Resources

I have a lot of favorite books and websites. I also love to share what I know. Where possible, I have included a link to the author’s website.

This is very much a work in progress. Some entries just list a title and a link. Others provide descriptions and summaries. If you have any comments, suggestions, or questions, or if you see any typos or broken links, please email me at natwalterfisk@protonmail.com.

So here you go:

Anxiety / Panic / Panic Attacks

I’m putting panic at the top of the list because sometimes, help with panic is the first thing you need. It’s more of a crisis than the other issues below. The keys are to slow your breathing and control your thoughts.

I love the Anxiety, Phobia and Panic Workbook by Dr. Edmund Bourne, and his website, helpforanxiety.com.

I also like Reneau Peurifoy’s book, Anxiety, Phobias & Panic: A Step By Step Guide To Regaining Control of Your Life. This is a link to the book on his website.

Listen, panic is the easiest mental health issue to resolve through therapy. Martin Seligman said that in his book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. Seligman is the founder of Positive Psychology and Director of the Positive Psychology Center at U Penn.

Stress Management / Relaxation

Fred Luskin’s book, Forgive for Good: A proven prescription for health and happiness, based on research in Northern Ireland and at Stanford University Forgiveness Projects, talks about how not to stop a grudge from taking up real estate in your mind and heart. You can read about Luskin’s 9-step method to forgive and be happy here. Several relaxation methods are also included. This was one of the first self-help books I read before my Master’s program. Luskin taught at Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and he was one of the reasons I chose to get my Master’s there. In 2018, Luskin taught a Happiness class at Stanford University. Here’s a 2018 YouTube video about it.

Stress Free for Good, a subsequent book, outlines 10 stress reduction exercises.  You are more likely to use the stress reduction exercises if a professional helps you practice one of the 10 relaxation exercises for 3 minutes in the office.

Assertiveness / Self-Esteem / Expressing Yourself

Often, when you can’t ask for what you want, it causes anxiety. The Assertiveness Guide for Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships by Julie De Azevedo Hanks divides assertiveness into five areas: self-reflection, self-awareness, self-soothing, self-expression and self-expansion. If you work in each area, you gain self-confidence and assertiveness skills. In her book, De Azevedo shares personal examples and her clients’ experiences with building assertiveness. De Azevedo also wrote a book about burnout that I have not read.

The Brain / How to Manage Emotions

In Dr. Dan Siegel’s book, Mindsight, he shares his experiences at Harvard Med School, psychiatry residency, work with psychiatry patients, brain research, how to apply it in our daily lives and gives a somewhat novel description of  how to meditate for best results. Great information, great resource.

Dr. Russ Harris wrote The Happiness Trap: How To Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT. His idea is that it helps to develop a constant awareness of how you’re feeling, identify your values, and make an effort to chose your actions to be in alignment with your values. Here’s a link to the free resources on his webpage. (You may have to go through 2 cycles of

Positive Psychology

Martin E P Seligman founded Positive Psychology, a newer branch of psychology. He identified learned helplessness and observed that by making changes, we can stop being helpless and become empowered.  Positive Psychology’s website has a lot of good information. PERMA is a mnemonic for the elements of positive mental health that stands for

Positive Emotion
Engagement
Relationships
Meaning
Achievement

Here’s a link books on Positive Psychology. You might like Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life.

There’s also another nice website, Pursuit of Happiness that talks about Positive Psychology.

Success / Stick-To-It-Iveness / Persistence

Grit by Angela Duckworth is a great read. I admire her. Grit is her term for the concepts that emerged from her work on persistence and success. You can order her book from her webpage using the preceding link and you can read about her Macarthur Fellowship here. She’s also a U Penn professor.

I liked Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business. The appendix describes how to change habits. I found Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business to be less informative, but useful.

StrengthsFinder and Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton are based on the idea that people have 3 primary strengths. If you know your strengths, you can capitalize on them in any kind of activity. Check out their StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath and their books here. Wikipedia has a handy list of the strengths.

I’m a Maximizer, one who seeks to take people and projects from great to excellent. That’s the strength I use the most as a therapist.

