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2nd edition. Published by John Wiley & Sons, 2010. 390 pages.
Why did I read this book?
I chose to read Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Dummies because this month I am challenging myself to spend an hour each day studying and practising CBT. I already had this book at home, and it had good reviews, so it made sense to read it as part of my CBT study, and see what I could learn and apply!
What’s it about?
The book is about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is one of the most common therapies prescribed nowadays, with a high success rate. The premise of CBT is that it is your thoughts about a situation, rather than the situation itself, that create your feelings.
The first part of the book gives a very good background to CBT, and goes into details of the CBT basics. But the book is very much practical rather than just theoretical in nature. It teaches a lot of CBT techniques that you can use and apply. These include practical exercises and experiments, as well as worksheets you can fill in. There are examples of filled in worksheets throughout the book, and there are blank versions in the Appendix which you can photocopy and fill in.
The book goes into details of how to apply CBT to deal with specific problems. These include depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders and low self-esteem. There is a chapter dedicated to each specific problem. This is really useful because most people reading the book would have at least one of the problems that it covers, and the book gives tailored advice for each.
Even if you don’t have a specific problem, or if you are just reading the book out of interest rather than needing or wanting CBT, the book is full of good advice that can be applied generally to anyone’s life. For example, ways to boost your self-esteem, and tips for relaxing in social situations.
What’s it like to read?
I found the book easy to read, on the whole. Occasionally I had to re-read a paragraph a few times to get it to sink in, but that was mainly due to me losing concentration, rather than the book being hard to read. The book is written in everyday language, with minimal scientific jargon. It includes lots of examples with fictional clients, which helps bring the ideas to life and makes it easier to understand and relate to them.
The layout is clear. It has a mixture of paragraphs, bullet points, diagrams, boxes and pictures, which breaks the text up into chunks and makes it visually appealing and readable.
The book is very easy to navigate. There is a detailed contents at the front, and each chapter starts with a description saying what the chapter is about. This makes it easy to pick out the chapters that are relevant to you. It states in the introduction that you can read the book in any order, and pick what you want to read. Throughout the book, there are links back and forward to related chapters – things like, ‘Chapter 14 goes into more detail on this.’
I read the whole book, even though certain chapters were not very relevant to me (for example, some of the chapters about specific problems which I don’t have). I still found those chapters interesting and there were still useful points I could take away from them. So I would recommend reading the whole book. But the option is there to dip in and out, and you might prefer this, especially if you are not a fast or prolific reader and just want to get help for your problem.
As typical for the ‘For Dummies’ books, it incorporates occasional humour. This is nice because it lightens up a serious topic, but without going overboard.
Resources and worksheets
The book ends with lots of useful resources, including recommended books and websites about CBT, and contact details of CBT and mental health organisations. This makes it easy to take your learning further, and provides a stepping stone to seeking CBT therapy if desired.
As mentioned earlier, there are blank copies of various worksheets at the back of the book, which you can photocopy. The only problem is that the book doesn’t lie flat when opened. You would almost certainly have to bend the spine to get it flat enough to photocopy. Perhaps a ring-bound version of this book would be a good idea, so that it lies flat. Of course, this would not be a problem with the Kindle version, as you could just print the worksheets off!
What did I learn from this book?
I got a lot out of this book. I took notes, wrote down quotes from it, and tried some of the exercises and worksheets. Now I have a much better understanding of CBT than I did before, and the concepts are gradually sinking in. I think that to fully ‘get’ CBT, you need to put the concepts into practice. Certain techniques and ideas stood out for me, and I have tried them out in real life. They have helped me to cope better with my anxiety, and life in general.
Would I recommend this book?
Absolutely! Whether you have a specific problem to solve, want to improve your life in general, want to help others or are just interested in CBT, you can get a lot out of this book. I would give this book 5 out of 5 because it is well written and I learned a lot from it. I am likely to refer back to it and try more of the exercises!
Apparently there is another book in the series, by the same authors, called ‘Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook for Dummies’, which I assume has a larger range of practical exercises and worksheets. I may get this one and try it out!