I love reading, and there is nothing I love more than a good psychology book.
I developed this reading list based off of some of my favourite books over the past few years.
If you are a psychology student, graduate, qualified psychologist, therapist or simply just interested in the topic of psychology then there will be a book in here for you, or maybe two, or maybe all of them!
Check out my reviews of all 20 books and simply click on the name of the book to be taken straight to a link to purchase it!
Blackbox thinking really came at the right time for me.
I had just started my doctorate in counselling psychology and was struggling to come to terms with a failed assignment.
This book really opened my eyes to the power and true purpose of failure.
Blackbox Thinking looks at different professional industries in our society and tries to teach lessons of industries that refuse to learn from failure, those that do and the differences in those industries as a result.
If you want to gain a better understanding of what failure is all about, the purpose and power of what failure can do for us, then this book is a must read!
Carl Rogers is one of the greatest pioneers of psychotherapy and psychology!
His work created a new age of therapeutic work during times of psychodynamic and behaviourist principles.
With a focus on the client as an individual, in their subjective world, Rogers’ work was revolutionary.
This book really encapsulates his ideology and philosophy better than any other.
What’s more, is that you don’t need to be a therapist to really appreciate and gain benefit from his work and knowledge
A new appreciation of the individual, empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence, an appreciation of the principles in this book and enhance the life of any reader, from any background and profession.
The book, unsurprisingly so, introduces the concept of ‘flow’.
Flow is a state that if reached, it is argued, can enrich the lives of people, and is the key to true happiness.
combination of a number of things such as minimising some of the challenges we catastrophise in life, as well as learning from our failures encapsulates what flow is about, however, it includes so much more.
This book is a bit of a classic in psychology and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.
Backed with real sound empirical principles this book is one for the people looking to introduce a new concept in their lives to experience some more happiness in 2019!
Thinking fast and slow can be a challenging read I will not deny it
However, this is in the GetPsyched Reading List 2019 because of how thought-provoking it is.
If you can get past the challenges you might experience in reading it, this book talks in great detail about the two different parts of our decision making brain, the logic behind them and how it rules everything we do.
How rational we think we are when we are reactive compared to when we are considered and think situations through thoroughly, is very different from reality.
Similar to his other work, Yalom in the Gift of Therapy talks about his personal experiences and process of becoming the establish therapist he is today.
He goes into brutal detail about his trials and successes, something I rarely come across form professional therapists talking about their work.
The lessons he has learned and is willing to relay to the reader are so so valuable.
I really believe this book is not only a must read for therapists and trainees, but for anyone wishing to develop empathic and interpersonal skills with a desire to communicate and relate to others better.
This is one of those books that I just love picking up every now and again.
It’s by no means a self-discovery or intellectual based book but it is so so fun to read and actually gives more detail than I thought it would at first.
If like me you are interested in the basic principles of psychology but have limited time or resources to remind your self of some of the experiments that established these principles…then this is the book for you.
It gives wonderful illustrations and descriptions of the most famous studies in psychologies history.
It’s so easy to read and a really nice break from some of the harder texts I read often.
This book also looks at some of the ethical and legal issues some of these studies raised as well as their findings and how they still influence our lives and understand of psychology today. A really brilliant book!
Very similar to Pavlov’s Dogs and Other Experiments, the Psychology Book is one of those books I love to big up and just have a scan through.
Its nothing heavy and in truth was actually given to me as a bit of a joke.
It’s honestly brilliant though.
It’s a book that makes some of the most challenging and difficult to absorb concepts and principles in psychology easy to digest.
With awesome illustrations and key facts about studies, research, psychologists and experiments, it is everything you need in order to learn the most valuable points of some of the key principles to psychology.
Due to the popularity of blogs, there are now many people who are increasingly aware of mental health issues. And those who are struggling with them are now more open to talking about it.
Indeed, mental health blogs promote important conversations on mental health, all because of the explosion of the blogging culture.
