Recommended Reading & Materials

The following are a list of books and materials I have read and recommended over the years. This is not an exhaustive list. Each client has their own unique needs which require customized resources. However, the following items routinely come up for certain topics.

An additional list for academic papers will be coming soon.

My Current Top Five

These are the books I’m most likely to recommend for anyone regardless of their background. However, if you really wanted to ask me for “mandatory” books – a term I’d use very loosely – I’d say there are only two: No Bad Parts and Self-Compassion. Everything else can be read at one’s discretion.

Further descriptions can be found in their respective sections.

  1. No Bad Parts by Richard Schwartz
  2. Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff
  3. Together by Vivek H. Murthy, MD
  4. Tribe by Sebastian Junger or Lost Connections by Johann Hari
  5. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

Internal Family Systems

IFS is my modality of choice and has extreme power. However, it’s not a self-help modality. It’s just too hard to be fully present with our deepest pain while also staying detached and objective enough to work with it. Therefore, there isn’t a large benefit from knowing the model inside and out. However, it can be useful for clients to know what is possible. That’s where these texts come in.

    1. No Bad Parts by Richard Schwartz – If you’re looking to do IFS as a client and want to learn more, this is the only book you really need to read. Does a great job of covering what IFS is capable of. Includes, exercises, meditations, and recordings of Dick working with clients.

    2. Internal Family Systems (2nd ed.) by Richard Schwartz & Martha Sweezy – THE book for professionals who want to use IFS in their work with clients. Usually recommend this for clients who are also working with other professionals who want to learn more about IFS. One of the best textbooks I’ve ever encountered.

    3. The Self-Therapy Series by Jay Earley – Great for new clients who like visual aids that help explain what we do in IFS and why. However, I find the author to over-promise on how much readers can do on their own. Everyone I know in IFS – including myself and even Dick Schwartz – can only find real healing by working with another. It’s too hard to simultaneously be present with deep emotional pain while also being detached enough to know what you should do next and why. Still, it’s an excellent text with good exercises – just take it with a grain of salt.


Self-compassion is the “glue” that sticks things together between IFS sessions. It’s also the best place to start for those who may not be ready for deeper emotional work. Unlike IFS, there is a A LOT people can do on their own here – so understanding it can be very helpful. It’s best for those who struggle with strong self-criticism and self-rejection.

  1. Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff – My favorite book on self-compassion by far. Dr. Neff does an excellent job of explaining self-compassion through the lens of personal experience, rigorous academic research, and its impact on the college students she instructs.

  2. The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert – If you’re looking for a deep read on self-compassion that goes into theory in-depth, it’s hard to beat this. Dr. Gilbert is the creator of Compassion Focused Therapy and has done pioneering work on Social Rank Theory and how our mental and emotional state is impacted by our relationships and perceived social status

  3. Radical Self-Acceptance by Tara Brach – Lots of relatable personal stories and anecdotes focused around the topics of self-acceptance and replacing self-hatred with focused self-compassion and peace. Some find this to be a softer introduction to the topic.

  4. When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön – Written by a Buddhist nun, this text is filled with bite-sized reflections on what it means to focus on our deepest emotional pains from a place of grounded peace and self-compassion.


The trauma model focuses on unresolved emotional wounds that continue to impact our present everyday lives. Evidence-based modalities like IFS have a proven record of helping individuals heal from these wounds and release pain and baggage. The following are good introductions to this huge topic.

  1. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk – THE book on trauma. Written by a Harvard-educated psychiatrist who argues that the current model of medication, mental health diagnoses, and endless pathologizing is leading us in circles instead of solutions. Real healing requires an emotional solution, not a medical or mental one.

  2. The Wisdom of Trauma ft. Gabor Maté – This documentary focuses on the work of Gabor Maté, a  physician who has specialized in exploring the role of emotional trauma in drug addiction and health problems. I have been told he has a number of excellent books as well, but I haven’t had the chance to read them yet.


Meditation books are like grammar books for language learning – they’re great once you already have some experience. Otherwise, it’s all theory without context. Furthermore, using a lot of words runs the risk of making something functionally simple unnecessarily complex. Meditation is an action. It’s best experienced, not explained.

  1. The best way to learn is by practicing it firsthand. Insight Timer, Headspace, and Calm apps all offer free introductions to mindfulness meditation. But if you really want a text instead, the following are good choices.

  2. How to Meditate by Pema Chödrön – Good introductory book that covers a lot of basics. If you are just looking for practical guidance, jump to Chapter 4 “The Practice of Letting Go.” But don’t overthink it. As she writes, doing the work is what matters most.

  3. Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn – Written by the researcher who developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) – the world’s most studied mindfulness meditation program. Focuses on how mindfulness can be used to reduce stress in extreme situations, especially difficult medical conditions.

