One of our favorite questions for therapists is what are you reading, right now? We asked a few therapists and mental health trailblazers about a book they’ve encountered, recently, that inspired them.

(Clockwise from left: Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Jor-El Caraballo, Verena Wieloch, Mike Shook, and Dr. Sonal Shah Taylor.)

Dr. Joy Harden Bradford
Psychologist and Founder, Therapy for Black Girls
Atlanta, Georgia

One of my favorite books and one that I’ve found impactful for many clients is Surviving Mama by Dr. Pamela Thompson. The book details the sometimes tenuous relationships that can exist between mothers and daughters, gives reasons for why these relationships can be difficult. Dr. Thompson highlights cultural factors that can make navigating these relationships particularly difficult for African American daughters, and gives very concrete tips for how daughters can manage their expectations about their relationships with their mothers. It is a quick read, plainly stated, and incredibly insightful.


Jor-El Caraballo
Therapist and Co-Founder, Viva Wellness
New York, New York

I’m currently reading Sigmund Freud: A Short Biography by Giovanni Costigan. It’s a bit on the nose, but it’s a book that I’ve had in my possession for quite some time that I just never got to. As a student of psychology and working therapist, Freud’s work is a part of my foundation as a mental health professional. I realized that a lot of my thoughts about him have been centered on the thoughts and feelings of professors and teachers over the years regarding his theories. I recently realized that I never took the time to read more pointedly into his life and this book is given me even greater insight into a complicated man who is known as the father of modern psychology.


Mike Shook
Counselor, Creator of The Thoughtful Counselor podcast
Beijing, China

I was recently given a copy of Jesmyn Ward’s award winning Sing, Unburied, Sing. This was my first venture into Ward’s writing and certainly will not be the last. Sing, Unburied, Sing is equally powerful and painful. Set in small-town Mississippi, Ward seamlessly weaves together themes of race, spirituality, love, and grief. Every page challenged me to pause and reflect seriously on the complex nature of the lives we live and the people we work with in counseling. Ward’s ability to craft words into paragraphs into a beautiful and haunting story remind me of the weight and power of our words in each counseling session.

Over the past two years I have fallen in love with narrative therapy. The creativity, playfulness, and strong sense of justice embedded in narrative practice bring together many different interests and ideas that I’ve come to value. Yet as a person of committed faith and spirituality, there is very little considering the intersections of narrative practice and Christian faith. I was ecstatic to come across Stories of Therapy, Stories of Faith edited by Lex McMillan, Sarah Penwarden, and Siobhan Hunt, a thoughtful and thorough engagement between the best of narrative therapy and relational theology. Theoretically rich and practically down to earth, Stories of Therapy, Stories of Faith has infused both my practice and my faith, helping me relate better to the people I work with in counseling and enrich my personal understanding of what to means to hospitably relate to my neighbor.


Verena Wieloch
Psychotherapist in private practice
Asheville, NC
View Verena’s Open Path profile

A Story Waiting To Pierce You shook up my world in a beautiful way. Peter Kingsley is a classics scholar who makes the case that all these ancient Greek and pre-Socratic thinkers were not rational materialists but poets and mystics, and that western culture actually grew from the seeds of their spiritual and cultural practices. Apparently Pythagoras got all his mathematical theorems by lying in complete stillness and darkness and writing poems. Kingsley conveys this idea through this remarkable (and shockingly well-researched and documented) tale that connects Mongolia to ancient Greece and Tibetan Buddhism with the simultaneous decay and birth of those cultures. The book helped me take comfort in the vast cycles of cultural shifting as the west tears itself apart like some kind of….cannibalism-inspired Frankenstein monster. I guess you could say that in a world starved for a truly nourishing culture that helps us feel both creative and intimately connected, that book reminded me that the cycle of chaos and decay on a cultural level creates the space for astonishing new seeds to be planted. It was hopeful without being cheap about it.


Dr. Sonal Shah Taylor
Board of Directors, Open Path Psychotherapy Collective
Asheville, NC

I am in the midst of reading three books. But the one I like most is The 40 Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi by Elif Shafak. It is about Shams of Tabrizi, Rumi’s companion and mentor. The work is fictional but contains Shams’s forty rules of universal connection throughout the work.



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