Top Free Apps for Meditation

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A list of 12 top free apps for meditation and mindfulness. (No subscription fees!)

Compare app ratings from the Apple store, Google Play, and Psyberguide. (All ratings are based on five stars.) Please feel free to add your vote!

Image by Esa Riutta from Pixabay

Calm Harm

“An award-winning app developed for teenage mental health by Dr. Nihara Krause, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, using the basic principles of an evidence-based therapy called Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT).”

5 and 15 minute activities to comfort, distract, express, and release. You can also use this app to practice guided breathing, to log your activities (and self-monitor), and to journal.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.4 stars (556 ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.3 stars (1,982 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 3.00 (credibility) and 4.28 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

COVID Coach

“The COVID Coach app was created for everyone, including Veterans and Service members, to support self-care and overall mental health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

Challenges and tools, including meditations and guided imagery. You can also use this app to find online help or to learn more about mental wellbeing.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.8 stars (708 ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.6 stars (274 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 2.67 (credibility) and 4.49 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Healthy Minds Program

“The ground-breaking Healthy Minds Program uses neuroscience, contemplative traditions, and skill-based learning methods to help you develop the skills for a healthy mind, now in the palm of your hand. Translating pioneering neuroscience into tools for everyday life, our unique framework guides you through the four pillars of the science of training the mind.”

Guided meditations for awareness, connection, insight, and purpose.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.9 stars (672 ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.7 stars (1,032 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 3.67 (credibility) and 4.38 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No, but you must sign up for a free account

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Insight Timer

“We offer the largest free library of guided meditations on earth and the world’s most loved meditation Timer, for free.”

95,000 guided meditations, stories, and soundscapes for sleep, recovery and healing, stress and anxiety, performance, health and happiness, relationships, and spirituality. You can also access live events, discussion groups, and classes.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.9 stars (305K ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.9 stars (125,993 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 3.33 (credibility) and 4.38 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No. You have the option of creating a free account.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

IntelliCare: My Mantra

“Mantras are phrases we repeat to ourselves that highlight our strengths & values and can motivate us to do and feel good. A mantra helps you become your best possible self and My Mantra is designed to help you get there. As part of the IntelliCare suite of apps, My Mantra lets you create these motivating mantras and construct virtual photo albums to serve as encouragement and reminders of these mantras in your life.”

A simple app for developing personal mantras to inspire and uplift.

  • Apple Store Rating: 5 stars (2 ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: N/A
  • Psyberguide Rating: 3.67 (credibility) and 2.78 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mindfulness Coach

“Practicing mindfulness means grounding yourself in the present moment. Mindfulness has been shown to be helpful for reducing stress and coping with unpleasant thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness Coach will help you practice mindfulness meditation.”

Mindfulness training and practices. You can also use this app to set goals and log your progress.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.7 stars (4K ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.8 stars (5,230 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 3.00 (credibility) and 3.30 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No

Rating: 5 out of 5.

MindShift CBT

“Break free from anxiety and stress using this free evidence-based anxiety management app. MindShift CBT uses scientifically proven strategies based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).”

Learn about anxiety, listen to guided meditations, track your moods, journal, and set goals.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.4 stars (206 ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.0 stars (1,432 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 3.67 (credibility) and 4.29 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No, but you must sign up for a free account

Rating: 4 out of 5.

MyLife Meditation: Mindfulness

“Fit mindfulness seamlessly into your daily life, with meditation, breathing, yoga, guided journaling and more.”

Track your moods and listen to guided meditations.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.8 stars (17K ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.6 stars (25,805 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 4.33 (credibility) and 4.48 (user experience)
  • Subscription: $9.99/monthly (Non-premium content available without subscription, account sign-up is free)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Oak – Meditation and Breathing Exercises

“Oak helps you decompress by transforming your meditation practice from an experiment into a habit. We support you from your first session to your 500th, with mindful, loving-kindness, and sleep meditations as well as unguided sessions and breathing exercises. Individualize your meditations by duration, and customize with silence or calming background sounds. Oak tracks your progress and encourages you to continue building a healthy meditation practice.”

Meditations and breathing exercises for relaxation and sleep. You can also access a mantra meditation course.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.8 stars (28K ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.2 stars (119 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: N/A
  • Subscription: No

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Smiling Mind

“Smiling Mind is a unique tool developed by psychologists and educators to help bring balance to your life.”

Guided meditations and tools for mindfulness.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.6 stars (341 ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 3.8 stars (3,704 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: 4.67 (credibility) and 4.84 (user experience)
  • Subscription: No, but you must sign up for a free account

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Tapping Solution

“Lower your stress levels, reduce anxiety, overcome fears, relieve pain, get better sleep, and so much more. All made possible with access to hundreds of meditations in the Tapping Solution App. You’ll learn how to use Tapping (also known as EFT, or Emotional Freedom Techniques), to lead a happier and healthier life.”

Tapping meditations and audiobooks.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.8 stars (7.4K ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.6 stars (6,098 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: N/A
  • Subscription: $94.99 yearly (some content available without a subscription, account sign-up is free)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

UCLA Mindful

“With this easy-to-use app, you can practice mindfulness meditation anywhere, anytime with the guidance of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. Scientific research shows mindfulness can help manage stress-related physical conditions, reduce anxiety and depression, cultivate positive emotions, and help improve overall physical health and well-being.”

Basic and wellness meditations, as well as videos and podcasts.

  • Apple Store Rating: 4.7 stars (63 ratings)
  • Google Play Rating: 4.2 stars (107 ratings)
  • Psyberguide Rating: N/A
  • Subscription: No

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

25 Top Therapist-Recommended Books

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This is a list of the top 25 therapist-recommended books for self-improvement and personal growth.


For recommended books for mental health professionals, see Must-Read Books for Therapists.


25 Top Therapist-Recommended Books for Self-Improvement

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success (2017)

By Amy Morin

Amazon Description: “Everyone knows that regular exercise and weight training lead to physical strength. But how do we strengthen ourselves mentally for the truly tough times? And what should we do when we face these challenges? Or as psychotherapist Amy Morin asks, what should we avoid when we encounter adversity? Through her years counseling others and her own experiences navigating personal loss, Morin realized it is often the habits we cannot break that are holding us back from true success and happiness. Indulging in self-pity, agonizing over things beyond our control, obsessing over past events, resenting the achievements of others, or expecting immediate positive results holds us back. This list of things mentally strong people don’t do resonated so much with readers that when it was picked up by Forbes.com it received ten million views.

