139: Can a Self-Help Book REALLY Help? Or Is It Just Hype?

139: Can a Self-Help Book REALLY Help? Or Is It Just Hype?

What’s Bibliotherapy?

Hi podcast fans,David and Rhonda discuss and old controversy: Can a self-help book can really help? Or will you need psychotherapy and / or an antidepressant if you are seriously depressed?

 

I (DB) wrote up the following overview of bibliotherapy research prior to today’s recording with Rhonda. I hope you find it interesting!

I have to admit that I’ve never had much respect for self-help books. Many of them seem to be written by narcissistic individuals with pretty superficial ideas who mainly want to promote themselves, and this has been my strong bias as well. When I pick one up in a bookstore, I nearly always get immediately turned off. And I get a flood of them in the mail as well, from authors asking for an endorsement. I have a policy of not doing book or product endorsements—it’s the easiest way to say no.

And I never thought of my book, Feeling Good: The new Mood Therapy, as a self-help book. My idea was that people receiving cognitive therapy could read it between sessions as a way of speeding up their recovery, so that the therapist could do the individual work and not have to do so much teaching about the basic concepts, like my list of ten cognitive distortions.

But at the same time, shortly after the book was released, I began getting letters, and later on emails, from individuals who said they book had actually caused them to recover from pretty severe depression. In fact, over the years, I would guess I’ve received more than ten thousand letters or emails like that, and probably way more than that, maybe even fifty thousand.

Still, it had not occurred to me that it might actually be a self-help book, in spite of the fact that lots of the people who wrote me said the book had helped them much more than the treatments they’d received over the years.

One day a colleague asked if I’d seen the article about my book in the New York Times. Apparently, Dr. Forrest Scogin, a research psychologist from the University of Alabama Medical Center, had studied the effects of reading a self-help book on patients seeking treatment for moderate to severe depression. In a nutshell, their studies indicated that simply reading Feeling Good may help some patients overcome depression and may help to prevent future relapses as well. This finding was a shock, but was not entirely unexpected due to all the testimonials I’d been received from people who’d read the book.

In their first study, Dr. Forest Scogin and his colleagues told patients seeking treatment for depression that they’d be placed on a four-week waiting list before beginning treatment. Half of the patients were given a copy of either my Feeling Good or a self-help book on depression by Dr. Peter Lewinsohn called Up from Depression. The researchers suggested that the patients could read their book while they were waiting for their first appointment with the psychiatrist.

The other half of the patients who were placed on the four-week waiting list did not receive a copy a self-help book. Both groups of patients were contacted each week by a research assistant who administered a test to assess the severity of depression. The goal of course was to find out if there were any changes in depression in any of the patients.

The results of the study were interesting. Approximately two-thirds of the patients who received one of the self-help books improved or recovered from depression during the four weeks, even though they received no other treatment with drugs or psychotherapy. In fact, they improved to such an extent that most of them did not even need any further treatment. In contrast, the patients who did not receive one of the books failed to improve during the four-week waiting period. As far as I know, this was the first time that the anti-depressant effects of a self-help book had ever been documented in carefully controlled research study published in a scientific journal.

Then the researchers did a number of additional experiments. First, they gave a copy of one of the two self-help books to the patients in the second group who had not improved. They asked them to wait four more weeks before beginning treatment, but suggested they read the book during their wait. Two-thirds of them also improved and did not need further treatment. This study was published in the medical journal, Gerontologist.

Some critics challenged the study, arguing that the improvement in the patients who received the self-help book might have simply been a placebo effect. In other words, maybe it was just the reading, and the expectation of recovery, that helped, as opposed to the ideas and techniques described in the books.

To test this, the investigators studied a new group of patients who were asked to read a “placebo” book while waiting for treatment. The researchers chose a classic book by Victor Frankl called Man’s Search for Meaning. If these patients also improved, it would confirm that the effect of reading on mood was simply a non-specific “placebo” effect. This is incredibly important, because almost any type of intervention can have a placebo effect, so that as many as 35% of patients will improve just because they think they’ll improve.

Surprisingly, the patients who read the Victor Frankl book did not improve. This exciting finding indicated that a self-help book can have a specific and fairly strong antidepressant effect, but that the book had to contain sound information that was actually helpful to individuals with depression.

Finally, the investigators also did several careful follow-up studies on these patients to find out if the antidepressant effects of Feeling Good and Up from Depression would last. In several additional publications, they reported that these patients did not relapse but maintained their improved moods for periods up to three years, and that they actually continued to improve following their initial Feeling Good “bibliotherapy.

