15 Books for People on Healing Journeys, Recommended by a Psychotherapist
As a psychotherapist, I’m often asked what books I recommend to help support people on their healing journeys. And as a bibliophile and resource lover, I confess I love being asked this question and always have some resources to share.
So in today’s post I wanted to give you a peek inside my virtual library and share share the top 15 beautiful books I always find myself recommending to my therapy clients and to friends — a list which I hope will inspire and support you in your journey to heal and cope with mental illness, to find your tribe, to discover your calling and to step more fully into who you were meant to be.
Healing Your Soul.
Healing your soul, to me, means discovering, understanding and gently repairing the emotional wounds you may have experienced somewhere along the journey of life. This is fundamentally the work I do as a psychotherapist and these five books are some of the very richest I’ve found to catalyze or support this work no matter where you are in your healing journey.
- Transformation Soup: Healing for the Splendidly Imperfect by SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy). One of my top recommendations for anyone going through a challenging time, this book is playful, compassionate, and rich with resources, inquiries and stories of transformation. Plus, this book first introduced me to Esalen Institute — the glorious place where I spent my mid-20’s healing, learning and growing. It’s a must-read!
- Go Only As Fast As Your Slowest Part Feels Safe to Go: Tales to Kindle Gentleness and Compassion for Our Exhausted Selves by Robyn Posin, PhD. This book is a collection of essays from the author — a licensed (feminist) psychologist here in California — who has dedicated her own life to healing from deep-rooted self-criticism and super-achievement and now, in turn, helps other women do the same. Reading this book is like taking a deep breath and receiving a virtual permission slip to slow down and take a break from this relentlessly intense world of ours.
- Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search For The True Self by Alice Miller, PhD. This book is a must-read for anyone who has experienced early childhood abuse. A powerful, insightful and deeply evocative classic, this of all the books on the list may be the most challenging to read, but I also think it’s one of the most illuminating and may help you make sense of your childhood in ways that you never imagined.
- Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth. This is the number one book I recommend to anyone who struggles with or has struggled with disordered eating. In this book, Geneen Roth posits that the way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive and then provides practical, freeing insights and exercises to help readers develop more compassion with food and with life.
- The Ten Things To Do When Your Life Falls Apart by Daphne Rose Kingma. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve lent out or gifted this little book! It’s a short but powerful and deeply wise read for anyone going through a life crisis or challenge (and really, who isn’t these days?). Pick up two copies — one for yourself, and one to give away to someone you love.
Finding Your Tribe.
Finding your tribe is, especially for those of us who come from dysfunctional or abusive early beginnings, a critical part of our life’s healing work. And, in the process of finding our tribe (tribe meaning those who are more similar to and accepting of us than our family of origins) we discover more about who we are by seeing ourselves mirrored in the other. So this particular list is less about the mechanics of how to find your tribe, but instead more a selection of books which can help introduce you to like-minded others and different ways of being that might feel like home to you.
- Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD. If you’ve been following me for any time, you know I’m an ardent admirer of the work of Jungian analyst, psychotherapist and cantadora, Clarissa Pinkola Estes. This book has played a profound role in shaping my personal and professional life (including being one of the biggest reasons why I chose to become a psychotherapist — a blog post for another time!). I truly cannot recommend it enough if you want to get more in touch with yourself, especially with your own wildish nature.
- Artemis: The Indomitable Spirit in Everywoman by Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD. This book has become the highlight of my winter reading list! It’s like a love letter to all of us women who identify as activists, as leaders, as strong, resilient, born with grit and who may have often felt “other” in our lives for all these very qualities (eg: think more Katniss and less Betty Draper). It’s a book that weaves Jungian mythology, modern media insights, and discussions about the disempowerment women over the world face today. It’s a brilliant read that helps reimagine the full spectrum of what it is to be a woman.
- The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron, PhD. This groundbreaking work introduced the concept of being a highly sensitive person (HSP) — a temperament trait that impacts 15 to 20 percent of the population — and offers up strategies for coping with over-arousal, overcoming social discomfort, being in love relationships, managing job challenges and much more. For those of us who were told “you’re just too sensitive!” while growing up, this book is a breath of fresh air and a welcome and validating perspective change.
- Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Beautiful, Messy Life by Glennon Melton Doyle. This gem of a book is a fierce, funny and vulnerable tale about overcoming addiction and living out a fully-lived life. Glennon is like the older sister, best girlfriend and fellow tribe member you never had but always wanted who helps you to see that your life — imperfect as it is — is more than OK just as you are.
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Bréne Brown, PhD. This renowned book and author have helped transform the way we as a society think about shame, vulnerability and belonging. It’s also a book that may help you step more fully into who you are and encourage you to learn how to seek out others who will respect and honor your vulnerability. It’s a must-read!
Discovering Your Calling.
Discovering your calling (or your life’s work or dream career, whatever you want to call it) is another big life task that most of us will face at one point or another. Career counseling is a specialty of mine and these books are some of the many resources I recommend to my clients in order to supplement their work with me and to help them discover and craft a career that feels deeply fulfilling.
- Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live by Martha Beck, PhD. With her signature wit and wisdom, Martha Beck helps you tap into your feelings and buried core desires to help you identify and move towards your right life in all that that means — your own internal North Star buried deep inside you. An excellent book!
- Finding Your Way In A Wild New World by Martha Beck, PhD. A follow up to North Star, this book helps guide you to find out how you got to where you are now and what you should do next when it comes to realizing your career potential. Full of exercises and techniques, this is another great resource by Martha Beck that’s both practical and also a little ephemeral.
- The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success by Nicholas Lore. The number one career counseling book I recommend to clients, The Pathfinder is a lengthy but thorough and actionable read that walks readers through career design from the inside out. If you’re ready to put all your insights together like a jigsaw puzzle, this is the book that will help you do it.
- The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling by James Hillman, PhD. This book, written by Jungian analyst James Hillman, is not a typical career counseling book. Instead, it’s a remarkable work that can help you understand the shape and innate temperament of your soul and thus lead you to greater understanding about what it is you may choose to pursue as a career in this lifetime. It’s not an easy or short read, but I think it’s pretty great.
- The Purpose of Your Life by Carol Adrienne. This book is a guide to harnessing your innate energy and focusing it, teaching you how to align yourself with the natural forces that swirl around us always, and how to develop the intuition that fosters synchronicity. Again, not a typical career counseling guide, but a wonderful complement to the above books if you want to consider the question of career from a different, more spiritual perspective.
My Invitation for You.
I hope this list felt inspiring, supportive, and gave you some ideas and inspiration for your personal growth reading list!
Now I’d love to hear from you: What books have played a powerful role in your own healing journey? What do you find yourself recommending over and over to friends and family. Leave a message in the comments and I’ll be sure to respond.
And until next time, take very good care of yourself.
This piece was originally published on Annie Wright Psychotherapy.