffering with addiction had no resources, no social buy in, why would they give up the one thing that in the short term comforts them and provides them with some purpose or connection?
“If what we focus on is magnified by our attention, we want to be sure we are magnifying something worthy.” Sue Annis Hammond.
Whilst it is important to acknowledge someone’s suffering with attention and compassion – of equal, if not greater importance, is to recognise their qualities, strengths and their gifts to the world. This is especially pertinent when the individual is highly self-critical, may lack confidence or is trying to find evidence to confirm their self-limiting view of themselves and the world.
The New Economics Foundation (NEF) was commissioned to develop a set of evidence-based actions to improve personal wellbeing. The NEF completed a large scale analysis of research on wellbeing, with a particular focus on ‘Positive Psychology’. Having come up with a list of the key common findings, they were tasked with reducing these down to a simple and workable message that would support people to adopt behaviours that promote wellbeing, in a similar way that the public health message of ‘5 a day’ aims to encourage healthier eating.
This work led to the development of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing.
What has been interesting is how quickly this has been adopted by the growing recovery movement in the UK; both mental health & addictions. Last week I was training a recovery coach, who self-managed his own recovery, exclusively using the 5TWB, monitoring his life around these 5 core behaviours.
Holt Lundstad et al (2010) showed that having supportive relationships was a bigger predictor in decreasing mortality than giving up smoking. The importance of authentic relationships (quantity and quality) is essential to wellbeing. It is especially important for individuals addressing an addiction where their social needs and identity may be intimately linked to the culture of addiction they have lived in – with its rituals, beliefs, roles and relational networks.
Connecting or being connected works on a multiplicity of levels and is both intra (within) and interpersonal (between). For the person suffering with addiction, it is about building or utilising existing networks of support, be that through family, friends, peers, mutual aid groups, the wider recovery community, community groups and associations. It is also about overcoming the possible barriers to relationship and connection: shame, stigma, attachment difficulties, limiting core beliefs, issues of trust, pride and social competence.
For the counsellor and psychotherapist, ‘connect’, is as much about how they connect to the client as to how they are connected in their own lives. I believe that the more connected we are, the more likely we are to create the conditions where the client is empowered or supported to establish new and/or rebuild existing connections that support them in their chosen life journey.
Having a sense of autonomy is also important in overcoming addiction. Paradoxically the greater our sense of belonging, the greater our sense of autonomy is likely to be. Because connection is so important, I would suggest that a more proactive approach to working with the client’s network of support is called for. Examples of this would include incorporating social behaviour network therapy and/or systemic therapy as standard practice in addiction treatment along with interpersonal effectiveness skills.
“…the ability to be aware of your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and actions – in the present moment – without judging or criticising yourself and your experience.” Jon Kabat-Zinn.
From a holistic perspective, it goes without saying that diet and physical activity play a key part in wellbeing and addiction recovery. For me, the application of mindfulness based psychologies and teaching to support the maintenance of recovery, resilience and wellbeing is also key and should now be the norm and a definite in any credible relapse prevention program.
In addition to mindfulness training, a willingness and ability to appreciate beauty and experience moments of awe – which often connect us to a deeper sense of who we are – also supports and enriches the recovery process.
Finally, it is worth noting the significance of reframing recovery as a “learning process” with opportunities to gain mastery over new skills, do what is important and experience greater autonomy with plenty of opportunities to give back and engage in altruistic activities.
Damian Grainer (MA. Dip. Couns) is trained in psychosynthesis psychology, therapeutic counselling, life and performance coaching, substance misuse, management and engineering. He has worked across a range of substance misuse and mental health services; spanning areas such as engagement, medical and non-medical community treatment and residential rehabilitation. With particular expertise in change management and leadership, Damian has a strong track record in the implementation and turnaround of large, recovery orientated, integrated substance misuse services and treatment systems. He has special interests in group work, mutual aid, conflict resolution, mindfulness based practices to support healing and wellbeing and community development and regeneration. Damian is passionate about helping others to connect with their values, meaning and purpose and translating this into action.
The team at Emerging Horizons offer cutting edge recovery solutions underpinned by a vigorous commitment to supporting the development of world-class recovery support services in the UK. They have delivered training to some of the largest voluntary sector provider agencies in the UK as well HM Prison Services, Probation Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts.
