Hand-picked Mental Health books from leading experts, just for you
Does it feel like you need therapy sessions to navigate the self-help aisles? You’re not alone – we feel it, too. So, we went to the experts to find out which mental health books social workers, family counsellors and psychologists are recommending their patients read right now. Remember that while adding these recommendations to your reading list is no substitute for professional expert advice, it can be a starting point.
Best For Being Kinder to Yourself
By Dr. Kristin Neff
“This is a great book for learning to accept yourself for who you are,” says Amanda Bacchus, director of the Vaughan Relationship Centre in Vaughan, Ontario. Many of us tend to engage in negative self-talk, and in this book, Neff explains how to move through these feelings of failure and inadequacy with mindfulness exercises, walking the reader through how to slow these feelings down and explaining how to change the way we react and interact with other people. Bacchus recommends this book because it provides specific exercises so you can really practice what you’re reading, which helps in making real-life changes.
Best For Becoming More Connected
By Dr. Emran Mayer
The connection between your mind and body is real. Whether you’ve felt butterflies in your stomach before a job interview or a more persistent rumbling when you’re feeling anxious, there’s a strong connection between your brain and gut. “A lot of my clients often physically experience anxiety in their gut,” says Amber Cohen, a Toronto-based clinical psychologist and founder of The Cohen Clinic.
“This book provides evidence-based information on how the gut-mind connection works, how it is impacted by early life experiences and how to take steps toward healing.” Throughout the book, Mayer explains how to harness the power of your gut and take charge of your health simply by listening to your body. Cohen recommends this book to anyone who experiences anxiety or chronic stress with gastronomical issues.
Best For Strengthening Your Mind
By Amy Morin, LCSW
A Florida-based psychologist who specializes in working with women, Beverly Pedroche frequently recommends 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do as a must-read. Delving into critical issues such as sexism, social comparison and social media, Morin offers practical advice, tips and strategies from former patients who include well-known women across industries and pop culture.
Pedroche recommends this book because it offers practical ways of correcting unhealthy thoughts and behaviours. “The strategies suggested are supported by research,” says Pedroche. “I’ve read it more than once and get something new and helpful from it with each reading.”
Best For Learning to Self-Advocate
By Nedra Glover Tawwab
Featuring insights about the importance of boundaries, and the strategies you must follow to get there, Set Boundaries, Find Peace tops the list of books that Roxanne Francis, MSW, RSW, recommends to her clients. In her latest book, Gloer Tawwab, a licensed counselor and relationship expert, takes a down-to-earth approach to discussing difficult topics, including coping with toxic people and finding work-life balance, and offers techniques that anyone can use to express themselves clearly and establish healthier relationships in all areas of their life.
“Boundaries are extremely important in our lives, in all of our relationships, including our personal relationships with our partners, our children, our parents and friends, as well as our professional relationships with colleagues,” says Francis, a Toronto-area psychotherapist. “The inability to set appropriate boundaries leads to people-pleasing, putting ourselves last and an overall lack of self-confidence.”
Best For Making Life Changes
By James Clear
In Atomic Habits, Clear offers accessible habits that are easy to implement, whether you want to make a change in your personal or professional life. “[It explains] the concept of living your best life through optimizing your habits,” says Wendy O’Connor, a California-based psychologist and life strategist. “Clear keeps it simple to understand and implement – I can’t recommend it enough.”
From how to establish the habits you want, to practical advice on ways to stop procrastinating, to making habits really stick, this book is on O’Connor’s go-to list for her clients because it’s as easy to dive in and out of the chapters as it is to incorporate the strategies into your daily life.
Best For Embracing Tough Times
By Pema Chodoron
In her best-selling classic, Chodoron, an American Buddhist, delves into how we can move forward during times when it seems that our life is unravelling. “I love suggesting this book to clients because it provides a roadmap for understanding and making space for our feelings during heartbreak,” explains Erin Davidson, MA, RCC, a writer and registered clinical counselor specializing in sex therapy and relationship counseling.
As Davidson explains, the healing process of heartache can be isolating, but it also makes us human, and she recommends this book as a way of helping to better understand this process. Chodron encourages all of us to move toward painful situations, which can help us open our hearts in new, and often unexpected, ways. Davidson is also the author of Break Through the Breakup, in which she incorporates reflective questions and therapeutic strategies to help people feel less alone during painful times
Best For Staying Curious
By Adam Grant
Combining research and storytelling, organizational psychologist Grant helps us build the mental muscle we need to change or question our opinions, shift our perspective and rethink how we look at the world. “Think Again will inspire you to rethink your decisions, which can help position you for excellence at work and wisdom in life,” says Gillian Mandich, PhD, happiness expert and founder of The International Happiness Institute of Health Science Research.
Mandich recommends this book as a way of harnessing the power of imposter syndrome, embracing the unknown and using both to your advantage. “Think Again is an invitation to let go of views that are no longer serving us, and it provides a clear roadmap to help people prize mental flexibility, humility and curiosity.” Sometimes there’s joy in finding out we are wrong, as long as we’re open to it.