It is estimated that there are more than 1.8 billion websites. These websites are typically dedicated to a particular topic or purpose, ranging from entertainment and social networking to providing news and, more importantly, as an avenue for critical discussions.
Blogs are essentially another form of websites. At its core, blogs are dynamic websites which are regularly updated and allow reader engagement. Psychreg for instance, allows its readers to engage in a range of topics in psychology, mental health and well-being – with the ultimate aim of addressing intertwined issues within the realms of the discipline.
It is recognised that blogging started in 1994, with Links.net considered to be the first ever blog. Blogging has come a long way – from being interactive, online forms of the traditional personal diary to becoming a repository of critical discussions.
What makes blogging even more remarkable is that it is democratic: Anyone can start their own. Indeed, when I decided to launch my own psychology blog, Psychreg, I found the process to be pretty straightforward. Taking into account these features of blogging, it is arguably one of the most effective medium to raise awareness about mental health.
Blogs demonstrate that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. This is the core reason why I developed Psychreg to become a platform for people afflicted with mental health issues to share their narratives. Through the use of blogs, the powerful lived-experience narratives are reaching far more people.
With the increasing popularity of blogs, it is only sensible that they should be adapted in order to change the way people think and act about mental health.
It is comforting to know that across the world, people use blogs as an effective medium to share their narratives and experiences, to increase awareness and understanding, and to offer comfort and support. And not only that, blogs in similar genres are now being given recognition similar to those of mainstream blogs.
Needless to say, blogging is not just simply writing a blog post (and getting to grips with WordPress); there is a psychology behind it. An emerging subfield in psychology that focuses on the application of psychological principles and research in order to optimise the benefits that readers can derive from consuming blogs is known as blog psychology.
A recently published article in the Psychreg Journal of Psychology explored the theoretical underpinnings of blog psychology such as readers’ perception, cognition, and humanistic components in regards to their experience of reading blogs.
Although blog psychology is still in its infancy, there is definitely a huge potential to it towards contributing to the discipline of mental health.
With the continued popularity of blogs, it is crucial that a specialised discipline be developed to encompass all forms of internet-mediated communication, specifically in blogs, such as the use, design, and its impact on mental health and well-being of its readers.
It is also important that mental health bloggers network with each other to share best practices, which was the aim of 1st Mental Health Bloggers Conference held in London last December 2018.
Critical discussions about psychology, mental health, and well-being play a vital role in helping people feel better about themselves.
Blogging provides researchers and practitioners an excellent opportunity to create these conversations. It allows people to feel more connected to the world outside their home through the internet.
This is the very reason the world needs dedicated mental health bloggers, who will talk about relevant health psychology, mental health and well-being issues.
They can help us think progressively and critically, and in essence, help us build a world where everyone takes mental health and well-being more seriously.
Have you ever suffered lower back pain or pain in general that you can’t explain? An enduring headache that aspirin or ibuprofen won’t kick? A change in your inner works?
Then a few days, a week, a year later it resolves itself? Or maybe its ongoing and your doctor is stuck of how to help? You may have had or have what is termed a medically unclassified symptom.
Physical complaints without being explained by a sports injury or biological cause can be classified as medically unclassified symptoms (MUS). MUS are any physical complaint without any found organic cause or pathology and account for 1 in 5 general practitioner consults in the United Kingdom.
MUS has its own thesaurus of names explaining the same phenomena: somatisation; functional somatisation; psychosomatic and functional symptoms.
Further classified into a number of disorders: somatic symptoms disorder; somatoform disorder; functional somatic syndrome; bodily distress syndrome; functional disorders; and conversion disorder, all disorders denoting physical symptoms with no identifiable cause and un-diagnosable by any medical test.
Then a spanner in the works with functional neurological disorder (FND), that poses physical symptoms to be caused by the nervous system, rather than physical or neurological disorders.