Connect with Emerging Horizons on Facebook for the latest in addiction and well-being news.
Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Jodie is the author of Addiction: A Psychospiritual Perspective, featured in CAPA Quarterly. She has post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating addiction recovery and eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
One of my favourite mentors in the field of food, weight and body image issues is Geneen Roth, author of Breaking Free From Emotional Eating, When Food is Love, Feeding the Hungry Heart, When You Eat at the Refrigerator Pull Up a Chair, Women, Food & God and Lost & Found.
In my private practice as a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist, I have worked with 100s of women from all walks of life; many of them have suffered with food, dieting, weight and body image issues. Alongside therapy, I often recommend this Raisin, Chip & Chocolate exercise to learn how to eat mindfully by Geneen Roth featured on Oprah.com.
As with any psychological exercise /visualisation, this exercise can evoke strong feelings. Please make sure you seek appropriate support if you are suffering with disordered eating/ an eating disorder.
Jodie is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Her experience includes a Master’s thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’, (you can read an excerpt here), post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’, work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation) and Women’s Health NSW. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
In the midst of the busyness of life, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by an excessive amount of information and too much stuff.
Even though we are spending more time supposedly ‘connecting’, in fact, many of us feel more disconnected from our authentic, true and spiritual selves than ever before.
For some of us, there is an inability to be with ourselves without something or someone to constantly distract or entertain us. For others, the life energy increasingly becomes immobilized by concerns such as codependency and relationship issues, weight and eating problems, addictions, anxiety, fatigue, depression and major health crises.
The Self calls us to wake up to its presence in mysterious ways. It may call us to awaken to our true nature through the aforementioned life crises. Alternatively, we may have a peak experience which calls us to awaken to a new way of living and being. Both ends of the spectrum can shine the light on our growing sense of disconnection and unease.
One way that we can heal our suffering is by reconnecting and becoming present to what is. It is tempting to get busy booking expensive holidays or spiritual retreats in the hope that we can slow down and be. How often though do we return home with the post holiday blues and feel as though we need another holiday?
By creating a sacred space, we can retreat close by on a daily basis, even ground our retreat and spiritual experiences from far away places. Ultimately we are able to create a space whereby we can connect with our own sacredness and the Divine within.
A sacred space is a place to:
Spend time journaling, in prayer, meditation or reflection before and during the creation of the sacred space. Here are some possible reflections:
A sacred space might be a quiet spot in the garden or a homemade area with or without an altar. For example:
There is no need to rush out and buy expensive mats, buddhas or other artifacts. Many of the elements in my sacred space I have collected over time at women’s retreats and workshops. Creating a sacred space is about listening to that quiet voice inside. The following elements are often found in a sacred space:
For those who have children, consider creating a space where they can play quietly, read or listen to audio books/music. Creating a quiet time or reading nook is a great idea for little ones. Keep loud toys in a designated play area and soft toys, books, puzzles, dolls’ house, audio books, guided meditations and visualizations near the quiet time nook. Children who learn mindfulness and meditation skills at an early age have higher self-esteem, a better attention span and live healthier and happier lives.
We don’t need to spend hours in our sacred space to experience the benefits. Even a few minutes of quiet time can help us to build a more balanced relationship with our body, feelings, mind, sexuality and spirituality. Practising mindfulness and meditation in a sacred space can have the following benefits:
Check out my Pinterest page for more inspiration and beautiful images of other sacred spaces.
Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She is a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist practising in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
As a therapeutic counsellor, soul-centred life-coach and psychotherapist specialising in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being – there are many books that I recommend over and over again. Many are listed in my bookstore and on my Pinterest page but here are my top 10 recommendations to help women find change as well as adding depth and meaning to their lives.
by Brené Brown
Having taken part in The Gifts of Imperfection Art Journaling Course with Brené Brown – this is my new favourite go-to book for women. Her research focuses on shame, vulnerability, authenticity and belonging. If you have a relentless inner perfectionist and never quite feel enough – this book is for you! You will come away chanting, ‘I’m imperfect and I’m enough. Brené is a wonderful storyteller and that makes this an easy read.
by Dr Christinane Northrup
“By the wisdom of the body I mean that we must learn to trust that the symptoms in the body are often the only way that the soul can get our attention.”
