Evidence-Based Self-Help Books

At Portland Psychotherapy, our commitment to evidence-based practice includes not only individual and group treatment but self-help books as well. Anyone—regardless of background and experience—can write a self-help book. There is no quality control.  Most self-help books are not guided by principles that have been supported by research. Even fewer books have been tested in studies to see if they actually help people improve their lives.

Below we have compiled a list of books for which there is research showing that they can actually improve the lives of those who use them. We hope to add to this list over time as new research comes to our attention.

Living Beyond Your Pain: Using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy to Ease Chronic Pain by Dahl and Lundgren

  • Evidence for improvements in: Chronic Pain; Acceptance; Quality of Life; Life Satisfaction; Living in accordance with one’s values.
  • What the research says: A group of people with chronic pain was given Living Beyond Your Pain over a 6-week period. Those who received the book showed greater improvements compared to those who were waiting to receive the book during that period. The one caveat to this study: people using the book received weekly phone calls from a therapist who answered their questions. Consequently, although there is evidence that the book can be helpful with minimal therapist support, it is not as certain if people would have been as successful completely on their own.
  • To read more about this study, click here.

The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety: A Guide to Breaking Free from Anxiety, Phobias, and Worry Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Forsyth and Eifert

  • Evidence for improvements in: Anxiety; Depression; Worry; Social Anxiety; Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); Quality of Life; Mindfulness; Self-Compassion.
  • What the research says: Two studies were conducted using the Workbook for Anxiety and assessed at the end of 12 weeks and again 3 and 6-months later. In one, people were given a free copy through an Internet website and compared to those still waiting for a copy. In the second study, people were given either a copy of the Workbook or another self-help book called The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety. In the first study, people improved in a number of different ways compared to those who did not receive any book. In the second study, those who received The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook Anxiety did better than those who received The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety.
  • One really interesting thing about this research is that even though the book is aimed at dealing with anxiety, people showed improvements in depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) too. Also, many of these people were receiving psychotherapy and/or psychiatric medications while they were using the book and still showed additional improvement.
  • To read more about this study, click here.

Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Hayes

  • Evidence for improvements in: Quality of Life; Anxiety; Depression; Mindfulness; Self-Judgment; Acceptance; Flexibility.
  • What the research says: GOOYMIYL (as it’s known for short) has been researched in a few different studies. For people interested in weight maintenance following a 6-hour workshop, people who actively read and used the book showed reductions in weight and improvements in blood pressure compared to those who did not actively use GOOYMIYL, as well as increased quality of life, less self-judgment, and reduced feeling of being judged by others. In a group of K – 12 schoolteachers and staff, those who used the book reported decreases in depression, anxiety, and burnout. Others studies are being conducted, including one in Japan using a translated version!
  • To read more about this research, click here.