If you’re a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist or counsellor – and you love reading – it makes sense to study some of the best therapy books ever written.
I’ve devoured a mountain of therapy books over the last 25 years and on this page I’ve listed what I think are the best books that every therapist should have in their library.
Some of the books in this list are included in my ‘books to change your life‘ self-help section. Here, however, I want to focus more on books written specifically for you as a therapist to aid your professional development.
The Best Books Every Therapist Should Read
- 1. The Human Givens – a new approach to emotional health and clear thinking
- 2. Trances People Live – healing approaches in quantum psychology
- 3. The Observing Self – mysticism and psychotherapy
- 4. The Gift of Therapy – an open letter to a new generation of therapists and their patients
- 5. Trancework – an introduction to the practice of clinical hypnosis
- 6. My Voice Will Go With You – the teaching tales of Milton H. Erickson
- 7. Healing the Mind through the Power of Story – the promise of narrative psychiatry
- 8. Hypnotherapy
- 9. Rapid Cognitive Therapy – the professional therapist’s guide to rapid change work
- 10. Do One Thing Different – ten simple ways to change your life
- 11. Beyond Technique in Solution Focused Therapy – working with emotions and the therapeutic relationship
- 12. A Psychology with a Soul – psychosynthesis in evolutionary context
- 13. Deep Journeys – experiential psychotherapy with dreams, personal archetypal tales and trance states
- 14. Finding True Magic – a radical synthesis of Eastern and Western perspectives and techniques
- 15. The Art of Being a Healing Presence – a guide for those in caring relationships
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Tap on the book titles or covers for more info and reviews…
When I started training with the Human Givens Institute back in 2003 it changed my outlook overnight. I’d already qualified in hypnotherapy but the HG approach gave me a solid structure and grounding in contemporary psychological knowledge that I’ve used ever since. It underpins most of what I do.
The Human Givens premise is that we are all born with emotional needs and that unmet needs lead to psychological distress. As a therapist, we should help our clients identify their unmet needs – and ways to help them meet those needs.
It’s a ground-breaking book that explains hypnosis and trance states, the causes of depression, how to treat addiction, and explains what is truly needed to help clients make lasting changes. Every therapist should read – and re-read – this book!
If we work from the premise that trance is an everyday phenomenon (a narrowed focus of attention) it seems imperative that we help our clients understand – and modify – their own trances. Anger, worry, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, phobic reactions etc. are all hypnotic: they all involve a narrowing of the client’s attention.
Stephen Wolinsky’s ground-breaking book goes along with my ethos: we don’t so much as have to hypnotize our clients but help them out of the trances they are already in. And then establish better trances or even, what Wolinsky calls, the ‘no-state state’.
This is essential reading if you want to understand the nature of everyday trance – and help your clients do the same.
Following on from Wolinsky’s book we might ask, “Who am I if I am not the trances I’ve been living?” Or, “Who is the real me?” “What is my true identity?”
Arthur Deikman’s ‘The Observing Self’ provides us with a ‘spiritual’ element that is often missing in Western psychotherapy. It is by developing our Observing Self that we are able to stand back from emotionally arousing trances and see a bigger picture.
From a more objective stance, there is enough brain space to access other ways of seeing, helping our clients find solutions to problems that they otherwise weren’t able to see. But it’s more than just about solving problems…
By developing the Observing Self we are more enabled to connect up to a larger reality, a bigger consciousness. This is where the spiritual aspect comes into psychotherapy.
RELATED CONTENT: Read why I think the Observing Self is so important in psychotherapy
When I bought this book back in 2002 shortly after I’d completed my first level of training in hypnotherapy, I couldn’t put it down.
The pages are dog-eared and covered in annotations and, to this day, I dip back into it every so often for inspiration from the master that is Irvin Yalom.
Each page highlights a therapy tip that Yalom has developed from decades of working as a psychotherapist.
His approach is mainly existential (following on from his book Existential Psychotherapy) and he explores interpersonal relationships and the ‘energy’ in the therapy room (between you and your clients) as an indicator of how the client relates to others in the world.
If you’re a therapist, The Gift of Therapy is a must read.
Michael Yapko’s Trancework makes for essential reading if you want to take your understanding and application of hypnosis to the next level.
With over 600 pages this is one of the most comprehensive books ever published on hypnosis. It gets to the hub of how and why hypnosis works and includes many transcribed client sessions as well as several hypnosis scripts to help you identify and master hypnotic language patterns.
If you’re newly qualified or already have years of experience you’ll gain a richer understanding and appreciation of hypnosis and the ‘art’ of hypnotherapy by reading this book. You’ll love it as much as I do.
Milton Erickson was the most famous hypnotherapist of the 20th century and this book includes over 100 tales and stories that Erickson used with his clients.
Of course, you can’t just tell a story and expect a client to change overnight – the story has to ‘fit’ the individual client – but what this book does is explain how Erickson went about using story to elicit profound changes in people.
Erickson seemed to have an intuitive grasp of what the client needed and his stories subtly laid down new blueprints to help his clients make the changes they were looking for.
Rosen’s introduction is worth the money alone!
