Self-help Resources

Self-help Resources

By Diane LaChapelle PhD LPsyc

Not all self-help books or Internet resources are created equal. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who aim to take advantage of people with pain who are suffering. Be wary of claims of quick fixes to your long-standing pain or mood problem. Quick fixes are likely to empty your wallet without bringing relief.

Here are some recommended resources that are written by qualified professionals and that follow the principles of cognitive-behaviour therapy, mindfulness based therapy, or acceptance and commitment-based therapy. All of these therapies have been shown to be helpful with pain and its emotional consequences. All of these resources are available for free or to purchase from online retailers. Many are also likely to be available at your local public library.

Some words of caution

Remember that while self-help resources may be all you need to help you better manage your pain or to help you with milder cases of emotional distress, you should consult a psychologist if you are experiencing more severe sadness, anger, or anxiety. It can also help to see a psychologist as you work through a self-help manual in order to make the most of it and to help you stay motivated. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please talk to your family physician immediately - professional assistance is a must.

Reputable sources of online information

Chronic pain self-management

Note: although some of these are specific to arthritis, the principles of managing pain are the same regardless of the cause or type of pain.

Mental health fact sheets

Books

Chronic pain self-management

  • Dahl J and Lundgren T. Living Beyond Your Pain: Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Ease Chronic Pain. New Harbinger Publications, 2006.
  • Thorn B. Cognitive Therapy for Chronic Pain: A Step-by-Step Guide. The Guilford Press, 2004.
  • Kabat-Zinn J. Full Catastrophe Living: How to Cope with Stress, Pain & Illness Using Mindfulness. Bantam Press, 1991.
  • Caudill M. Managing Pain Before It Manages You. The Guilford Press, 1994.

Managing the emotional consequences of living with pain

  • The ABCs of Cognitive Restructuring. StressStop.com website.
  • Davis M, Eshelman E and McKay M. The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook (6th Ed.). New Harbinger Publications, 2008.
  • Elliot H and Smith L. Anxiety and Depression Workbook for Dummies. Wiley Publishing, 2006.
  • Burns D. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Plume Publishers, 1999.
  • Greenberger D and Padesky C. Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel By Changing the Way You Think. The Guilford Press, 1995.
  • Williams M, Teasdale J, Segal Z and Kabat-Zinn J. The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. The Guilford Press, 2007.

Audio guides for relaxation exercises

  • StressStop.com has a number of CDs that provide guided instructions on a variety of different relaxation techniques. Try one of the following: Guided Imagery Tapes by Belleruth Naparstek, Just Relax, or Relaxing Through the Seasons.
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn has a number of mindfulness-based meditation CDs that are an excellent addition to his book Full Catastrophe Living. Check the website www.mindfulnesscds.com.

Visual guidance for relaxation (biofeedback)

  • If you need some concrete feedback about your level of relaxation, try the Institute of Heart Math's biofeedback software for your computer. Check the website store.heartmath.org

Community support groups

For some people, a support group can be quite helpful while for others it can be discouraging. This usually depends on the nature of the particular group. If you are considering a self-help group, try to find one focused on helping each other move forward, on developing new skills to cope more effectively, and on brainstorming solutions. If you find the group members are stuck in a mode of self-pity, stop going and find a different group if possible.

To find a group in your area, try your local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, the public library, or your local hospital. You can also try the Chronic Pain Association of Canada website.