However, they did not report that they were happy all the time. But when they hit bumps in the road, most of them picked up the book again, and re-read the sections that had been the most helpful, and then quickly recovered again.

It’s great that two thirds of the patients improved so rapidly. This result is at least as good as the effects of antidepressants or treatment with psychotherapy—and it’s far cheaper, and with no side effects either! But at the same time, one third of the patients did NOT improve. And of course, you see the same thing with treatment of depression by a psychiatrist or psychologist. In fact, recent research indicates that only 50% of patients, AT MOST, improve with professional treatment.

In my research, I’ve attempted to figure out what’s different about the patients who do not rapidly recover when treated with psychotherapy or Feeling Good bibliotherapy. And I believe I did find out why. To learn about that, you’ll have to listen to the Feeling Good Podcasts or read my new book, Feeling Great, when it comes out. Hopefully fairly soon!

I was pretty inspired by the terrific and important research by Forrest Scogin, and want to thank him!

If you or your patients would like to read one of my “self-help” books, the following table will show you which books are best for which kinds of problems. The reading list at the end is for individuals who might like to check out the original studies by Dr. Scogin and his colleagues.

Thanks!

David and Rhonda

Book

Topic / Problem

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy

Mild to severe depression

The Feeling Good Handbook

Depression and anxiety

When Panic Attacks

All anxiety disorders

Feeling Good Together

Relationship Problems

Intimate Connections

Dating Problems

Ten Days to Self-Esteem

This is a simplified ten-step program to overcome depression and boost self-esteem. it is effective individually or in support groups.

Bibliotherapy Research

  1. Ackerson J, Scogin F, McKendree-Smith N, Lyman RD (1998) Cognitive bibliotherapy for mild and moderate adolescent depressive symptomatology. J Consult Clin Psychol 66: 685-690.
  2. Floyd M, Rohen N, Shackelford JA, Hubbard KL, Parnell MB, et al. (2006) Two-year follow-up of bibliotherapy and individual cognitive therapy for depressed older adults. Behav Modif 30: 281-294.
  3. Floyd M, Scogin F, McKendree-Smith N, Floyd DL, Rokke PD (2004) Cognitive therapy for depression: a comparison of individual psychotherapy and bibliotherapy for depressed older adults. Behav Modif 28: 297-318.
  4. Jamison C, Scogin F (1995) The outcome of cognitive bibliotherapy with depressed adults. J Consult Clin Psychol 63: 644-650.
  5. Mains JA, Scogin FR (2003) The effectiveness of self-administered treatments: a practice-friendly review of the research. J Clin Psychol 59: 237-246.
  6. McKendree-Smith NL, Floyd M, Scogin FR (2003) Self-administered treatments for depression: a review. J Clin Psychol 59: 275-288.
  7. Scogin F, Floyd M, Jamison C, Ackerson J, Landreville P, et al. (1996) Negative outcomes: what is the evidence on self-administered treatments? J Consult Clin Psychol 64: 1086-1089.
  8. Scogin F, Hamblin D, Beutler L (1987) Bibliotherapy for depressed older adults: a self-help alternative. Gerontologist 27: 383-387.
  9. Scogin F, Jamison C, Davis N (1990) Two-year follow-up of bibliotherapy for depression in older adults. J Consult Clin Psychol 58: 665-667.
  10. Scogin F, Jamison C, Gochneaur K (1989) Comparative efficacy of cognitive and behavioral bibliotherapy for mildly and moderately depressed older adults. J Consult Clin Psychol 57: 403-407.
  11. Smith NM, Floyd MR, Jamison CS, and Scogin F (1997) Three-year follow-up of bibliotherapy for depression. J Consult Clin Psychol 65: 324-327.

 

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You can reach Dr. Burns at david@feelinggood.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at rbarovsky@aol.com.

If you like our jingle music and would like to support the composer Brett Van Donsel, you may download it here

* * *

THREE COOL UPCOMING WORKSHOPS FOR YOU

TEAM-CBT Methods for Anxiety Disorders–

Step-by-Step Training for Therapists

by David D. Burns, MD and Jill Levitt, PhD

jill-david

Dr. Jill Levitt and I are offering what I think will be an outstanding workshop on the treatment of anxiety disorders on Sunday, May 19, 2019. Our Sunday workshops can be tremendously rewarding, so consider attending if you are interested. 

The last Sunday workshop in February was really fun! We have been SOLD OUT for the in person slots in Palo Alto for two months, but still have spots online, and you can join us from anywhere in the world. Register soon if you are interested, as the online slots are also limited.

