My Favourite Books on Therapy

This is a personal list (obviously). I originally intended to start with my top ten, but the list just grew. I would be interested in others’ favourites. Robin Shohet 

Early influences.

Mostly 60’s and early 70’s.  I still think they might have something to offer

  1. If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him. Sheldon Kopp. In the mid-seventies, when I was new to therapy, I remember the sense of excitement in reading this classic. I think it stands the test of time.
  2. Uncommon Therapy. Jay Haley. Ditto. Describes the work of one of the geniuses of the therapy world, Milton Erikson.
  3. Impro. Keith Johnston. A pioneer in the world of improvisation drama which I think is one of the best trainings for a therapist in that it combines combining, spontaneity, imagination with shrewd insights as to what blocks us.
  4. King Lear. William Shakespeare. Brilliant. From school I was so resistant to Shakespeare, but this play broke through all prejudice.
  5. Summerhill. A.S. Neill.  My first therapy book – describing his experimental school where pupils were allowed to choose whether they attended lessons.  A huge influence on my ways of thinking
  6. You are not the Target.  Laura Huxley.  Another remnant from the sixties, a prelude to the growth movement.  Exercises to expand consciousness from Aldous Huxley’s wife
  7. Doors of Perception. Aldous Huxley.  You can see my interest in drugs for expanding awareness.  A classic that belongs to a different era.
  8. The Divided Self. R.D. Laing.  A classic for those of us around in the late 60’s and looking for alternative ways other than conventional psychiatry.
  9. The Dice Man. Luke Reinheart. A psychiatrist decides to live his life according to the throw of a dice. I have been inspired to take risks by surrendering to the throw of a dice.
  10. Myself and I. Constance Newland. A fascinating account of a cure by LSD written about 50 years ago.  A very important book for me in the 60’s when I was studying psychology to give me the courage to challenge the system.
  11. Mister God This is Anna. Flynn. A moving tale of a relationship between a man in his thirties and a young girl who together explore the meaning of life. Describing the East End of London pre second world war, it takes you to an age of innocence as well as the incredible wisdom of little Anna.
  12. Dream Power. Anne Faraday. A book that made working with dreams accessible and took it out of the analytic field.

Later Influences.

  1. The Third Reich of Dreams. Charlotte Beradt. Discovered when researching for my book on dreams. The author collects dreams from Nazi Germany 1933-39 and we see how the unconscious wish to conform and belong contributes to the rise of Nazi Germany.
  2. Foundations of Psychohistory. Lloyd de Mause. Connects world events with the world of therapy in a very compelling way, particularly looking at birth trauma. Both this and Beradt’s book shed light on what might otherwise be incomprehensible world events.
  3. Realms of the Human Unconscious. Stanislas Grof.  Using LSD, Grof looks at the nature of consciousness including the effect of different stages of birth.
  4. How Can I Help? Ram Dass. A close look at the dynamics of helping and the ruthless honesty needed to be of help and the self deception that can fool us into thinking we are helping.
  5. Collected Papers on Schizophrenia. Harold Searles.  Written in the 50’s, original papers on psychoanalysis, including the first one to write about parallel process in supervision.
  6. Shakespeare Comes to Broadmoor ed Murray Cox.. A spellbinding account of bringing plays like Lear, Hamlet to Broadmoor and how the inmates and the actors interacted with so much intuitive understanding of the plays.
  7. Love’s Executioner. Irvin Yalom. No-one for me matches Yalom’s ability to tell stories of psychotherapy.
  8. The Blind Side of Eden. Carol Lee. A refreshing perspective on male/female relationships sympathetic to both sexes.

On Writing.

  1. Writing Down the Bones. A classic on writing influenced by her Zen Master. She sees  writing as a form of spiritual practice.
  2. Writing Your Life. Deena Metzger.   I have a personal interest in writing for self discovery and this is one of the books I enjoyed most.

Non-duality, a Course in Miracles – general heading of spirituality.

  1. The Course in Miracles. Urtext.  This channeled book (the Urtext is the clearest version) has so much wisdom and this too has influenced me hugely.
  2. The Disappearance of the Universe. Gary Renard. It seems strange to include the work of a man who quite frankly I did not take to, but much of this book goes into depth around the teachings in A Course in Miracles in a way I found very useful.
  3. The Work of Byron Katie. Any youtube clips. She challenges us to keep inquiring about some of our deepest held beliefs.  I have used her four questions and the turnaround both in my personal life and in my teaching. The can blow your mind which is what they are designed to do.
  4. The Untethered Soul. Michael Singer. Written with great clarity, shines a light on who we are and the defences we erect to deny our true nature.
  5. I Heard God Laughing. Poems of Hafiz. A complete and utter joy to read the works of this 14C Persian poet.

Most Recent.

  1. In Treatment. A DVD series of a therapist and his clients brilliantly acted by Gabriel Byrne with a very good script.  Addictive as well as instructive.
  2. The Art of Possibility. Ben Zander.  Does what it says on the tin.  Encourages us to think that with the right attitude anything is possible.  Zander is a conductor and this and his youtube clips shows how he inspires his  music students.
  3. The Inner World of Trauma. Donald Kalsched.  A brilliant exposition of how trauma is so difficult to treat from a Jungian Analyst.
  4. The Body Keeps the Score. Ditto with lots of practical suggestions.
  5. A Stroke of Insight. Jill Bolte Taylor. The author had a stroke and her recovery sheds light on the left/right hemisphere, the former corresponding to what is commonly called the ego. Also on a Ted Talk.
  6. Wilful Blindness. Margaret Heffernan. Another book that sheds some light on what might otherwise be considered inexplicable behaviour.
  7. Love’s Hidden Symmetry. Bert Hellinger. The Founder  of constellation work.  Always good to go to source.
  8. The Forgiveness Project. Marina Cantacuzino. The author has collected remarkable stories of forgiveness and put them together in a very powerful way.
  9. Intelligent Kindness. John Ballatt and Penelope Campling. A kind and intelligent book on helping to create a different culture in the NHS.
  10. The Music of Madness. Ivor Brown. An Irish psychiatrist in his 80’s describes his life. Fascinating, including descriptions of the therapeutic community movement in the 70’s. A lovely section on group dynamics which I use for teaching.
  11. The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry. Sue Annis Hammond. I have used appreciative inquiry very successfully with teams and organisations and this little book is an excellent introduction.

Robin Shohet

3 Comments on “My Favourite Books on Therapy

  1. A very interesting list. I might add: ‘Art & Fear’ Observations On The Perils (and rewards) of Art Making. David Bayles and Ted Orland. A very rational book that deals with the main (self-imposed) blocks to creativity and busts many myths surrounding the act of making art. An artists survival guide!

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