John O. Schairer M.D.


Self-Help Reading

Over 20 years ago, Nicholas Cummings found that 50% of the people who read a self-help book based on a method verified by psychological research could improve or completely solve their problems on their own. Of the other 50 %, 30 % could use the method with the help of a therapist and for 20%, the method did not work for them at all. (William O’Donohue and Nicholas Cummings (ed) Evidence-Based Adjunctive Treatments, Academic Press, 2008)

Pie chart


Blue Area: People who are able to learn from books, 50%.

Yellow Area: People who are able to learn from books and therapist together, 30%.

Green Area: People who don't learn from books, 20%.

If you are the kind of person who enjoys learning from books, I suggest you check out the list on Dr.  Jessica Schairer's website.  Besides being my wife and a wonderful therapist, she has a knack for finding books that are helpful with emotional as well as general life issues.  She has books on Anxiety and Phobias, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and Marriage and Family problems.


Books I Often Recommend

These books offer a perspective on the mind and how it works that I find particularly interesting.

Feedback and its effects

The brain devotes a large percentage of its power to input and output.  However, the real power of the brain, especially the human brain, is the extensive recursive computing that happens between input and output.  Specifically feedback between emotions on the one hand and thoughts, images and ideas on the other is the source of much of our emotional life.  Usually, in my experience, people don't even differentiate between the thoughts they're thinking and the emotions that go with them.  So the effects of feedback are of particular interest in understanding and treating emotional problems. 

Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Taleb describes important principles to interpreting events that happen infrequently but have a large impact when they do occur.  He writes from the perspective of a statistician and market investor but the principles also apply to emotional events.


The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell goes through multiple examples of processes that have sudden shifts when pushed just enough. I find it instructive to look at emotional states from the same perspective. Sometimes anger builds slowly to a point where a sudden and sometimes violent outburst happens. Observing that process within oneself can be helpful to prevent tipping over into violence. Tipping points are very common in dealing with other emotional states as well.