I specialize in reviewing Print-On-Demand (POD) published books for my website and Midwest Book Review. Please query for a review by email to hgunther234@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

SECRETS FROM THE SOFA by Dr. Kenneth Herman

A Psychologist’s Guide to Achieving Personal Peace
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
Genre: Nonfiction/Self Help
Rating: Good
ISBN: 059541432X, $16.95, 165 pp.

Quoting from the back cover:

"If what everyone really wants from life is happiness, success, and peace of mind, then why do people stay at unrewarding jobs or in destructive relationships? Why are people neglecting their physical and mental health? Why do we sometimes have so much trouble just getting through the day?

"Unfortunately, people feel safe and secure with familiar emotions. Even misery is preferable to the anticipated anxiety associated with change. Intellectually, we would like to change; emotionally, we question if change is necessary–or even possible.

"As a practicing clinical psychologist for over 45 years, Dr. Kenneth Herman shares his ‘Secrets from the Sofa’–his proven step by step approach to helping people change and achieve a greater sense of purpose, happiness and peace. He offers readers the chance to be their own psychologist; to look at their problems, to address were they are coming from, to make a plan to overcome the issues, and then to execute that plan.

"With motivation and determination, you will find that your personal peace plan can make a change for the better completely possible. Secrets from the Sofa can lead you to a happier, more fulfilling life. And if you really put your mind to it, it will."

The heart of this book and Dr. Herman’s therapy is a form of psychotherapy called cognitive therapy which was developed by Dr. Aaron Beck. The basic premise of cognitive therapy is that negative thoughts and attitudes affect our moods. Negative thinking causes depression. Cognitive therapy attempts to help people change their thought patterns.

Secrets of the Sofa is organized into five parts: 1) Understanding Why; 2) Gearing Up; 3) Your Personal Peace Process: 4) Your Emotions and Feelings: and 5) Emerging Stronger. In addition, there are nine exercises: 1) Childhood Log; 2) Childhood Misfortune Checklist; 3) Coping Styles; 4) Defense Mechanisms; 5) Hopefulness Gauge; 6) Life Areas; 7) Self Image; 8) Problem List; 9) Goal Worksheet. His Principle of Change are: 1) Treat yourself with respect and care; 2) Face problems and conflicts directly; and 3) Identify, understand, and let go of resistances. He states . . . "These principles are simply incompatible with unhealthy thinking. Each time you act according to these principles, you are redefining yourself and becoming a stronger person."

I love books like this from experienced psychologists . . . always hoping for something innovative. However, I didn’t find anything particularly new (having worked a twelve-step program in the past), but this little book did remind me that the quality of our lives is largely the result of our thoughts. And, I think Abraham Lincoln said it most succinctly: "People are as happy as they make up their minds to be." I also appreciated being reminded that ... "Anger is a healthy emotion. If someone violates our boundaries or threatens to take advantage of us, anger can mobilize us to protect ourselves."

As far as helpful therapy goes, Dr. Herman did not address: 1) making amends to those we’ve hurt in the past, when possible (a twelve-step chore), which helps us to rid ourselves of guilt feelings and 2) finding a support group, not just a friend, where we can verbalize our feelings, which has the affect of minimizing the intensity of our problems. Other than these two thoughts, Secrets from the Sofa is a well-written, well-edited, self-help workbook you may want to consider if you are thinking about making changes in your life.