Reading depression self-help books and doing suggested exercises is proven to speed up the recovery specially when used with other depression treatments.


Bibliotherapy (reading therapy, self-help books therapy) is the use of books to help people solve mental problems. Bibliotherapy can be used independently for mild to moderate depression or as an adjunct to any other depression treatment. Interest in the bibliotherapy has recently been increasing.

Self help books for depression suggest to the reader homework exercises, so that the person can put the knowledge from the book into practice. Most depression bibliotherapy books are based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Benefits and Challenges

Bibliotherapy can help you with:

  • promoting personal growth and development,
  • developing new values and attitudes,
  • understanding of human behavior and motivations,
  • honest self-appraisal,
  • realizing that you are not the only person to encounter such a problem,
  • learning how to stop pessimistic and helpless thinking and start to be optimistic,
  • encouraging to discuss a problem more freely,
  • creating individual plan for constructive course of action.

Beside these benefits the books are:

  • readily available,
  • not expensive, and
  • can be used in various settings.

It is easy to assume that reading books itself will help you. But, usually you cannot solve troubling issues just by reading and thinking about them. Taking action (following through the exercises) is the key to produce a real change.


 Several research studies showed that cognitive bibliotherapy may help depression. Some of them are:

1. The effectiveness of self-administered treatments: A practice-friendly review of the research
Journal of Clinical Psychology, Feb 2003
Jennifer A. Mains, Forrest R. Scogin
"Self-administered treatments are a cost-effective way to treat a broad spectrum of people. […] self-help has been proven successful in the treatment of depression, mild alcohol abuse, and anxiety disorders." [...]
2. Three-year follow-up of bibliotherapy for depression
Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, Apr 1997
Smith NM, Floyd MR, Scogin F, Jamison CS
"Results indicated that treatment gains were maintained over the 3-year follow-up period and support the usefulness of cognitive bibliotherapy as an adjunct to traditional treatment modalities in a general adult population." [...]
3. Effectiveness of complementary and self-help treatments for depression
The Medical journal of Australia, Oct 2006
Anthony F Jorm, Helen Christensen, Kathleen M Griffiths and Bryan Rodgers
"The treatments with the best evidence of effectiveness are St John's wort, exercise, bibliotherapy involving cognitive behaviour therapy and light therapy (for winter depression)." [...]

Recommended Books

There are many excellent self-help books about depression. Some of them are very popular, such as:

1. Mind Over Mood, Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky
Authors provide a structure to recognize and organize automatic thoughts and core beliefs. They provide practical tools to improve our mental abilities.

2. Feeling Good, David Burns
Dr. Burns'  introduction to cognitive behavioral therapy is easy to understand and use in everyday living. When the techniques from the book are followed they can be very beneficial.


You should assess how severe your problems are and whether or not you have a reasonable chance of resolving them with self-help treatment or you need a medical treatment. However, self-help books always make at least a great complementary treatment.

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