Best Books For Therapists

Man reading book for therapists.
Books allow us to discover new concepts and ideas on our own terms, and encourage self-motivated learning. For therapists, the right books can open up your mindset, exploring the complex world of psychotherapy. Therapists, both new and experienced, should look for knowledge beyond the textbook. In this guide, we’ve rounded up some of the most compelling, educational books that all therapists should have on their shelves.

8 Best Books For Therapists

The Gift Of Therapy: An Open Letter To A New Generation Of Therapists And Their Patients

By Irvin D. Yalom

The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients by Irving D. Yalom draws on 35 years of experience to deliver a masterclass for beginner therapists.

An insightful guide to therapy that can benefit both new practitioners and experienced therapists, this book is a must-read.

Using real life case studies as a base, The Gift of Therapy presents 85 essential tips for new therapists.

Structured as a series of short chapters, the book is an easy read with a friendly style that will keep you coming back for more. Along the way, you’ll find genuine insight into life as a therapist, and advice for developing and improving your practice.

For new therapists, The Gift of Therapy is a valuable introduction, as well as a hugely enjoyable read.

The practical information contained will help new therapists get the most out of therapy, and channel those benefits to the patients. Even experienced therapists will benefit from dipping into the book from time to time, refreshing their response to practice.

The Developing Mind: How Relationships And The Brain Interact To Shape Who We Are

By Daniel J. Siegel

Understanding the mind (as best we can) is key to any successful therapy practice. The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are by Daniel J. Siegel dives deep into mind to explore how early development and continuing influences affect who we are.

The Developing Mind brings together hours of research from multiple disciplines to explore how our neural processes are shaped by relationships occurring throughout our lives.

Discussing how early traumas and future positive experiences both contribute to the development and resilience of the mind, this book is an exciting resource for new therapists.

Considering the role of both nature and nurture, and how human relationships play a part in our continued development, The Developing Mind takes a new look at the importance of connections.

Clinical studies explore how these relationships can influence core functions including memory and emotion.

For those interested in developmental psychology and child development, The Developing Mind is an essential guide. But all therapists can learn from this compassionate, and insightful book.

Man’s Search For Meaning

By Viktor E. Frankl

Guidebooks and clinical notes are essential to developing a therapy practice. But for new therapists, sometimes the most influential works are those that influence our core approach.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is an emotional and powerful treatise on trauma that will enrich the mind of those who read it.

Initially published in 1946, Man’s Search for Meaning details Frankl’s experience as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, and his search to find meaning beyond adversity.

Both heartbreaking and hopeful, this seminal guide to Frankl’s theory of logotherapy explores the intersection between trauma and motivation.

Man’s Search for Meaning considers the search for meaning and discovery as the primary emotional drive, discussing how Frankl used this motivation to survive a deeply traumatic experience.

It will change the way you confront your own emotions, and compel you to closely consider your own motivations.

A foundational book, Man’s Search for Meaning encourages finding hope in what appear to be hopeless situations. It provides an inspirational approach to trauma, and teaches aspiration.

For new therapists looking to challenge their emotional responses, Man’s Search for Meaning is an essential read.

The Making Of A Therapist: A Practical Guide For The Inner Journey

By Louis Cozolino

The Making of a Therapist: A Practical Guide for the Inner Journey by Louis Cozolino has been an influential starting point for many beginner therapists.

Frequently recommended as a foundational book for those new to the practice, The Making of a Therapist continues to prove itself as an emotional and challenging insight into how we train therapists.

Instead of discussing the classes and approaches to psychotherapy, The Making of a Therapist shines a light on therapists themselves. It considers how the emotional growth and maturity of a therapist is vital to successful practice, yet often goes ignored.

The Making of a Therapist provides an invaluable insight into the real life impact of therapy on the therapists themselves.

For those just starting out, it takes a look away from the basics of classroom learning, into the personal concerns of therapists. Along the way, it provides insights and advice into preparing for the real world.