Now, for the first time, Morin expands upon the thirteen things from her viral post and shares her tried-and-true practices for increasing mental strength. Morin writes with searing honesty, incorporating anecdotes from her work as a college psychology instructor and psychotherapist as well as personal stories about how she bolstered her own mental strength when tragedy threatened to consume her.

Increasing your mental strength can change your entire attitude. It takes practice and hard work, but with Morin’s specific tips, exercises, and troubleshooting advice, it is possible to not only fortify your mental muscle but also drastically improve the quality of your life.”

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones (2018)

By James Clear

Amazon Description: “No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving-every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Here, you’ll get a proven system that can take you to new heights.

Clear is known for his ability to distill complex topics into simple behaviors that can be easily applied to daily life and work. Here, he draws on the most proven ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. Along the way, readers will be inspired and entertained with true stories from Olympic gold medalists, award-winning artists, business leaders, life-saving physicians, and star comedians who have used the science of small habits to master their craft and vault to the top of their field.

Learn how to:

  • make time for new habits (even when life gets crazy);
  • overcome a lack of motivation and willpower;
  • design your environment to make success easier;
  • get back on track when you fall off course;

…and much more.

Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and success, and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits-whether you are a team looking to win a championship, an organization hoping to redefine an industry, or simply an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, or achieve any other goal.”

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love (2012)

By Amir Levine & Rachel Heller

Amazon Description: “We already rely on science to tell us what to eat, when to exercise, and how long to sleep. Why not use science to help us improve our relationships? In this revolutionary book, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller scientifically explain why why some people seem to navigate relationships effortlessly, while others struggle.

Discover how an understanding of adult attachment—the most advanced relationship science in existence today—can help us find and sustain love. Pioneered by psychologist John Bowlby in the 1950s, the field of attachment posits that each of us behaves in relationships in one of three distinct ways:

  • Anxious people are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back
  • Avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness.
  • Secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving.

Attached guides readers in determining what attachment style they and their mate (or potential mate) follow, offering a road map for building stronger, more fulfilling connections with the people they love.”

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma (2015)

By Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.

Amazon Description: “Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.”

The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have (2020)

By Mark Nepo

Amazon Description: “Philosopher-poet and cancer survivor Mark Nepo opens a new season of freedom and joy―an escape from deadening, asleep-at-the wheel sameness―that is both profound and clarifying.

His spiritual daybook is a summons to reclaim aliveness, liberate the self, take each day one at a time, and savor the beauty offered by life’s unfolding. Reading his poetic prose is like being given second sight, exposing the reader to life’s multiple dimensions, each one drawn with awe and affection.

The Book of Awakening is the result of Nepo’s journey of the soul and will inspire others to embark on their own. He speaks of spirit and friendship, urging readers to stay vital and in love with this life, no matter the hardships. Encompassing many traditions and voices, Nepo’s words offer insight on pain, wonder, and love. Each entry is accompanied by an exercise that will surprise and delight the reader in its mind-waking ability.”

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World (2016)

By Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, & Douglas Abrams

Amazon Description: “Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships—or, as they would say, because of them—they are two of the most joyful people on the planet.

In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness’s eightieth birthday and to create what they hoped would be a gift for others. They looked back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?

They traded intimate stories, teased each other continually, and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of a week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our time and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy.

This book offers us a rare opportunity to experience their astonishing and unprecendented week together, from the first embrace to the final good-bye.

We get to listen as they explore the Nature of True Joy and confront each of the Obstacles of Joy—from fear, stress, and anger to grief, illness, and death. They then offer us the Eight Pillars of Joy, which provide the foundation for lasting happiness. Throughout, they include stories, wisdom, and science. Finally, they share their daily Joy Practices that anchor their own emotional and spiritual lives.

The Archbishop has never claimed sainthood, and the Dalai Lama considers himself a simple monk. In this unique collaboration, they offer us the reflection of real lives filled with pain and turmoil in the midst of which they have been able to discover a level of peace, of courage, and of joy to which we can all aspire in our own lives.”

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who’s Been There (2020)

By Tara Schuster

Amazon Description: “By the time she was in her late twenties, Tara Schuster was a rising TV executive who had worked for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and helped launch Key & Peele to viral superstardom. By all appearances, she had mastered being a grown-up. But beneath that veneer of success, she was a chronically anxious, self-medicating mess. No one knew that her road to adulthood had been paved with depression, anxiety, and shame, owing in large part to her minimally parented upbringing. She realized she’d hit rock bottom when she drunk-dialed her therapist pleading for help.

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies is the story of Tara’s path to re-parenting herself and becoming a ‘ninja of self-love.’ Through simple, daily rituals, Tara transformed her mind, body, and relationships, and shows how to

  • fake gratitude until you actually feel gratitude
  • excavate your emotional wounds and heal them with kindness
  • identify your self-limiting beliefs, kick them to the curb, and start living a life you choose
  • silence your inner frenemy and shield yourself from self-criticism
  • carve out time each morning to start your day empowered, inspired, and ready to rule
  • create a life you truly, totally f*cking LOVE

This is the book Tara wished someone had given her and it is the book many of us desperately need: a candid, hysterical, addictively readable, practical guide to growing up (no matter where you are in life) and learning to love yourself in a non-throw-up-in-your-mouth-it’s-so-cheesy way.”

Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind (How to Stop the Cycle of the Anxiety, Fear, and Worry) (2017)

By Jennifer Shannon

Amazon Description: “The very things we do to control anxiety can make anxiety worse. This unique guide offers a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)-based approach to help you recognize the constant chatter of your anxious ‘monkey mind,’ stop feeding anxious thoughts, and find the personal peace you crave.

Ancient sages compared the human mind to a monkey: constantly chattering, hopping from branch to branch—endlessly moving from fear to safety. If you are one of the millions of people whose life is affected by anxiety, you are familiar with this process. Unfortunately, you can’t switch off the ‘monkey mind,’ but you can stop feeding the monkey—or stop rewarding it by avoiding the things you fear.

