I love reading books to help me grow as a psychologist and as a human. These books have all been influential to my thinking, both personally and professionally. You may notice that I haven’t separated the list into categories, such as “Christian” and “mental health.” This is intentional. One of my greatest joys is learning more deeply how Christianity and mental health are intertwined, by God’s design.
I enjoy recommending books to clients, but remember that a book is not a substitute for real human connection. Feel free to contact me if you would like to begin therapy.
Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren. If you’re like me, you may wonder why so much of our daily life seems to be occupied by maintenance activities (like exercise, brushing our teeth, preparing food). This author proposes that perhaps that’s because these ordinary embodied activities are a rich opportunity to connect with and reflect on God.
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, 6th Edition by Edmund Bourne, PhD. This book remains one of my all-time favorites because it is so thorough and research-based. It is dense, like a textbook, and I find myself referring back to it time and time again for worksheets and guidelines about everything anxiety-related.
Bold Love by Dr. Dan B. Allender & Dr. Tremper Longman III. A thought-provoking read about how to love boldly, the way Jesus did. We often confuse being loving with being nice or avoiding necessary conflict. I loved the last few chapters which provide wise guidance about how to be in relationship with difficult people.
Brain Lock: Free Yourself From Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, MD. I like how the author has used layperson language to describe what is happening in the brain with OCD. Lots of practical tips, although I would imagine the average person with OCD would need a bit of help to apply these principles to his/her own life.
What To Do When Your Child Has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Strategies and Solutions by Aureen Pinto Wagner, PhD. This is a long read but is a good resource for parents who are completely overwhelmed with their child’s OCD symptoms, including a section about choosing and working with a therapist for your child. The author also wrote a companion book for children called Up and Down the Worry Hill.
The Intelligent Body: Reversing Chronic Fatigue and Pain From the Inside Out by Kyle Davies. If you can overlook some typos, this book has some intriguing information about the connection between chronic pain and emotional stress. I particularly love the “stress bucket” analogy about how physical symptoms often emerge when the stress bucket begins to overflow. The author emphasizes the importance of living authentically as the core way to reduce the “chronic, slow drip” of trauma into the stress bucket.
Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This book lays the groundwork for the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program that is used in hospitals across the country to teach people how to live joyful, abundant, and meaningful lives despite chronic pain. A fascinating read for everybody, not just those with chronic pain. If you have experienced trauma or significant anxiety, you might also find great value in these MBSR strategies to learn how to be in your body again (instead of being stuck in your mind!).
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. A powerful book about the psychology of trauma, including what happens within the body and brain during trauma and what can be done to heal it. (Disclaimer: The author frequently uses trauma case studies to illustrate a point, so it may be a difficult read for some people.)
The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves by Curt Thompson, M.D. We all struggle with shame. The author provides theological and neurological evidence for the role of shame in our feelings of brokenness and isolation, as well as how we can move toward wholeness. Our journey towards wholeness involves community with other people.
Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster. Each chapter of this book describes a spiritual discipline which brings us closer to God, such as meditation, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, and celebration. The author provides many practical tips to grow deeper in discipline and therefore in joy! As he puts it, “Joy is the keynote of all the Disciplines. The purpose of the Disciplines is liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear.”