America has witnessed an ever increasing popularity in the use of self-help books especially by those with psychological disorders.
Psychiatrists have also resorted to the use of bibliotherapy treatment besides their usual therapy sessions. Bibliotherapy can be defined as the use of various self-help books in the treatment of physical or psychological disorders (Redding, 2008). This paper seeks to summarize the contents of the article by Richard E. Redding, ‘Popular Self-Help Books for Anxiety, Depression, and Trauma: How Scientifically Grounded and Useful Are They?’ It will highlight the results, implications of the findings, and the recommendations for authors as well as the consumers of self-help books. Researchers have tried to explain why the use of self-help books has been increasing since the 19th century through the 20th century especially in the United States of America. Several self-help books dealing with various mental disorders have flooded the market due to the high demand (Redding, 2008).
They are used mainly as self-administered treatment, hence providing a cost-effective alternative for professionally offered therapy. The persons with psychiatric disorders find it easier to implement a self-help program rather than the professionally administered treatment since it is free from shame and stigmatization (Redding, 2008). However, the diverse and popular use of this approach has been faced with skepticism concerning their usefulness and effectiveness. Those against the use of bibliotherapy cite their reasons which included; the difficulty in the administration of self-help techniques, the side effects of self-help efforts, and the unknown effectiveness of self-help books since there has not been any empirical test on them. On the contrary, those for the use of self-help books argue that the method is cost-effective, reaches a large number of people, can also help in the maximization of individuality through the reduction of over-reliance on professional treatment, and can as well serve both educative and preventive functions (Redding, 2008). In this article, psychological experts assessed the scientific grounding and importance of bibliotherapy by using 50 currently popular self-help books. The books have been designed for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and or trauma. Well laid out methods of measurements were employed by the experts in the study.
The raters in the study were well versed with the disorders under investigation since they all hold doctoral degrees in their respective fields. This ensured effective collection of data from the participants. Credible results were obtained on internal consistencies of rating scales, characteristics of books used, individual book ratings, overall book ratings, relationships among subscales, and finally, the comparison of scores on book characteristics (Redding, 2008).
It was found that there is a strong positive correlation between various rating subscales. Half of the books were noted to prepare readers for setbacks and negative feedback, while 42% of the self-help books were considered reasonably useful (Redding, 2008). Other outcomes were also analyzed. However, it is significant to note that the books with the highest overall ratings were those with cognitive behavioral approaches, followed by those written by mental health professionals, authors with doctoral degrees, and those books focusing on specific psychological disorders.
The above findings imply that bibliotherapy can be very useful for several mental disorders. The study reveal that a number of self-help books have a scientific grounding and readily available to the lay readers. However, the challenge in the findings is that psychological disorders can be multidimensional and hence contrast the ratings found from the study which show high ratings for books dealing with specific, isolated problems (Redding, 2008).
Moreover, most of the self-help books used in the study have not been tested for their effectiveness. In general, the findings from the study in this article provide a guide for the authors when it comes to writing effective self-help books. The findings also offer useful lessons for consumers and practitioners as far as selecting self-help books are concerned. According to the article, a number of limitations were inherent in the study. These includes; the research items reflected the opinions of the researchers which may be subject to controversy, the lack of the possibility of generalizing the findings due to limited number of self-help books as well as the disorders investigated, the lay readers’ reading habits and their influence on the effectiveness of the books were not factored in, and finally, the self-help books were not evaluated on their effectiveness (Redding, 2008). The essay has attempted to summarize the article by focusing on the results from the study and their implications, the lessons for the authors and consumers of self-help books, and finally by mentioning the limitations of the entire research.
E. Popular Self-Help Books for Anxiety, Depression, and Trauma: How Scientifically Grounded and Useful Are They? Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 2008, vol. 39 (5), 537-545.