Written by psychotherapist Jennifer Shannon, this book shows you how to stop anxious thoughts from taking over using proven-effective cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and mindfulness techniques, as well as fun illustrations. By following the exercises in this book, you’ll learn to identify your own anxious thoughts, question those thoughts, and uncover the core fears at play.

Once you stop feeding the monkey, there are no limits to how expansive your life can feel. This book will show you how anxiety can only continue as long as you try to avoid it. And, paradoxically, only by seeking out and confronting the things that make you anxious can you reverse the cycle that keeps your fears alive.”

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (1997)

By Don Miguel Ruiz

Amazon Description: “In The Four Agreements, bestselling author Don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.”

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things (2017)

By Jenny Lawson

Amazon Description: “In Furiously Happy, a humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest:

‘I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what Furiously Happy is all about.’

Jenny’s readings are standing room only, with fans lining up to have Jenny sign their bottles of Xanax or Prozac as often as they are to have her sign their books. Furiously Happy appeals to Jenny’s core fan base but also transcends it. There are so many people out there struggling with depression and mental illness, either themselves or someone in their family―and in Furiously Happy they will find a member of their tribe offering up an uplifting message (via a taxidermied roadkill raccoon). Let’s Pretend This Never Happened ostensibly was about embracing your own weirdness, but deep down it was about family. Furiously Happy is about depression and mental illness, but deep down it’s about joy―and who doesn’t want a bit more of that?”

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (2010)

By Brené Brown

Amazon Description: “Brené Brown’s game-changing New York Times bestseller, The Gifts of Imperfection, has sold more than 2 million copies in more than 30 different languages and is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in print. Forbes magazine named Gifts one of the ‘Five Books That Will Actually Change Your Outlook On Life.’ Through this self-help classic we find courage to overcome paralyzing fear and self-consciousness, strengthening our connection to the world and helping us to believe we are worthy of self-discovery, personal growth, and boundless love.

A motivational and inspiring guide to wholehearted living, rather than just the average self-help book, with this groundbreaking work Brené Brown, Ph.D., bolsters the self-esteem and personal development process through her characteristic heartfelt, honest storytelling. With original research and plenty of encouragement, she explores the psychology of releasing our definitions of an ‘imperfect’ life and embracing living authentically. Brown’s “ten guideposts”  are benchmarks for authenticity that can help anyone establish a practice for a life of honest beauty—a perfectly imperfect life.

Now more than ever, we all need to cultivate feelings of self-worth, as well as acceptance and love for ourselves. In a world where insults, criticisms, and fears are spread too generously alongside messages of unrealistic beauty, attainment, and expectation, we look for ways to ‘dig deep’ and find truth and gratitude in our lives. A new way forward means we can’t hold on too tightly to our own self-defeating thoughts or the displaced pain in our world. Instead, we can embrace the imperfection.”

The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living (2008)

By Russ Harris

Amazon Description: “Build a more satisfying and meaningful life with this best-selling guide to freeing yourself from depression, anxiety, and insecurity through Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

Are you, like millions of Americans, caught in the happiness trap? Russ Harris explains that the way most of us go about trying to find happiness ends up making us miserable, driving the epidemics of stress, anxiety, and depression. This empowering book presents  the insights and techniques of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) a revolutionary new psychotherapy based on cutting-edge research in behavioral psychology. By clarifying your values and developing mindfulness (a technique for living fully in the present moment), ACT helps you escape the happiness trap and find true satisfaction in life.

The techniques presented in The Happiness Trap will help readers to:

• Reduce stress and worry
• Handle painful feelings and thoughts more effectively
• Break self-defeating habits
• Overcome insecurity and self-doubt
• Create a rich, full, and meaningful life”

Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (2016)

By Rick Hanson

Amazon Description: “With New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Hanson’s four steps, you can counterbalance your brain’s negativity bias and learn to hardwire happiness in only a few minutes each day. 

Why is it easier to ruminate over hurt feelings than it is to bask in the warmth of being appreciated? Because your brain evolved to learn quickly from bad experiences and slowly from good ones, but you can change this.
 
Life isn’t easy, and having a brain wired to take in the bad and ignore the good makes us worried, irritated, and stressed, instead of confident, secure, and happy. But each day is filled with opportunities to build inner strengths and Dr. Rick Hanson, an acclaimed clinical psychologist, shows what you can do to override the brain’s default pessimism.
 
Hardwiring Happiness lays out a simple method that uses the hidden power of everyday experiences to build new neural structures full of happiness, love, confidence, and peace. You’ll learn to see through the lies your brain tells you. Dr. Hanson’s four steps build strengths into your brain to make contentment and a powerful sense of resilience the new normal. In just minutes a day, you can transform your brain into a refuge and power center of calm and happiness.”

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction (2010)

By Gabor Maté

Amazon Description: “From bestselling author Gabor Maté, the essential resource for understanding the roots and behaviors of addiction-now with an added introduction by the author.

Based on Gabor Maté’s two decades of experience as a medical doctor and his groundbreaking work with the severely addicted on Vancouver’s skid row, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts radically re-envisions this much misunderstood field by taking a holistic approach. Dr. Maté presents addiction not as a discrete phenomenon confined to an unfortunate or weak-willed few, but as a continuum that runs throughout (and perhaps underpins) our society; not a medical ‘condition’ distinct from the lives it affects, rather the result of a complex interplay among personal history, emotional, and neurological development, brain chemistry, and the drugs (and behaviors) of addiction. Simplifying a wide array of brain and addiction research findings from around the globe, the book avoids glib self-help remedies, instead promoting a thorough and compassionate self-understanding as the first key to healing and wellness.

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts argues persuasively against contemporary health, social, and criminal justice policies toward addiction and those impacted by it. The mix of personal stories—including the author’s candid discussion of his own ‘high-status’ addictive tendencies—and science with positive solutions makes the book equally useful for lay readers and professionals.”

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed (2019)

 By Lori Gottlieb

Amazon Description: “From a New York Times best-selling author, psychotherapist, and national advice columnist, a hilarious, thought-provoking, and surprising new book that takes us behind the scenes of a therapist’s world-where her patients are looking for answers (and so is she).

One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose of­fice she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.