Parent / Child

The first relationships we have in our lives leave the greatest impact. For most, this is the relationship with our parents. These texts cover two different topics: the first two focus on how poor parent-child relationships can impact later life, while the last two explore how American parenting has become anxious and stressful.

  1. Running on Empty by Janice Webb – Dr. Webb discusses what she calls she calls Childhood Emotional Neglect, or the chronic experience of feeling isolated with unmet emotional needs.  This often results in children feeling like they have an emotional void within them that remains until adulthood. While I think IFS is the best long-term solution to this problem, this text is good for those who want to know they are not alone in their experience.

  2. Adult Children of Emotionally-Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson – In a similar vein to the above, this text explore what it’s like being an adult child of parents who were preoccupied with their own emotions and wounds. Especially good for anyone who has emotionally wounded parents who take out their pain on others.

  3. Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff – A science reporter for NPR, the author travels with her 9-year-old daughter around the world to learn how mothers from different indigenous tribes raise their children. An accessible firsthand account that includes many stories that demonstrates attractive alternatives to stressful American parenting styles.

  4. Raising Children by David F. Lancy – Written by the anthropologist who wrote the definitive text on how people around the world raise children – “The Anthropology of Childhood” – this text makes the point their is no one “best” way to raise a child. However, it becomes rapidly clear that the American method is by far the most anxious and taxing in the world, both for children and parents.

Human Nature

We have all been told certain things about how humans behave – much of which isn’t factually true. The biggest misconception, by far, is that we are meant to excel in isolation and in hyper-individualist societies. No evidence supports this. Instead, we’re built to have strong social ties and to compete as teams.

  1. Together by Vivek H. Murthy, MD – As the 19th Surgeon General of the United States, Murthy reflects on America’s greatest problem – deep, emotional loneliness. The stories he shares reflect much of what we all have been feeling in our increasingly lonely worlds.

  2. Tribe by Sebastian Junger – Excellent book on the importance of being part of a team and having strong social bonds. An especially great read for veterans, as Junger reflects on his time embedded in Afghanistan and how being part of a team impacted those around him.

  3. Selfie by William Storr – Written from the viewpoint of an investigative journalist, this text explores how Westerners have become so self-obsessed. From Ancient Greece to Silicon Valley, this text explores how self-obsession has transformed everything from our religious beliefs to economic systems.

  4. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari – A rich read that can be summed up in a basic idea: Humans, as a species, haven’t changed much. It’s our tools and collective ideas that have transformed our world – and who we are becoming as a people.

  5. Mama’s Last Hug by Frans De Waal – Written by a primatologist, this text looks at how much “human” behavior is shared by our primate cousins. One of my favorite reads of all time.

  6. Cascades by Greg Satell – Why do certain social movements fail while others transform our lives? If you want to make a change in the world – or want to learn how change is actually made – this is a must-read text.

Social Critiques / Economics

A lack of good understanding of our human nature caused us to build societies that do not serve our human needs. These structural problems explain the vast majority of problems we see today – both in our own mental and emotional well-being, and in our economic and financial health as well.

  1. Lost Connections by Johann Hari – This text explores how the collapse of strong social bonds in the Western world have led to unprecedented levels of depression.

  2. The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert  – I’m including this here again because significant time is spent how modern economics and hyper-individualism are responsible for increasing rates of depression and social anxiety.

  3. A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey – While the prose of this book is unnecessarily dense, it does an excellent job of covering the history of how our modern economic system came into place in an objective fashion.

  4. The Cyber Effect by Mary Aiken – Written by a cyber-psychologist, this text explores our modern technology has impacted everything from how infant brains are developing to the impact it has on health, emotions, and social relationships. The best book I’ve read so far on the social impact of technology.

Misc. Personal Favorites

A brief insight to some of my personal favorite texts outside of “professional” titles. Not an exhaustive list.

  1. Endurance by Alfred Lansing – My favorite book of all time. A tale of perseverance, risk, and teamwork. You’ll read a page and say, “Well, at least there’s no way it can get worse…” only to turn to the next page and discover yes, it absolutely can – but that doesn’t mean it’s the end.

  2. Wind, Sand & Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – A beautiful book that explores the wild days of early powered flight through the eyes of a man who describes the world with unmatched poetry and wonder. Highly recommend for anyone with a love of travel and adventure – or experience in the Sahara.

  3. LOTR & The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein – When we feel weak, it is those around us who help us reach our goals.

  4. The Martian by Andy Weir – A rare hit where both the book and movie are excellent. They remind us of the same truth: The best way to solve a ton of problems is to work on them one at a time.

  5. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer – In a similar vein to “Endurance,” this text discusses the deadliest day in history of Mount Everest from the viewpoint of a journalist who was there.

  6. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough – Many think that people who change the world have to be geniuses, extremely rich, and/or well-connected. Instead, the Wright brothers had something: endless curiosity and patience. They struggled with chronic depression, personal conflicts, and repeatedly faced failure. Yet their humility and persistence allowed humans to gain powered flight.