Published on July 17th, 2013 | by Joanna Holman

The Pocket Therapist: Book Review

The Pocket Therapist: An Emotional Survival Kit by Therese J. Borchard is a collection of ideas you can integrate into everyday life to improve your emotional and mental health and deal with unforeseen challenges in a healthy way.

Strengths of The Pocket Therapist

Borchard covers ideas as diverse as learning to say no, hugging people often, writing in a journal, eating chocolate, and exercise! With such a huge range of ideas, I don’t think it would be possible for you to not find something helpful.

Not only are the ideas diverse, but their sources are too. She shares what she learned in her formal mental health treatment as well as worthwhile concepts from a variety of religions, philosophies, and backgrounds on the topic of staying mentally healthy.

Another aspect I really appreciated was that while the book deals with a serious topic, the author doesn’t take herself too seriously. I knew I was going to like her when, in the introduction, she joked that although she didn’t have any formal qualifications, she “scored almost perfectly” on the DSM-IV (an encyclopedia of mental health conditions, not actually a test on which one can score). The book is full of amusing examples of not just times she has succeeded at taking the advice, but also what she has learned from failing.

Could be improved

While I liked having such a wide-ranging selection of advice to try, I suspect that for some others this might be overwhelming. There is a lot to take in, some of the advice will be more helpful for some issues than others, and some of the ideas won’t work well together. Because of this, I think the book would have benefited from an index suggesting particular tips for different mental health issues.

However, if you were to use the book in the context of professional treatment, this wouldn’t necessarily be a weakness. If you were having trouble remembering what it was you were meant to be doing, getting a “prescription” from your care provider for certain chapters or topics could be a really good use of the book.

Although the book’s format didn’t make it possible for the author to deal in depth with some of the big ideas from other thinkers, it’s generally a good introduction to ideas you might not normally come across that you can then explore further.

The Pocket Therapist is for you if…

I think you will find this book most useful if you are receiving some kind of help for mental or emotional health challenges and could use a reminder about what you need to be doing in your recovery. If you haven’t yet sought out professional help because you are apprehensive about what it might involve, you might also find this book to be a gentle place to start with steps to wellness.

I think it would be a useful read even for people who are relatively mentally and emotionally healthy, as much of the advice is sound common sense that can be applied toward staying that way in a stressful world.

My application points

Two main concepts stood out to me that I want to apply. One was that there are many actions I can take in my day-to-day life to improve my mental health. Even if previous attempts haven’t been successful, there are always more possibilities to try.

Another concept that impressed me was the importance of having strategies for breaking patterns of worry or negative thoughts, especially about yourself. Negative thinking can sometimes seem like a difficult issue to manage because you are the only one who notices it happening. One remedy for negative thinking Borchard offers is to set aside a short period of the day in which you can focus on your worries. Any other time negative thoughts come up, postpone them until that predetermined time. This way your worries don’t swallow up your entire day. I had never considered this before.

Concluding thoughts

I’m glad I read The Pocket Therapist. It was helpful without being too heavy or drawn out. That is definitely a good thing on harder days. I’ll be holding on to my copy and plan to reference it. While I wouldn’t recommend making it your main source of mental health advice, I’d definitely recommend using it as one of your tools on the way to wellness.

To discuss this article or to share about your favorite healing books, see the related blog post Your Book Recommendations on Mental and Emotional Health.

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