Seven Recommendations for Self-Improvement Books

Seven Recommendations for Self-Improvement Books | Nashville, TN

Bookstores and libraries have shelves of self-help books. It can be overwhelming to know where to start. Often women will ask me which book to read to help with certain issues. For the next two posts, I want to give you some recommendations for two dimensions of your life: your relationship with yourself and your relationship with others.

Here are 7 books I recommend to those who want to work on their relationship with themselves. These are in no particular order.

1. Anything by Brené Brown.
I recommend starting with Gifts of Imperfection, which is her shortest book.  Daring Greatly and Rising Strong are both helpful reads for anyone wanting to live whole-heartedly. I recommend her books to anyone who feels weighed down by shame or for those who internally wrestle with feeling like “enough.”

2. Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life - Susan David
Dr. David's book gives guidance to handling the range of emotions we experience on a daily basis. She gives strategies for noticing emotions as well as how to make value-informed decisions to move forward in light of those emotions. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever struggled to know what to do with his or her emotions.

Using tools like Audible or Nashville Public Library's OverDrive App can be helpful for auditory learners. 

Using tools like Audible or Nashville Public Library's OverDrive App can be helpful for auditory learners. 

3. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma - Bessel Von Der Kolk
Dr. Bessel Von Der Kolk is a psychiatrist who lays out a comprehensive framework and understanding of trauma and its effects on our bodies and brains. Be warned that the stories in this book may be difficult for some to read due to the intensity of their traumatic content. However, this book is a fascinating read about how trauma physically and emotionally impacts us and what trauma recovery can look like. I recommend this to anyone who has experienced any level of trauma in life.

4. Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others - Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky  

When I recommend this book I always start by saying, "When I read this book the first time, I broke a pen because I underlined so many pages". The book maps out how working with trauma can impact us. The author also helps show how you can still work in trauma related fields in meaningful and sustainable ways. I highly recommend this book to anyone working in a trauma related field. This includes nurses, doctors, firefighters, social workers, therapists, ministers, vet techs, police offers, Department of Children Services employees, teachers and many other professions that work closely with those who are affected by trauma.

5. Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now - Meg Jay
Dr. Jay focuses her work on the important season of life we call “the twenties.” She shows how critical these ten years are in the life of young adults and gives practical advice on how to make the most of them. Dating, career, friendships, and both mental and physical changes are all addressed in an honest and relatable fashion. I recommend this if you are in your twenties, work with twenty-somethings, or love a twenty-something.

6. The Assertiveness Guide for Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships - Julie de Azevedo Hanks
One constant topic in my office concerns the challenge of communication. This book is a helpful guide for women who want to learn communication in helpful and healthy ways. I recommend this book for those wanting practical tips to move them towards more assertive communication. 

7. Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself - Kristin Neff
Self-compassion is often misunderstood to be self-pity, self-indulgence, and self-esteem. But Neff’s work helps the distinct traits of self-compassion. I recommend this book to anyone looking for tools that that can strengthen your own practice of self-compassion. 

Next week, I will share three more books for improving your relationships with others. If you are looking more support in your self-improvement journey in Nashville, then fill out this form for a 15-minute phone consultation. 

Five Free Mindfulness Practices to Build Self-Compassion

Five Free Mindfulness Practices to Build Self-Compassion | Nashville Counseling

"I need more coping skills to handle _________." This sentence is the one I hear most often when potential clients call my office. Almost every woman I speak with fills in that blank differently. However, the coping skills I offer to them often look the same because some skills are relevant to a variety of difficult life situations. One of the skills I often offer to clients is Mindful Self-Compassion.

Mindfulness not only makes it possible to survey our internal landscape with compassion and curiosity but can also actively steer us in the right direction for self-care. Bessel van der kolk

This skill is a specific type of mindfulness. If you are unfamiliar with this word, then here is a definition: Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to what is happening around you and within you. It is a proven coping skill to effectively help with stress relief, improve quality of life, become less emotionally reactive, and increase relationship satisfaction. 

If you are looking for a way to get started trying out this practice, then I recommend the FREE Insight Timer app. It offers a variety of guided mindfulness meditations. Did I mention it’s free? 

One of the most popular kinds of mindfulness with researchers and clinicians is Mindful Self-Compassion. Kristin Neff, a self-compassion researcher and author, explains that many people confuse this practice with self-pity, self-indulgence, or self-esteem. These understandings all miss the point. A better definition of Mindful Self-Compassion is: treating yourselves with kindness during moments of difficulty or suffering. I often recommend this practice to clients because it can increase life satisfaction, as well as decreased depression, anxiety and stress

If you are looking for a way to get started with this type of mindfulness practice, then here are a few of my favorite self-compassion meditations that can help you using the Insight Timer App….

Lisa Abramson - Five Minutes of Self-Compassion - 04:15
Kristin Neff - Self-Compassion Break - 05:20
Sharon Salzberg Lovingkindness Meditation · 15:04
Kristin Neff - Working With Emotions in the Body: Soften, Soothe, Allow - 16:01
Kristin Neff - Compassionate Body Scan - 23:55

Any mindful practice you begin to implement will feel new and different. But stay with it and see where it takes you. What I have found with my clients is mindfulness exercises are a great in giving you a new way to handle your "_________."

