Helpful Books

I am a compulsive reader, always have been. So if a problem rears it’s head, my first reaction is “is there a book about this?” Part of it, to be honest, was an attempt to stay in my left brain and intellectualize away from those messy, confusing feelings. I really struggled with the fact that I couldn’t get through the healing process just by understanding it. The Boundary Ninja often said that if it was just about knowing the facts, that when a client came through the door, he would be able to just hand them a book “How to Heal” and say, have a nice life. 🙂 I often found that to be incredibly frustrating. Later, as I came to understand that the real healing in therapy wasn’t about what you knew, but about what you experienced with your therapist, I kept reading to keep my left brain occupied and out of the way (not to mention the fact that I just became fascinated about the brain, human development and psychotherapy). But, as the Boundary Ninja and I once discussed, it wasn’t just about distraction. My ability to understand the process and the necessity of experiencing the feelings helped me to find the courage to actually feel.

Below is a short list of books I found especially helpful along the way, with a short description of why. As for General Theory of  Love,  I’ve pushed this book so hard I really should consider contacting the publisher and asking for a commission. Big Grin

A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis et al  A wonderful lyrical book that still manages to explain basic neurobiology, and attachment theory and why love is at the center of being human. This book helped me immensely to understand that I could heal and that I needed to be dependent on my therapist for awhile in order to heal. I cannot recommend this enough. The Boundary Ninja actually read this at my recommendation and then said to me “S#$%, that’s another book I don’t get to write.” Big Grin

The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender This is wonderful book on healing from childhood incest that I read twice while recovering memories. This was especially useful because it provided a model of forgiveness that finally allowed me to understand what forgiveness really was and how I might be able to do it. Very long story behind that I’ll get to telling someday. It is however, written from Christian worldview for those of you who have other beliefs in case that would make you uncomfortable. Although I believe there’s still a lot of valuable stuff in here even if you don’t agree with the beliefs. Dan Allender also wrote “The Healing Path” which I also found helpful.

Boundaries by Drs. Cloud and Townsend This book is a really lucid, clear explanation of healthy boundaries and how they work. I found it indispensable since they had never been modeled for me. This book is also written from a Christian viewpoint but the authors also base the principles on their clinical practices. I would highly recommend this for anyone struggling with understanding boundaries. They have a companion book called Boundaries in Marriage that my husband and I both read and found extremely helpful.

Parenting from the Inside Out by Dan Seigel and Mary Hartzell This is a book the Boundary Ninja  recommended when I asked him for a layman’s book on attachment theory. Even though it’s a parenting book (and I wish I had read it much earlier) it’s also an excellent explanation of attachment theory and human development. The best part is that it’s written for laymen but with highlighted, easy to skip sections that go into the science of neurobiology for those interested. Dan Seigel is a leading researcher, practitioner, and author of Interpersonal Neurobiology. He’s written a number of books which address Mindfulness but they’re VERY tough going, I’m still trying to make it through A Mindful Brain. But this book was the one that allowed me to see what I struggled with as development gone awry that could be repaired instead of some innate pathology that made me damaged goods.

Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen Another book recommended by the Boundary Ninja that was life-changing for me. The author is a counselor for patients with cancer, some of whom are terminal. The book is a re-telling of stories, both hers and her patients and is incredibly powerful and moving conveying truths that are so hard to articulate but somehow this book manages to do so. My poor therapist, after I read this book I actually came to a session with a copy of it with like 15 yellow stickies in it. Big Grin

Attachment in Psychotherapy by David Wallin Read this one because the Boundary Ninja was reading it (one of my favorite things about the man was the ever changing pile of books on his table. Found a lot of good books just by perusing his piles. :D)  and I ran across it while looking for more information on attachment. Very heavy going at times because this is a book written for therapists; incredibly valuable though for insight into understanding how attachment injuries affect us and what you need to heal from them. I believe this book should be required reading for every therapist.

