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How do I Choose the Best Self-Help Guide?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Choosing the best self-help guide will need to take into account many different factors. There are so many things that these guides can address, and people will first want to identify the problem for which they need help. Other suggestions for finding the best guides include getting recommendations from friends, family or professionals, looking for guides that fit with personal philosophy and have suggestions that are easy to follow, and finding a format that will be easiest to digest. While performing this search, people should be advised that some problems do not lend themselves well to self-help solutions, and taking an honest survey of the self can help people decide if they need greater help.

The first step in choosing a self-help guide is identifying problems with which a person wants assistance. Perhaps people want to generally change their lives to have a more positive attitude, or they find themselves always choosing the wrong type of people for relationships. Maybe they want to learn how to relax. If unsure, people can make a list of things in their life they’d like to change and see if a pattern emerges. The brave person could even survey friends or family with questions like: “What is my biggest problem?” though this may not always a good idea.

Once the problem or focus is clear, the next thing to do is find the best self-help guide recommendations from other people. It’s fine to ask family or friends, but don’t leave out suggestions from professionals. A family doctor, a therapist, a yoga teacher or many others could have self-help book ideas they’d be happy to share, especially if a person has articulated the problems for which they want help.

Recommendations can come in other forms. Self-help books, tapes, and others are many in number and people can find tons of them on Internet sites especially. Reading customer reviews can be a good plan for deciding if something seems of interest. Heading to bookstores and leafing through a few books might be useful. Sometimes magazines or talk shows promote a self-help guide that is intriguing.

Armed with suggestions, people can start investigating recommended materials. If the materials are books, reading through a bit of them or checking them out from the library is an inexpensive way to go. Some things to look for include what the book or other media will require. Don’t choose programs that require huge time commitments, if short on time, for instance. Also, consider how to receive self-help advice; some folks want to read, while others prefer to watch or listen. Stick with the medium that is easiest or preferred.

A self-help guide often stresses single ways to approach problems, following a particular recommended plan. This works for some people, but many people find little bits of wisdom coming from lots of different sources. It’s okay to be eclectic and find the help needed from several guides. Lots of people read or watch more than one.

Working out problems alone has limitations, and not all problems are suited to this. A self-help guide may be a good addition to other help when people suffer from mental illnesses, if they are in abusive relationships, or if they have dependency on alcohol or drugs. Guides can help inform but cannot take the place of the professional support required under these circumstances. When people are truly interested in helping the self, they should be honest with themselves about the level of help they need. There is no shame in getting professional assistance to solve problems that are too big to conquer alone.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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