Any questions?

Books, films and online resources

With thousands of self-help and other psychology books in print, and the vast resources of the internet, it can be difficult to know where to start. Listed here are some of the books and other resources we at the University Counselling Service have found helpful in our work with students. In addition to psychology books, you will find web resources, novels, books of philosophy and the occasional documentary film. We do not represent any of these as the definitive source on an issue. Everything here needs to be looked at with a critical eye, and different resources will suit different individuals.

Adjusting to University Life

Fresher Pressure: How to survive as a student 

Aidan Macfarlane and Ann McPherson

Oxford:Oxford University Press (1994)

Because it incorporates quotes from students in their first year, it helps to ‘normalise’ problems experienced.It also gives tips on coping with:  meeting people, living arrangements, friends, sex/contraception, food, exercise, drugs, alcohol, stress, work, illness, unhappiness/suicidal thoughts.

The Leaving Home Survival Guide

Nicola Morgan

Walker (2005) 

With in-depth sections on money, accommodation, food, health and happiness, as well as a quick-reference guides for emergencies, this is a useful reference book for a young person living away from home for the first time.

Help! (How to become slightly happier and get a bit more done)

Oliver Burkeman

Cannongate Books (2011)

Straight to the point and very insightful: emotional life, social life, personal productivity. Chapters on ‘How to win friends and influence people’, ‘How to get more done’, ‘How to use your brain’, ‘How to keep functioning’ may be especially relevant.

Performing academically: general study skills

The Study Skills Handbook

Stella Cottrell

Palgrave Macmillan (2008).

This book covers study methods, organising your desk, and how to structure an essay. It is clear and readable, if a bit basic.

Essential Study Skills: the complete guide to success at university

Burns and Sinfield

London: Sage (2008)

This book will encourage you to reflect on how you learn, and help you to gain a clear idea of your strengths and areas for development, organise yourself for study, take notes, write and research academically, pass exams, and cope with stress at university.

How to Study: A Practical Guide

Francis Casey

Palgrave Macmillan (1993)

Offers detailed guidance on how the reader can plan time, use books, make notes, write essays, and prepare for examinations. The book also features commonsense advice on using libraries, writing projects and exploiting the benefits of information technology - from computer models to word processors.

Performing academically: writing

Writing Under Pressure

Sanford Kaye

Oxford University Press (1990)

Presents a system called the Quick Writing Process (QWP) that focuses on real-world writing tasks and demonstrates how to produce clear, honest, powerful work possible under the constraints of time and space. A writing instructor with twenty-five years' teaching experience, Kaye tells writers how to budget their time and how to use this time efficiently. Aimed not just at students but at those working in government.

The Clockwork Muse

Zerubavel, Eviatar

Harvard University Press (1999)

Aimed at writers with large-scale, long-term writing projects (like a master’s thesis or PhD), this book explains how to set up a writing schedule and regular work habits that should take most of the anxiety and procrastination out of long-term writing, and even make it enjoyable. It argues that the dreaded "writer's block" just indicates a need for a better grasp of the temporaral organization of work. It helps readers work out when to write, for how long, and how often, while keeping a sense of momentum throughout the entire project. It shows how to set priorities,  balancing ideals with pragmatism.

How to Write a Thesis

Murray, R.

Buckingham: Open University Press

This is one of two books recommended by the Oxford Learning Institute to those who are supervising students writing theses.

Writing Your Thesis

Oliver, P.

London: Sage Publications

This is one of two books recommended by the Oxford Learning Institute to those who are supervising students writing theses.

Performing academically: passing exams

How to Pass Exams Without Anxiety

David Acres

How to Books Ltd (1995)

The 3rd edition of this guide to passing exams, which has been revised to reflect the latest changes in examination and assessment methods, and the most recent findings as to effective study and relaxation techniques.

Performing academically: research

How to Get a PhD

Estelle Phillips and Derek Pugh

Open University Press (2005)

Practical and clear, this book examines everything students need to know about getting a PhD through research in any subject. Includes a diagnostic questionnaire for students to self-monitor progress.

Achieving a PhD: Ten students’ experiences Phillida Salmon

Trentham Books (1992)

The students write candidly and lucidly about their feelings, misgivings and the stresses of fitting in this huge commitment to a life already filled with family obligations and the demands of work. 
They also describe the solutions they found to practical problems such as storing their research, recording sources and gathering information. Their supervisor brings these accounts together into a coherent overview of all that is entailed in achieving a PhD.

Managing Your Research Supervisor or Principal Investigator 

Web resource

An on-line course available to members of the university.This course offers practical tips on how to manage your Supervisor.Topics include mutual expectations, preparing for meetings, reading body language, managing meetings and what to do when things go wrong.

Time Management/Procrastination

Put Off Procrastinating!!!

Centre for Clinical Interventions InfoPax

Web resource

This downloadable programme provides information about procrastination and suggests strategies to address this problem. It is organised into modules that are designed to be worked through in sequence.Each module includes information, worksheets, and suggested exercises or activities.

Visit Centre for Clinical Interventions website

Overcoming Procrastination

Andrea Perry

Worth Publishing (2002)

This book provides a new and useful diagnostic tool to help identify where and how you have become struck, and offers a wealth of strategies to overcome entrenched patterns of procrastination. The book introduces the Action Spiral model used in the Procrastination workshop offered here at the University Counselling Service.

The Pomodoro Technique

Francesco Cirillo

Available to download for free

A wacky but effective time management system, the Pomodoro Technique is especially helpful to students who tend to fragment their time across too many different activities and as a result fail to give concentrated attention to anything.Learn about the technique from the Pomodoro Technique website.