This is the ultimate bible for women’s health. It covers topics such as the body, menstruation, infertility, motherhood, menopause, sexuality, intuition, wisdom and self-nourishment. Dr Northrup takes a holistic approach towards healing physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual concerns.
by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés
This deep, soulful and inner life enhancing book has been described as ‘vitamins for the soul’, ‘a gift of profound insight’, ‘fertile and life-giving’, ‘a bible for women interested in doing deep work’.
Jungian analyst, Dr Estés uses intercultural myths, dream symbols, fairy tales and stories, to help women reconnect with the fierce, wild woman and instinctual self within.
by Robin Norwood
Along with ‘Codependent No More’ by Melody Beattie, this is one of my most recommended books to women who suffer with a fear of abandonment, controlling behaviours, co-dependency, love addiction and relationship problems such as choosing unavailable or abusive men.
by Geneen Roth
Geneen Roth suggests that food, diet and weight related issues are an attempt to fix something that has never been broken. We are already good and whole; our journey is to awaken to our goodness and wholeness. She writes,
“It’s never been true, not anywhere at any time, that the value of a soul, of a human spirit, is dependent on a number on a scale. We are unrepeatable beings of light and space and water who need these physical vehicles to get around. When we start defining ourselves by that which can be measured or weighed, something deep within us rebels…We don’t want to EAT hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to BE hot fudge sundaes. We want to come home to ourselves.”
by Sarah Napthali
Along with ‘Attachment Focused Parenting’ by Daniel Hughes – this book is my bible for parenting in a calm and peaceful way. Napthali applies Buddhist teachings such as mindfulness, presence, acceptance and compassion to the everyday challenges and stresses of raising children. Rather than focusing on the child’s behaviour, this book focuses on the inner self of the mother.
by Rachel Clyne
‘What matters is that we stop hating ourselves; when we do so what has to replace it is Love!’
At the heart of addiction, food related issues, depression and other modern day concerns – working to increase self-esteem and self-worth is always at the core of the healing process. Psychosynthesis psychotherapist Rachel Clyne gives very practical suggestions in each chapter for developing a healthier and more loving sense of self.
by Dr Christopher K. Germer
This is one of the best books out there for healing a toxic, harsh, punitive and critical inner voice. With practical mindfulness techniques for living in the present moment, this book teaches us how to nourish the spirit, reconnect and show kindness, compassion and empathy towards ourselves. Germer shows us that through self-compassion, we can heal pain and suffering.
by Stephanie Sorrell
This book is rigorously researched and takes a well-balanced view. Psychosynthesis practitioner Stephanie Sorrell explores indepth – the medical, psychological and spiritual aspects of depression. She writes poetically about suffering and depression as a ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. Sorrell shows us that it is possible to find value, meaning and purpose out of our suffering.
by Thomas Moore
This life affirming and soothing read illustrates how to add spirituality, depth, and meaning to modern-day life by nurturing the soul. Moore uses myths, stories and dreams to help us understand everyday concerns such as depression, anxiety, death, low self-worth, envy and narcissistic wounding.
by Dr Viktor E. Frankl
‘If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”
This moving book was named one of the 10 most influential books in America. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl spent time in four Nazi death camps. He survived his pregnant wife, parents and brother. Man’s search for meaning is based on Frankl’s own life experience as well as those he worked with in private practice. His ultimate message is that we cannot avoid all suffering in life but we can choose how we respond to it and ultimately, we can find meaning and purpose in it.
Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She is a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist practising in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
This meditation was devised by Roberto Assagioli and is in his book, Psychosynthesis (1969). It is now widely used in mindfulness based therapies including ACT: Acceptance Committment Therapy. It should take about 20 minutes. This meditation is useful for fostering and observing, authentic self and helps to move away from being overly identified with body, feelings or mind and thoughts.
Put your body in a comfortable and relaxed position, and slowly take a few deep breaths. Then make the following affirmation, slowly and thoughtfully:
I have a body and l am not my body. My body may find itself in different conditions of health or sickness, it may be rested or tired, but that has nothing to do with my self, my real I. I value my body as my precious instrument of experience and of action in the outer world, but it is only an instrument. I treat it well, I seek to keep it in good health, but it is not myself. I have a body and I am not my body.
