Family Issues Self-Help Books

Families are miniature cultures, each with its unique language and customs and rituals. A child may only begin to understand that families are different from each other when he or she first sleeps over at a friend's house. From the way food is prepared and eaten, to sleeping arrangements, to hygiene habits, to the way family members talk to each other, to religious practices, to standards of housekeeping -- every family is different.

It is difficult to have an objective perspective on one's own family of origin. Several self help books in this section offer helpful advice and guidance for the adult who wants to build deeper and more genuine relationships with his or her parents.

The novels listed here present vivid and artful stories about families who are struggling with deep issues -- and what family truly is not?

Recommended Self Help Books on Family Issues

Adult Children: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families by John and Linda FrielAdult Children: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families
John and Linda Friel

An estimated 34 million people grew up in alcoholic homes; countless others grew up in families that struggled with perfectionism, workaholism, compulsive overeating, intimacy problems, depression, emotional abuse, and other problems. This self help book pulls together theory and clinical practice to help adults who've grown up in these families to understand what happened and how to constructively deal with the past. 1990, HCI Press

Angle of Repose by Wallace StegnerAngle of Repose
Wallace Stegner

Stengner won a Pulitzer prize for this long thoughtful novel about a retired historian who researches and writes about his pioneer grandparents. As the protagonist learns about the lives his grandparents lived, he comes to see them as real people who struggled with issues not so different from his own. 2014, Vintage; reprint edition

Coming Home Again: A Family of Origin Consultation by James Framo, Home Again: A Family of Origin Consultation
James Framo,

This is a case study of a single family that underwent family-of-origin therapy presented by one of the pioneers in the field. Two dimensions of the therapeutic experience are represented: that of the therapist and that of the clients. Transcripts of two specialized, intense, brief intervention sessions that occurred one year apart are included, as well as commentary from both therapists and family members. The underlying story -- the story of the therapists -- is as compelling as the family's story. This self help book is a candid look at family-of-origin therapy. 2003, Bruner-Routledge

Extraordinary Relationships: A New Way of thining about Human Interactions by Roberta GilbertExtraordinary Relationships: A New Way of Thinking about Human Interactions
Roberta Gilbert

Based on the innovative family systems theory pioneered by the late Dr. Murray Bowen, this book offers practical and authoritative family therapy advice that has helped thousands of people. This invaluable self help guide shows that only by further developing yourself can you further develop your relationships. The book describes how the principles of family systems theory can be used in all arenas of your life, including intimate relationships, friendships, family relationships, and workplace relationships. 1992, Wiley

Families: Applications of Social Learning to Family Life by Gerald PattersonFamilies: Applications of Social Learning to Family Life
Gerald Patterson

This self help book presents a clear and concise explanation of how children's problem behaviors arise and how they can be dealt with. Time-out procedures and behavioral contracts are encouraged for parents to implement with their children. 1975, Research Press

The Family Crucible by Augustus Napier and Carl WhitakerThe Family Crucible
Agustus Napier and Carl Whitaker

A 50 Greatest Self Help Book

This classic yet timely self help book clearly presents a family systems approach to solving family problems. The authors describe common patterns in families having problems: acute interpersonal stress, polarization, escalation of conflicts, scapegoating, lack of autonomy and paralyzing fear. Napier and Whitaker describe in detail the family therapy process with a family with an angry adolescent. 1978, Harper and Row

Family Healing: Strategies for Hope and Understanding by Salvador MinuchinFamily Healing: Strategies for Hope and Understanding
Salvador Minuchin

Family therapy pioneer Salvador Minuchin offers an engrossing, lively account of his work with families in crisis. His interventions reported here are dazzling: part science and part intuition. His portrayals of his clients are drawn with an artist's eye for detail. A family's pain, he shows, may not lie in the apparent cause -- the depressed father or the hyperactive child -- but in the way all members relate. Minuchin includes his own family history as he lucidly describes his approach to family therapy. 1998, Free Press

Family Kaleidoscope by Salvador MinuchinFamily Kaleidoscope
Salvador Minuchin

Using personal anecdotes, therapy protocols, fables, and plays, the eminent family therapist probes and assesses the role of the individual within the family as well as the social, political, and legal contexts of the family. Minuchin describes normal families dealing with divorce and remarriage as well as families with anorexic members and families interacting with the justice system. Transcripts of family therapy sessions are integrated into the text to illustrate theoretical points. 1986, Harvard University Press

Generation to Generation: Family Process in church and Synagogue by Edwin FriedmanGeneration to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue
Edwin Friedman

This groundbreaking self help book applies the concepts of systemic family therapy to the emotional life of congregations and their leaders. Challenging many of the conventions of pastoral counseling, Friedman shows how family theory points to a less stressful approach to the full range of the clergy's responsibilities. He also illuminates how congregations' dynamics can be a useful model for the study of any family enmeshed in larger systems, and how such systems can themselves be viewed as "families." 1985, Guilford Press

The Genogram Journey: Reconnecting with your Family by Monica McGoldrickThe Genogram Journey: Reconnecting with Your Family
Monica McGoldrick

Those who learn from the past are not condemned to repeat it. In this useful book family therapist McGoldrick explains how the use of genograms (family trees) can bring to light a family's history of estrangement, alliance, divorce, or suicide revealing intergenerational patterns that prove more than coincidental. Genograms of famous families, such as the Kennedys, Hepburns, Beethovens, and Brontes complement discussions of the influence of birth order and sibling rivalry, family myths and secrets, cultural differences, couple relationships, and the pivotal importance of loss. 2011, Norton