The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination

Chrissoula Andreou and Mark White

Oxford:  Oxford University Press (2010)

This is a philosophy book with a very practical aim:to shed light on ‘a vexing practical problem that generates a great deal of frustration, regret and harm’.This is not a self-help book but a serious and thought-provoking exploration of a what for many is an important problem.

Help! (How to become slightly happier and get a bit more done)
Chapter 5. “How to get more done”

Oliver Burkeman

Cannongate Books (2011)

Very useful chapter of a very useful book.

The Now Habit: a strategic for overcoming procrastination and enjoying guilt-free play

Neil Fiore

Jeremy Tarcher (2007)

This book takes a different approach to most others. Its premise is that scheduling too much work is counter-productive: we get discouraged and rebel. It suggests starting with scheduling high-quality play time and fitting work in between.

Perfectionism in perspective

Perfectionism: Friend or Foe?

Harvard University

Web resource

Living with perfectionism can be painful and difficult, as well as getting in the way of achieving goals.This is a brief guide to the disadvantages of perfectionism, and the benefits of setting more realistically achievable goals.

Download guide (pdf)

Perfectionism in Perspective

Centre for Clinical Interventions InfoPax  

Web resource

This Information Package is designed to help you understand what is helpful and unhelpful about being a perfectionist. The goal is not for you to give up your high standards altogether but to learn to pursue healthy high standards rather than unrelenting high standards that negatively impact your life.Consists of several modules, designed to be worked through in sequence.Each module includes information, worksheets, and suggested exercises or activities.

View Perfectionism in Perspective information package

Overcoming Perfectionism

Roz Shafran, Sarah Egan and Tracey Wade

Robinson (2010)

This self-help book based on principles of cognitive behavioural therapy, aims to help you break the vicious circle of ‘never good enough’.

Living with a disability

Making Dyslexia Work for You: A self-help guide for dyslexic students in higher education

Vicki Goodwin and Bonita Thompson

David Fulton (2004)

The book has three sections: (1) Information about dyslexia and its effects; (2) Study skills, including strategies for reading and essay-writing, organisation, maths and memory; (3) information about resources available including technology. The book includes a CD ROM which provides the complete text as pdf files, extends the topics and gives links to websites. It can be used with readback software.

Living with Dyspraxia

Mary Colley

Jessica Kingsley (2006)

This book provides information about dyspraxia, including how it can be identified. It gives practical ideas for coping with the difficulties that dyspraxia may bring. It includes sections on communication and relationships, practical organization, studying and employment. The book also has case studies of adults with dyspraxia.

Disability: Controversial Debates and Psychosocial Perspectives

Deborah Marks

Routledge (1999)

This book offers an analysis of disability as it has been historically and culturally constructed and psychicly experienced. This is a very challenging and thought-provoking book (not gentle self-help) which may help some disabled students make sense of their own powerful feelings as well as the feelings/responses they evoke in others.

Building social confidence

Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness: A self-help guide using cognitive behavioural techniques

Gillian Butler

London: Robinson (1999)

This easy-to-use guide, full of real-life examples, is for those who suffer from all degrees of social anxiety and shyness.It explains the many forms and causes of social anxiety and offers.Contains a complete CBT-based self-help program and worksheets.The book is divided into 3 parts: Part One explains social anxiety; Part Two gives a complete pratical guide to overcoming these feelings, changing thinking patterns, reducing self-consciousness and building confidence; Part Three gives ‘optional extras’ such as explaining the legacy of being bullied and how to learn to relax.

Overcoming Social Anxiety

Gillian Butler

Oxford Cognitive Therapy Centre (1999)

Booklet available from Counselling Service reception.

The essence of the cognitive-behavioural approach to the management of social anxiety and social phobias distilled into a compact booklet. 

Shy No Longer

Centre for Clinical Interventions InfoPax

Web resource

Provides information about social anxiety and suggests strategies to manage social situations. It is organised into modules that are designed to be worked through in sequence. Each module includes information, worksheets, and suggested exercises or activities.

View Shy No Longer guide

Russell Davies’ blog entry: “How to be Interesting”

how to be interesting blog

Great practical advice for anyone who feels—and possibly is?—boring to others and possibly also to him/herself.

Help! (How to become slightly happier and get a bit more done) – Chapter 3: ‘How to win friends and influence people’

Oliver Burkeman

Cannongate Books (2011)

Very useful chapter of a very useful book.

Improving self-esteem

10 Days to Great Self-Esteem

David Burns

Vermillion (2000)

This book helps readers identify the causes of negative mood changes and to develop a more positive outlook on life.It explains how negative feelings like guilt, anger and depression are usually not the direct consequence of adverse life events, but stem from the way that people think about these events.The book focuses on the problems of people who doubt themselves, criticise themselves and have a negative view of themselves.It contains many practical exercises.

Overcoming Low Self-Esteem: A Self-help guide using cognitive behavioural techniques

Melanie Fennell

London: Robinson Publishing (1999)

This book provides a cognitive behavioural framework for understanding how your own low self-esteem developed and what keeps it going.It also offers practical ways of undermining old, negative beliefs about the self and establishing and strengthening new, more realistic and helpful alternative perspectives.Also available as a three-volume workbook.

Building Self Esteem

Helen Jenkins and Melanie Fennell


Booklet available from Counselling Service reception.

A cognitive-behavioural approach to understanding and overcoming low self-esteem, including detailed advice on how self-help strategies can be used to build self-esteem.

Improving Self-Esteem

Centre for Clinical Interventions InfoPax

Web resource

This information package is designed to provide you with some information about low self-esteem - how it develops, how it is maintained, and how to address this problem. This infopax is organised into modules that are designed to be worked through in sequence. We recommend that you complete one module before going on to the next. Each module includes information, worksheets, and suggested exercises or activities.

