How do I Choose the Best Free Self-Help?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 January 2020
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It may be difficult or easy to choose the best free self-help, depending on what area of the self a person feels needs improvement or addressing. Some people are looking for general support, to grow as individuals, and others search for extremely specific types of support. This could include things like emotional support during an illness, like cancer, or steps and guides that can aid in the recovery of illness, such as an addiction. There may not be any truly free self-help for certain needs, and in other instances a plethora of choices are open.

Self-help doesn’t always refer to only helping the self or doing any work or reading alone. It can also mean people working together to pursue similar goals. This is the model used in many free organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous. While the individual is viewed as solely responsible for his/her recovery, attending meetings and working with a sponsor help to remind each person that recovery is not a lonely process. A similar model may be used in Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and other twelve-step programs. These programs are often free, though donations are encouraged when possible, and they are considered to be some of the best free self-help programs with a strong success rate.


There are other groups that are styled as self-help, and these could include groups that work on cognitive behavioral therapy, groups to support parenting, or organizations that can offer support during specific illnesses. These may be peer-led, or led by medical professionals, and may or may not be free. People might look to local institutions like hospitals, and local chapters of specialist doctors or therapists, to inquire if they offer any free self-help groups. A person’s physicians or other doctors may have recommendations on how to choose the best of these.

Of course, another way many people have pursued self-help is through reading books or watching television. Public broadcasting stations frequently run lectures or speeches given by the most popular self-help gurus of the day: the Wayne Dyers or Deepak Chopras of the world, which is a good way to learn about popular self-help literature, and to get a sense of whether reading more self-help literature from a particular lecturer would be useful. Another excellent place to visit is the local library. Instead of buying a bunch of self-help books, which can get costly, check out choices from the library and start reading. Usually, self-help material works best when people understand it, find it meaningful, and are able to commit to any of its suggestions.

An additional way to find self-help may be to ask others what they are reading in the self-help area. Be aware that very new books may not show up in a library right away, but people can always borrow a book from a friend, to get free self-help. This is another great way of searching for the book or program that seems appropriate. There are also Internet self help programs, and here people should exercise care that personal information isn’t abused, that programs are truly free, and if they are offered on psychological issues, they should be written by licensed psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, or marriage and family therapists. Unfortunately, bad advice is just as common in self-help programs, as is good advice, and there are fewer controls of bad advice on the Internet.

As admirable as it is to work on free self-help programs, it is not always a good idea. Real mental or physical disorders (with the exception of some addictive disorders) cannot be cured by a book, program or Internet site. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or cancer are best treated by the appropriate medical professionals, and in this case free self-help programs may do more harm than good if they encourage anything but a visit to the doctor to have whole health evaluated prior to beginning any program.



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