Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Take two of Dr. Phil's books and call me in the morning?

In the spirit of fair play that critics say I don't have, I hereby direct you to a piece that ran in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. (And thank you, Heidi M., for bringing this to my attention—even though you did it in a rather snarky way.) The piece discusses new research suggesting that immersing yourself in self-help books—dubbed bibliotherapy—can pay mental-health dividends for some people.

Time constraints have not yet permitted me to read the piece carefully or think about its premises, logic and the validity of its implications. But you'll probably be hearing more from me on this later. In the meantime, I welcome feedback from anyone who takes the initiative in doing my reading, thinking and analyzing for me....

6 comments:

Cosmic Connie said...

I read the piece, and while admittedly I didn't do a lot of thinking and analyzing, here are a couple of thoughts off the top of my head.

Lots of books (or, for that matter, workshops or DVDs) can make just about anyone feel better for a while -- especially if the person is looking for a reason to feel better.

Even the simple act of reading can be calming or stimulating, no matter what you're reading. Sometimes I wake up at three or so in the morning and have trouble getting back to sleep because of various worries and general anxiety. Reading calms me and gets me back in sleep mode -- even if it's a Dean Koontz novel, the sort of book not normally known for inducing tranquility.

While some self-help books and other materials may indeed be helpful, for some folks, in the way they were intended to be, I think the real remedy is in the very act of engaging the brain for something besides fretting or moping. And any positive effect is, more than likely, short-term.

Cosmic Connie said...

I probably should qualify my previous comment. I hope it didn't appear that I was saying that the actual content of a book is completely irrelevant. A person wrestling with fear or anger or depression may very well benefit from reading material that directly addresses his or her problem. However, I still suspect any positive effects will be transitory. And even the WSJ piece noted the limitations of "bibliotherapy," and pointed out that it is probably more effective in conjunction with "real" therapy.

Mary Anne said...

The Wall Street Journal was brought by Rupert Murdoch yesterday. This to me is quite scary and very sad.

Steve Salerno said...

Mary Anne: Why? Just because, henceforth, it's going to be edited by Paula Abdul...?

James said...

Steve,

It sounds like whoever brought this article to your attention did so to try to prove you wrong, but I don't think it does that at all. One of the books mentioned in this article, "Feeling Good" by David Burns, is quite popular amongst people suffering from depression, including a close friend of mine, who use it for self-administered cognitive behavioural therapy. I think David Burns would be very disappointed to be put in the same category as "self-help gurus" like Dr Phil, Tony Robbins and Rhonda Byrne whose advice makes me quite nauseous. Burns' book is intelligently written and offers a lot of information which the reader is free to use or dismiss at their leisure. Whereas I think the "self-help gurus", who you (Steve) and I and many others are so uncomfortable with, try to make the reader feel guilty if they don't absorb the advice being presented to them, which feels quite disrespectful. If an author is going to try to pretend that they know me (the reader), I would like them to treat me with respect.

Steve Salerno said...

Obviously, James, in any cultural movement, even a bad one, there are bright spots. And look, a lot of this is an eye-of-the-beholder scenario: If you feel you were helped by something--and if the course of your life shows evidence of that benefit--then maybe that's all that matters, sometimes.