5 books to help with common struggles and mental health

June 5, 2019

May was dedicated to mental health awareness, which got me thinking about resources that I find helpful as a counselor. It’s important to be equipped when struggling with anything relating to mental health. In my experience, there are a handful of issues that commonly surface with my clientele—or that I have struggled with. The resources I will highlight are beneficial to anyone who struggles in the areas of anxiety, boundaries, codependence, marriage, or trauma/abuse.

Each of these resources has practical material that is easy to read, and can breathe life back into deflated circumstances. Some of them are secular, but with minimal sifting, you can glean the wisdom that lines up with God’s Word. All of these books present healthy counsel for our mental health needs.

1. Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend: This book is full of scriptural references that parallel the truth of caring for ourselves in the ways we commit to or refuse interaction in our everyday lives and relationships. Many of us struggle between feeling selfish or healthy, depending on what our response is to others’ demands or requests. This book points out what areas of life are susceptible to this unhealthiness, but also how to begin making healthy decisions (i.e., relatives/family, work, spouse, self). It will benefit our emotional health when we can prioritize our time, energy, and responsibilities, which will enable us to better serve the Lord and his people.

2. Created for Connection by Sue Johnson and Kenneth Sanderfer: Sue Johnson is famous in couples therapy. She has pioneered the model of “emotionally-focused therapy” (EFT), which draws on the concepts of how we all have and need a sense of connecting in relationships that are important to us. Kenneth Sanderfer further presents these truths by applying the biblical foundation behind these elements. This book helps couples who to need to know what it looks like to connect emotionally—which is not measured by mere communication. This book will help you recognize the types of dialogues and cyclical patterns that are unhealthy in marriage, how to break out from those, and how to form healthy connection.

3. Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody: This may not be as popular to select from my list, but this issue affects far more of us that we realize. As a former professor and mentor of mine says, “hurt people, hurt people.” I propose that most of us struggle with codependency more than we realize. Pia Mellody writes vulnerably about how the unhealthy patterns we suffer from in childhood form maladaptive life patterns into adulthood. She says we will often rationalize our unhealthy thoughts and behaviors in extreme because we desperately want to normalize what we have had to do to survive in this world. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for us to recognize this on our own. I have used this book to reflect on my own unhealthiness in order to make room for healthy growth in my relationships (i.e., self, spouse, kids, friends, and family).

4. On the Threshold of Hope by Diane Mandt Langberg: I love anything that Diane Langberg writes. She has depth of knowledge in its fullest: biblical, clinical, and experiential. Trauma (primarily understood as sexual abuse in this book) impacts us in unhealthy ways that will alter how we see ourselves and others. The language used in this book is comforting and enlightening, demonstrating how there can be a way to transform a “victim” into being a “survivor” in life. Recovery from abuse or trauma will take its time and great efforts, but Langberg writes with compassion and patience that will embolden the reader to face the trauma in a capacity that God makes possible.

5. The DBT Skills Workbook for Anxiety by Alexander L. Chapman, Kim L. Gratz, Matthew T. Tull: Although this is a secular workbook, the vast majority of its content is helpful. It provides the reader/user with clinical knowledge about anxiety’s interaction with our emotional and physiological being, as well as application and workbook exercises. This allows the reader to do something with their anxiety by learning how to interact with it, and adjust toward healthy patterns for managing future anxieties. Although we all experience anxiety on different levels, we do not need to suffer in the emotional distress. This is a great resource that anyone can use in their daily routine and not have to be restricted to the counselor’s office.

It is important that we take care of our holistic health and God-created bodies. This includes our physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional aspects. To not prioritize our health in any of these areas is a direct way of not caring for ourselves. Let’s become great stewards of what God has given us in our mental health—for our good and his glory!

Jesse Masson

Jesse Masson has been counseling since 2012 and lives in Kansas City with his wife and three children. In 2020, he started Connected Counseling LLC, a Christian counseling practice that offers professional in-office and teletherapy sessions. Jesse regards himself as a “broken healer” who desires to bring healthy change in … Read More