THERE WILL BE MANY EXPERT TRAINERS TO GUIDE THE ONLINE PARTICIPANTS DURING THE SMALL GROUP EXERCISES

WHEN: May 19, 2019, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm PST
(11:30 am-7:30 pm EST)

WHERE: Join us live online or in person at the Creekside Inn, Palo Alto, CA.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? $135,

WILL I GET CE CREDITS? YES! 7 CE hours available

WILL I GET CREDIT IN THE TEAM LICENSURE PROGRAM? YES!
Completion of this workshop also counts towards TEAM-CBT Level 1, 2 or 3 Certification

WHO CAN ATTEND? Therapists of all levels are welcome

CAN I REGISTER IF I’M NOT A THERAPIST? Although the workshop is geared for therapists, it will be taught in a clear and basic way that anyone can benefit from.

WILL I HAVE FUN? Yes!

WILL I HAVE GET TO HANG OUT WITH SOME COOL COLLEAGUES? Yes!

WILL I GET AN AWESOME FREE BREAKFAST AND LUNCH? Yes!

You will love this lively, amusing, and immensely useful day of training with Drs. Burns, Levitt and the Feeling Good Institute Staff. The trainers will use a combination of didactic teaching, live demonstrations, video, and breakout group practice to enhance skill-building.

REGISTER / LEARN MORE

Act fast if you want to attend!

* * *

And there will be two awesome summer intensives for you this year!

July 15 – 18, 2019
Calgary four-day intensive
Sponsored by Jack Hirose & Assoc.

 

July 29 – August 1, 2019
South San Francisco four-day intensive
Sponsored by Praxis

 

Flirting Training, Part 2, on FB Live, Sunday, June 23, 2018 at 3 PM PST!

Flirting Training, Part 2, on FB Live, Sunday, June 23, 2018 at 3 PM PST!

More Fabulous Dating and Flirting Strategies with Angela Krumm, PhD

This week our amazing special guest, Angela Krumm, PhD, returns for Part 2 of her Flirting Training series. Angela is Clinical Director of the Feeling Good Institute in Mt. View, California (www.feelinggoodinstitute.com) She will discuss more successful dating strategies, including the specifics of how to flirt and meet attractive strangers. Before the show, feel free to review her fabulous list of copyrighted (but free for you!) Flirting Skills.

If you want to catch our first show (Angela Part 1), you can click here.

If you watch the new show live on my public FB page this Sunday at 3 PM. you can participate and ask questions during the show. Of course, you can watch the recording of the show anytime on my public FB page.

Your official “textbook” for the dating presentations will be my book, Intimate Connections, which you can purchase at Amazon.com.

* * *

Coming in July and August, 2018

My summer intensives! Two great locations!

Register Now!

Advanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
A Four-Day Intensive Training in TEAM-CBT

 July 3 – 6, 2018 Whistler, BC, Canada

For more information, contact Jack Hirose & Associates Inc.
Phone: 604.924.0296, Toll-free: 1.800.456.5424

OR

High Speed, Drug Free Treatment of Depression and Anxiety Disorders–
A Four-Day TEAM-CBT Intensive

August 6 – 9, 2018, South San Francisco Conference Center, California

For more information, click here or call 1-800-258-8411

The summer intensives are nearly always my best workshops of the year. If you can only attend one of my workshops, consider one of the intensives!

David

Flirting Training, Part 1, tomorrow, on FB Live, Sunday, June 10, 2018 at 3 PM PST!

Flirting Training, Part 1, tomorrow, on FB Live, Sunday, June 10, 2018 at 3 PM PST!

Dating and Flirting Strategies with Angela Krumm, PhD

This week I will have a fantastic special guest, Angela Krumm, PhD, Clinical Director of the Feeling Good Institute in Mt. View, California (www.feelinggoodinstitute.com.) Angela and I will discuss successful dating strategies, including flirting training. If you watch the show live on my public FB page you can participate and ask questions during the show. Of course, you can watch the recording of the show anytime on my public FB page.

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Your official “textbook” for the dating presentations will be my book, Intimate Connections, which you can purchase at Amazon.com.

More Dating Strategies Next Week

Next week, my special guest will be the totally awesome Kyle Jones, and we will continue to discuss dating strategies, including how to make the first move, and more!

KPJ one to use

* * *

Hey, I am offering a really great, all-new workshop this coming Friday, right here in California. You still have time to register if you move fast.

A Day of Intimacy Training!