View Improve Self-Esteem guide

The Compassionate Mind

Paul Gilbert

Constable & Robinson (2009)

Teaches compassion for the self and for others, and includes lots of valuable exercises to develop self-compassion. The length of the book is offputting to some, but there is no need to read the first half of the book (about compassion) to benefit from the exercises in the second half.

Relationships, sex and sexuality

Stop Arguing, Start Talking: The 10 Point Plan for Couples in Conflict

Susan Quilliam

Vermillion (2001)

A Relate Guide. This book argues that often, what couples argue about is a mere cover for more deep-rooted, fundamental issues and unresolved problems, often stemming from as far back as early childhood. It encourages reflection on the real underlying relationship problems. Attention is given not only to why couples fight but also how they fight, with different approaches to argument ‘tactics’. In the section ‘anatomy of an argument’, readers are helped to understand how an argument can develop, but also how to divert or ‘steer’ it to a more fruitful and peaceful conclusion.

Loving Yourself, Loving Another: The importance of self-esteem for successful relationships

Julia Cole and Relate

Vermillion (2001)

This readable book shows how low self-esteem can impact negatively on relationships. It offers guidance and exercises to build emotional well-being.

Assertively Gay: How to build gay self-esteem

Terry Sanderson

The Other Way Press (1997)

A sensitive, if challenging, guide to assertiveness for gay men, offering practical advice on how to build self-esteem and repair emotional damage.

How to Be a Happy Homosexual

Terry Sanderson

The Other Way Press (1999)

One Amazon comment:  “This book has all the information that a starting-out gay man could want, and best of all it is reassuring and positive. It will help build the confidence of gay men who are unsure of their role and don’t know how to make the best of their gay life. It’s also very practical, and I particularly liked the thought-provoking chapter on ethics for the modern gay man. It’s the kind of book every gay man should read.”

Being Homosexual: Gay men and their development

Richard Isay

Vintage (2009)

This is a radical and liberal view of the development of homosexuality from a leading psychoanalyst who has worked with homosexual men for many years. The crux of this book's argument centres around the suggestion that homosexuality is constitutional in origin and therefore present from early childhood. This book also discusses the stages and crises of a gay man's life.

The Ins and Outs of Gay Sex

Stephen Goldstone

Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group (1999)

Reliable, comprehensive information on a wide spectrum of gay medical concerns, written by an eminent surgeon and recognised authority on gay health issues. With up-to-date facts, interviews, and case studies from the author’s practice, this book goes far beyond HIV concerns, combining a complete education about the safe and pleasurable practices of male-male sexuality with a comprehensive medical volume.

Anyone and Everyone

Documentary film

Moving portrayal of parents’ responses to discovering that their children are gay. Although the film is American, participants are drawn from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds, and the film feels very relevant to UK audiences. Trailer can be viewed on the Anyone and Everyone website. The film is £9 to order, and delivery is free.

Becoming Orgasmic: A sexual and personal growth programme for women

Julia Heiman, Joseph LoPiccolo and Leslie LoPiccolo

Platkus (2009)

The aim of this book is to help women feel comfortable with their bodies and their ideas about sex. It also encourages reflection about sex in the modern world—social expectations, personal values and choosing partners.

It Gets Better Project

It gets better homepage

Apple employees video

Center Theatre group video

The mission of this project is to communicate to LGBT young people that ‘it gets better’. Since its inception in 2010, it has become a worldwide movement, with more than 50,000 videos contributed by individuals and organizations. The sheer volume of video can be intimidating, so we suggest Apple Employees and Center Theater group videos as a starting point. 

Coping with conflict (assertiveness, anger management)

Overcoming Anger and Irritability

Will Davies

Robinson (2000)

A self-help manual for those who find themselves constantly irritable and angry. Case-studies illustrate what happens when people get angry, helping the reader to understand why this occurs. The book encourages the reader to keep an ‘anger diary’ to monitor situations and their reactions, so that they can consider alternative, more effective responses.

The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook Chapter 15 – “Anger Inoculation”

Martha Davis et. al.

New Harbinger Publications (2008)

Introduces a 4-stage anger management protocol called ‘anger inoculation’, demonstrated to reduce both trait anger and anger incidents. Beautifully and succinctly presented - just 10 pages in a workbook format.  

A Woman in Your Own Right: Assertiveness and You

Anne Dickson

Quartet Books (1982)

Classic text on assertiveness, written specifically for women. Assertiveness is defined as the art of clear, honest and direct communication. This builds self-esteem and strengthens the ability to make choices on how to respond in different situations. The book focuses on a person’s rights – the right to be treated with respect; the right to express feelings, opinions and values; the right to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’; and the right not to accept responsibility for other people’s problems.

Managing Anger: Simple steps to dealing with frustration and threat

Gael Lindenfield

Thorsons (2000)

Anger is a natural emotional response to threat, hurt, frustration and loss. It can be a survival tool, as a vital means of releasing a build-up of emotional pressure. But anger is also a dangerous force. Uncontrolled fury can lead to rash words, violence and destructiveness, while repressed rage can result in bitterness, stress, misery and guilt. Both extremes can damage health. Gael Lindenfield explains the effects of anger on our minds and bodies, and suggests ways of dealing both with our own anger and that of other people.

Assert Yourself: A self-help assertiveness programme for men and women

Gael Lindenfield 

Thorsons (1992)

This manual enables the reader to improve their self-esteem and confidence. It helps them identify ‘put-downs’ and unfair criticism, and to turn around such situations in a positive manner.

