Suggesting readings to patients is a well-known tool utilized in psychotherapy to help an individual gain understanding, insight, empathy and move towards self-growth.
Mint asked three psychotherapists to share recommended reading for those who are interested in knowing more about psychology; interestingly, they recommended not just the best of non-fiction writing from the field but works of fiction as well, including the Harry Potter books! Put these on the to-read list if you’re curious about the life of the mind.
DR NOUFAL HAMEED, Clinical Psychologist, IIM Kozhikode
Many of my clients report existential issues, and the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl is one that I have suggested very often. A couple of times, I have suggested the Harry Potter novels ! In fact, compared to many books that claim to be therapeutic, I find the Harry Potter books really useful and therapeutic. A few other top picks:
Social Psychology by Robert Baron: Provides immense insight into the functioning of the human mind, and a book I think must be taught in higher education, irrespective of the field of study.
Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl: The author, an Austrian neurologist and psychotherapist, writes a memoir of his experiences in Nazi concentration camps as he builds his own deeper understanding of psychotherapy.
Radical Compassion by Tara Brach: This book talks in-depth about the RAIN meditation technique (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture) and how it can help one deal with feelings of loss, overwhelm, self-aversion and painful relationships.
The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga: The authors look at how self-acceptance, freeing oneself from the past, doubts and others’ expectations can help us carve the path towards the future on our own terms.
Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: The book talks about ‘optimal experience’, a state of consciousness where people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. Mihaly talks about how this state can be unlocked and controlled to discover true happiness and unlock our potential.
DIVYA SRIVASTAVA, Counselling Psychologist and Founder of Silver Lining Wellness Centre, Mumbai
When I was in class 10, I read Tell Me Your Dreams by Sidney Sheldon. While it was a murder mystery, the book motivated me to study psychology, for it was in this book that I first grasped the extent to which trauma can impact an individual and learnt about “dissociative identity disorder”. So, I definitely believe that books can help spread mental health awareness, and this includes novels as well. Here are some books that are a must-read if you are interested in human psychology:
Love’s Executioner And Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom: Yalom provides a wonderful insight into the relationship between the therapist and the client as the latter shares their stories and therapists balance their all-too-human responses and sensibilities as a therapist.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides: A psychological thriller that through its fast-paced plot subtly portrays the impact of childhood trauma and insecure attachment patterns on relationships and the ways in which we process and filter information about ourselves, others, and the world.
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman: Simply for readers to understand that we never know what’s going on in a person’s internal world, and why we should not make snap judgments just because someone seems ‘peculiar’ and different. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is another popular novel that illustrates these themes beautifully.
The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind and Body In The Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk: The author compassionately talks about trauma, how it can shape every aspect of our psychology as well as physiology (the mind-body connection that Western medicine does not talk about adequately), and how it is important to combine talk therapies with other strategies like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to break trauma cycles. (Trigger warning: Includes themes of trauma, abuse and violence).
DR NIVEDITA CHALLIL, Founder, ARTH Counselling Center, Mumbai
Media influences society and society influences the media. Books can be entertaining, informative, and when they are well-written and engaging, the stories some books contain have the power to elicit empathy and make people more aware of new worlds and new ideas, mental health being one of them. These well-written books do create that window of understanding:
In Love With The World: A Monk’s Journey Through The Bardos Of Living And Dying by Helen Tworkov and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche: This book highlights the near-death experience of a monk and how that life-changing experience helps him gain wisdom. It talks about the death of both the ego and the body.
Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Laurie Gottlieb: This is a unique book as it provides insight into the mind of a therapist who is a patient herself and is in therapy. Laurie Gottlieb has her own trauma that hasn’t healed yet and the book has accounts of her own counselling sessions interspersed with anecdotes and insights from sessions with her clients as well.
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön: This book is a classic, especially for the times we are in. Chödrön talks about how spiritual practices linked to Buddhism can help one achieve personal growth even in the most difficult times in our lives. She throws light on how we can embrace pain, and at the same time, cultivate wisdom, courage and compassion.
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown: Thought-leader Brené Brown offers a refreshing perspective to vulnerability in this book by reminding us that vulnerability is not a weakness and can be used to fuel courage.
Beyond Religion by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama: This book is a timeless manual for living, and offers a roadmap for dealing with disruptive emotions.