Going Home without Going Crazy: How to Get Along with Your Parents & Family by Andra MedeaGoing Home without Going Crazy: How to Get Along with Your Parents & Family (Even When They Push Your Buttons)
Andra Medea

In this self help book you'll learn how to use the four-level conflict continuum to understand conflict within your family and work toward resolution. From petty bickering to hurtful remarks to naked aggression, each level of conflict requires a unique approach. Learn to deal with anger and resentment, communicate more effectively, and strengthen relationships with family members. 2006, New Harbinger

I Only Say This Because I Love You: Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs and Kids when You're All Adults by Deborah TannenI Only Say This Because I Love You: Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs and Kids when You're All Adults
Deborah Tannen

Sociolinguist Deborah Tannen explains why talk in families often goes in circles and provides helpful tools for reconciliation and rebuilding. She emphasizes the importance of separating meanings of words from meta-messages, unstated but powerful meanings that come from the history of the relationships and the way things are said. 2002, Ballantine Books

My Own Country: A Doctor's Story by Abraham VergheseMy Own Country: A Doctor's Story
Abraham Verghese

Nestled in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee, the town of Johnson City saw its first AIDS patient in August, 1985. Working in Johnson City was Abraham Verghese, a young Indian doctor specializing in infectious diseases who became, by necessity, the local AIDS expert. He writes of his experience with conservative mountain families who welcomed home their gay sons who had contracted the disease and had come home to die. The book, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle award, is an uplifting portrait of the challenges and triumphs of love and families. 1995, Vintage

Saturday by Ian McEwanSaturday
Ian McEwan

This prize-winning novel covers 24 hours in the life of London neurosurgeon Henry Perowne. An ordinary day is punctuated by a random threat of violence, and Dr. Perowne sees his life work and family relationships with renewed clarity. Of particular interest is the nuanced portrait of his complex family relationships - with his aging mother, his wife, and his adult children.  2006, Anchor

The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families by Mary PipherThe Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families
Mary Pipher

Pipher recommends an empathic approach to families' efforts to survive in a difficult era and sees the power of family stories, even in the most dysfunctional families. To lead to empowerment and success she emphasizes family stories with central themes of character, will and commitment in this compassionate look at struggling families. 1997, Ballantine Books

Stepwives: Ten Steps to HelpStepwives: Ten Steps to Help Ex-Wives and Step-Mothers End the Struggle and Put the Kids First
Louise Oxhorn, Lynne Oxhorn-Ringwood, Marjorie Krausz

Once bitter enemies (Louise married Lynne's ex-husband), the authors, with the assistance of psychologist Krausz, created a ten-step program called Co-Mamas to help ex-wives and step-mothers build a healthy relationship that puts children first. This self help book offers practical suggestions for developing empathy and learning to lessen tension and support the children caught in a divorce. 2002, Fireside

The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap by Stephanie CoontzThe Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap
Stephanie Coontz

Coontz writes that the "traditional family" of the 1950's was a qualitatively new phenomenon. In this decade the birth rate rose dramatically; social problems such as gangs, drugs, and violence weren't even on the horizon. Affluence was assumed to be a right of citizenship as the middle class was growing. This well-researched, clearly- written self help book provides an eye-opening perspective on the family. 2000, Basic Books, reprint edition

The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with America's Changing Families by Stephanie CoontzThe Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with America's Changing Families
Stephanie Coontz

This thoughtful, somber - and realistic study reviews the evolution of today's family from the immediate post-World War II period. The fifties are often idealized as a time when family life seemed easier to shape and hold. Coontz provides a wide ranging and detailed discussion of all the forms of family life today. 1998, Basic Books, reprint edition

We're Still Family by Constance AhronsWe're Still Family: What Grown Children Have to Say About Their Parents' Divorce
Constance Ahrons

Twenty years later, Prof. Ahrons followed up her original research, reported in The Good Divorce. Her new self help book provides unique insights into how divorce affects children. She asked the "kids" -- now 30-somethings -- what made a difference to them when their parents were divorcing. Since children are very tuned into-and upset by-parental warfare, they said that "how parents relate to each other" is key. Parents battle over joint custody schedules, oblivious to how stressful the transitioning between parents can be. Ahrons reminds parents it's not the quantity of time they spend with their child, but the quality of relationship they establish. It's the reliability, consistency and genuine interest in their lives that matter most to children. Ahrons' supportive guidebook should aid anyone trying to make a "good divorce" better. 2005, Harper Paperbacks

When Parents Disagree and What You Can Do About It by Ron TaffelWhen Parents Disagree and What You Can Do About It
Ron Taffel

This self help book is a hands-on practical guide to understanding child rearing differences between parents and how to work through conflicts arising from these. It is filled with real life examples from Dr. Taffel's practice and offers practical and reasonable guidance that helps both parents feel that they are, after all, on the same side. 2002, The Guilford Press

A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael DorrisA Yellow Raft in Blue Water
Michael Dorris

This elegant novel tells the compelling story of three generations of women in a native American family in the Northwest. In the first third of the book the story is told from the adolescent daughter's perspective; through her eyes, her mother's actions appear confusing, inexplicable and crazy. The second third of the book is told from the point of view of the mother who is struggling with a smart and resentful adolescent daughter and her own mother whose actions she views as confusing, inexplicable and crazy. (Her own behavior is perfectly rational.) In the final third of the book, we view the story through the grandmother's eyes as she attempts to find meaning in her life in the midst of a changing world and her challenging relationships with her daughter and granddaughter. A fascinating book that clearly shows how drastically different the same family reality is when viewed from the perspective of each of the participants. 2003, Picador