Angry All the Time:  An emergency guide to anger control

Ron Potter-Efron

New Harbinger Publications (2005)

This book helps readers make immediate changes by learning to stop making excuses and stop blaming, follow the 8 steps of anger management, change anger-provoking thoughts, deal with old resentments, ask for what they want without anger, avoid violence and threats, and stay calm.

Assert Yourself!

Centre for Clinical Interventions InfoPax

Web resource

Provides information about assertiveness – what it is, what stops us from being assertive and how to become more assertive. It is organised into modules to be worked through in sequence. Each module includes information, worksheets, and suggested exercises or activities.

View Assert Yourself! guide

Achieving a healthy relationship with food/healthy weight

Fat Is a Feminist Issue

Susie Orbach

Arrow Books (2006)

Exploring our love/hate relationship with food, Susie Orbach describes how fat is about so much more than food. It is a response to our social situation; the way we are seen by others and ourselves. Too often food is a source of anguish, as are our bodies. But “Fat is a Feminist Issue” discusses how we can turn food into a friend and find ways to accept ourselves for who and how we are. Following the step-by-step guide, and you too can put an end to food anxieties and dieting.This book may feel a bit dated.Bear in mind that it is a classic work which shows signs of the times in which it was written but has messages that are just as relevant today.

The Beauty Myth: How images of beauty are used against women

Naomi Wolf

Anchor Books (1991)

According to Germaine Greer, ‘the most important feminist publication since The Female Eunuch”.This is a passionate rant about how affluent Western women have escaped from one form of enslavement only to fall into another - the ‘beauty myth’.

When Food Is Love: exploring the relationship between eating and intimacy

Geneen Roth

Penguin (1993)

Shows how dieting and compulsive eating often become a substitute for intimacy. Drawing on personal experience and stories of participants in her seminars, Roth examines issues that surround compulsive eating: need for control, dependency on melodrama, desire for what is forbidden, and the belief that one wrong move can mean catastrophe.

Eating Less

Gillian Riley

Ebury Press (2005)

Not about dieting, but about addressing the problem of overeating.In the words on an Amazon reviewer: Riley’s factual knowledge is impressive but never overwhelming. Her psychological insight is always relatable and ‘rings bells’ (lots of ‘Aha! Moments’). Her writing style is perfect. And her British common sense is pitched adroitly to the reader reeling from years of American hype.

The  Beck Diet Solution

Judith Beck

Oxmoor House (2009)

The book uses the principles of cognitive behaviour therapy to reconfigure your relationship with food. The book does not contain a food plan – it encourages you to choose any sensible eating plan - instead it helps you to systematically dismantle the habits of thinking that could derail you and gives you the tools to follow your chosen plan successfully.

Getting to grips with disordered eating

Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating

Peter Cooper


This self-help guide contains educational material about bulimia and binge eating disorder, including information and warnings about the dangers associated with repeated vomiting. The book provides comprehensive self-treatment programme, with detailed strategies to help the reader control bingeing and purging.

Overcoming Binge Eating

Christopher Fairburn

London: Guilford Press (2005)

Written by Dr Christopher Fairburn this unique book provides clinicians, sufferers, and interested others with an authoritative and accessible account of binge eating problems.

Overcoming Anorexia Nervosa: A self-help guide using cognitive behavioural techniques

Christopher Freeman


This is a complete self-help recovery programme to overcome anorexia using cognitive therapy techniques that have been tried and tested for many years and shown conclusively to work.

Getting Better Bit(e) by Bit(e)

Ulrike Schmidt and Janet Treasure

Psychology Press (1993)

This easy-to-read book motivates people with eating disorders (principally, bulimia and binge eating disorder) to take control and tackle their eating difficulties by themselves. Provides essential information about food, the body, dieting, the ill-effects of vomiting and laxative abuse. Describes self-help strategies for many areas of life. Further readings, attractive and funny cartoons, and detailed practical advice.

Breaking Free From Anorexia Nervosa

Janet Treasure

Psychology Press (1997)

Unusually for a book on anorexia nervosa, this book includes sections for parents and other carers alongside a section for the sufferer herself. So often books have been written which only give one perspective. In her work with patients and families Janet Treasure has tried to ensure that family and professionals collaborate and co-operate in order to overcome the power of the illness. Many families have used and commented on various versions of this book, and have helped to form its content. Experiences and problems have been shared, and solutions generated.

Overcoming Disordered Eating

Centre for Clinical Interventions

Web resource

Provides information about disordered eating - how it develops, how it is maintained, and strategies to start to change the problem behaviours associated with disordered eating. It is organised into modules designed to be worked through in sequence. Each module contains information, worksheets, and suggested exercises or activities.

View Overcoming Disordered Eating guide

 Men Get Eating Disorders Too

Web resource

This is a website for men who are affected by anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, compulsive eating and/or exercise and 'Bigorexia'. This site was created to provide male sufferers and others with essential information and advice on eating disorders including definitions of what they are and the associated symptoms, treatments and support services available. There are also personal stories and a forum so male users can connect with other men with eating disorders to share their experiences and offer peer support.

Visit Men Get Eating Disorders Too website

Finding Melissa

Web resource

This is the personal blog of a recovered anorexic. A rich resource, informative and inspiring. Highly recommended by experts in treating the disorder as well as by those affected by eating disorders.

Visit Finding Melissa website

Stress management and relaxation

Relax and Unwind: A new positive approach

Jenni Adams

David & Charles PLC (1992)

A book written by a stress consultant who adopts a positive attitude and aims to provide imaginative solutions to the common problems arising from today’s lifestyles.

The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook Martha Davis  et. al.  