If you are in Nashville and need more support with handing your "_________" then contact Jessica for a free fifteen-minute phone consultation. 

How to Find The Right Fit with Nashville Therapist or Counselor

Last week I covered four ways to find a therapist, counselor, or life coach in Nashville. This week I want to help you discern which of these helping professionals will best be able to support you in your journey towards health.

There are two reasons why you should take time to reflect on this relationship. First, a good connection between the counselor and client is a proven predictor of good therapy outcomes. When you trust your therapist and feel comfortable with him or her then you are more likely to move towards your goals. This therapeutic alliance is a strong indicator of the potential success of your journey. You should not make this decision without giving it some thought and attention.

In addition, if you find yourself with a therapist or counselor that is not a good fit, then you are more likely to become discouraged and possibly quit therapy altogether.  The process of researching counselors, scheduling an appointment, and being vulnerable with a stranger is a brave and emotionally taxing experience. If you don't connect with the therapist in the first 50 minutes of a session then you may not want to work up the courage to try again with them or anyone else.

To help you in this discernment process I reached out to a handful of trusted Nashville counselors, social workers, and pre-licensed professionals for their wisdom. I asked them to share their perspective on how to know if you have a good therapeutic alliance. Here is what they had to say: 

"I'd say one of the biggest signs you've found the right fit is if you leave therapy each time feeling BOTH accepted/supported AND challenged. These are not mutually exclusive! It's also a great sign if, after a few sessions, you think "wow, I can't believe he/she just gets me so well after only knowing me for such a short period of time". - Jonathan Durham 

“One of the most helpful parts of therapy is the therapist/client relationship. You can usually tell when you have found a good therapist if you feel safe enough to open up. A good therapist also knows how to ask questions that encourage you to go deeper and help look at problems from a different angle. A lot of therapists offer free phone consultations which can be a great way to get a better feel for a potential therapist.” - Andrew Smith

"Investing in therapy is really investing in yourself, so it's important to find a therapist who you feel comfortable with. Since you will be sharing personal information with this person, think about the type of person you typically connect with and the qualities you look for in a friend. This will help you to narrow down what you're looking for. Pay attention to the qualities of the people you trust who challenge you and push you to be your best self, as these are qualities you likely want to look for in a therapist. Ultimately, once you meet a potential therapist, you will be able to feel whether it's a good match or not. If it's not, keep looking, you'll find someone!" - Maggie Hope

"Do they have something to offer you? Do you feel hopeful about the work you can do with this therapist?  To address this, you might ask questions about their modalities, training, experience, etc.  Finding a good therapist is about more than just “connecting” with someone.  I’ve personally done great work (as a client and a therapist) with people that I didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy with. I also think it’s important to find someone that is open and inviting of feedback around progress/how you’re experiencing the therapeutic relationship.  Make sure that you feel like you can honestly express how therapy is going so that you can get the most out of your experience.  Therapists should be proactive about making sure treatment is working: are we meeting your goals?  Are you getting better?  How is this working?  How are you experiencing me?  What is most and least helpful about our work together?  And you should feel safe enough to answer these questions honestly. Lastly, don’t stay with a therapist that isn’t a good fit!  Don’t give up too soon, but don’t stay in a therapeutic relationship that isn’t helping you meet your goals, grow, heal, change. " - Elizabeth Nunley 

"The relationship is primary, so it needs to be someone you feel comfortable with. The approach/technique is secondary. If you don't feel comfortable then nothing they do will be likely to help. If you get 2-3 (or more) sessions in and feel that it's just not going anywhere, then it's time to find a different therapist. Don't give up on therapy just because the first person you work with doesn't work out. The majority of therapist will absolutely understand this (and are probably aware that things aren't progressing too) and will even help you with a referral if you want."  - Jay Tift

"There are a few things that I have seen work in helping clients find the right therapeutic fit for them. First, its about a mutual invested relationship. Both individuals (client & therapist) will collaborate in therapy together. In this process it is important to feel seen, validated and heard as therapy continues. Second, feeling a level of safety is key. One must be able to trust in order to share the deepest parts of oneself. Third, they are growing. Change is actually happening. It may not look like they though but it is happening.  In closing, its a brave move to pursue counseling. At times it feels uncomfortable, silly and scary to seek out a professional to sort through life challenges. Once you feel heard, seen, safe and see growth I believe you have found the right fit. Go for it. Your heart will thank you." - Meg Kandros

Hopefully one of these pieces of perspective can help you in discerning if your therapist is a good fit for you. Remember, if you do not connect well with your counselor it is okay to give it some time to see if the alliance grows over a few sessions. If you do not feel like the connection is improving, then it is okay to ask your therapist to refer you to a colleague that is a better fit for you. You deserve a therapist that is a good fit for you.

Each of the clinicians quoted above practice in Nashville and might be a great fit to help you meet your goals. If you have checked out my website and think that I might be a good fit for your journey towards health, then feel free to contact me at