Psychology counseling books

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10 Books Counseling Students Should Read

10 Books Counseling Students Should Read

| Staff Writers

10 Books Counseling Students Should Read

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Counseling students who want to learn more about their chosen field can supplement college coursework with independent reading. Psychology and counseling professionals recommended the following books, which cover topics like achieving happiness, the impact of childhood trauma, how mindset can affect our lives, and attachment styles. Whether you want to learn more about your future career or simply satisfy your curiosity, you can surely find something appealing on the list below.

Book Recommendations for Counseling Students

1. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Dweck is a psychologist at Stanford University interested in fixed vs. growth mindsets. A growth mindset encompasses the idea that we as humans can develop our character and improve qualities like intelligence and creative abilities. Dweck argues that a growth mindset can help people succeed in nearly every area of life.

2. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Like Dweck, Angela Duckworth believes that people do not succeed due to inherited talents. Instead, Duckworth writes, people can accomplish their goals by displaying grit, or a passionate sort of perseverance. “The book is based in science while having many applications in different domains like sports and business,” says Dr. Alan Chu, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

3. The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris

This book explores the theory that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have serious consequences later on in life. Students can “learn about the impact of trauma on neurodevelopment, health outcomes, and educational opportunities,” said Robin Neuhaus, a Ph.D. candidate studying child development at New York University.

4. The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and their Patients by Irvan Yalom

In this book, Dr. Yalom shares advice he’s learned over the course of his career. Among his advice: acknowledge your mistakes, and Freud sometimes had it right. Elizabeth Polinsky, a licensed clinical social worker and military marriage counselor in Virginia, recommends The Gift of Therapy for new clinicians who want to dig deep into concepts like empathy and self-disclosure.

5. Attachment Theory in Practice by Sue Johnson

As the title suggests, this volume digs deep in attachment, or the theory of bonds between two people. If you’ve heard the terms “anxious or avoidant attachment style,” then you already know a bit about this theory. Couples and family counselors can gain a great deal of insight and “be better prepared to work with their individual clients seeking assistance for relationship concerns,” Polinsky advises.

6. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment by Martin E. P. Seligman

People can find happiness by concentrating on their strengths instead of their faults, Seligman argues, offering brain-training exercises to help individuals develop a positive mindset. The book “offers a practical, accessible overview of this versatile intervention and its application,” said Dr. Diana Concannon, dean of the California School of Forensic Studies at Alliant International University.

7. NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson

Dr. Neuhaus recommends this book as “an excellent resource for psychology students interested in delving deeper into developmental psychology.” The author examines studies that challenge many common assumptions about parenthood, along with different strategies for interacting with and raising children.

8. The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky

For people who prefer concrete strategies to abstract theories, this guide lays out 10 paths to happiness. But it’s not just a workbook; Lyubomirsky builds on her own research from the University of California. “Psychology students should read to learn about positive psychology as well as help themselves and others overcome emotional struggles, such as during the pandemic,” Chu suggests.

9. Neuropsychological Assessment 5th Edition by Muriel Deutsch Lezak, Diane B. Howleson, Erin D. Bigler, and Daniel Tranel

If you’re having trouble in your neurology class, this book may help. Focusing on neurobehavioral disorders, especially those related to brain injuries or dysfunctions, it “makes complex brain concepts understandable,” Concannon says. This edition includes the latest research and methodologies.

10. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn

This may be more of a philosophy book than a psychology book, but Concannon recommends it anyway. It offers insight into how science develops over the years, and, in turn, the way the scientific principles of psychology evolve. The book “supports reflection when consuming or engaging in psychological research,” Concannon says.

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17 Therapist-Approved Books That Will Teach You Something New About Yourself

“When my therapist recommended The Highly Sensitive Person to me, I was admittedly a little dubious at first. This book was supposed to tell me something about myself I didn’t already know? Sure, Jan. But a few pages in, I was staring, mouth agape, at the pages, wondering if the author had stolen my middle school diary. All my personal baggage, which I’d been carrying around since childhood—‘you’re too sensitive,’ ‘you’re too emotional, just seeing someone else who’s upset is enough to set you off,’ ‘why are you so jumpy? All I did was brush past you!’—suddenly it was all being explained to me. And not in terms of brokenness, which is what I’d always attributed it to, but to my hardwiring, the way I’m made, my very self. The author was telling me this could be positive, it could be my advantage. It could be a good thing. Mind: blown. I had never felt so seen.”

—Tawny C., 29

Buy it on Amazon or IndieBound, or add it on Goodreads.

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5 Counseling Books to Have On Your Shelf Now

Young man speaking to a counselor


A successful counselor is only as good as the resources of which they avail themselves. Whomever you hope to help in your career, there exists a vast library of prior work that can offer you the insight you need as you pursue your counseling degree.

The five books listed below offer some of the best fundamental insight for those pursuing a masters of counseling.

The vast majority of patients who walk into a counselor’s office are there because of a habit—one they wish to set, or one they hope to break. This book provides a foundational study into the integral role habits play in everyday life. Perhaps more importantly, it reveals the ways that the human capacity of habit-forming is skillfully manipulated by various forces in society.

This study of patterns in childhood attachment is more than a primer on childhood emotional development and how it is affected by approaches to parenting. It sets the stage for insightful exploration of patterns in adult social behavior.

Aside from being a riveting story of a prisoner’s determination to rise above the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, this influential memoir by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl offers groundbreaking insight into the primary drives in human life, and how those drives inform a life of service that not only positively affects others but can help a person overcome unthinkable suffering.

Carl Rogers revolutionized the psychotherapy world with his “client-centered” approach. This collection of essays, written over a decade, unfolds Rogers’ discovery that a trusting, affirming relationship between counselor and patient is more sustainable and beneficial than the traditional power hierarchy or current drug-based solutions.

Nothing damages a great counselor’s potential like a lack of self-care. In a field where the quality of interaction between the counselor and patient is crucial, it is imperative that counselors keep themselves healthy. This book identifies the essence of burnout and expert-proven methods for maintaining your own sanity in the midst of your counseling work.

Over the course of your education, as you learn more about your areas of passion and the skills you bring to the table, you will find yourself delving deeper into specific niches of psychology. But while pursuing your masters of counseling, these five books will set a strong foundation and serve as valuable allies that you will revisit time and again as your practice grows.


Recommended Reading 

How to Become a Mental Health Counselor

What Is Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and Why Is It Important?

Exploring the Link Between Technology and Mental Health



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Counseling books psychology

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My Top Book Recommendations for Anyone Interested in Counseling or Psychology

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