New Harbinger Publications (2008)

This workbook provides effective stress management and relaxation techniques and exercises.  There is a chapter on ‘worry control’ and another on coping with anger-provoking situations.

The Daily Relaxer

Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning

New Harbinger Publications (1997)

Shows readers how to locate the stress in their bodies and offers forty-five easy-to-master techniques designed to alleviate stress and prevent daily worries from growing into major sources of anxiety and pain.

How to Relax

Rachel Norris and Christine Kuchemann


Cassette tape available from OCTC

A basic package, consisting of a relaxation tape and an instruction sheet, which guides the user through a series of relaxation exercises.

Getting a good night’s sleep

The Sleep Solution: Improve your sleep, health and quality of life - from tonight

Nigel Ball and Nick Hough Vermilion.

This guide to sleep and sleep problems provides information about normal sleep rhythms, what can disturb them, and how adjustments to your lifestyle can bring improvements in the quality of sleep and health. It provides guidelines for monitoring and improving your sleep patterns, a symptoms guide and information about drugs and sleeping aids.

Peaceful Sleep: A practical guide to stress-free days and tranquil nights

Jan Sadler

Gateway (1999)

Offers a programme for encouraging sleep – the ‘Peaceful Sleep’ bedtime routine. This well-proven method combines self-help techniques to use during the day with a unique relaxation and imaginative visualisation procedure at night.


Mindfulness for Beginners

2-CD Set

Jon Kabat-Zinn

A lovely introduction to Mindfulness, a pleasure to listen to.

Full Catastrophe Living: How to Cope with Stress, Pain and Illness Using Mindfulness Meditation

Jon Kabat-Zinn   

Platkus Publications (2001)

This book is primarily intended for those facing chronic or terminal illness or emotional pain.

Wherever You Go, There You Are

Jon Kabat-Zinn 

Platkus Books (2004)

Kabat-Zinn maps out a simple path for cultivating mindfulness in our lives, and awakening us to the unique beauty and possibilities of each present moment.This book explains what ‘mindfulness’ is; how to achieve mindfulness using meditation techniques; how mindful meditation can enhance every aspect of your life.


Web resource

Gives a very basic explanation of mindfulness, suggests some simple exercises and has a mindful breathing mp3 download

Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world

Danny Penman and Mark Williams

Platkus (2011)

This book provides a structured introduction to Mindfulness in the form of an 8 week course, and includes guided meditations on the CD. Most of these are well under 10 minutes, making this a practical choice for students who may feel they don’t have time to do more.

Cigarettes, drugs and alcohol

Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking

Allen Carr

Penguin (2006)

Huge bestseller. The first three quarters of the book explodes myths about smoking (e.g. smoking relaxes you or gets rid of stress), which sets you up and gets you into the right frame of mind for actually quitting. Actually quitting involves two things: one, deciding you are never going to smoke again, and two, celebrating.

The Addiction Workbook: A step-by-step guide to quitting alcohol and drugs

Patrick Fanning and John O’Neill 

New Harbinger Publications (1996)

A comprehensive workbook to help a person wishing to quit alcohol or drug use. The book enables the reader to recognise their problem, then identify and take steps to address it.

Overcoming Problem Drinking: A self help guide to using cognitive behavioural techniques

Marcantonio Spada 

Robinson (2006)

Former alcohol counsellor Spada provides strategies for dealing with excessive drinking based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), helping people develop skills to better manage their behaviour in situations where they drink heavily – for example in social situations, when stressed, or when facing problems and anxieties. CBT also helps people manage cravings for alcohol.


Self-Help for Self-Injury:A guide for women struggling with self-injury

Bristol Crisis Service for Women

Booklet available to order

This booklet (one of a series) provides suggestions for women who want to understand and take more control over their self-injury.It may also be of help to professionals and friends who want to support a woman who is struggling with self-injury.

Download the order form

Lifesigns Self-injury Guidance and Support Network

Web resource

This is the website of a voluntary organization supporting those who use self-harm as a coping mechanism. It provides a support forum, and is a good source of ideas to help you manage the urge to self-harm (like ‘the 15 minute rule’, ‘everything but’ and ‘surfing the urge’) and encourages development of other coping mechanisms.

Family issues and pressures

Families and How to Survive Them

Robin Skynner and John Cleese 

Vermilion (1993)

John Cleese collaborates with family therapist Robin Skynner to explain what is meant by therapy and psychotherapy, and why so many people need it. Written as a conversation between the two, it describes how and why we fall in love, how we develop from babies to adolescents to adults, and how during this development we so often become “stuck” repeating patterns established in childhood.

The Normal One:Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling

Jeanne Safer 

Delta (2003) 

New York Times review:‘A persuasive examination of the considerable effect that… impaired brothers and sisters have upon their ‘normal’ siblings throughout life.’

The Primal Wound: Understanding the adopted child

Nancy Verrier

Verrier Publishing (1993)

This book explores the emotional impacts of adoption.It validates the experiences and feelings of many adopted people, which may include a sense of abandonment and loss, feelings of anger, hurt and confusion, and a search for identity and a sense of belonging. 

If You Don’t Know Me By Now (Memoir) 

Satnam Sanghera

Viking (2008)

Memoir of a young man who grew up in a Punjabi Sikh family in Wolverhampton, struggling to tell his mother that he will never accept an arranged marriage.The letter he writes to his mother, which appears in the last chapter, is a tour de force, an inspiration to anyone who needs to deliver a painful truth in an honest and loving way.

Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds and Build Trust, Boundaries and Self-Esteem

Kimberlee Roth and Freda Friedman 

New Harbinger Publications (2005)

Has had mixed reviews, but worth a look.

Progressive Muslims

Omid Safi (ed.)