As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients’ lives – a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can’t stop hooking up with the wrong guys – she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.

With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is rev­olutionary in its candor, offering a deeply per­sonal yet universal tour of our hearts and minds and providing the rarest of gifts: a boldly reveal­ing portrait of what it means to be human, and a disarmingly funny and illuminating account of our own mysterious lives and our power to transform them.”

Negative Self-Talk and How to Change It (2019)

By Shad Helmstetter

Amazon Description: Negative Self-Talk and How to Change It is an immediately helpful, life-changing handbook of how to deal with negative self-talk – for yourself, or anyone in your life. Shad Helmstetter, Ph.D., the best-selling author of more than twenty books, is the leading authority in the field of self-talk today. In this 60-Minute’ Book written for today’s reader, Dr. Helmstetter gives you all of the important information you need to change negative self-talk forever, in a short, easy-to-read, and condensed format. Also included is a special ‘Guide to Changing Your Self-Talk’ from The Self-Talk Institute.”

No Self, No Problem: How Neuropsychology Is Catching Up to Buddhism (2019)

By Chris Niebauer

Amazon Description: “While in grad school in the early 1990s, Chris Niebauer began to notice striking parallels between the latest discoveries in psychology, neuroscience, and the teachings of Buddhism, Taoism, and other schools of Eastern thought. When he presented his findings to a professor, his ideas were quickly dismissed as ‘pure coincidence, nothing more.’

Fast-forward 20 years later and Niebauer is a Ph.D. and a tenured professor, and the Buddhist-neuroscience connection he found as a student is practically its own genre in the bookstore. But according to Niebauer, we are just beginning to understand the link between Eastern philosophy and the latest findings in psychology and neuroscience and what these assimilated ideas mean for the human experience.

In this groundbreaking book, Niebauer writes that the latest research in neuropsychology is now confirming a fundamental tenet of Buddhism, what is called Anatta, or the doctrine of ‘no self.’ Niebauer writes that our sense of self, or what we commonly refer to as the ego, is an illusion created entirely by the left side of the brain. Niebauer is quick to point out that this doesn’t mean that the self doesn’t exist but rather that it does so in the same way that a mirage in the middle of the desert exists, as a thought rather than a thing. His conclusions have significant ramifications for much of modern psychological modalities, which he says are spending much of their time trying to fix something that isn’t there.

What makes this book unique is that Niebauer offers a series of exercises to allow the reader to experience this truth for him- or herself, as well as additional tools and practices to use after reading the book, all of which are designed to change the way we experience the world―a way that is based on being rather than thinking.”

The Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) (2019)

By David Emerald Womeldorff

Amazon Description:The Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) is a fable on self-leadership, because how you lead your own life has everything to do with how you lead in other areas. It is a tool for both individuals and organizations who want to create more effective communication and relationships. Learning how to transform everyday drama and opt for more growth-oriented solutions, is the priceless gift it teaches. As you walk with David, the main character, he shares how he is feeling victimized by life. Through serendipity he meets some wise guides, Ted and Sophia, who show David how he can move from feeling like a Victim to being a Creator of his own life. The Power of TED* offers a powerful alternative to the Karpman Drama Triangle with its roles of Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer. The Empowerment Dynamic (TED) provides the antidote roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach and a more positive approach to life’s challenges. The teaching story provides a guide for learning and growing through the challenges we all face in our lives. Its message resonates with everyone who, at some time in their lives, feel victimized by their situation. Having helped thousands of people and scores of organizations over the past decade, The Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) is being published in this 10th Anniversary Edition to convey a very timely message of hope that all of life, whether at home or work, can be transformed to create satisfying and fulfilling relationships.”

The Smart but Scattered Guide to Success: How to Use Your Brain’s Executive Skills to Keep Up, Stay Calm, and Get Organized at Work and at Home (2016)

By Peg Dawson & Richard Guare

Amazon Description: “Are you smart, scattered, and struggling? You’re not alone. Cutting-edge research shows that today’s 24/7 wired world and the growing demands of work and family life may simply max out the part of the brain that manages complex tasks. That’s especially true for those lacking strong executive skills-the core brain-based abilities needed to maintain focus, meet deadlines, and stay cool under pressure. In this essential guide, leading experts Peg Dawson and Richard Guare help you map your own executive skills profile and take effective steps to boost your organizational skills, time management, emotional control, and nine other essential capacities. The book is packed with science-based strategies and concrete examples, plus downloadable practical tools for creating your own personalized action plan. Whether on the job or at home, you can get more done with less stress.”

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life (2016)

By Mark Manson

Amazon Description: “In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be ‘positive’ all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. ‘F**k positivity,’ Mark Manson says. ‘Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it.’ In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected American society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up.

Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—’not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault.’ Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.

There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.”

Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way (2003)

By Richard David Carson

Amazon Description: “This is a completely updated edition of the 1983 classic that introduced a powerful method for gaining freedom from self-defeating behaviors and beliefs. Rick Carson, creator of the renowned Gremlin-Taming Method, has revised the book to include fresh interactive activities, real-life vignettes we can all identify with, and new loathsome gremlins ripe for taming. Carson blends his laid-back style, Taoist wisdom, the Zen Theory of Change, and sound psychology in an easy-to-understand, unique, and practical system for banishing the nemesis within. Among the things you will learn are:

  • Techniques for getting a sliver of light between the natural you and the monster of your mind.
  • The extraordinary power of simply noticing and playing with options.
  • Six keys to maintaining emotional balance amid upheaval.”

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (2015)

By Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen

Amazon Description: “Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen have spent the past fifteen years working with corporations, nonprofits, governments, and families to determine what helps us learn and what gets in our way. In Thanks for the Feedback, they explain why receiving feedback is so crucial yet so challenging, offering a simple framework and powerful tools to help us take on life’s blizzard of offhand comments, annual evaluations, and unsolicited input with curiosity and grace. They blend the latest insights from neuroscience and psychology with practical, hard-headed advice. Thanks for the Feedback is destined to become a classic in the fields of leadership, organizational behavior, and education.”

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself (2007)

By Michael Alan Singer

Amazon Description: “What would it be like to free yourself from limitations and soar beyond your boundaries? What can you do each day to discover inner peace and serenity? The Untethered Soul offers simple yet profound answers to these questions.