Relationships

The book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find–and Keep–Love by Amir Levine, MD and Rachel Heller is very helpful in understanding the connection between a couple. Depending on how you feel in a relationship, you may be anxiously, securely or avoidantly attached. That will have an impact on how you relate to someone you are attracted to and whether you will be able to form a healthy relationship, long-term. This is a great book for people who are looking for love but can’t seem to find a good relationship because they keep repeating the same patterns.
Love Languages
One helpful way to talk about how you express love is Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages. According to the framework he developed, love languages are 1. words of affirmation like, “You’re so wonderful,” and words of encouragement like, “You can do it!” 2. quality time together, 3. acts of service, like taking out the trash, 4. gifts and 5. touch. Here’s the quiz. If you speak one love language and your sweetheart speaks another love language, you will probably have to work at communicating and experiencing love.
Psychobiology, Neuropsychobiology
Stan Tatkin’s Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT)website is The PACT Institute. Tatkin has a short book with 10 concepts about committed relationships: Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship . The first principle is the couple bubble. A couple agrees only to be intimate and share first and foremost and closest with their partner. Infidelity is a violation of the couple bubble.
Emotionally Focused Couples’ Therapy
Yet another approach is Emotionally Focused Couples’ Therapy. Sue Johnson found some fascinating dynamics between couples in conflict. She calls them the dynamics of distress, and one her catchy names for this is the protest polka. Home | Dr. Sue Johnson. Her books include Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love and Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships.
Gottman: The Four Horsemen, the Three A’s, the Love Lab
The Gottman Institute | A research-based approach to relationships provides insight into what makes relationships work or not. Gottman’s longitudinal research in the Love Lab shows that criticism, contempt, stonewalling and flooding are signs that a relationship won’t last, whereas amicable admiration and appreciation keep a relationship strong. One caveat: my sense is that the culture of most of Gottman’s subjects is American. When I try to apply his principles to other cultures, they don’t always fit quite right.
The Couples Institute
Peter Pearson, PhD & Ellyn Bader, PhD of the Couples Institute provide many resources on their website. They also wrote a book for therapists, In Search of the Mystical Mate:  A Developmental approach to diagnosis and Treatment in Couples Therapy about the stages couples go through and how to help them. In the first stage, the two are very into each other and they focus on similarities. Then they become aware of each other as individuals and start paying attention to differences. In their work life, each one puts a great deal of energy into work. Also, they may have family. And finally, if they had children and they are now grown, the couple enters a time of reconnecting later in life. Each of these stages has its challenges and if the couple doesn’t manage them well, the relationship may not go well. However, it is also possible to grow and learn together and consequently develop a thriving relationship.
Imago Therapy
Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt started a couple’s therapy approach called Imago Therapy that addresses subconscious triggers in couples and ways to strengthen relationships. They suggest that the most healing way to express love is to give your person what they need, even if it’s hard for you. Here is an explanation of Imago Therapy.
The Crucible, Passionate Marriage
In his 1991, Constructing the Sexual Crucible: An Integration of Sexual and Marriage Therapy, David Schnarch developed the concept of the crucible, that a relationship turns up the heat to such a point that it challenges each person to grow.
Forgiveness in relationships
Another book by Fred Luskin, Forgive for Love: The Missing Ingredient for a Healthy and Happy Relationship, offers 7 steps to find love and keep it alive. As in Forgive for Good mentioned above, Luskin shares the research that demonstrates the benefits of forgiveness, including improved relationships, happiness and longevity.

Relationships and spirituality

If you’re interested in spirituality, you might be interested in Jack Kornfield and his book After the Ecstasy, the Laundry – Jack Kornfield as well as John Welwood and his book, href=”https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060927976/johnwelwoodco-20/104-3774142-4471947?creative=327641&camp=14573&link_code=as1″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Love and Awakening: Discovering the sacred path of intimate relationships.

When the spark dies

Intimacy & Desire: Awaken the passion in your relationship by David Schnarch  describes the dynamics of low and high desire in a couple, how to achieve balance in four areas (1. become more of your own true self, 2. develop the ability to soothe yourself and 3. ground yourself and 4. tolerate distress), at the same time as you develop a deeper relationship, review past relationships and as a result, grow, desire each other, have hot sex and be truly intimate.