Oxford: One World Publications (2003)

Offers rigorous exploration of how Islam views issues like women’s rights, homosexuality, etc. and argues that there is more scope for progressive interpretation of traditional texts than is commonly believed.Thought-provoking but also respectful. 

Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal

Jeanette Winterson

Jonathan Cape 2011

Novelist Jeanette Winterson’s  account of her changing relationship with her difficult personal history. Thought-provoking for all, but may be of special interest to adopted children and to gay children of fundamentalist religious  families. 

Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking your life back when someone you care about has borderine personality disorder

Paul Mason and Randi Kreger

New Harbinger (2010)

A guide to living with a Borderline family member, this book outlines approaches to setting boundaries and communicating more effectively. Answers common questions about symptoms and treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. Not as comprehensive as the Porr book, above, but perhaps more approachable.

Losing someone close to you

Facing Grief: Bereavement and the young adult Susan Wallbank

Lutterworth Press (1991)

This book is written for young people between 18 and 28 years. It deals with grief connected with the death of specific family members (grandparents, parents, siblings) or with the loss of a partner.

When Parents Die

Rebecca Abrams

Delta (1999)

About the experience of losing a parent as a child or adolescent. Covers the entire course of grieving, paying particular attention to circumstances that can prolong and complicate mourning.  It explains the significance of how and when a parent dies; the importance of the relationship that existed between parent and child prior to death; the role played by the remaining parent; the difficulties faced by adolescents and young adults; the impact of earlier and subsequent life events, for example illness and divorce, etc.

Living with Grief

Tony Lake

Sheldon Press (1984)

This self-help guide concentrates on grief after bereavement and describes five tasks to be worked through in order to come to terms with grief: three acceptance tasks (accept the full reality of what has happened; accept the need for an increased commitment to life; and accept the need for help) and two resistance tasks (resist isolation; and resist dependence). Specific help is also included for those suffering from grief after sudden loss, suicide, or the death of a child or a parent. The book also offers help for those who know they are dying, both adults and children.

Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide Christopher Lukas and Henry Seiden 

Jessica Kingley Publishers (2007)

Author Christopher Lukas is a suicide survivor. He recounts his own experiences and those of numerous other suicide survivors. Personal testimonies are combined with the professional expertise of Henry M. Seiden, a psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist. The authors present information on common experiences of bereavement, grief reactions and various ways of coping.

A Special Scar: The experience of people bereaved by suicide

Alison Wertheimer 

Routledge (2001)

A well-informed, helpful and compassionate book for relatives and friends of those who have taken their own life. This book can help reduce feelings of isolation and confusion, and help the bereaved person come to terms with the enormity of the situation. 

A Secret Best Not Kept

Say It Out Loud Productions (2003)

Dcumentary film

A very personal documentary film, made by a young woman whose mother committed suicide. The film features family members who have lost a loved one to suicide, attempters who have tried to take their own lives, and doctors who work with them. The film has some important messages, including the message that those who feel suicidal can be helped, and that when loved ones are lost to suicide, it is important and profoundly healing to talk about them and the feelings about them with which we as their loved ones are left. (Available to order from the Say It Out Loud website for $30 including postage.) 

Surviving childhood abuse

Breaking Free: Help for survivors of child sexual abuse

Carolyn Ainscough and Kay Toon

Sheldon Press (2000)

A practical self-help book for survivors of child sexual abuse. It examines the lasting effects of abuse, which may include guilt and shame, depression and anxiety, eating disorders, relationship difficulties and sexual problems. The book offers a positive and optimistic approach and provides survivors with strategies for coping with the potentially upsetting and painful process of breaking free from their past.

The Courage to Heal: A guide for women survivors of child sexual abuse

Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

Vermillion (2002)

This book is aimed at women but male survivors may also find it helpful. It offers advice on coming to terms with the past while moving positively into the future, and provides an explanation of the healing process, first-person accounts of recovery, and practical suggestions derived from the authors’ work with hundreds of survivors. The book guides readers through various stages of healing, helping them to recognise and understand ways in which they have already coped with the abuse, and suggesting a range of additional strategies. The reader is shown how to redirect energy that might previously have been spent on self-blame and feelings of worthlessness into movement towards a healthy recovery.

Overcoming Traumatic Stress

Claudia Herbert and Ann Wetmore

Constable and Robinson (2002)

This manual is designed to help survivors of child sexual abuse. It investigates the effects of child sexual abuse, which often persist into adult life – guilt and shame, depression and anxiety, eating disorders, fear of relationships and sexual problems. It includes discussion of false memory syndrome and female abusers, and draws on accounts of survivors who want their voices to be heard, offering a positive and optimistic approach to help survivors break free from the past.

Overcoming Childhood Trauma

Helen Kennerley

Robinson Publishing (2000)

This book offers practical suggestions to managing problems that often follow on from an abusive childhood, such as flashbacks, “spacing out” too easily in times of stress, urges to self-harm, anger and excessive anxiety. Poor self-image and other problems such as all-or-nothing thinking are covered in detail.

Getting Through the Day: Strategies for Adults Hurt as Children

Nancy Napier

London: W. Norton (1993)

Especially helpful for those who have learned to respond to stressful situations by dissociating.  This book offers many useful techniques to help people to bear staying in the present, experiencing emotions, and responding to the practical demands of their lives.

Coping with Suicidal Feelings

How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me: One person’s guide to suicide prevention

Blauner, Susan Rose

HarperCollins (2002)

Described by one reviewer as ‘offering compassion and well-placed, credible hope for those who may be considering suicide’.Also likely to be useful to anyone supporting a suicidal student.Written by a woman who lived with suicidal despair and hopelessness through three overdoses, an equal number of hospitalizations, and ten years of therapy, it offers 25 ‘Tricks of the Trade’ - ways to manage suicidal impulses that have been fielded tested by the author.Suitable for the student with chronic suicidal feelings.May be less relevant to students who have experienced a single suicidal episode.