Whether this is your first exploration of inner space, or you’ve devoted your life to the inward journey, this book will transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you. You’ll discover what you can do to put an end to the habitual thoughts and emotions that limit your consciousness. By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness, author and spiritual teacher Michael A. Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.

Co-published with the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) The Untethered Soul begins by walking you through your relationship with your thoughts and emotions, helping you uncover the source and fluctuations of your inner energy. It then delves into what you can do to free yourself from the habitual thoughts, emotions, and energy patterns that limit your consciousness. Finally, with perfect clarity, this book opens the door to a life lived in the freedom of your innermost being.”

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers (2004)

By Robert Sapolsky

Amazon Description: “Now in a third edition, Robert M. Sapolsky’s acclaimed and successful Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers features new chapters on how stress affects sleep and addiction, as well as new insights into anxiety and personality disorder and the impact of spirituality on managing stress.

As Sapolsky explains, most of us do not lie awake at night worrying about whether we have leprosy or malaria. Instead, the diseases we fear-and the ones that plague us now-are illnesses brought on by the slow accumulation of damage, such as heart disease and cancer. When we worry or experience stress, our body turns on the same physiological responses that an animal’s does, but we do not resolve conflict in the same way-through fighting or fleeing. Over time, this activation of a stress response makes us literally sick.

Combining cutting-edge research with a healthy dose of good humor and practical advice, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers explains how prolonged stress causes or intensifies a range of physical and mental afflictions, including depression, ulcers, colitis, heart disease, and more. It also provides essential guidance to controlling our stress responses. This new edition promises to be the most comprehensive and engaging one yet.”

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life (2013)

By Jen Sincero

Amazon Description: “In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, bestselling author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word, helping you to: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, Create a life you totally love. And create it NOW, Make some damn money already. The kind you’ve never made before.

By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.”


13 Websites for Free Self-Help

Free online self-help and personal development

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Image by stokpic from Pixabay

Free Self-Help Resources & Online Support

Are you searching for free self-help? This is a list of links to various sites and services providing self-help.


For free therapy workbooks, handouts, and worksheets:


1. Counselling Resource

Take psychological self-tests and quizzes, read about symptoms and treatments, compare types of counselling and psychotherapy, learn about secure online therapy, and more

2. DBT Self-Help

A site for individuals seeking information on DBT. This site includes DBT skill lessons, flash cards, diary cards, mindfulness videos, and more.

3. Healthy Place

Mental health information, including online assessments and breaking news

4. HelpGuide.org

Collaborates with Harvard Health Publications to provide a wide range of unbiased, motivating resources and self-help tools for mental, social, and emotional. 100% nonprofit; dedicated to Morgan Leslie Segal, who died by suicide when she was 29.

5. Internet Mental Health

A free encyclopedia for mental health information on the most common mental disorders. Created by psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Long.

6. Mental Health Online

Create an account to access free mental health services for mental distress, including programs for anxiety, depression, OCD, and other disorders

7. Moodgym

Interactive self-help book for depression and anxiety. (This resource used to be free, but now there’s a small fee.)

8. National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse

A peer-run resource center

9. Psych Central

Information on mental health, quizzes, and online self-help support groups. The site is owned and operated by Dr. John Grohol, inspired by the loss of his childhood friend to suicide.

10. Psychology Help Center

A consumer resource featuring information related to psychological issues that affect emotional and physical well-being

11. Sources of Insight

Providing the principles, patterns, and practices needed for personal development and success; a source for skilled living and personal empowerment

12. Succeed Socially

An extensive, completely free collection of articles on social skills and getting past social awkwardness. It’s written by someone who’s struggled socially himself, and who has degrees in psychology and counseling.

13. Verywell Mind

An online resource for improving mental health. All content is written by healthcare professionals, including doctors, therapists, and social workers.


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Movies About Addiction & Mental Illness

(Updated 5/20/20) A list of movies about mental health and substance abuse – includes PDF printable discussion questions

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Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

The following is a list of movies about addiction and mental disorders that are appropriate to show in treatment settings. This post includes movie summaries and downloadable PDF handouts with questions for discussion.

Please note that some of the films on this list are graphic and may not be appropriate for children or adolescents.


Hint: The handouts contain spoilers; do not provide until after the movie ends.

Movies About Addiction & Mental Illness

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.


Ben Is Back (2018)

103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes), R-rating for language and drug use

Summary: Julia Roberts plays a mother, Holly, whose 19-year old son, Ben, surprises her by returning home for Christmas. Ben is newly in recovery; his addiction has placed a tremendous strain on the family in the past. Ben’s younger siblings are happy to see him, but Holly, fearing that he is not ready, is apprehensive. That evening, the family attends church. When they return, they find their home burglarized and the dog missing. Ben blames himself, believing someone from his past took the dog to get his attention; he leaves to look for the dog. Holly goes with him, but they’re later separated, and Holly attempts to track Ben. Eventually, she ends up at an abandoned barn where she finds her son on the floor, unresponsive. The movie ends with her administering Narcan to Ben.

Girl, Interrupted (1999)

127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes), R-rating for strong language and content relating to drugs, sexuality, and suicide

Summary: Winona Ryder plays Susanna, a young woman with borderline personality disorder, who is sent to a psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt in the late 1960s. She befriends Lisa (Angelia Jolie), who carries a diagnosis of sociopathy (antisocial personality disorder). Initially, Susanna is in denial about her mental condition and is not open to treatment. However, she reaches a turning point after a tragedy.

Pay It Forward (2000)

123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes), PG-13 rating for mature thematic elements including substance abuse/recovery, some sexual situations, language, and brief violence

Summary: Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) starts a chain reaction of goodness for a social studies project with a plan to change the world for the better. In this film, Trevor is a high school student whose mother, Arlene (Helen Hunt), struggles with alcoholism and whose father is abusive. He rises above unfortunate circumstances with the kindhearted idea to do a good deed, but instead of requesting payback, asking the receiver to “pay it forward” to at least three people – and on and on. While the movie has a bittersweet end, the message is uplifting and powerful.  