All the disorders are arguably contested illnesses, illnesses not taken seriously in medicine due to no pathological explanatory basis, despite its impact on individuals functioning.
A number of symptoms fall under this bumbershoot; muscular, joint and back pain, the chronic of which is increasingly termed fibromyalgia, a condition of enduring pain; headaches; heart palpitations and chest pains; irritable bowel syndrome; faintness; and tiredness, associated and in chronic cases diagnosable as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) also known as myalgia encephalometric (ME), extreme fatigue.
A proposed 1.5 to 2 million people in the U.K have fibromyalgia and 260,000 individuals have CFS with a trend of incidences between the two and further co-morbidities with other health difficulties.
A number of theories pose to explain these difficult disorders and include traumatic injury, arthritis, autoimmune and, or nervous system abnormalities, although remain inconclusive.
This blog will emit fibromyalgia and CFS, as they are independently recognised disorders and will focus on other MUS symptomology that remain an enigma in the biomedical texts.
The surge of unidentifiable symptoms has been recognised in Germany with the division of mental health care into psychiatric and psychosomatic, the U.K in comparison operates from the dual model of physical, with various specialities and mental (psychiatric) health.
Interestingly individuals with psychological distress will present with unexplainable physical symptoms and similarly, those suffering stress will demonstrate similar physical complaints with chronic stress acting as a catalyst in a number of illnesses.
We have all undoubtedly heard of the brain-gut axis, the communication of brain to gut and gut to the brain; gut microbes attributable to our mental health and counter to this mental health associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
Then there are the less common brain-uterus, for both sexes, there is the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, which keeps our reproductive centres and immune systems in check.
We as a species are a mind-field of axes in the conjunction of physical and psychological health and is levelled-up or levelled-down as a result of our endocrine system, our perfume centres spritzing out hormones.
When stressed cortisol prepares our innate autonomic nervous response of either fight, flight or (a less effective survival instinct if you’re not a possum) freeze, either to conserve the energy to at some point leg it or conjure the energy to fight.
Unfortunately, in this stone-age, we can’t fight it out with other humans (it’s not an accepted practice) nor can we set fire to our workload, walk away from our desks and be done with it.
This primal response is synched with the tenth cranial nerve (vagus nerve) (known as the polyvagal theory), this nerve sends messages from your brain to your heart, lungs and digestive tract.
Picture this, you are about to do a speech to a large group of people, before stepping out your heart beat increases (circulating the blood to all extremities, including feet, essential for the flight component), your breath might quicken and shorten and your tummy knots (the expression ‘bricking it,’ is literal).
Congratulations your nervous systems are working, and after the speech, your cortisol will ease up on the ninja grip and you will go back to an equilibrium.
In the potentiation of stress may mean this equilibrium isn’t restored and remains on full volume (this is the case in PTSD), whilst one night of not sleep fretting about the presentation tomorrow, a week, a month of not sleeping impacts individuals’ health.
Stress has been linked to not just insomnia but asthma; brain shrinkage and memory loss, a catalyst in the development of Alzheimer’s; circulatory problems; gastrointestinal disorders; hypertension; cardiovascular diseases, to name a few, let alone depression, anxiety and headaches from the stress of it all.
The use of stress management mediates our heightened responses into the awareness that it is unlikely that the audience you are presenting to is going to go after you with pitchforks and this can be aided with the likes of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Generally, if we are stressed we are somewhat psychological distressed and if we are psychologically distressed we will be stressed. An example of a nervous breakdown whilst donating a psychological state is a result of a number of stressors, neither is exclusive.
The therapeutic techniques of CBT and similar, are psychological techniques found effective in the management and mediation of pain and in the symptoms associated with MUS.
The enigmatic circumstance of MUS may well be the mysterious soup of our body’s response to psychological distress and stress with the endocrine and nervous systems responding appropriately or not, affecting our physical health.
This blog touches on only one of our motion centred room odourise going off (cortisol), we have a collective of 50 different hormones simultaneously operating all at the same time… Giving rise to potential toxic chloroform to our body’s regular functioning.
