As a look around any decent-sized bookshop will tell you, self-help is big business. But does ’self-help’ — and specifically CBT-based material — really help?
Before we answer that question, it’s worth pointing out that these days self-help comes in several varieties. There are the traditional books — offering what’s known as bibliotherapy; CD-ROMs; audio tapes; and Internet-based resources.
There’s certainly no disputing the demand: many self-help books have gone on to become bestsellers, and the US National Institute of Mental Health reports seven million hits on its website every month. For many people, self-help is a much more palatable method of tackling their psychological problems than seeking advice from a health professional. And those same health professionals often recommend that their patients consult self-help materials as part of their treatment.
Which brings us back to that key question: does CBT-based self-help work? The evidence suggests that it can do, at least to some extent. But it tends to be much more effective when there’s also input from a therapist in person.