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes), PG-13 rating

Summary: Charlie is an unpopular high school freshman, a “wallflower,” who is befriended by two seniors, Patrick and Sam (Emma Watson). The movie is about their friendship and Charlie’s personal struggles with the recent suicide of his friend and his own mental illness. Throughout the film, Charlie has flashbacks of his aunt, who died in a car accident when he was 7. It’s eventually revealed that Charlie’s aunt molested him; a sexual encounter with Sam triggers Charlie’s repressed memories. Charlie has a mental breakdown.

Rachel Getting Married (2008)

113 minutes (1 hour, 54 minutes), R-rating for language and brief sexuality

Summary: Anne Hathaway plays Kym, a troubled young woman, who returns from rehab to her family home for her sister’s wedding. The film portrays how Kym’s addiction has placed strain on the family.

When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)

126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes), R-rating for language

Summary: Meg Ryan plays Alice, a woman with an alcohol use disorder. The film is about how Alice’s addiction impacts her family and how she recovers.

Bonus: The Netflix original films Heroin(e) (2017) and Recovery Boys (2018) have PDF discussion guides with a summary, questions, and resources posted on the Recovery Boys website.


Other great resources for using clinical films as therapeutic interventions include the book Movies & Mental Illness: Using Films to Understand Psychopathy, 4th ed. (by Danny Wedding and Ryan M. Niemiec) and the site Teach With Movies.

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Sites with Free Therapy Worksheets & Handouts

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If you’re a counselor or therapist, you’re probably familiar with Therapist Aid, one of the most well-known sites providing free therapy worksheets. But Therapist Aid isn’t the only resource for free therapy tools! This is a list of additional sites with free therapy worksheets and handouts.

Image by Free stock photos from www.rupixen.com from Pixabay

See below for links to over 100 websites with free therapy worksheets and handouts for both clinicians and consumers.


(Click here for free worksheets, handouts, and guides posted on this site.)


Sites with Free Therapy Worksheets & Handouts

UPDATED MAY 22, 2021

Click to jump to a section:


Mental Health & Addiction (Sites with Worksheets/Handouts on a Variety of Topics)

ACT, CBT, & DBT

Depression, Stress, & Anxiety

Trauma & Related Disorders

Psychosis

Grief & Loss

Anger

Self-Esteem

Values & Goal-Setting

Children & Youth

Adolescents & Young Adults

Marriage/Relationships & Family

Additional Free Therapy Worksheets & Handouts


Please contact me if a link isn’t working or if you’d like to recommend a site!

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Free Marriage & Relationship Assessment Tools

Free screening tools for assessing relationship satisfaction/expectations, attachment styles, communication, domestic violence/sex addiction, and more.

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Image by bporbs from Pixabay

This is a list of free marriage and relationship assessment tools to use with couples in marriage and family counseling.

See Free Online Screening & Assessment Tools for additional screening tools.


Marriage & Relationship Assessment Tools

Relationship Satisfaction & Expectations

Attachment Styles

Communication

Domestic Violence & Sex Addiction

Additional Relationship Assessment Tools


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Unconventional Coping Strategies

A list of uncommon strategies for coping with stress, depression, and anxiety. Includes a free PDF version of the list to print and use as a handout.

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Image by Daniel Sampaio Donate if you want (Paypal) from Pixabay

Effective coping skills make it possible to survive life’s stressors, obstacles, and hardships. Without coping strategies, life would be unmanageable. Dr. Constance Scharff described coping mechanisms as “skills we… have that allow us to make sense of our negative experiences and integrate them into a healthy, sustainable perspective of the world.” Healthy coping strategies promote resilience when experiencing minor stressors, such as getting a poor performance review at work, or major ones, such as the loss of a loved one.

Like any skill, coping is important to practice on a regular basis in order to be effective. Do this by maintaining daily self-care (at a minimum: adequate rest, healthy meals, exercise, staying hydrated, and avoiding drugs/alcohol.)

As an expert on you (and how you adapt to stressful situations), you may already know what helps the most when life seems out-of-control. (I like reading paranormal romance/fantasy-type books!) Maybe you meditate or run or rap along to loud rap music or have snuggle time with the cats or binge watch your favorite show on Netflix. Having insight into/awareness of your coping strategies primes you for unforeseeable tragedies in life.

“Life is not what it’s supposed to be. It’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”

Virginia Satir, Therapist (June 26, 2019-September 10, 1988)

Healthy coping varies greatly from person to person; what matters is that your personal strategies work for you. For example, one person may find prayer helpful, but for someone who isn’t religious, prayer might be ineffective. Instead, they may swim laps at the gym when going through a difficult time. Another person may cope by crying and talking it out with a close friend.

Image by Victor Vote from Pixabay

Note: there are various mental health treatment approaches (i.e. DBT, trauma-focused CBT, etc.) that incorporate specialized, evidence-based coping techniques that are proven to work (by reducing symptoms and improving wellbeing) for certain disorders. The focus of this post is basic coping, not treatment interventions.

On the topic of coping skills, the research literature is vast (and beyond the scope of this post). While many factors influence coping (i.e. personality/temperament, stressors experienced, mental and physical health, etc.), evidence backs the following methods: problem-solving techniques, mindfulness/meditation, exercise, relaxation techniques, reframing, acceptance, humor, seeking support, and religion/spirituality. (Note that venting is not on the list!) Emotional intelligence may also play a role in the efficiency of coping skills.


Current Research

In 2011, researchers found that positive reframes, acceptance, and humor were the most effective copings skills for students dealing with small setbacks. The effect of humor as a positive coping skill has been found in prior studies, several of which focused on coping skills in the workplace.

A sport psychology study indicated that professional golfers who used positive self-talk, blocked negative thoughts, maintained focus, and remained in a relaxed state effectively coped with stress, keeping a positive mindset. Effective copers also sought advice as needed throughout the game. A 2015 study suggested that helping others, even strangers, helps mitigate the impact of stress.


Examples of coping skills include prayer, meditation, deep breathing, exercise, talking to a trusted person, journaling, cleaning, and creating art. However, the purpose of this post is to provide coping alternatives. Maybe meditation isn’t your thing or journaling leaves you feeling like crap. Coping is not one-size-fits-all. The best approach to coping is to find and try lots of different things!