Starting work as a therapist can often feel like being thrown in at the deep end, and many new therapists struggle to balance the work with their own emotions.

The Making of a Therapist provides a sympathetic and, above all else, useful approach for new therapists. And even experienced practitioners can benefit from the wisdom contained in this book!

Love’s Executioner: & Other Tales Of Psychotherapy

By Irvin D. Yalom

All therapists will become intimately familiar with pain, and it’s frequently difficult to balance the emotional response with the psychotherapist response.

Love’s Executioner: & Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irving D. Yalom is a classic work exploring the relationship between patient and therapist.

Describing ten real life patients encountered during his work as a therapist, Yalom presents a look into the lives and difficulties of psychotherapists.

Considering different sources of pain and how a therapist can work to lessen that pain, this book teaches therapy not as a cure, but as a coping process. It helps build a framework toward therapy that can inspire those new to the profession.

Love’s Executioner also provides a glimpse into the life of the therapist, and the complex relationship between therapist and client.

Written with humor and heart, Love’s Executioner draws you into the world of the therapist. At the heart of it, this is a work to inspire, and to encourage new therapists as they learn the clinical processes.

Woman's hands holding open a book.

The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, And The Body In The Healing Of Trauma

By Bessel Van Der Kolk

The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, And The Body In The Healing Of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk is a hard read. Focusing on painful traumas and the effect they have on all areas of life, this book is both insightful and challenging. A must-read for any new therapist.

The Body Keeps the Score primarily focuses on the physical effect that trauma can have on the body.

Van der Kolk’s research explores how trauma can literally reshape the brain, and alter how the body reacts and responds.

Using real life examples of trauma and treatment, it’s an intense look at how our experiences shape the people we are, and how therapists and clients can work together to transform the brain.

Trauma can have a complex effect on many areas of life, and while The Body Keeps the Score isn’t an easy read, it’s an important one.

It doesn’t simply look at the limiting effects of trauma, but explores possible paths towards healing. This is a hopeful work that can provide therapists with a better understanding of trauma.

The First Kiss: Undoing The Intake Model And Igniting First Sessions In Psychotherapy

By Daryl Chow

For many clients, the first psychotherapy session is often the last. The First Kiss: Undoing the Intake Model and Igniting First Sessions in Psychotherapy by Daryl Chow attempts to rethink the intake model, with the aim of encouraging clients to continue with their therapy.

If you’re just starting out as a therapist, The First Kiss is an indispensable guidebook for conducting your practice.

It shifts the focus away from completing an intake, towards ensuring the first session gives the client something to build on. This fresh approach is designed to keep clients coming back by providing an immediate impact.

As well as remodeling the intake guide, The First Kiss provides useful tips on engaging with a client, and forming quicker connections. The straightforward writing style is an example of Chow’s method in practice: you immediately engage with the book, and look forward to reading more.

For experienced therapists struggling with single sessions, The First Kiss can provide a useful insight into a new approach to intake. For newer therapists, The First Kiss creates a framework for growing your practice, and developing your approach.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics And Beyond

By Judith S. Beck

Most of the books we’ve focused on in this guide have been general approaches to therapy, and advice for new therapists.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond by Judith S. Beck is closer to a textbook than our other selections, but worth mentioning as a classic in the field of cognitive behavior therapy.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond is a complete look at the fundamentals of CBT, and a clear-headed approach to this popular therapy. The initial read can be tough going, but it’s a useful book for understanding the theory, and applying it in practice.

With frequent references to how CBT benefited several clients, Cognitive Behavior Therapy illustrates how this therapy can achieve results, as well as addressing some of the more common problems.

For those new to the theory of CBT, Beck’s work provides insight into how to structure the therapy, and how to tailor it to individual patients.

Cognitive Behavior therapy can benefit both new practitioners, and those with experience. It’s a useful book to have at hand, and can help you to rethink your approach to therapy (or develop your approach in the first place).

