Personal Growth Books

Ontario forest, soothing and therapeutic

Comments by Toronto psychotherapist Beth Mares

Marriage and Relationships

We Can Work It Out, by Clifford Notarius & Howard Markman, 1993. Based on research that shows that the success of a marriage depends far less on how much the partners have in common than on how they handle the differences, this book explains the typical difficulties partners have in communication and conflict resolution, and provides a manual of how to handle them successfully. The communication style taught is very stilted, as with some other popular couple methods; in my work I have found that couples can learn to communicate just as well using communication styles that come naturally to them. I do not think that this book is enough to "divorce-proof" a marriage that is having or heading for serious difficulties, as one of its reviewers suggests, but it may well reduce the amount of professional help needed.

Women Who Love Too Much, by Robin Norwood--"When you keep wishing and hoping he'll change". I highly recommend this book to anyone who is trapped in codependency. It charts the way out. Most people will need the help of a support group such as Codependents Anonymous and/or appropriate counselling in order to carry out the program.

Intimate Partners: Patterns in Love and Marriage, by Maggie Scarf. An oldie but goodie, this book describes and explains in some depth, but in layman's language, the problematic relationship patterns that are most common in our culture. It also uses examples to describe the stages which marriages go through.

Getting the Love You Want--by Harville Hendrix. Could be helpful for some couples, but I fear that its message of doing more to adapt to the partner is most likely to be followed by the wrong people--those whose problem is that they are already doing too much of that. Again, Hendrix's belief that one should stay with and work on a relationship that is not working may be appropriate for most couples, but certainly not all. I believe that a doctrinaire approach to couples counselling or any type of psychotherapy can cause harm. A good counsellor is open to the clients' individual differences.

Codependent No More--by Melody Beattie. This is a workbook with exercises to help people who have a codependent relationship style (overfocused on the partner) to change it. Some of my clients have used it to reduce the amount of time they needed to spend in psychotherapy. It could also help someone who is contemplating going into counselling to get an idea of the work ahead. But note: a workbook is not a substitute for psychotherapy, and in fact for most people who are codependent their biggest problem is that they try to do everything by themselves. What they most need to learn is how to make use of help and support, and a well-trained psychotherapist is the best person to learn it with.

Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them, by Susan Forward. The anatomy of an abusive relationship. This book tells it like it is--and explains it clearly and in depth. If you are or have been in an abusive relationship, you might find it very helpful. Confusion is one of the reasons people allow themselves to be abused.

The Verbally Abusive Relationship, by Patricia Evans. Among other things, it explains the tricks that are used to control the partner. If you are in a verbally abusive relationship, or want to figure out whether you are in one, you will probably find this book helpful.

Why Does He Do That? In the Minds of Controlling and Abusive men, by Lundy Bancroft. Recommended by a client who had put up with her husband's manipulative and controlling behaviour for years because she did not understand what was going on.


How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlich. This has been recommended by clients.

Another Chance--Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family--by Sharon Wegsheider-Cruse. An unusually readable and remarkably comprehensive introduction to the alcoholic family and the standard treatment program, this book will be appreciated by helping professionals as well as others interested in the subject.

Between Parent and Teenager, by Dr. Haim G. Ginott. Another classic; brief, to the point, and easy to follow. Dr. Ginott describes the most common mistakes parents make when trying to provide guidance to their teens, and gives examples of effective alternatives.

Violence Prevention Website by Dr. Peter Stringham. Tells parents how to teach young children how to relate without violence, and tells teenagers how to avoid violence in their relationships. The advice is sensible, and the website is very easy to follow.

A Kid's Eye View of Therapy by Barry Duncan and Scott Miller, in The Family Therapy Networker, July/August 97. Statements by children and teenagers about their therapy experiences. This is an important topic about which there seems to be little information in print. The article is intended for professionals, but would also be of interest to young people who are involved in counselling or considering it, and to their parents.

Personal Growth, Health, and Other Topics

Let Them Eat Prozak by David Healy. An eminent scholar, experienced psychiatrist and participant in the development of SSRI antidepressants writes of his concerns about inappropriate and excessive use of antidepressants and the promotional methods of pharmaceutical companies.

Healing Thoughts for Wounded Hearts by Galina Coffey-Lewis. Not just a collection of thoughts, this book is a well-organized and lucid workbook, companion and guide on a path that has been healing journey for many. It also incidentally makes clear how some forms of psychotherapy work. I know Galina, a long-time East Toronto resident, and her warmth and generosity are for real. This book is her gift. It may be obtained at the Omega Centre in Yorkville and at Gifts of the Earth at Carrot Common on the Danforth.

Feeding on Dreams--Why America's Diet Industry Doesn't Work--and What Will Work for You by Diane Epstein & Kathleen Thompson. A thought-provoking book for dieters. If you are on a diet or thinking of going on one, this book could save you a lot of grief. The idea put forward in the book that calories from fats are more fattening than calories from other sources is not accepted by mainstream nutritionists. However, recent research suggests that the overall caloric density of foods is an important factor.

Coping with Difficult People by Robert Bramson, another old one that has stood the test of time.

Nutrition Action Health Letter, published by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, accepts no advertisements. It tells you about additives, how much of specific kinds of fat and other nutrients are in specific brands, what the research says about popular supplements, etc.

Medical journals for the lay person give authoritative information: Consumer Reports on Health, 101 Truman, Yonkers, N.Y. 10703-1057; Johns Hopkins Medical Letter, Health After 50, P.O. Box 420179, Palm Coast, FL 32142; University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, P.O. box 420148, Palm Coast, Florida 32142; and for those who have more medical knowledge and would like more detail, The Medical Letter, 1000 Main Street New Rochelle, N.Y. 10801.

Psychotherapy (for professionals and others)

Gays, Lesbians and Their Therapists--edited by Charles Silverstein. Including a history of the subject starting from the time when gay therapists "cured" homosexuality by day, this book is about psychotherapy in and for the real world. It gives a wealth of information about how being gay or lesbian impacts on one's life and one's therapy, and insights about the client-therapist relationship that are applicable to any in-depth psychotherapy.

Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, June 1997 explores the concept of support in psychotherapy, "a common factor in need of empirical data, conceptual clarification, and clinical input". I recommend this volume to fellow psychotherapists--it deals with a topic of importance to all of us with clarity and depth, exploring and comparing the uses and types of support in three major psychotherapeutic methods.

Shrink Dreams, by Wayne A. Myers M.D, a psychiatrist who trained back in the days when it was customary for psychiatrists to have an analytical training. Lamenting the lack of such training in North America over the past forty years, he "lays out in disturbing detail examples of what happens when therapists don't know themselves well enough to handle the rigors of an intense therapeutic relationship".

Open Minds, the official newsletter of The Writer's Circle. The purpose of the newsletter is to create awareness of the creative skills of consumer/survivors of the mental health system.

Alcohol and Drug Problems--A Practical Guide for Counsellors, second edition, edited by Susan Harrison and Virginia Carver, published by the Addiction Research Foundation. A comprehensive textbook by experienced counsellors who have the latest research behind them. This is a field in which a great deal of useful research has been done.


Copyright © 1998 Beth Mares, since updated

Beth Mares Counselling