Book Recommendations

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

“Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable or to dare greatly. Based on twelve years of pioneering research, Brené Brown PhD, LMSW, dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.

Brown explains how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment, and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity. She writes: “When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.”

Esslin’s Review: A beautiful conversation with vulnerability and why it may indeed be our greatest strength. We feel being vulnerable as we have been hurt before, but this book gives us a window into how our lives and wellbeing could transform for the better if we handle our vulnerability well and with courage.

Staring at the Sun: Being at Peace with your Own Mortality

“At age 70 and facing his own fear of death, which he discusses in a special afterword, Dr Yalom tackles his toughest subject yet and finds it to be the root cause of patients’ fears, stresses and depression. If therapists are to deliver ‘the gift of therapy’, they must confront the realities of life for themselves and their practice, as must we all.”

Esslin’s Review: This book is highly relatable for therapists and clients alike. I have found that many challenges my clients come in with link back to a conscious or subconscious death anxiety – or fear of an end. It may drive us to impulsive life-embracing behaviours, perpetuate difficulties in decision-making, leave us feeling empty or depressed, or push us to seek meaning and purpose in life. 

Coming to terms with our mortality can help us to live our lives in a mindful, meaningful way. This book is great for anyone who has come across a stumbling stone in life and is unsure where to go from here. It can help to find perspective and connection in something that ultimately links all of us. 

Schema Therapy: A Practitioner’s Guide

“Designed to meet the formidable challenges of treating personality disorders and other complex difficulties, schema therapy combines proven cognitive-behavioral techniques with elements of other widely practiced therapies.”

Esslin’s Review: This book is useful for clients, therapists, interns, students, and anyone with an interest in therapy and the human mind. I base my practice on schema therapy, particularly in the assessment stages, and have seen great success with it for many of my clients. 

Experiencing Schema Therapy from the Inside Out: A Self-Practice/Self-Reflection Workbook for Therapists (Self-Practice/Self-Reflection Guides for Psychotherapists)

“This unique resource helps therapists build their skills in schema therapy (ST) by applying ST techniques to themselves and reflecting on the experience. Designed for use by individuals or groups, the book harnesses the power of self-practice/self-reflection (SP/SR), an evidence-based training strategy. Twenty modules take therapists step by step through using ST to address a professional or personal problem–from establishing safety and creating a self-conceptualization to implementing mode change work, including cognitive, experiential, and behavioral pattern-breaking interventions.”

Esslin’s Review: Self-reflection is a key element of therapy for psychotherapists and psychologists. This book has step-by-step modules that help us to reflect on our own challenges, emotions, and beliefs, and thereby continue to deepen our understanding of schema therapy on our journey as psychotherapists.

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook

“Research shows that DBT can improve your ability to handle distress without losing control and acting destructively. In order to make use of these techniques, you need to build skills in four key areas-distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.”

Esslin’s Review: I have found DBT incredibly effective with clients and recommend this book for those who want to take their therapy further, both as clients and therapists. The practical exercises stimulate reflection and allow us to add new tools to our belt for managing challenges as they arise.

DBT Skills Training Manual

“The reproducible teaching notes, handouts, and worksheets used for over two decades by hundreds of thousands of practitioners have been significantly revised and expanded to reflect important research and clinical advances. The book gives complete instructions for orienting clients to DBT, plus teaching notes for the full range of mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance skills. Handouts and worksheets are not included in the book; purchasers get access to a Web page where they can download and print all the handouts and worksheets discussed, as well as the teaching notes. “

Esslin’s Review: More practical exercises and a step-by-step practice guide.

The 5 Love Languages

“bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman guides couples in identifying, understanding, and speaking their spouse’s primary love language—quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch. By learning the five love languages, you and your spouse will discover your unique love languages and learn practical steps in truly loving each other. “

Esslin’s Review: Excellent, insightful book that highlights five different ways we express, receive and understand love. I have found that with couples these love languages can have a revolutionary effect on the relationship – many misunderstandings are recognized for the first time, and it brings them closer together. This book is a great resource for couples, families and singles to understand their own love languages and begin speaking the love languages of their close relationships for deeper, more meaningful connections. 

The 5 Love Languages of Children

“Discover how to speak your child’s love language in a way that he or she understands. Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell help you:

Discover your child’s love language
Assist your child in successful learning
Use the love languages to correct and discipline more effectively
Build a foundation of unconditional love for your child.”