Image by Amanda Oliveira from Pixabay

The inspiration for this post came from Facebook. (Facebook is awesome for networking! I’m a member of several professional groups.) Lauren Mills sought ideas for unconventional strategies via Facebook… With permission, I’m sharing some of them here!    


Unconventional Coping Strategies

  1. Crack pistachio nuts
  2. Fold warm towels
  3. Smell your dog (Fun fact: dog paws smell like corn chips!) or watch them sleep
  4. Peel dried glue off your hands
  5. Break glass at the recycling center
  6. Pop bubble wrap
  7. Lie upside down
  8. Watch slime or pimple popping videos on YouTube
  9. Sort and build Lego’s
  10. Write in cursive
  11. Observe fish in an aquarium
  12. Twirl/spin around
  13. Solve math problems (by hand)
  14. Use a voice-changing app (Snapchat works too) to repeat back your worry/critical thoughts in the voice of a silly character OR sing your worries/thoughts aloud to the tune of “Happy Birthday”
  15. Listen to the radio in foreign languages
  16. Chop vegetables
  17. Go for a joy ride (Windows down!)
  18. Watch YouTube videos of cute animals and/or giggling babies
  19. Blow bubbles
  20. Walk barefoot outside
  21. Draw/paint on your skin
  22. Play with (dry) rice
  23. Do (secret) “random acts of kindness”
  24. Play with warm (not hot) candle wax
  25. Watch AMSR videos on YouTube
  26. Shuffle cards
  27. Recite family recipes
  28. Find the nicest smelling flowers at a grocery store
  29. Count things
  30. Use an app to try different hairstyles and/or makeup
  31. People-watch with a good friend and make up stories about everyone you see (Take it to the next level with voiceovers!)
  32. Wash your face mindfully
  33. Buy a karaoke machine and sing your heart out when you’re home alone
  34. On Instagram, watch videos of a hydraulic press smash things, cake decorating, pottery/ceramics throwing, hand lettering, and/or woodwork
  35. Shine tarnished silver
  36. Create a glitter jar and enjoy
  37. Tend to plants
  38. Color in a vulgar coloring book for adults

Image by A_Different_Perspective from Pixabay

Click below for a PDF version of “Unconventional Coping Strategies.” This handout can be printed, copied, and shared without the author’s permission, providing it’s not used for monetary gain.

Unconventional Coping Strategies


  • Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP
  • With Lauren Mills, MA, LPC-Intern (Contributor)
  • Lauren Mills, MA, LPC-Intern (Supervised by Mary Ann Satori, LPC-S) is a therapist in Texas and a current resident in counseling.     

I’d like to acknowledge all members of Therapist Toolbox – Resources & Support for Therapists who submitted ideas!


If you have an uncommon coping skill, post in a comment!

Book Review: Staying Sober Without God

Munn wrote this book because, as a nonbeliever, he felt the 12 steps of AA didn’t fully translate into a workable program for atheists or agnostics. This inspired him to develop the Practical 12 Steps.

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I stumbled upon Staying Sober Without God while searching for secular 12-step literature for a client who identifies as atheist. Jeffrey Munn, the book’s author, is in recovery and also happens to be a licensed mental health practitioner.

Munn wrote the book because as a nonbeliever he felt the 12 steps of AA didn’t fully translate into a workable program for atheists or agnostics. (For example, the traditional version of Step 3 directs the addict to turn his/her will and life over to the care of God as they understand him. If you don’t believe in God, how can you put your life into the care of him? Munn notes that there’s no feasible replacement for a benevolent, all-knowing deity.)

The whole “God thing” frequently turns nonbelievers off from AA/NA. They’re told (by well-meaning believers) to find their own, unique higher power, such as nature or the fellowship itself. (The subtle undertone is that the nonbeliever will eventually come around to accept God as the true higher power.)

In Staying Sober Without God Munn asserts, “There is no one thing that is an adequate replacement for the concept of God.” He adds that you can’t just replace the word “God” with “love” or “wisdom.” It doesn’t make sense. So he developed the Practical 12 Steps and wrote a guide for working them.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

The Practical 12 Steps are as follows:

  1. Admitted we were caught in a self-destructive cycle and currently lacked the tools to stop it
  2. Trusted that a healthy lifestyle was attainable through social support and consistent self-improvement
  3. Committed to a lifestyle of recovery, focusing only on what we could control
  4. Made a comprehensive list of our resentments, fears, and harmful actions
  5. Shared our lists with a trustworthy person
  6. Made a list of our unhealthy character traits
  7. Began cultivating healthy character traits through consistent positive behavior
  8. Determined that the best way to make amends to those we had harmed
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would cause harm
  10. Practiced daily self-reflection and continued making amends whenever necessary
  11. We started meditating
  12. Sought to retain our newfound recovery lifestyle by teaching it to those willing to learn and by surrounding ourselves with healthy people

The Practical 12 Steps in no way undermine the traditional steps or the spirit of Alcoholics Anonymous. Instead, they’re supplemental; they provide a clearer picture of the steps for the nonbeliever.


Before delving into the steps in Staying Sober Without God, Munn discusses the nature of addiction, recovery, and the role of mental illness (which is mostly left untouched in traditional literature). He addresses the importance of seeking treatment (therapy, medication, etc.) for mental disorders while stressing that a 12-step program (secular or otherwise) is not a substitute for professional help. In following chapters, Munn breaks each step down and provides guidelines for working it.

The last few chapters of the book provide information on relapse and what the steps don’t address. Munn notes that sustainable recovery requires more than just working the steps, attending AA meetings, and taking a sponsor’s advice. For a balanced, substance-free lifestyle, one must also take care of their physical health, practice effective communication, and engage in meaningful leisure activities. Munn briefly discusses these components in the book’s final chapter, “What the Steps Miss.”

Image by xxolaxx from Pixabay

Staying Sober Without God is well-written and easy to read. The author presents information that’s original and in line with current models of addiction treatment, such as behavioral therapy (an evidence-based approach for substance use disorder). Working the Practical 12 Steps parallels behavioral treatments; the steps serve to modify or discontinue unhealthy behaviors (while replacing them with healthy habits). Furthermore, a 12-step network provides support and meaningful human connection (also crucial for recovery).