Esther Perel has numerous videos online, a podcast Where Should We Begin? about couples’ therapy, and a book on why the sex is not as hot as it used to be called Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence. Although she has a lovely Belgian accent she now lives in the US.

Infidelity

Also, Esther Perel wrote The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, which addresses the variety of ways an affair might arise in all kinds of couples, some ways couples respond to infidelity and several different outcomes in therapy when infidelity is involved.

Janis Spring, PhD wrote After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful. It is divided into stages: 1. How you feel after it is discovered. 2. Whether to stay or go. 3. If you decide to stay, how to move forward, learn from it, build trust again, talk about why it happened (It’s not just dissatisfaction.), and have sex again.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Here’s a  10 question Love Quiz at the end of a blog, Is It Time to Leave Your Relationship? by Kyle Benson, a Gottman Love Lab researcher. It does not seem to be a verified or validated psychological instrument, despite being backed by research. However, it provides some signs to pay attention to, immediate results without providing your email and 3 ranges: solid relationship, warning bells, and your relationship may not be salvageable. One caveat: if you’re experiencing significant stress, you may need to revisit the questions at another time.

Drugs

Stephanie Wittels Wach wrote Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love and Loss about her brother, Harris Wittels’s death by accidental drug overdose. She does a good job of describing his attitudes about drugs, his attempts at rehab and everyone’s grief at his death.

Suicide

Frankly, I hate Thirteen Reasons Why , aka Th1irteen R3asons Why. It is so not like life; it glamorizes suicide and blames others for suicide. The protagonist basically says, “This is the peeping Tom who traumatized me. This is the person who bullied me. I didn’t get help when I went to my school counselor. My parents didn’t listen. My friends were mean. I am going to make recordings and send them to each one. I’ll expose them all and make them miserable. “But first I’m going to kill myself. Then they’ll be sorry.”

That’s immature thinking and manipulative suicide. If that girl had put the energy into her life that she put into her death, she would be Amazing!

In a response to the outcry, backlash, and need for teen help, the website has a page, 13 Reasons Why resources for help.

If you’re feeling severely, imminently, suicidal or homicidal, in the US, you should go to a hospital ER and be placed on a 72 hour hold.

If you need someone to talk with, call a crisis line, 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741 or go to a Crisis Center. I volunteered at the San Francisco Crisis Line for two years. I know from experience that it helps to talk to someone who cares.

Aging / Illness / Difficult Conversations About End of Life Decisions

I love Atul Gawande’s books. He started writing in med school. His tone is engaging. His prose is easy to read. He is informative and has great ideas.

Dr Atul Gawande’s webpage about his book, Being Mortal, about elders in America, end of life and medical decision making is a personal narrative about the last few years of his father’s life, an informative book about options for the aging, a professional perspective about the difficulties involved in making medical decisions about terminal conditions, and descriptions of difficult conversations.

I especially liked his passage about Susan Block’s approach. She is a palliative care nurse. She explains that these conversations are a process and doctors generally make a conceptual mistake of thinking that the purpose of the conversation is provide information.
Addressing end of life worries for the individual and the family
‘A large part of the task is helping people negotiate the overwhelming anxiety–anxiety about death, anxiety about suffering…’ ‘There are many worries and real terrors.’ He notes, “No one conversation can address them all. Arriving at an acceptance of one’s mortality and a clear understanding of the limits and the possibilities of medicine is a process, not an epiphany.”

He shares the rules of having these conversations. Some of them are: “You’re trying to learn what’s most important to them under the circumstances–so that you can provide information and advice on the approach that gives them their best chance of achieving it. This process requires listening… If you’re talking more than half of the time, Block says, you’re talking too much.”

“The words you use matter.” “You should say, ‘I wish things were different.'” And most important, in my opinion, was the question, “‘If time becomes short, what is most important to you?'”

When you’re making New Year’s resolutions, sometimes taking an end-of-life perspective will rearrange your priorities.
Improving hospital outcomes
I also really liked The Checklist Manifesto, a book that describes the process of getting hospitals to implement surgery checklists and amazing positive outcomes. Back when I was a social case worker, working with Latino youth on probation and their monolingual Spanish speaking parents, I really hoped that Child Protection would implement a checklist to prevent child abuse deaths during and after investigation. I suggested that our department read this book.