A Secret Best Not Kept

Documentary film

A very personal documentary film, made by a young woman whose mother committed suicide.The film features family members who have lost a loved one to suicide, attempters who have tried to take their own lives, and doctors who work with them.The film has some important messages, including the message that those who feel suicidal can be helped, and that when loved ones are lost to suicide, it is important and profoundly healing to talk about them and the feelings about them with which we as their loved ones are left. (Available to order from Say It Out Loud website for $30 including postage.) 

‘If you are thinking about suicide, read this first’

‘If you are feeling suicidal now, please stop long enough to read this. It will only take about five minutes…’   One (formerly) suicidal client of the counselling service reports: “When I couldn’t do anything else, I could always read this and it generally helped.”

Coping with Suicidal Thoughts’ and ‘Developing a Safety Plan’ 

Web resource

Advice on coping with suicidal feelings, including ways to reduce the pain, and to strengthen coping ability.  Includes a template which can be used to draw up a safety plan for use when suicidal feelings are acute. 

Anxiety and panic attacks

How to Stop Worrying

Frank Tallis

Sheldon Press (1990)

This book explains that worrying is how the brain alerts us to a problem which needs to be dealt with. Worry becomes unhelpful when things get out of hand and it starts to spoil a person’s health and enjoyment of life. The book provides a problem-solving approach, enabling the reader to avoid stress and anxiety by controlling worry, understanding their fears, and facing life calmly.

Managing Anxiety

Gillian Butler

OCTC (Warneford Hospital) (1985)

Booklet available from Counselling Service reception.

Very short (37 page) booklet offering techniques for anxiety management (learning to control symptoms e.g. through relaxation or distraction techniques, do graded practice in handling situations that trigger anxiety, identify and control upsetting thoughts).

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

Susan Jeffers

Vermilion (2007)

This book helps the reader identify the fears, negative thought patterns and indecisive behaviours which stop them achieving their goals. Through simple exercises and positive thinking, the reader is helped to feel more confident and positive about themselves, their actions and their relationships.

Managing Anxiety: A User’s Manual

Helen Kennerly


Book and cassette tape available from OCTC.

An eight-part self-help programme for managing anxiety, which also includes a relaxation tape.

What? Me Worry?!

Centre for Clinical Interventions

Web resource

Provides information about chronic worrying and generalised anxiety disorder and suggested strategies to manage your worrying and anxiety. It is organised into modules that are designed to be worked through in sequence. Each module includes information, worksheets, and suggested exercises or activities.

Visit What? Me Worry?! guide

Overcoming Phobias

Diana Sanders


Booklet available from Counselling Service reception.

A CBT approach to dealing with specific phobias such as insects, blood and needles, loud noises or enclosed spaces.

When Panic Attacks: the new drug-free therapy that can change your life

David Burns

Broadway Books (2007)

Despite the title, this book isn’t just about panic attacks, but addresses chronic worrying, fears and phobias, performance anxiety, public speaking anxiety, shyness, health anxieties, etc. And - yes - panic attacks.

Panic Attacks: What they are and what you can do about them

Christine Ingham 

Thorsons (2000)

The book considers the nature of panic attacks and the different causes, then offers sensible guidance on what a person can do when having an attack. Guidance is offered on steps to take to avoid recurrence.

Understanding Panic

David Westbrook and Khadija Rouf 

OCTC (Warneford Hospital) (1998)

Booklet available from Counselling Service reception.

Very short (31page) booklet providing basic information about panic attacks, and offering simple coping strategies based on CBT approach.

Panic Stations

Centre for Clinical Interventions

Web resource

Provides information about panic attacks and panic disorder and suggests strategies to manage your panic and anxiety.  It is organised into modules that are designed to be worked through in sequence. Each module includes information, worksheets, and suggested exercises or activities.

View Panic Stations guide

Understanding Health Anxiety

Christine Kuchemann and Diana Sanders

OCTC (Warneford Hospital) 

Booklet available from OCTC.

A cognitive-behavioural approach to understanding and managing worries about health.

Stop Worrying About Your Health

George Zgourides 

LuLu Press (2008)

Self-help guide for people who are excessively concerned about their health. Offers step-by-step strategies for countering illness obsession: learn to identify and treat the underlying causes of worry, counteract irrational self-talk about minor, everyday physical symptoms, and accept and redefine your experience of aches and pains.

Post-traumatic Stress

Understanding Your Reaction to Trauma: A guide for survivors of trauma and their families

Claudia Herbert

Blue Stallion Publications (2002)

This guide has been written to help you understand what goes on when you have been in a trauma and how to get over it. This guide is an incentive for you to do something that will help you heal from the after disturbing and overwhelming reactions to trauma so that you can re-claim your self and your life. It is also helpful for partners, family members and health care professionals.

Understanding Your Reaction to Trauma

Claudia Herbert

OCTC (2002)

Booklet availble from OCTC.

More substantial than some of the other OCTC booklets, this is an 88-page booklet on understanding PTSD and other reactions to trauma, with an extensive range of practical coping strategies.

Recovering from PTSD

Martina Mueller


Booklet availble from OCTC.

A cognitive-behavioural approach to making sense of, and recovering from, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, including a detailed description of helpful ways to manage symptoms and come to terms with trauma memories.

Overcoming depression

Feeling Good

David  Burns

London: Avon (2000)

The central idea is that depression comes from distorted thinking.A list of common distortions is presented.You learn how to life you mood by talking back to your distorted thoughts.Common-sense, accessible style.