We are all familiar with the moment our favourite lead character is shown to have a memory back to a horrifying moment from their past, or from earlier on in the series equating to their psychological state and unravelling storyline.
This is PTSD, known as post-traumatic stress disorder. There are increasing media representations of PTSD, but what exactly is it?
PTSD is an after effect of a traumatic event that has the potential to last months or years, often associated with soldiers, the rest of us are not exempt.
Traumatic events are overwhelming and frightening experiences, like being involved in an assault, witnessing an accident or attack. For some life carries on unaffected, whilst others are subject to psychological symptoms of grief, depression, guilt, shame and blame and specific to PTSD flashbacks and nightmares; avoidance and numbing; and hypervigilance, being constantly on alert.
Physical effects of irregular heartbeats, diarrhoea and pains are often occurrent with PTSD as a result of the continued activation of the fight, flight response.
A flashback of the traumatic memory will induce the same physiological responses as at the time of the traumatic experience itself.
Then the less commonly known complex-PTSD (cPTSD) is suffered when individuals suffer repeated severe neglect or abuse.
In addition to PTSD symptoms, cPTSD has symptoms of difficulties with regulating emotions; distrust towards the world; feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness as if they are damaged goods; feeling alienated; avoiding interpersonal relationships; suicidality and dissociative symptoms.
Dissociation is literally ‘ignorance is bliss’ in psychology terms with your brain disconnecting from the trauma and associated memories, feelings and identity, acting in self-preservation from the psychological turmoil.
This further creates difficulties with symptoms of amnesia, detachment to yourself and your emotions with a loss of self, a distorted perception of those and the world around you.
For some it’s a natural response to trauma, others decide to tune-out (this is often found with children) and for those with schizophrenia, bipolar and borderline personality disorder it’s a symptom of their disorder.
Trauma fundamental changes us, from the hardwiring of our brain to the bodies responses, operating from an instinctive drive in the face of trauma.
We are familiar with the four Fs- fighting, fleeing, feeding and f(love)-ing; fighting and fleeing are geared up in trauma and freezing can also occur. The reptilian brain, a drive in our survival, activates shutting down non-essential processes to conserve energy, the nervous system releases a flood of stress hormones to prepare the body in particular cortisol.
Cortisol prepares the body for its chosen method of survival, the vagus nerve sending signals to the heart, lungs and stomach, creating that feeling we get when we are in the grips of fear (for those who fear nothing, let me know how, for others with acrophobia or ophidiophobia (an evolutionary rationalised fear) will be all too familiar with this feeling.)
Generally, we sense danger, and no it’s not a sixth sense or the Illuminati (associated with the reptilian brain), its an innate instinct and further taught to us by our caregivers, aiding the development of part of our autonomic nervous system.
Mirror neurons aid this learning process with mimicry and in the development of empathy (if you are on the Autistic Disorder spectrum this may be more difficult), these handy neurons guide our perception and action.
Its mirror neurons that enable us to interpret individuals’ intentions or make us wince when someone gets hurt (unless it’s our sibling or best mate falling over, then we malfunction and laugh).
Consider walking home at night and a large, conspicuous hooded hulk of an individual approaches, alarm bells go off, you cross the road or your heart rate increases, and you hope to pass them unbothered, with wallet and limbs intact.
When someone approaches you in a bar we can sense their intentions and that niggle of your partners infidelity, this particular one is a paradox as we generally trust the person we love and therefore what they say, yet our instinct is flagging up something else putting us into conflict.
This conflict is particularly difficult in differentiating for individuals who have been abused by their care giver and by partners, the very people we look for love and security, are the very people who risk that safety and neglect us.
The potentiation of this can result in the dysregulated response occurrent with PTSD; overactivated amygdala, resulting in hypervigilance, underactive hippocampus, restricting consolidation of what has happened to put it as a past event resulting in the continued heightened preparation of flight or fight and finally the continued elevation of stress hormones.