  1. November 29, 2013 at 9:21 am

    AG – I have just recently found your blog and am loving it. I relate to you in so many ways. I too am left brained and a book junkie. I was diagnosed with DID and then read a gazillion books on the topic. I have recently been trying so hard to understand this bizarre, weird concept of therapy and being dependent on someone…what??…not me!……and someone who is only there for an hour at a time…..never enough…… It never dawned on me that there were books on this topic….or blogs. So, you have opened my eyes to all of this. I am so happy to know this is normal. Of course my doc told me a million times how normal it is, but it is not the same as hearing it from the voices of those patients.


  2. annie
    November 30, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Ha-ha, I have to second almost every word of above msg, though my dg is borderline.


  3. Natasha
    January 4, 2014 at 2:58 am

    just to let you know – the parenting inside out link goes to the Boundaries book. At least on this computer. Yes, love books. Much easier than dealing with people … thanks for the list


    • January 4, 2014 at 9:33 am

      Thanks so much for telling me about the link, I’ve corrected it. I think you are correct that the foundations of our beliefs need to be corrected; at least that was true for me. If you do get the opportunity to see another therapist, look for one with experience with long term trauma. Hope the reading helps! ~ AG


  4. July 18, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Have you ever read Anatomy of the Soul by Curt Thompson? I thought it was excellent.


  5. July 19, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Hi Judy,
    I’ve never read that one, thanks for the suggestion. Always on the look out for a good book! ~ AG


    • MG
      August 24, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      I have read this one!! I would highly recommend it as well. Christian worldview integrating concepts of interpersonal neurobiology and attachment. Very good book. 🙂 Curt Thompson was apparently a student of Dan Siegel’s, and I heard about this book in a video with Dan Siegel . . .


  6. marleym6
    January 2, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    AG ~ what was the title of the book with 2 red chairs leaning into each other on the cover. I shared it with you know who, and he still has it. It belongs to him now.


    • January 2, 2015 at 11:37 pm

      I hate when that happens! It’s The General Theory of Love, the link is up above.


  7. MG
    August 24, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Thank you for linking this page for me (on another page). I have read quite a bit of Dan Siegel’s books, including the one you reference here. I would highly recommend Mindsight, as well as The Mindful Therapist. Both are very accessible.

    I, too, am a compulsive reader and have the same reaction you do – when I run into a problem, I think, “There must be a book that explains the solution,” and I search Amazon, lol! I hadn’t thought about it as a way to stay in my head (left hemisphere) and escape the necessary emotional work. Thank you for mentioning this, as it opens an avenue for me to explore. 😉

    Thank you as well for including books from Christian worldview, as this is where I am coming from. 😉 Integrating psychotherapeutic principles and Christianity can be a difficult task. I hope to get a chance to read the books you list here that incorporate these together.



  8. Lauren
    October 25, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    I’m not a spring chicken and have done some work over the years but I’ve just started reading about attachement theory in the last six months and feel totally blown away by what I’ve read so far. I’m also amazed that some of my favorites are on your list- General Theory of Love, Daniel Seigel (Mindsight) and David Wallin’s Atttachment in Psychotherapy. I’m a reader too and have always felt as if my HIgher Power is funneling me great books- I never can remember how I came across them. I look forward to checking out some of your other favorites. I know I need to get back into therapy but as I screw up my courage, I’m so grateful to have found your blog.


  9. MG
    October 26, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    I just wanted to let you know that I read “Boundaries” and am finishing up “A General Theory of Love” – both are wonderful. “Boundaries” significantly changed my way of seeing things – the ways I interact with others as well as the ways that I receive their actions and words. I don’t believe I will ever be the same – and that is a good thing. 🙂 “A General . . .” is so poetically written, I have really enjoyed it as well. Thanks again for recommending these!


  10. attachment obsessed
    May 22, 2017 at 11:15 am

    I have been reading your blog and just want to express my deep gratitude for your incredibly generosity of time and spirit. You share so much to help others, and it is a true gift. As I read your posts, I keep thinking that you would be an awesome therapist!

    I am posting on this page (sorry for the long-winded distraction) to second Mindsight by Dan Siegel, but to also highly recommend “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk, which was published since your blog post.

    Thank you again for your empathy and kindness. You are a gem!


  11. January 8, 2023 at 4:06 am

    Awesome blog you have here


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