The Color Purple by Alice Walker

This book was the second. The Color Purple cemented Marter’s desire to help others through the healing process.

The book was profoundly eye-opening and moving to me as it relays the life story of an African-American woman who survived multiple traumas and losses related to poverty, racism, sexism, abuse, rape, etc.

The message I received was about the resiliency and power of the spirit in each of us, as well as the ability to heal and move forward in life through love. The story resonated with me at a very deep level and awoke the parts of myself that were called to be an instrument of healing and empowerment for myself and others.

Leadership & Self-Deception and Bonds That Make Us Free by C. Terry Warner

These books had a big effect on Christina G. Hibbert, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and expert in postpartum mental health. They played an important role in both her work with clients and how she lives her life.

The two books that literally changed my life are both by C. Terry Warner, who was actually my professor at Brigham Young University, and is the founder of the Arbinger Institute (a fabulous organization that helps companies and people establish healthy and peaceful relationships).

I first read Arbinger’s Leadership & Self-Deception, (co-written by Warner and based on his theories) and it was a huge “Wow!” moment for me. I then moved on to Bonds That Make Us Free, Warner’s longer, more in-depth version of the simpler Leadership.

Reading these books, I began to realize just how much I’d been “in the box” with relationships, focusing only on my needs and failing to see the bigger picture — that each time we choose to ignore the promptings to do the “right” thing in our relationships (i.e., wake up with the crying baby so your wife can sleep), we are actually betraying ourselves.

We then end up spending our time defending ourselves because we can’t acknowledge that we chose wrongly, so we give all the reasons why it was “right” instead (i.e., “I have work tomorrow and I’m tired too, you know!), and actually create our own relationship stress!

These books have not only changed how I do therapy — especially couples therapy — they have personally helped me see others for who they really are and not for how they affect me, and have helped me take responsibility for my own actions in my relationships.

I’ve read them both three times already, plan to continue studying them, and encourage everyone else to do the same!

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

This book transformed clinical psychologist Ryan Howes’s perspective on literature – and opened up a whole world of writings he had no idea even existed.

When I was in high school, my step-mom saw that I was growing weary of The Crucible and Great Expectations and was ready to discard the written word altogether and retire to the boob tube. She shrewdly placed Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions in my Christmas stocking and I devoured it in a week.

The idea that writing could be entertaining while revealing the human condition blew my mind and opened me up to books that spoke the truth while holding my interest. My apathy toward literature died that month. So it goes.

Being and Loving: How to Achieve Intimacy with Another Person and Retain One’s Own Identity by Althea Horner

Since graduate school, this book continues to inspire Howes, his clients and colleagues – along with a few other great reads.

In graduate school I searched for books that echoed my beliefs about relationships and identity formation. A supervisor recommended Althea Horner’s Being and Loving: How to Achieve Intimacy with Another Person and Retain One’s Own Identity for our group and this became my favorite book to recommend to clients and fellow therapists.

Around the same time I picked up M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled and found its wisdom and spiritual component an ideal complement to Horner’s object relations musings.

Throw in Schnarch’s Passionate Marriage, Epstein’s Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, and Yalom’s The Gift of Therapy and that rounds out my most referred list.

They’re no Vonnegut, but the world only needed one.