The 9 Best Self-Help Books for Women in 2020
If you're looking to sink your teeth into a book for self-improvement, here's a list of some of the most transformative self-help books for women read by therapists this year.
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Self-help books for women that therapists love
As we approach the end of the year, many are licking their wounds from illness, losing loved ones, financial hardship, and anxiety over an uncertain future. Others are reeling after the recent highly publicized killings of various members of the Black community, such as Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the devastating toll of racism in the United States.
To find some form of relief and solace during an at-times chaotic year, many have turned to bibliotherapy—a fancy term for engaging in insightful and therapeutic reading.
Whether you’re interested in diving into an in-depth and reflective exploration of your past, hoping to heal from a traumatic event, wanting to be introduced to a different way of looking at and loving your body, or interested in improving your sex life, three therapists have come together to recommend some of the best self-help books for women they read this year.
Rise of the Truth Teller
Trauma healing is nothing new but remains a challenge for many. Clinical psychologist Barbara Ford Shabazz, director of the psychology program at South University and founder of Intentional Activities, recommends Rise of the Truth Teller by Ashley Abercrombie as an “eye-opening read about smiling on the outside while being broken on the inside.”
Rise of the Truth Teller explores the dangers of acting like things are OK when they are anything but and how to break the silence behind our pain and give others space around us to do the same.
Intentional Balance: Creating Space to Achieve a More Graceful Juggle
Shabazz also recommends her book, Intentional Balance: Creating Space to Achieve a More Graceful Juggle, which provides a guide to help readers get off the hamster wheel of anxiety and obligation and find a balance between “harmony and proportion.” The guide offers engaging, and thought-provoking journal prompts, vignettes, and techniques toward becoming more intentional and masterful at juggling life’s obligations. (Here’s how to start a journal with tips from therapists.)
Intergenerational Trauma Workbook
Nutrition therapist Robyn Goldberg also recommends Intergenerational Trauma Workbook by Lynne Friedman-Gell and Joanne Barron. In the workbook, the authors compassionately and thoughtfully teach the reader how to recognize and identify the effects that intergenerational trauma can have on our life by providing easy to use strategies and techniques that will not only help with healing but also help break the cycle of familial trauma. (Here’s why childhood trauma puts you at a higher risk for PTSD.)
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir
Speaking of trauma, the psychological effects of racism have been a focal point of many recent conversations. If you’re wrestling with racial trauma or are interested in learning more on the topic, licensed psychologist and food relationship strategist, Ebony Butler, recommends When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors.
Although not a self-help book for women in the traditional sense, When They Call You A Terrorist, is written as an empowering and vivid reflection of survival against anti-Black racism and serves as a call to action against systemic oppression.
The author also provides those who have experienced racism with a sense of comfort and empowerment and others an insightful perspective on the experiences of those who have been affected by racial trauma. (Here’s how to find a black therapist.)
Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia
Similarly, Robyn Goldberg sings the praises of Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings, a detailed examination of how—over the past 200 years—the Black female body has been racialized.
The book also explores how the depiction of Black women as savage and vulgar has perpetuated the oppression of Black women and has had a severe psychological and emotional effect on the body image of many Black women.
Fearing the Black Body is a “powerful” read that contextualizes challenges that some Black women face with body image from a systemic perspective and provides insightful suggestions for Black women on how to not internalize their oppression. (Here’s how finding a black therapist helped this woman heal.)
Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being, and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating
While we are on the subject of body image, for those struggling to divorce themselves from the toxicity of diet culture, Goldberg also recommends Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being, and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating by Christy Harrison.
The book provides innovative strategies to break away from the diet culture and the belief that being healthy is synonymous with being thin. Instead, the author offers a nuanced way of looking at health that empowers the reader to reclaim their bodies, minds, and lives and reshapes their understanding of health and wellness. (Here are body-positive quotes as a reminder that all bodies are beautiful.)
Celebrate Your Body
Also highly acclaimed for its groundbreaking perspective on body-image, Celebrate Your Body by Sonya Renee Taylor is a body-positive guide designed to help young girls aged 8 to 12 navigate puberty. Goldberg recommends this self-help book for women because of its relatable approach and exhaustive discussion about puberty.
The author takes on topics related to body maturation and development and body positivity while also providing young readers and their caretakers with tips and suggestions on nutrition and exercise, navigating intense feelings, handling peer pressure, and making friends. (Here are the proven ways to boost your body image in 10 minutes.)
Addiction in the Family: Helping Families Navigate Challenges, Emotions, and Recovery
Millions of Americans struggle with addiction in the United States, and since the pandemic, those numbers seem to be climbing. Goldberg says that Addiction in the Family: Helping Families Navigate Challenges, Emotions, and Recovery by Louise Stanger is a must-read for anyone battling addiction or who knows someone who is.
Addiction in the Family is a practical and supportive guide for families struggling with addiction that offers guidance on how to navigate the unique challenges that accompany addiction, as well as, practical advice on how to approach a loved one dealing with addiction. (Here’s what addiction counselors wish you knew.)
Come as You Are
For women who might be experiencing a lower libido or not enjoying physical intimacy as much as they once did, Butler urges readers to pick up a copy of Come as You Are, by Emily Nagoski. Described as “transformative and life-changing,” the author teaches the reader in this self-help book for women what they should know about their sexual “fingerprint” and how to experience more pleasurable and engaging intimacy and pleasure by better understanding themselves.
- Barbara Shabazz, PsyD, clinical psychologist and psychology program director, South University, Savannah, GA
- Ebony Butler, PhD, licensed psychologist, and food relationship strategist
- Robyn Goldberg, RDN, CEDRD-S, nutrition therapist