There are a number of therapies that aid PTSD for some medication aids the turning down of heightened responses, likely the combination of medication and therapeutic techniques may be suitable.
Therapies include eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing, cognitive processing therapy and other cognitive therapeutic frameworks providing individuals with an opportunity to rationalise what has happened and gain skills to thrive and move out of survival mode.
Other holistic techniques engaging writing therapy to come to terms with what has happened; art therapy as an alternative expression; and yoga to get back into your body, effective for individuals who have experienced sexual and physical abuse and have disconnected with their bodies.
Trauma is attributable to the development of mental health difficulties and physical ill-health, finding individuals who experienced traumas in childhood, known as adverse childhood effects (ACEs) have increased mortality from heart disease, chronic lung disease and other health management.
Individuals working in professions dealing with traumatic events (paramedics, police and emergency services) or those dealing with disturbing details of forensic cases all are susceptible.
The outing of trauma can often result in a post-truth wake and can incur in mental health, especially in light of the shame and blame associated, particularly in the #metoo movement and clergy sexual abuse causes.
This is the tip of an iceberg that may explain and be a precursor in the development of mental health difficulties and physical health.
For further reading check out Dr van de Kolk, who articulates trauma beautifully, advocating building trust with patients and the holistic alternatives from a one pill fix, find it here.
Men’s mental health is my passion. I have studied the area for a number of years now whilst studying for my doctorate in counselling psychology. You can actually check out a blog post I did on men’s mental health by clicking here.
I recently heard that BPS members will have the opportunity to vote for a male psychology section, devoted to establishing an understanding and appreciation of men’s mental health and the barriers men experience in accessing therapeutic services.
I see both sides of the argument. I welcome the idea that men need more attention in research and more support in the practical implementation of therapy. I understand that a male-specific section of the BPS may facilitate this.
However, I have reservations that this may marginalise men and their mental health further, that it may segregate them further from the main body of psychological research and practical therapy. I also feel that men’s mental health is a priority for psychologist working in any form of mental health, and so am concerned that focus on men may become secondary due to an isolated branch being devoted to male psychology.
My mind is still to be made up.
However, I recently read an article about why we do not need a male-specific section of the BPS. You can read the article here – https://notomalepsych.wordpress.com/men-and-mental-health/
This article outlines a number of ‘myths’ about men’s mental health and uses that as a basis for not having the specific section in the BPS for male psychology.
I felt compelled to write a response.
What worries me about perceptions as ones outlined in this article is that there seem to be attempts to critique the very nature of men’s lived experiences of mental health in today’s world.
These ‘myths’ are as follows:
Men are more likely to have mental health issues than women.
Men find it more difficult to access mental health services than women
Mental health provision is designed for women/no one ever talks about men’s mental health
I was struck by the attempts to display the challenges men face in mental health as ‘myths’. In my view, and in the view of many others, they are far from this. Men experience barriers to accessing therapy on numerous fronts, from zero-sum gender beliefs to stigma to hegemonic masculine identities.
Not only this but the research, which has been growing over the years although focussed more on a quantitative standpoint, is still lacking in its understanding and appreciation of men’s mental health.
The lack of qualitative research that seeks to establish thorough appreciations of men’s lived experience of mental health and therapeutic uptake barriers, is profound and cannot be ignored.
Allow me to go into detail about where I think this articles perceptions falter:
This article seems to infer that men are not more likely to suffer from mental illness than women but gives no sound reasoning for this assumption.
This article states that men are more likely to be diagnosed with personality disorders and women more likely to be diagnosed with depression.
With regards to the statistics, this has got some grounds in a sound understanding of the differences in diagnoses between men and women.
However, the article attempts to justify this with the following:
“This might be due to gender bias on part of those who diagnose”
An inference that can really only be based on assumption. If this is the case, I see no way in understanding how this gets us closer to appreciating how there is no difference between men and women with regards to the lived experience of mental health.