I have feelings and I am not my feelings. My feelings are diverse, changing, sometimes contradictory. They may swing from love to hatred, from calm to anger, from joy to sorrow, and yet my essence—my true nature—does not change. ‘I’ remain. Though a wave of feeling may temporarily submerge me, I know that it will pass in time; therefore I am not this feeling. Since I can observe and understand my feelings, and then gradually learn to direct, utilize, and integrate them harmoniously, it is clear that they are not my self. I have feelings and I am not my feelings.
I have a mind and thoughts and I am not my mind and my thoughts. My mind is a valuable tool of discovery and expression, but it is not the essence of my being. Its contents are constantly changing as it embraces new ideas, knowledge, and experience. Sometimes my mind refuses to obey me. Therefore, it cannot be me, my self. I have a mind and thoughts and I am not my mind and my thoughts.
Who am I then if I am not my body, feelings or mind I am a centre of pure awareness, love and will. This is the permanent factor in the ever-varying flow of my personal life. It is that which gives me a sense of being, of permanence, of inner balance. I affirm my identity with this centre and realize its permanency and its energy. I realize that from this centre of true identity I can learn to observe, direct, and harmonize all of my psychological processes including my body, feelings and mind. I choose to achieve a constant awareness of this fact in the midst of my everyday life, and to use it to help me and give increasing meaning and direction to my life.
I have a body and I am not my body
I have feelings and I am not my feelings
I have a mind and I am not my mind
I am a centre of pure awareness, love and will.
NB: Some psychosynthesis practitioners prefer to use ‘more than’ instead of ‘not’. I use both. If you are a Psychosynthesis practitioner, feel free to comment below regarding ‘more than’ or ‘not’.
Which aspect were you most identified with?
Is there one part that you barely know?
How could you build a better relationship with these 3 aspects?
What was it like to realize that you are a centre of pure awareness, love and will…and not in fact your body, your feelings or your mind/thoughts?
This is a powerful exercise. You may want to find a psychotherapist experienced in this kind of meditation to help you work through an over identification with the various parts of who you are.
You can change this to suit any area of your life that you wish to separate and disidentify from.
I have a mother and I am not my mother
I have work and I am not my work
I have an eating disorder and I am not my eating disorder
I have things and I am not my things
I have a victim subpersonality and I am not my victim subpersonality
Jodie Gale MA Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy, Dip Therapeutic Counselling, CMPanzA, CMCAPA has a wealth of personal and professional knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Her experience includes a Master’s thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’ (you can read an excerpt here), post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’, work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation) and Women’s Health NSW. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
54% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat.
81% of 10 year old girls fear being fat.
10 million women in the US are suffering with anorexia and bulimia. This is more than with breast cancer.
1 in 3 Australian females cite body image as their major concern (Mission Australia Youth Survey, 2010).
I remember the first time I fat talked – I was 5. For the school photo, I stood next to the ‘fat’ boy so that no-one would notice how fat I was. The next fat talk etched in my memory was at 8 when I put a t-shirt on to go swimming in our backyard pool – I didn’t want anyone to see my fat body. I wasn’t even fat. On both occasions, I was a normal weighted young girl. 20 years of food issues, yo-yo dieting and body/self-hatred followed.
I was fortunate enough at 27 to find a psychotherapist who specialised in disordered eating and body image issues. Over time, I worked through my chronic low self-worth and self-loathing. It was a long journey back to health and well-being. It was also the start of my journey to become a psychotherapist and what Jung called, a ‘wounded healer’. Through my own experience, I now help women transform the way they feel and think about body and self.
Nowadays, I practise being compassionate and kind to myself. I no longer excessively exercise to burn calories as I did for most of my 20s and 30s. Rather, I swim regularly because I enjoy being held by the water. I have redirected my focus from a torturous longing to be skinny to being healthy and accepting of every size.
