6 Essential Self-Care Books for Therapists
I’m a big advocate of self-care for therapists. For our clients’ sake, for our own sake, for the sake of our families, even for the sake of our profession – we need to look after ourselves! You’ll get some great ideas for improving your own self-care with these 6 essential self-care books for therapists.
You’ve probably been a therapy client yourself, as part of your training. Did you feel your therapist was really looking after herself/ himself? I know for myself that when I sensed that my therapist was really taking care of herself (and these things show, even though we may like to kid ourselves that they don’t!) it helped me feel secure, and also offered me a really inspiring example.
Therapists had early training in neglecting our own needs
Many therapists come to this work with early training: we were unconsciously designated the problem-solver, the calming, soothing, containing, capable one in the family, often in response to a parent with a history of unprocessed trauma. And we were subtly encouraged to believe that our own needs did not matter, because we needed to give precedence to the “damaged” or “more needy” family member.
Which leaves us highly vulnerable to reverting to this pattern in our work. We love helping others, and we are very talented at it; but when it comes to looking after ourselves we can too easily fall into patterns of neglect.6 essential self-care books for therapists and counsellors Click To Tweet
The following 6 essential self-care books for therapists are wonderful at reminding us why self-care matters so much for clinicians. They also provide lots of practical strategies that we can start using right away.
1. Simple Self-Care for Therapists
Ashley Davis Bush (W.W. Norton, 2015)
This small book is packed with over 60 of what its author calls ‘Micro Self-Care’ practices. I love it! It’s a really easy read, designed to be dipped into and not necessarily read through from start to finish. To introduce each practice, Ashley Davis Bush tells an interesting (sometimes funny, sometimes moving) anecdote to illustrate how she might use it. Many of the practices can be used in a couple of minutes in between sessions, and some can even be done whilst you sit with your client.
2. The Myth of the Untroubled Therapist
Marie Adams (Routledge, 2014)
The author, Marie Adams, taught a weekend workshop on ethics and research that formed part of my training on the MA in Integrative Arts Psychotherapy, and I found her engaging and inspiring. I went on to devour this book in just a few sittings, fascinated by the case studies based on forty therapists that she interviewed who opened up to her about the many ways that the challenges of their lives (divorce, bereavement, illness, etc) bumped up against their work as therapists. Adams concludes, ‘Vulnerability and pain are not the enemy. Providing they are owned and acknowledged, respected for the weight and texture they give to our lives, they will be the very tools through which we do our best work.’
3. Help for the Helper
Babette Rothschild (W.W. Norton, 2006)
Subtitled ‘The Psychophysiology of Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma’, this classic text is designed to provide therapists with strategies for understanding, preventing and managing burnout and stress. I strongly recommend that all therapists who work with traumatised clients should have this in their library, and refer to it regularly. Babette Rothschild shows us how traditional psychological concepts such as empathy, projective identification, countertransference, can be understood in new ways through concepts from neuroscience such as emotional contagion and brain processes, and she provides exercises and examples to help us put the theories into practice.
4. Creativity as Co-Therapist
Lisa Ruth Mitchell (Routledge, 2016)
So many therapists think of their creativity as something quite separate from their clinical work (for example, they may knit, draw or write for pleasure, but not link it to their therapy work). Many other therapists consider themselves ‘not creative’ and think of creative practices as something that others can do, but not themselves. In this sparky, inspiring book, Lisa Ruth Mitchell aims to help us all not only to discover our own creativity, but she also shows us how we can root our creativity in our clinical work and use it to enliven, enrich and deepen our work with clients.
As someone who believes that accessing one’s own creativity is a vital component of self-care, I highly recommend this book!
5. The Mindful Therapist: A Clinician’s Guide to Mindsight and Neural Integration
Daniel J. Siegel (W.W. Norton & Co., 2010)
Dan Siegel is the acclaimed author of many fascinating books concerned with the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy, and I love his writing style which I find very accessible. In The Mindful Therapist he continually links our clinical skills to recent discoveries in neurobiology, and demonstrates ways that we can help ourselves be deeply present with, and attuned to, our clients without losing touch both with our own emotional states, and with our complex cognitive clinical judgement. He provides some practical exercises that we can use, as well as plenty of very accessible and useful information about the brain.
6. Trauma Stewardship – An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others
Laura van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie Burk (Barrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2009)
Not just for therapists, but for anyone who works directly with traumatised people, Trauma Stewardship helps us understand our own responses to trauma and suggests tools we can use to help us rebalance and restore our own emotional balance.
Refresh your self-care!
I hope this short list has given you an idea for where to look to find inspiration and practical guidance. Using these essential self-care books for therapists, make sure your self-care practices get regularly refreshed and updated – so that you are not only the best clinician you can be, but also feel whole and fed and full of interest and passion for your life outside of the consulting room too.
You can get more and different ideas for enlivening your self-care in my post, ‘Floating Your Boat: Self-Care for Therapists and Counsellors’. Read it here.
And if you’re really ready to give yourself a self-care treat, and can get to Essex, UK, come along to my workshop ‘Creative Self-Care for Therapists’. You can find details of the next one here. I’d love to see you!
What other self-care books for therapists would you recommend for other clinicians who are looking to improve and extend their self-care? Let me know in the comments below.