In part, I see some of the justification in the argument for this first ‘myth’. Men may very well experience some mental health illnesses on the same level as women, I am not refuting this.
However, there has been no consideration made of the fact that stigmatisation in men accessing help is not reserved only for therapeutic services.
The research shows that men suffer barriers in accessing any kind of medical help, this includes diagnosis of mental health illnesses. Perhaps those that wrote this article are aware of this, it cannot, however, be used as justification to infer that women must as a result experience mental health challenges on the same level.
My point here is that it may very well be the case that mental illness experiences are the same for both men and women. However, currently, we simply do not know due to lack of research and lack of understanding of the stigmatised barriers men experience in accessing diagnosis and therapy.
We, therefore, cannot make assumptions on this basis.
This article makes comment to the perception that men suffer more challenges in accessing therapy than women. This article infers that this is not the case and that challenges in therapeutic uptake are the same for every group.
As for backing for this argument, this article goes into some detail about methodological issues with the empirical literature that attempts to outline this fact.
In doing so, the article concludes that we cannot infer that therapeutic uptake is more challenging for men than women.
My first issues with this are that barriers to therapeutic access for men are arguably one of the main factors that we see growth rates of male suicide and mental health in today’s society.
My second issue is that conclusions refuting factual information cannot be drawn from methodological inaccuracies and inconsistencies.
We should by all means critique studies and their findings, we should find holes in the work already established. However, unless the findings are starkly inaccurate and overemphasised, we cannot use this critique as grounds for disputing all findings. We can only use the critique to develop new and more robust empirical research.
The article goes on to make the comment that men of all identities are not equally appreciated in the men’s mental health literature. I completely agree.
However, if anything, I feel this reinforces the argument for a male psychology section, where if established, I would hope would take on the responsibility for representing all cohorts of men. Something where I too feel the research is lacking. I do not see how this is grounds for the lack of need for a male psychology section of the BPS, however.
This article goes on to state that middle-class men’s barriers to accessing therapy have more to do with Western ideologies than their male gender identity.
They reference Farrimond (2012) in backing the following argument:
“Indeed, even among the middle class, white men it is less their gender that stops them from accessing healthcare but rather the increasing pressures on citizens in the West to be responsible, in control and not burdens on others with regard to their health”
I find this an interesting argument. The points may be valid but I again feel that the hegemonic traditional male role identity cannot be ignored here.
The provider, the representation of ‘strength’ is still a toxic identity held onto by many men and really should be considered when making arguments as above.
The article goes on to state that focus should be centred on refuting the incessant financial governmental cuts to mental health services in our country.
I totally agree that this is a factor and one that all mental health professionals should oppose.
It also, if achieved, would, of course, better the treatment and diagnosis of men suffering from mental health challenges, as it would for all demographics.
However, to state that this should be the primary focus, and abandoning attempts to better appreciate the forgotten issue of men’s mental health is not valid.
It is not a case of one without the other, we can fight for better financial support for mental health treatment and better understandings of men’s mental health.
Also, one without the other will ultimately result in poorer service and appreciation for the men who suffer in silence.
This article goes into an argument about the centrality that men play in TV campaigns, conferences and advertisement when talking about mental health.
More recently, but not historically, this may be the case, but it is because of all the points I have gone into above.
On the basis of this articles inaccurate suggestions, no wonder they have come to the conclusion that men should not be as prominent as they are in mental health campaigns.
The issue is, however, that their arguments are not supported. Men suffer constantly in silence from mental issues, they experience barriers unlike many demographics in accessing therapy and diagnosis for mental health illnesses and they are currently far more likely to take their own lives than other groups.
Regardless of your views on the proposed specific male psychology section in the BPS, let those views be determined by how you think men could be treated best (with or without the proposed section). Do not let those views be altered or influenced by inaccurate arguments and evidence.
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