Want to move beyond hypnosis scripts and work more like Milton Erickson? Learn about conversational hypnosis
Our clients come to us with a story to tell, a story that needs hearing. Indeed, it has long been my belief that untold stories turn toxic, festering inside us as an ‘unnamed dread’.
I say more about this in my post about the power of story.
Once we give voice to these stories things begin to change. Once our clients feel safe enough to share their story, the structure of the narrative changes. What was an intrapersonal story becomes interpersonal.
Healing the Mind through the Power of Story had me entranced for weeks. It made me recognise the way that my own stories had held me captive for decades. When I changed my story – at the suggestion of my therapist at the time – my life also changed in the real world.
This is the promise of narrative psychiatry (or psychotherapy). A beautiful book.
Dave Elman’s classic 1964 book, simply titled Hypnotherapy has stood the test of time. It’s the perfect book if you’re just starting out as a hypnotherapist.
It includes explanations of different techniques and ways to induce hypnosis, deepening methods, and how to treat a variety of symptoms you’re likely to encounter as a hypnotherapist.
There are also several transcribed sessions between therapist and client so you can learn how to communicate better – and what to say – to your clients in trance.
I’d say this is essential reading for beginning hypnotherapists. More than twenty years on since buying my own copy, I still dip into it occasionally – and glean new ideas each time that I do.
If you like techniques Rapid Cognitive Therapy might be the very book you’re looking for. It fuses brief, solution-focused psychotherapeutic approaches together with more analytical approaches.
The book is split into 5 parts that cover things like pre-therapy and choosing the right hypnotic induction for your client, analytical work such as regression, and non-analytical work such as dealing with negative conditioning and the removal of symptoms.
There are several scripts you can use and adapt for your clients as well as transcribed sessions.
Again, it’s another book I devoured when I was starting out and one that I still dip into every now and then.
Continuing with a solution-focused approach, Bill O’Hanlon’s book is packed full of brief interventions to help your clients make changes fast.
O’Hanlon was one of the founders of Solution-Focused Therapy when he recognised a need for therapy to provide more than just an explanation or interpretation of a client’s symptoms; therapy needed to offer solutions.
Rather than therapy trawling for hours through a client’s history (looking for the whys and wherefores) Do One Thing Different is full of tips to assist our clients in making changes in their life now.
The book is easy to read and will provide you with some great ideas to help your clients today.
11. Beyond Technique in Solution Focused Therapy – working with emotions and the therapeutic relationship
If solution-focused therapy sounds too formulaic in its purest form, Eve Lipchik’s Beyond Technique has us working with clients’ emotions. And so we should; it is where real change takes place.
Even though the focus is still solution-oriented, we work instead with emotion and the therapeutic relationship (much as Irvin Yalom suggests in book 4, above).
I would say that this book was fundamental in the development of my own approach as I attempted to merge solution-focused therapy with heart and soul, the things that matter to all of us.
If you really want to move beyond technique, Jean Hardy’s book examines the work of Roberto Assagioli and the development of psychosynthesis – a merging of psychology and mysticism. It was Assagioli’s assertion that therapy should involve working with personality (ego) and spirituality (soul) if it was to lead to lasting changes.
Hardy explores some of the ideas that influenced psychosynthesis, such as Plato’s writings, early Gnostic gospels, as well as the work of Freud and Jung.
If you’re interested in bringing a more spiritual aspect into the work you do as a therapist, A Psychology with a Soul makes for a good starting point.
13. Deep Journeys – experiential psychotherapy with dreams, personal archetypal tales and trance states
Kenneth Kelzer’s Deep Journeys states that it is not enough to simply help our clients express ‘repressed’ emotion; we have to work intelligently with the energy behind these feelings to bring about proper healing from the wounds of the past. We must ‘feed the intellect’ with new information rather than rely on emotional release as the sole means of change.
This is where hypnosis comes in; in the trance state the client’s mind is more open and receptive to new ideas and new understandings.
Deep Journeys explores ways to use trance, dreamwork, and archetypes, having first established a safe and trusting relationship with your clients. It might not be right for every client you work with, but there will be clients who do want to ‘go deeper’ and work on a ‘soul’ level.
Want to know more about trance and how hypnosis works? Enrol on this free video course
Finding True Magic is described as a ‘transpersonal hypnotherapy/NLP source book for health professionals’ that brings together Eastern and Western psychotherapeutic and philosophical ideas.
It weaves together depth hypnosis, regression therapy, past life therapy, inner child work, NLP, subpersonality integration, and Ericksonian approaches alongside Eastern meditation techniques.
This is more of a manual than a mere book (A4 sized) with every chapter giving us therapists insights and new ways to help our clients. An outstanding piece of work by author and therapist, Jack Elias!
And finally, putting aside all hypno-psychotherapy techniques is this lovely little book about presence.
How you are with your clients – your attitude, your expectations, your demeanour, and the language you use (both verbal and non-verbal) – plays a significant role in the outcomes of therapy.
The Art of Being a Healing Presence explores how we can use our own authentic sense of self to foster recovery, healing, and transformation in all the people we help.
I hope you’ve enjoyed browsing through my list of some of the best therapy books.
Remember to check out over 40 psychology and spirituality classics in my list of books to change your life.
And if you’re interested in taking your therapy skills to the next level remember to take a look at my therapist resources pages…