Therapist Bookshelf: What books have been meaningful to multiple clients lately

I’m an avid reader and audible book listener and one of my reading and listening goals is to find both research and resources to better support my clients. The past month, I’ve had multiple meaningful conversations with clients about the following books. Whenever I see a book reach multiple clients in positive ways I want to share them with others! Here is a book quick review of the following books that are most talked about right now in my clinical practice:

1.Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle Hardcover Emily Nagoski, Phd and Amelia Nagoski, MDA

I’m a huge fan of Emily’s work in general because it combines both cutting edge research with practical and applicable tips and everyday language. I love that this book provides concrete examples of how to unlock the stress cycle while articulating how the evolutionary process has served in the past and the disconnect of how it’s often experienced and resolved now. The Nagoski sisters have a way with using visual metaphor to really connect with the reader to understand how their stress cycle is playing out in their everyday life. I love that this book focuses predominantly on the female experience, but realizing many men would benefit from a book looking at their unique experience with stress as well. I also appreciate that the Nagoski sisters recognize that the majority of research done on women includes individuals born as women and doesn’t fully represent those who identify as gender fluid or transgender – I appreciate when authors name the limits to the research and what the research fails to capture in the human experience. Also shout out to my fellow Symmetry Solution provider, Lisa Butterworth, for this great book recommendation!

2.Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Gottman Ph.D., John, Gottman Ph.D., Julie Schwartz, et al.

I’ve seen John Gottman’s work successfully support relationships that are really struggling in giving them new tools to understand their interpersonal dynamics and change toxic patterns. Gottman’s new book provides an outline of 8 different conversation topics with sample questions that can enrich a couple's understanding of themselves and their partner. The discussion prompts are thought provoking and offer a structure to change up conversations with their loved one. For couples who haven’t been previously successful in having hard or tender conversations without feeling emotions of defensiveness, this book might not be the first one to grab off the shelf as some of the conversations can prompt some hard truths and honest introspection. I often recommend clients begin with the conversation topic that feels the easiest to them, so that their first experience feels doable and enjoyable so that initial successful experience can be built upon.

3.Love Without Hurt: Turn Your Resentful, Angry, or Emotionally Abusive Relationship into a Compassionate, Loving One Paperback by Steven Stosny

The reality is good people can hurt the people they love without fully recognizing they are engaging in emotionally abusive patterns that are deeply hurting their loves ones. I like this book and have recommended it multiple times this past month as couples begin to understand and name the patterns they are experiencing or witnessing as emotionally abusive. It begins a conversation about accountability and fostering change that is essential in rebuilding trust and emotional intimacy in relationships. As a social worker, I wish this book took more time explaining the various systems and contributing factors that can contribute to a person being raised in an emotionally abusive environment and replicating that abuse in their adult relationships. In general, this book is a great first step in better identifying emotional abuse in one’s relationships and provides concrete examples of next steps to change the dynamic. It doesn’t heal all the wounds created by ongoing emotional abuse and that can leave some readers realizing there is more individual and couple's work to do.

4.The Emotionally Absent Mother: How to Recognize and Heal the Invisible Effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect, Second Edition by Jasmin Lee Cori MS LPC

Many of my clients are parents and in their parenting process they naturally are able to reflect back on their own upbringing. In this reflection there can be an awareness that they had emotionally absent parents, specifically their Mother, and as a result concepts of attachment and knowing how to meet their own emotional needs and the needs of others come to the surface. For emotional neglect survivors and their loved ones, this book is a good primer on the topic and provides a great overview of the legitimacy and consequences of emotional neglect. I like the book's concrete examples of healing practices and boundary setting. As one client reflected, a barrier to this book’s ability to articulate the complexity of emotional neglect is the absence of a discussion on how a parent’s chronic mental illness can contribute to their emotional ability to be present and connect to their children. While not comprehensively related to all the contributing factors that result in emotionally absent Mothers, this is a standard work when it comes to validation of the experience of emotional neglect in adult survivors and I’ve seen be important in the work of my clients.

I would love to hear what YOU are reading? What is moving and making an impact on you? What books changed your life? What books did you wish your therapist had told you about?

Sara Hughes-Zabawa, LCSW

Sara works from a holistic approach, focusing on issues such as depression, anxiety, grief, chronic pain, disordered eating, faith transitions, stress management and serving the LGBTQ+ community. She offers coaching/consultation and therapy services to individuals, couples and families.

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