Buyer’s Guide – Books For Therapists

As a new therapist, you’re going to be given a lot of books to read. Whether you’re just starting out in your education, or looking to begin working with patients, there are many books you’ll need to turn to as you develop your approach.

And, honestly, the reading doesn’t stop. Even experienced therapists will need to learn new methods, rethink old approaches, and stay aware of the recent developments in the field. Reading will help you to confront your perceptions, expand your methods, and become a better therapist.

But books to build a therapists’ bookshelf aren’t necessarily heavy textbooks. Speak to any experienced therapist, and their must-read list will likely consist of a range of works in numerous genres and styles.

Here is a basic guide to finding the books that will form a foundational point for your practice.

Books About Therapy

Books about therapy are often written by therapists, discussing their own time in therapy. These books are hugely useful for building a practice, as they provide useful explorations of approaches that have been tried, succeeded, and even failed.

Books about therapy are also an invaluable resource if you’re considering your education options, but have yet to make a decision. They can help you to discover your passions, and also illuminate avenues that might not have occurred to you.

Many books about therapy take a friendly, welcoming approach toward the profession. These are easier reads than reference books, although many still deal with heavy subject matters.

These are the books that help you to confront your own interests and responses as a therapist, and they form the majority of the books on our list.

If you’re just starting out, we think these are the books that will help form the basis of your approach to therapy.

Textbooks And Reference Books

Textbooks and reference books are essential resources for therapists, particularly if you’re new to the profession. While there’s no strict definition of a textbook, for therapists, these books tend away from anecdotal, and towards the scientific. For the layman, many psychology textbooks will be inaccessible.

We’ve veered away from the textbook for this guide, as most take an in-depth look at a subject more suited for specialism. Not to mention, if you’re just starting out as a therapist, you’re bound to encounter many required reading lists!

Textbooks and reference books provide essential information for any therapist, introducing methods and practices necessary for developing an approach.

However, they aren’t the sort of books that you’re likely to read cover to cover. Instead, you’ll dip into these when the information is needed.

Books For Patients

You will, at times, require some self-motivated learning from patients. Books for patients provide a learning resource that can illuminate and complement your own approaches.

It’s always helpful for therapists to have their own list of book recommendations, to prevent patients from turning to less than helpful sources. These books typically combine scientific with anecdotal, to provide useful advice that’s easy to access and enjoyable to read.

Author

There are really two key concerns for therapists when choosing the books and resources to guide your learning. The first is subject matter, and the second is author.

Subject matter is fairly self-explanatory, and hard to narrow down in a general guide. There are numerous approaches to therapy, and the subject matter will often be determined by your own interests.

When choosing an author, it’s important to do your research. It’s easy to get drawn in by boasts and quotes on the book cover, but make sure to check the author’s credentials before choosing any work.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Most Common Problem New Therapists Can Face?

Many new therapists can feel insecure when starting a new practice, and feelings of incompetence can hold back your development as a psychotherapist.

These feelings are difficult to face, and can often only fade with experience.

However, books such as The Gift of Therapy by Irvin Yalom and The Making of a Therapist by Louis Cozolino can provide understanding, and a framework for developing a practice.

What Books Are Good For New Therapists?

It’s a good idea for new therapists to familiarize themselves with the reality of being a working psychotherapist. Books like Love’s Executioner by Irving D. Yalom and The First Kiss by Daryl Chow, offer compelling introductions to the world of psychotherapy.

What Books Should All New Therapists Have On Their Shelves?

There are no definitive books that all therapists must have, as you’ll find books to influence your own methods and practices.

However, many new therapists can benefit from reading books such as The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, and The Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel.

Final Thoughts

A good book can encourage us to challenge our way of thinking, confront new approaches, and build our knowledge base—all useful skills for a therapist, at any stage of your career.

The books we’ve listed above are books we believe can benefit therapists, offering new perspectives and compassionate insights into the profession, and the patients we meet. Of course, there are many books we’ve been unable to mention, so keep on reading and embrace learning.

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