Overcoming Depression

Paul Gilbert

Robinson Publishing (2000)

This readable self-help guide provides step-by-step strategies and simple techniques for people experiencing depression.The book suggests that depression is often triggered and maintained by negative thoughts, which are over-generalised, pessimistic and not based on reality.The book helps the reader to identify such depressing thoughts and substitute more realistic alternatives; it includes numerous case examples.

Managing Depression

David Westbrook


Booklet available from Counselling Service reception.

Information and cognitive self-help advice for people who are depressed.Rated ‘5 stars’ by the Centre for Evidence-Based Mental Health.

The Mindful Way Through Depression:  Freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness

Mark Williams et. al.

New York: Guilford Press (2007)

Demonstrates how to use mindfulness practice to sidestep the mental habits that lead to despair, including rumination and self-blame.

Back from the Bluez

Centre for Clinical Intervention

Web resource

Provides information about depression and suggests strategies to manage your mood. It is organised into modules to be worked through in sequence. Each module includes information, worksheets, and suggested exercises or activities.

View Back from the Bluez guide

I Had a Black Dog

Matthew Johnstone Robinson (2007)

[Note that there is also a youtube version: I had a black dog/youtube]

This touching and beautifully illustrated book conveys what the experience of depression is like in simple, direct language. Can help sufferers to feel understood, and can be used by sufferers to convey to others how they have been feeling. 

The Mindful Way through Depression: Free yourself from chronic unhappiness

Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabat-Zinn

Guilford Press (2007)

This Mindfulness-based self-help program, jointly authored by four of the leading Mindfulness experts, proven to reduce the recurrence of depression. Includes a CD of guided meditations designed to break the mental habits that lead to despair.

Big White Wall support network for emotional health (not free, costs £2/week, £7/month or £70/year)

An online early intervention service for people in psychological distress, provided in partnership with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. It encourages people to talk freely in moderated forums and to express themselves using powerful images, drawing and words to make expressive ‘bricks’ posted to the Wall.

Bi-polar disorder

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

Kay Redfield Jamison 

London: Picador (1996)

Frank, honest and compelling memoir of manic-depressive illness, written by a woman who, in addition to being bipolar herself, is one of the foremost clinicians treating this condition. Pluses: beautifully written, engrossing, speaks eloquently about the ways that mild mania enhances life (and the ambivalence about treatment that can result). Minus: could alarm some readers, because Jamison suffers from a severe form of the illness with extreme psychotic episodes.

Living with Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Individuals and Families

Michael Otto et. al. 

Oxford: Oxford University Press (2008)

The gentle, straightforward book provides information on the nature of the disorder as well as strategies designed to reduce the likelihood of future episodes of depression or mania. Suitable for someone recently diagnosed, it is informative without ever being alarming. It emphasises opportunities for self-care (managing sleeping patterns, having a regular schedule, attending to thinking biases, managing irritability and anger, etc.) and encourages making a treatment contract with friends and family, setting out how they should recognise possible periods of illness and strategies they should use in responding.

Overcoming Mood Swings

Jan Scott

Robinson Publishing (2001)

Provides background information on depression and mania. Principally, it explains how cognitive behavioural therapy can be used to treat emotional disorders by changing negative patterns of thought. The author presents tested practical techniques aimed to help people identify and manage their mood swings more effectively.

Keeping Your Balance

Centre for Clinical Interventions

Web resource

Provides information about bipolar disorder and suggests strategies to manage your mood. It is organised into modules that are designed to be worked through in sequence. Each module includes information, worksheets, and suggested exercises or activities.

View Keeping Your Balance guide

Obsessive compulsive disorder

Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder David Veale and Robert Willson

Robinson Publishing (2005)

Includes self-assessment questionnaires to enable the reader to identify the nature, severity and consequences of their own condition. The book presents a ten-step plan, using various cognitive and behavioural strategies. Guidance is given on how to set clear goals, maintain progress, overcome obstacles and prevent relapse.

Brain Lock: Free yourself from obsessive compulsive behaviour

Jeffrey Schwartz

HarperCollins (1996)

CBT-based self-help resource. Several clients have reported that they have found it very helpful. Offers a simple 4-step programme that appears to be quite effective.

Managing Your Mind/Developing Psychological Insight and Understanding

Manage Your Mind

Gillian Butler and Tony Hope

Oxford: Oxford University Press (1995)

Introduces CBT way of thinking and applies it to several areas of life:improving relationships, managing anxiety, managing depression, having a healthy mind and body (eat well, sleep well, quit smoking, drink less, learn to relax), and studying more productively.

Mind Over Mood: Change how you feel by changing the way you think

Greenberg and Padetsky (1995)

Draws on the authors’ extensive experience as clinicians and teachers of cognitive therapy to help clients successfully understand and improve their moods, alter their behavior, and enhance their relationships.

A Psychodynamic Approach to Education

Alex Coren

Sheldon Press (1997)

Aimed at counsellors working with students, it covers developmental issues of adolescence, transitions, gender, etc. as well as academic work and its possible psychological meanings.Likely to interest students who would like to think psychologically about their own development and the meaning they attach to their education. 

Counselling Young People

Ellen Noonan

Routledge (1983)

A psychodynamic perspective on development.Includes theory of adolescence, transitions and an exploration of the counselling relationship.For students who are curious about their lives so far and wish to make sense of their experiences.

Help! (How to become slightly happier and get a bit more done)

Oliver Burkeman

Cannongate Books (2011)

Straight to the point and very insightful about virtually every aspect of life: emotional life, social life, personal productivity, career. Highly recommended.