As you may know, I am a big proponent of self-therapy books, courses, and apps for managing mental illness. Studies show these can be nearly as effective as traditional therapy. Plus, with the egregious wait times to be seen by a psychiatrist in the UK and Canada, paired with the oppressive cost of therapy in the United States, we need to be able to help ourselves through this problem.
I use self-therapy in my own life, too. I was recently working through The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety, by William Knaus. I did not make it very far into this book, but still feel confident enough to rate it two stars. Here’s why.
First, the good.
I had a miniature epiphany from a line in the introduction this book. Knauss says, “Preparing to take action can pay off in many ways, including boosting your personal sense of command over the manageable parts of your life. But there are possible barriers. For example, if you think you need to be fully prepared before you can act, you’ll be waiting a long time.”
My husband is upset that I call it an epiphany; it is something he has told me a dozen times over throughout our twelve years together. (I have a really fun story about this in relation to writing novels; ask me if you’re interested! 😋) I will never be fully prepared, and instead need to focus on being prepared enough.
I also liked the focus on resilience in the second half of the book. It’s one thing to study CBT and learn how to correct distorted thinking; it’s another thing to build up your armor by exposing yourself to stressful situations and working through them!
Then, the bad.
I’m really sorry for saying this, because it won’t be popular, but…
Depression and anxiety make us a little bit dumber.
Not by much, mind you – but stress constantly weighs on our minds. That takes a lot of mental energy, and therefore causes us to make silly mistakes. (It also makes us clumsier; since alleviating some of my stress with self-therapy, my coordination has improved so much!
On that note, read this and tell me how much sense it makes to you.
I have a BA in English. I understand what all of these words mean. And I have absolutely no idea what he wants me to do in this exercise.
It reminds me of a recent conversation I had on Twitter (click to view the replies):
I agree with both John and Ebony here: self-therapy books can be absolute gobbledegook.
A good writer knows their audience, and knows that the average person with depression and anxiety isn’t going to understand complex language like this. And please understand, I mean absolutely no offense by this — it’s something I struggle with. Maybe you don’t; that’s okay!!
But this was in chapter one. Was I going to try and analyze another seventeen chapters of… this?
No. I gave it two chapters and gave up.
The Bottom Line
Maybe Knauss wrote this to be used in tandem with a psychiatrist in therapy. But therapy is broken in the US, UK, and Canada. We cannot depend upon resources that depend on therapy. We have to depend on each other, our support system, our communities, and each other. And that means when you’re writing workbooks for anxiety and depression… you can’t make them riddled with gobbledegook.