This site is owned and operated by 

What Are The Best Books For Therapists? Expanding Your Knowledge

November 18, 2023


A man lying on the floor wearing headphones while reading a book

As a therapist, you likely spent significant time reading and studying in school. However, mental health is an expansive and constantly evolving field, so continuing to expand your knowledge through books can help you gain new insights, provide even better care, and enrich your life and the lives of your patients. 

Popular Books For Therapists To Continue Their Learning

The best books for you as a therapist will depend on your unique interests, focus, experience, and goals, but below are several popular options to consider adding to your list. 

The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, And Body In The Healing Of Trauma By Bessel Van Der Kolk 

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk is a best-selling book about how the mind and body interact with traumatic stress. Van der Kolk is both a scientific researcher who has studied the effects of trauma and an active therapist, and in this book, he draws on research and clinical experience to show how trauma impacts the brain and body

Van der Kolk explains the unique workings of traumatic stress in the body, including the physical symptoms it can cause and its connection with autoimmune conditions. He also explores how post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can change one’s ability to socialize, connect with others, and attach healthily to partners. 

A better understanding of how trauma impacts the body can help psychologists and counselors further support their clients with traumatic pasts. Somatic techniques and mind-body practices, like body scans, yoga, meditation, self-regulation, and awareness of how one’s own emotions and physical sensations are connected, are also explored in the book. Van der Kolk explores how he developed his trauma clinic to have successful results with people living with PTSD. You may enjoy this book if you want to become more trauma-informed in your practice. 

The Gift Of Therapy: An Open Letter To A New Generation Of Therapists And Their Patients By Irvin D. Yalom 

The Gift of Therapy by psychiatrist Dr. Irvin D. Yalom was first published in 2001, and according to the author, it is a culmination of his more than 35 years of clinical practice. The book is a summary of the lessons Yalom learned in his time supporting clients, offering advice and insight to new therapists, as well as their patients.

Yalom incorporates case studies to demonstrate how therapists and patients can get the most out of therapy, and he offers an extensive list of “tips for beginner therapists,” including suggestions such as “let the patient matter to you,” “acknowledge your errors,” “create a new therapy for each patient,” and “talk about life meaning,” among many others. If you are a new therapist or are looking to strengthen your therapeutic process, you may find this book and its practical insights beneficial. 

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ By Daniel Goleman 

In many industries, there has often been significant emphasis on the intelligence quotient (IQ), which measures an individual’s logical and cognitive functioning. However, some psychologists have posited that there may be other forms of intelligence that can be just as or even more important, including Daniel Goleman, who wrote a practical guide on the concept of emotional intelligence, also called the emotional quotient (EQ), in 1995. 

Emotional intelligence can involve skills like knowing what one is feeling, describing emotions in detail, understanding the difference between emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, and self-regulation. The book discusses how emotions impact daily life and how individuals can use these emotions to incite positive change and meet goals. 

Clients may judge their emotions and struggle to understand the purpose of seemingly “negative emotions” like sadness and anger. Reading this book can help therapists validate the emotions of their clients and help them see that these emotions can indicate the necessity of change or that one has been wronged, which can be valuable for self-protection. 

Bearing The Unbearable: Love, Loss, And The Heartbreaking Path Of Grief By Joanne Cacciatore, Ph.D. 

Bearing the Unbearable by Joanne Cacciatore can be a valuable book for therapists who often work with grief. This book takes a validating approach toward grief, showcasing how resilience can co-occur with unimaginable pain. The book acknowledges the reality of grief for many people and may help therapists develop a validating tone with their clients when discussing this subject. Cacciatore frames grief as “the other side of love,” with grief as a natural part of loving deeply and being fully human. Ignoring grief can be counterproductive. 

The book may offer useful ideas for how to explore and discuss grief in your work and in your own life. As a bereavement educator, counselor, researcher, and Zen priest, Cacciatore has worked with many individuals as they go through loss and draws on her own experiences with grief, as well. 

DBT Skills Training Manual By Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D.

You may have studied dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) in school or your extended learning courses. If you aren’t already familiar with the DBT Skills Training Manual by Dr. Linehan, the developer of DBT, this can be an invaluable resource for learning more about this approach and how to implement it with clients. 

The book gives instructions on how to introduce DBT to clients and gives detailed teaching tips for four key skills: 

  • Mindfulness 
  • Emotion Regulation 
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness
  • Distress Tolerance

It may be helpful to investigate the ideas taught in this book and print out the worksheets offered for clients. For therapists who work with clients with intense emotional responses, such as those living with a personality disorder or PTSD, these worksheets and skills can be very helpful. DBT is commonly used to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD), but it can be used for a wide range of mental health conditions.  

A professional woman wearing glasses engage in conversation with a man in an office setting

Attached: The New Science Of Adult Attachment And How It Can Help You Find—And Keep—Love By Amir Levine And Rachel Heller 

Attachment theory explores the different ways children bond with their caregivers, and how these relationships can affect an individual’s development. Drawing on this theory and additional research, the book Attached suggests that there are three primary adult attachment styles, which can play out in romantic relationships: anxious, avoidant, and secure. 

The authors also note that the human need for a close relationship is “embedded in our genes,” suggesting that it is essential for us to be close to our partner. The book offers insight into how to determine your attachment style and that of your partner, as well as suggestions for building stronger relationships. Therapists who work with couples or who want to understand attachment further may enjoy this book. 

The Four Agreements By Don Miguel Ruiz 

Although not a book for psychologists, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is often cited as one of the most inspirational books on self-help, and it has been very popular for many years. The four agreements outlined in the book are: 

  • Be Impeccable With Your Word
  • Don’t Take Anything Personally
  • Don’t Make Assumptions
  • Always Do Your Best

Drawing on ancient Toltec wisdom, Ruiz examines how self-limiting beliefs can cause unnecessary suffering and details how these four agreements can bring greater freedom and happiness. Exploring these concepts may offer valuable insights for therapists and patients from a different perspective.


Reading books is one way to further expand your knowledge as a therapist. Although you may have learned some of these concepts in school, reading books from experts in the field and those with decades of experience can offer additional insight that may help you in your work and your own life.