Esslin’s Review: The five languages child edition! This book tailors the love languages to children who are at different developmental stages. Great for parents, aunties, uncles, and grandparents who want to strengthen their bond with the kids in the family. 

Emotion Efficacy Therapy: A Brief, Exposure-Based Treatment for Emotion Regulation Integrating ACT and DBT

“This step-by-step manual will show you how to help your clients confront and accept their pain, and learn to apply new adaptive responses to emotional triggers. Using a brief treatment that lasts as little as eight weeks, you will be able to help your clients understand and develop a new relationship with their emotions, learn how to have mastery over their emotional experience, practice values-based action in the midst of being emotionally triggered, and stop intense emotions from getting in the way of creating the life they want.”

Esslin’s Review: I enjoy how Emotion Efficacy Therapy integrates valuable parts of DBT and ACT (Acceptance-Commitment Therapy) into a brief, structured therapy protocol. I have found elements of EET, in particular the emotion wave, mindfulness, and value-based action plans, highly effective in working with clients toward measurable change. 

Conversations on Consciousness: What the Best Minds Think about the Brain, Free Will, and What It Means to Be Human

“In Conversations on Consciousness, Susan Blackmore interviews some of the great minds of our time, a who’s who of eminent thinkers, all of whom have devoted much of their lives to understanding the concept of consciousness. The interviewees, ranging from major philosophers to renowned scientists, talk candidly with Blackmore about some of the key philosophical issues confronting us in a series of conversations that are revealing, insightful, and stimulating.”

Esslin’s Review: This is one of my favourite books on consciousness. Deep, heavy topics on the human mind are made light and easy to follow through the conversational interviewing style. It is stimulating, engaging and thought-provoking – it allows us to question, wonder, ponder and reflect on what consciousness truly is. Recommend to all who are interested in the human mind. 

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness

“The Center Cannot Hold is the eloquent, moving story of Elyn’s life, from the first time that she heard voices speaking to her as a young teenager, to attempted suicides in college, through learning to live on her own as an adult in an often terrifying world. Saks discusses frankly the paranoia, the inability to tell imaginary fears from real ones, the voices in her head telling her to kill herself (and to harm others), as well as the incredibly difficult obstacles she overcame to become a highly respected professional. This beautifully written memoir is destined to become a classic in its genre.”

Esslin’s Review: I recommend this book highly as a first-person account on living with schizophrenia. Elyn Saks has not only written an emotionally touching piece on her own mental health journey, but addresses commonly held myths and fears. She lets us all have a vulnerable moment of insight into the world of schizophrenia that will change our understanding of this disease forever.

Six Thinking Hats

“The main difficulty of thinking is confusion,” writes Edward de Bono, long recognized as the foremost international authority on conceptual thinking and on the teaching of thinking as a skill. “We try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope, and creativity all crowd in on us. It is like juggling with too many balls.” The solution? De Bono unscrambles the thinking process with his “six thinking hats”:
WHITE HAT: neutral and objective, concerned with facts and figures
RED HAT: the emotional view
BLACK HAT: careful and cautious, the “devil’s advocate” hat
YELLOW HAT: sunny and positive
GREEN HAT: associated with fertile growth, creativity, and new ideas
BLUE HAT: cool, the color of the sky, above everything else-the organizing hat”

Esslin’s Review: This book appeals to the analytical among us. It helps to disentangle our thinking process, by structuring it into six hats. This not only makes us better thinkers, but also heightens our awareness of which hat we are wearing, which hat comes naturally to us, and which hat has room for growth. 

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales

“Oliver Sacks’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat tells the stories of individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations: patients who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people and common objects; who are stricken with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs have become alien; who have been dismissed as retarded yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents.

If inconceivably strange, these brilliant tales remain, in Dr. Sacks’s splendid and sympathetic telling, deeply human. They are studies of life struggling against incredible adversity, and they enable us to enter the world of the neurologically impaired, to imagine with our hearts what it must be to live and feel as they do. A great healer, Sacks never loses sight of medicine’s ultimate responsibility: “the suffering, afflicted, fighting human subject.”

Esslin’s Review: For me personally, the brain and perception – be it vision, hearing, sensations, memory or otherwise – is one of the most fascinating things. Hence I hold a PhD in neuropsychology, I suppose! This book holds some of the most interesting perceptual dysfunctions and the courageous humans who battle them everyday. 

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