Home » Blogs » After Trauma » 5 Types of Books That Are Great Psychology Teachers

5 Types of Books That Are Great Psychology Teachers

books240Books! When it comes to learning about a new topic, whether it is a particular population, symptom, event, medication or therapy, there are a lot of different ways to learn: trainings, videos, supervision, and a number of different options on the internet. One of the more in-depth (but less interactive) ways are books. But these days there are so many choices, how can anyone know where to start? Later this week, I’ll talk about ways to suss out good recommendation sources, but this week I’ll outline a few types of books that can be especially helpful teaching tools.

Case studies

There’s nothing quite like a book of case studies to really get a feel for a particular therapeutic method. The Mummy at the Dining Room Table includes case stories from clinicians with many therapeutic approaches, and after reading it I had a much better understanding of a number of different approaches. I’m learning about play therapy right now, and I just read

Recommended case studies:

The Mummy at the Dining Room Table: Eminent Therapists Reveal Their Most Unusual Cases and What They Teach Us About Human Behavior

Love’s Executioner: & Other Tales of Psychotherapy


While one person never speaks for everyone, memoirs are unparalleled at immersing the reader in a particular experience.

Favorite memoirs:

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

Drinking: A Love Story


Workbooks are also a really nice how-to. For example, my training in DBT included:

  • Attending workshops
  • Watching video of Marsha Linehan doing DBT
  • Reading Linehan’s book about DBT
  • The Skills Training Manual—otherwise known as the workbook with the list of skills and handouts

The most useful for actually implementing DBT with clients? The workbook. It makes the lessons of DBT super-concrete and that’s what helped me wrap my head around what DBT is all about. Not that proper training isn’t crucial and necessary, but there’s something to be said for the hands-on application that workbooks provide.

Workbooks I love:
DBT® Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook

Seeking Safety: A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse (Guilford Substance Abuse)

Glossaries/Dictionaries of _____

These can be used as reference or to scroll through to see what sorts of figures and concepts are significant in a particular field. For example, The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy is sort of like the Wikipedia for philosophy: only the most important elements of an individual’s life or a school of thought or a particular concept are listed, and they are in surprisingly clear language—surprising if you’ve read the source material, that is.

I haven’t found a really good one for psychology (but I love recommendations!). The APA Dictionary of Psychology is too dense for scanning and hasn’t had any statistical tests I’ve looked up when reading articles. For those, I go to A Dictionary of Epidemiology, which has explanations of stats that have been very helpful.

The Handbook of…

This category of books doesn’t always have this title, but they can be recognized by their straight-forward titles which describe the subject (e.g. Yalom’s The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy) and their brick-like shape. Never feel like you must read these straight-through. Since they describe a population, or theory, or symptom group the way the fabled blind men describe an elephant, you can just select a particular chapter to gather information about the “elephant’s” leg. Read, for example, about:

Helpful hint: This type of book can be really expensive—but there are usually many editions. While it’s nice to get the most recent edition, when there’s a big price gap I get an earlier edition for my library. After all, even the new edition will be an old edition in a few years.

Choosing a book photo available from Shutterstock

5 Types of Books That Are Great Psychology Teachers

Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Staggs, S. (2015). 5 Types of Books That Are Great Psychology Teachers. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Feb 2015
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.