In my opinion, the traditional 12 Steps reek of the moral model, which viewed addiction as a moral failure or sin. Rooted in religion, this outdated (and false) model asserted that the addict was of weak character and lacked willpower. The moral model has since been replaced with the disease concept, which characterizes addiction as a brain disorder with biological, genetic, and environmental influences.

The Practical 12 Steps are a better fit for what we know about addiction today; Munn focuses on unhealthy behaviors instead of “character defects.” For example, in Step 7, the addict implements healthy habits while addressing unhealthy characteristics. No one has to pray to a supernatural being to ask for shortcomings to be removed.

Image by m storm from Pixabay

The Practical 12 Steps exude empowerment; in contrast, the traditional steps convey helplessness. (The resulting implication? The only way to recover is to have faith that God will heal you.) The practical version of the steps instills hope and inspires the addict to change. Furthermore, the practical steps are more concrete and less vague when compared to the traditional steps. (This makes them easier to work!)


In sum, Munn’s concept of the steps helped me to better understand the 12-step model of recovery; the traditional steps are difficult to conceptualize for a nonbeliever, but Munn found a way to extract the meaning of each step (without altering overall purpose or spirit). I consider the practical steps a modern adaptation of the traditional version.

I recommend reading Staying Sober Without God if you have a substance use disorder (regardless of your religious beliefs) or if you’re a professional/peer specialist who works with individuals with substance use disorders. Munn’s ideas will give you a fresh perspective on 12-step recovery.


For working the practical steps, download the companion workbook here:

Note: The workbook is meant to be used in conjunction with Munn’s book. I initially created it for the previously mentioned client as a format for working the practical steps. The workbook is for personal/clinical use only.

12-Step Recovery Groups

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12-step recovery groups, while not a substitute for treatment, can play a crucial role in recovery and continued sobriety. AA/NA (and similar) meetings are available all over the world and are open to anyone with a desire to stop using or drinking.

The following list, while not comprehensive, will link you to both well-known and less-familiar 12-step and other support groups for recovery.


12-Step Recovery Groups

UPDATED MAY 15, 2021

Support Groups for Addiction


For Families & Others Impacted by Addiction & Mental Illness


Secular Alternatives


Faith-Based Alternatives


Additional Support Groups & Organizations


AA Sites for agnostics and atheists: AA Agnostica and AA Beyond Belief


Do you know of a 12-step support group not listed here? Share in a comment!

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP


Click below for a downloadable PDF version of this post.

Free Printable PDF Workbooks & Manuals

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The following list is comprised of links to over 200 free PDF workbooks, manuals, toolkits, and guides that are published online and are free to use with clients and/or for self-help purposes. Some of the manuals, including Individual Resiliency Training and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Psychotic Symptoms, are evidence-based.

Please repost this and/or share with anyone you think could benefit from these free resources!

Disclaimer: Links are provided for informational and educational purposes. I recommend reviewing each resource before using for updated copyright protections that may have changed since it was posted here. When in doubt, contact the author(s).


For free printable PDF workbooks for youth and family, click here.

For additional free printable resources for mental illness, substance use disorders, and self-improvement, see Sites with Free Therapy Worksheets & Handouts and Free Printable Therapy Handouts & Worksheets.


Free Printable PDF Workbooks, Manuals, & Self-Help Guides

UPDATED July 21, 2021

For Mental Health Professionals & Consumers

Jump to a section:


Substance Use Disorders & Addiction

A collection of free printable PDF workbooks, manuals, toolkits/self-help guides for substance and behavioral (i.e. food, gambling, etc.) addictions and recovery

There are several SAMHSA workbooks listed below; you can find additional free publications on SAMHSA’s website. For printable fact sheets and brochures, go to the National Institute on Drug Abuse website or the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. If you’re looking for 12-step literature, many 12-step organizations post free reading materials, workbooks, and worksheets; don’t forget to check local chapters! (See 12-Step Recovery Groups for a comprehensive list of 12-step and related recovery support group sites.) Other great places to look for printable PDF resources for addiction include education/advocacy and professional membership organization sites. (Refer to the Links page on this site for an extensive list.)


= Resource for Veterans
= LGBTQ Resource

Anxiety & Mood Disorders

Free printable PDF workbooks and other resources for anxiety (generalized, social phobia/anxiety, panic attacks), depressive and bipolar disorders, and prenatal/postpartum anxiety and depression

For additional PDF printable factsheets, brochures, and booklets, see SAMHSA, National Institute of Mental Health, NHS UK, CMHA, and education/advocacy sites listed on the Links page on this site.


= Resource for Veterans

Anxiety Disorders
Depressive & Bipolar Disorders
Postpartum Anxiety & Depression

Schizophrenia & Psychotic Disorders

A small collection of free printable PDF manuals, toolkits, and guides for schizophrenia spectrum and related disorders

Obsessive-Compulsive & Hoarding Disorders

Free printable PDF workbooks, manuals, and guides for obsessive-compulsive, hoarding, and related disorders and issues

Trauma & PTSD

Free printable PDF workbooks, manuals, and guides for trauma (including vicarious trauma) and PTSD

= Resource for Veterans

Eating Disorders

Free printable PDF workbooks and toolkits/guides for anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders

Suicide & Self-Harm

Free printable PDF workbooks and toolkits/guide for suicide prevention and recovery and for non-suicidal self-injury

For additional resources for suicide, see Resources for Suicide Prevention & Recovery.

Grief & Loss

Free printable PDF workbooks and toolkits/guides for grief and loss

For additional resources for grief and loss, see Resources for Grief & Loss.

Anger

Free printable PDF workbooks, manuals, and guides for coping with anger

Self-Esteem

Healthy Relationships & Communication

Meditation & Mindfulness

Resiliency, Personal Development, & Wellness

Forgiveness
Sleep
Stress

Self-Care

Free printable PDF workbooks, toolkits, and guides for self-care

Nutrition & Exercise

Free printable PDF workbooks, manuals, and guides for diet, physical activity, and health


CBT, DBT, & MI

The free printable PDF workbooks and other resources listed in this section may also be included in other sections of this post.


CBT Manuals & Workbooks

DBT Manuals & Workbooks

Motivational Interviewing


Additional Free Printable PDF Workbooks, Manuals, & Self-Help Guides


Please comment with links to additional PDF resources for therapy or self-help!