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Reading List: Books for Mental Health & Recovery

Updated: Jan 18

Find mental health books that can support you in your recovery process by imparting insight and skills.

books for mental health

Curiosity is a powerful tool. It allows us to look at our experience in a compassionate, non-judgmental, introspective way with the intent to learn, grow, and unfold conscious self-awareness. One way of stimulating curiosity is by letting in new perspectives—new theories and explanations for all the why's and how's that arise in our relationships and experiences. Books are just one source of these curiosity-building perspectives.


This list provides a few popular books based on your area of interest. It will be continually updated with new titles, but if you're looking for resources or a topic not listed here, let me know!


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Books on Trauma Healing

By Bessel Van Der Kolk

A #1 New York Times bestseller that cleanly lays out what is happening in the body when we live and re-live trauma. For many, this book offers a validating, empowering view of what is going on inside of us—an alternative to the all-too-common narrative of "well, I'm just broken."


By Britt Frank

So this book isn't just about trauma recovery. In fact, it's hard to think of who wouldn't benefit from this book since a vast majority of us can relate to feeling stuck in anxiety, depression, substance use, trauma, and everything else that presents hurdles. Britt's book blends therapy theories with research on the nervous system to persuasively argue that you're not defective—you're amazingly adaptive. So adaptive that you can learn to work with your body instead of against it to break through the "stuck" feelings.


By Janina Fisher

For those looking for something a little more interactive, Janina's workbook has much to offer. Integrating neurobiological theories of trauma in an easy-to-understand format, chapters are broken up with worksheets that allow you to reflect and apply the information to your own body and experience.


By Janina Fisher

Okay, so this book is much denser than the workbook, but it is a treasure-trove of information and theory that will have your highlighter dancing all across the pages, especially if you're interested in parts work. Fisher intricately describes the adaptive and functional purposes of why we feel fragmented in trauma, with valuable takeaways for both therapists and clients.


By Eduardo Duran

Historical trauma is a singularly painful wound that is carried over the generations. The language of this wound is unique, and so are the sacred practices that have sustained native tribes throughout time. Duran's book is intended for therapists who are supporting these communities, but it may also be useful to anyone who identifies with indigenous historical trauma and is seeking to reconnect with the concepts and practices of native healing.


By Resmaa Menakem

The story of racialized trauma lives in every single one of our bodies, a narrative that continues to write itself into our nervous systems through racially-targeted violence, police brutality, and racism that permeates each strata of society. Whether you experience racialized trauma as a person of color or living the legacy of white-body supremacy as a Euro-American reader, Menakem's book speaks clearly to the somatic experience of racialized trauma and provides exercises for recognizing and healing from it.


Books on Addiction, Recovery, and Substance Use

By Gabor Maté

Dr. Gabor Maté is a doctor who has worked with some of the most severe cases of addiction—encounters which taught him that at the heart of addiction so often lies injuries sustained from traumatic relationships and events. For many, this book offers what so many of us who've lived through addiction or substance use truly crave: compassion and understanding.



Books on Emotional Regulation

By Deb Dana

Technically, this one is written for an audience of therapists—but it is so accessible and practical, it's hard not to avidly recommend it to clients, too. Polyvagal theory is basically a way of understanding what is happening in the body when we get stressed—this book not only explains that clearly through metaphor and examples, but also provides exercises between each chapter to relate the concepts to your own body and experience.


By Matthew McKay, Jeffrey C. Wood, & Jeffrey Brantley

Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT for short, is all about learning how to work with our emotions. Mindfulness teaches us to sit non-judgmentally with our thoughts and feelings. Interpersonal effectiveness teaches us how to communicate those thoughts and feelings with others. And then emotional regulation and distress tolerance teach us how to not be overwhelmed by our feelings. This workbook packages it all up in one interactive place to learn, practice, and apply.

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