Recently I went Christmas shopping online for a doll for my 3 year old daughter. I felt overwhelmed with fear as I searched for one that did not have insect sized legs and a size 0 waist. Although I don’t subscribe to measuring BMIs, from a medical perspective – if Barbie were a human being, her BMI would be 16.24 and would therefore fit the weight criteria for medically diagnosed anorexia.
Internalized images from children’s dolls and the media are in no way solely responsible for society’s eating and body image issues. But…they do make up part of our critical inner voice. What hope do women and girls have when the majority of dolls on the market and the images we are bombarded with, mirror such distorted and unhealthy body sizes. Fat talk reinforces these unrealistic beauty ideals.
Fat talking to ourselves and with friends and family doesn’t just affect women and girls suffering with eating disorders. Unfortunately, fat talk has become a part of our everyday lives. Due to the widespread use of technology, even third world countries are no longer immune.
If we are stuck in fat talk, it frequently starts on waking as we look in the mirror and get ready for the day. The mirror and/or the scales become a harsh critic that determines what kind of day we will have. A single pound can start a tirade of punitive, self-abuse that can torment us until the next weigh in when hopefully we have lost it again.
The crazy thing is, ‘I am fat’ cannot even be; Roberto Assagioli suggests that this is psychologically, grammatically incorrect. ‘I’ (self) cannot be fat! The ‘I’ is the essence of who we are. At the core – we are whole, unbroken, beauty, love and ultimately, a spark of the Divine (or nature, goodness, oneness if that fits better for you!). Our work is to realise this.
If you are willing, close your eyes and imagine yourself standing with a young child, perhaps 7 or 8 years old. Now say to her in your best fat talk tone,
‘You are fat’
‘You are disgusting’
‘You can’t wear that’
‘No you can’t go to the party because you look too fat’
How do you feel when you talk to the child in this way? You wouldn’t dare say this to a child. Yet…every time you fat talk to yourself, you are being self-critical and hard on yourself. Often what follows is a binge, a starvation diet or excessive exercise to soothe or punish yourself even further.
Now try this version in a loving and compassionate tone,
‘I love and accept you just as you are’
‘You have so many wonderful qualities’
‘Your body is sacred and you keep it in balance’
‘What does your body need right now – sleep, food, to dance, a swim?’
Now how do you feel? Can you feel the difference? If not, keep practising, it takes some time to shift a strong inner critical voice.
Fat talk free week was conceived by Tri Delta. Check out their 2012 youtube clip about Fat Talk Free Week.
Following are some suggestions to help you on your journey. Start with small steps…
Stop Dieting & Weighing
Since writing this article yesterday, I have just seen this article via the Butterfly Foundation’s FB page about realistic dolls for children
‘MOVE over Barbie, a new range of fashion dolls has been launched in Australia to address growing concerns about the impact on young girls of negative body image issues associated with dolls such as Barbie, Bratz and Monster High.
Unlike her now 53-year-old counterpart Barbie, the new Lottie doll has a childlike form, modelled on the average nine-year-old girl’s body shape and has practical clothes, realistic hair and healthy outdoor hobbies.’
Read more: http://bit.ly/Vff4UM
Jodie is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Her experience includes a Master’s thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’, post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’, work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation) and Women’s Health NSW. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction, Eating and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
Are you feeling lost or disconnected?
Does something keep getting in the way of where you want to go with your life?
Would you like to know yourself at a deeper level?
Are you looking for value, meaning and purpose in life?
Would you like change in 2013?
It is only 5 weeks until the new year! Now is the perfect time to have some life coaching sessions to set you up for your new year’s goals.
Using guided visualisation – you will connect in a symbolic way with your deeper source of understanding and inner wisdom.
Some of the themes we will explore together are:
You can experience ‘Live Your Life with Purpose’ as a 3-hour one off experience ($275pp) or for a deeper exploration, over 6-12 weekly sessions ($90 pp per session). This offer is available to purchase until 25th December, 2012.
Life-coaching makes a wonderful gift to yourself or for friends and family. It is perfect for individuals or for a small group of family members and/or friends. Gift certificates are available.
The following session times are available before Christmas:
Saturday 1, 8, 15 December at 11.45am
Saturday 1, 8, 15 December at 1pm
Sunday 16 December at 9-12pm
Business as usual in the new year if you would prefer to start then.