HOW TO DEVELOP STRONGER, DEEPER RELATIONSHIPS WITH CLIENTS, COLLEAGUES, AND LOVED ONES

Friday, June 15th, 2018 in Mt. View, California

9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Michael’s at Shoreline
2960 N. Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA 94043

Sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of CAMFT
(California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists)

In this exciting workshop, you’ll learn how to develop more meaningful and rewarding relationships with your clients as well as the people you care about the most, and you’ll get plenty of helpful feedback while you learn. I’ll be joined by the brilliant and totally wonderful Kyle Jones, a 3rd year PhD student at Palo Alto University. (You can see his photo above.) Although I’ll be doing the main teaching, Kyle will help me provide helpful feedback to all of you during the small group exercises.

In the morning, we’ll focus on dealing with challenging, difficult clients, and in the afternoon we will take on a far greater challenge: how to deal with challenging, difficult loved ones!

All of that plus:

  • Free breakfast
  • Free lunch
  • 6 CE credits
  • Lots of fun while learning!

Click here for registration and further details

* * *

Coming in July and August, 2018.

My summer intensives! Two great locations!

Register Now!

Advanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
A Four-Day Intensive Training in TEAM-CBT

 July 3 – 6, 2018 Whistler, BC, Canada

For more information, contact Jack Hirose & Associates Inc.
Phone: 604.924.0296, Toll-free: 1.800.456.5424

OR

High Speed, Drug Free Treatment of Depression and Anxiety Disorders–
A Four-Day TEAM-CBT Intensive

August 6 – 9, 2018, South San Francisco Conference Center, California

For more information, click here or call 1-800-258-8411

The summer intensives are nearly always my best workshops of the year. If you can only attend one of my workshops, consider one of the intensives!

I greatly appreciate your support, and am trying to reach as many people as possible with my free blogs designed to help individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, relationship conflicts, and habits and addictions, as well as the therapists who treat them! If you like what you see, please share it with friends and encourage them to sign up right here on www.feelinggood.com. The sign-up widget is in the upper right hand corner of every page!

David

Next FB Live Show will be on June 10, 2018 at 3 PM PST. Flirting Training, Part 1!

Next FB Live Show will be on June 10, 2018 at 3 PM PST. Flirting Training, Part 1!

Dating Strategies with Angela Krumm, PhD

There will be no FB Live on Sunday, June 3, 2018 because I’ll be flying to Canada. Next week I will have special guest, Angela Krumm, PhD, Clinical Director of the Feeling Good Institute in Mt. View, California (www.feelinggoodinstitute.com.) Angela will discuss successful dating strategies, including flirting training. You can watch the show live on my public FB page  if you’d like to participate and ask questions. Of course, you can watch the recording of the show anytime on my public FB page.

Your official “textbook” for the dating presentations will be my book, Intimate Connections, which you can purchase at Amazon.com.

* * *

Hey, I have a cool new workshop on intimacy coming up in June!

June 15th, 2018 in Mt. View, California

9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Michael’s at Shoreline
2960 N. Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA 94043

Sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley of CAMFT 
(California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists)

In this entirely new workshop, you’ll learn how to transform failed, frustrating relationships into satisfying, trusting ones, so you can enjoy greater success in your clinical work and more loving relationships with the people you care about the most.

I’ll be joined by the brilliant and wonderful Kyle Jones, a 3rd year PhD student at Palo Alto University with outstanding clinical skills. Although I’ll be doing the main teaching, Kyle will back me up and help me provide helpful feedback to all of you during the many small group exercises throughout the workshop.

In the morning, we’ll focus on dealing with challenging clients, and in the afternoon we will take on a far greater challenge: how to deal with challenging loved ones!

All of that plus:

  • Free breakfast
  • Free lunch
  • 6 CE credits
  • Lots of fun while learning!

Click here for registration and further details

* * *

Coming in July and August, 2018.

My summer intensives! Two great locations!

Register Now!

Advanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
A Four-Day Intensive Training in TEAM-CBT

 July 3 – 6, 2018 Whistler, BC, Canada

For more information, contact Jack Hirose & Associates Inc.
Phone: 604.924.0296, Toll-free: 1.800.456.5424

OR

High Speed, Drug Free Treatment of Depression and Anxiety Disorders–
A Four-Day TEAM-CBT Intensive

August 6 – 9, 2018, South San Francisco Conference Center, California

For more information, click here or call 1-800-258-8411

The summer intensives are nearly always my best workshops of the year. If you can only attend one of my workshops, consider attending one of the intensives!

I greatly appreciate your support, and hope you will continue to spread the word about TEAM-CBT and www.feelinggood.com. I am trying hard to reach as many people as possible with my free programming and blogs designed to help individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, relationship conflicts, and habits and addictions, as well as the therapists who treat them!

David