When adults struggle with depression, rarely is our first thought to hunt down a depression workbook. If you’re like most adults, you probably associate workbooks with elementary school and all the dreaded homework assignments you had to do as a kid.
The truth is, though, that workbooks can be a helpful aid for managing depression. Yes, even for grownups.
While not all mental health workbooks are created equal, and few if any will offer you a true substitute for professional support, getting your hands on a workbook that aligns with your goals and general learning style can significantly accelerate your progress in working through feelings of depression.
In this post, I’m going to share 6 depression workbooks for adults that I believe are some of the better workbooks available today.
How to find the best depression workbook for you
Before we discuss my workbook recommendations, I should say a word or two about the different types of depression workbooks available. There is a wide range of options out there, and you obviously want to go with a book that’s well suited for your unique situation. But it’s also important to understand what makes one workbook different from another.
As the title of this post suggests, the recommendations below are workbooks that steer clear of so-called “woo woo” approaches to wellness—i.e., approaches with little or no scientific evidence behind them. This is not to say that some of the more woo resources currently in print are bad or unhelpful. In fact, as I’m writing this, the workbooks Let That Sh*t Go and Zen as F*ck (both by Monica Sweeney) currently hold the first and second spots on Amazon’s bestseller list for guided journals. So yes, I think it’s safe to say a whole lot of people find them helpful.
But not all depression workbooks for adults fall into the woo category; many are based on proven, evidence-based approaches for treating depression. These workbooks generally follow a more formal approach to managing depression. They’re guided by rigorous clinical research and are often organized around the same “steps” your therapist will utilize in therapy sessions, making them a terrific supplement to traditional psychotherapy.
All that to say, if you’re looking for a depression workbook that follows current clinical research, here are 7 workbooks I highly recommend:
Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression: A Step-by-Step Program
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a well-known treatment approach with a significant body of research supporting its effectiveness at reducing symptoms of depression. CBT sees depression, as well as anxiety and other mental health conditions, as the result of problematic thoughts (cognitions) and behaviors. The highly structured nature of CBT makes it an almost perfect fit for a self-guided workbook, which is no doubt why there are so many CBT workbooks for depression out there.
The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression is designed to help you identify and replace faulty thoughts and self-beliefs that drive the cycle of depression. The book is highly interactive with dozens of worksheets and exercises to help you gain familiarity with irrational thought patterns that commonly accompany depression.
Back from the Bluez (free eBook)
Not sure if a depression workbook is really your thing? Why not start with one that’s free? Back from the Bluez was developed by clinical psychologists in Australia and introduces a range of evidence-based concepts and strategies, primarily from cognitive behavioral therapy.
The workbook provides extensive information about depression and suggests effective strategies for managing unpleasant emotions. Like the other CBT-based workbooks mentioned here, Back from the Bluez outlines a step-by-step approach for processing depression and includes many practical exercises, worksheets and activities.
The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook: A 14-Day Plan to Transform Your Relationship with Yourself
I was first introduced to The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook by a therapist I used to share an office with years ago. I started using her copy so often that she eventually ordered me my own. While this workbook, like others on this list, is not specific to depression, the skills it introduces are extremely relevant and useful to anyone experiencing symptoms of depression.
The author, Tim Desmond, shares a range of mindfulness-based techniques that help you grow less reactive to unpleasant thoughts and emotions—a valuable skill when you find you’re battling depression.
Included with the book is a CD with audio recordings of guided mindfulness practices that correspond to the practices and skills outlined in the workbook. But you can also listen to these recorded mindfulness sessions for free over at timdesmond.net.
The Upward Spiral Workbook: A Practical Neuroscience Program for Reversing the Course of Depression
Alex Korb is a neuroscientist who made a name for himself with the book, The Upward Spiral. He has the rare gift for explaining in plain English the intricate processes of the human brain that drive depression—a process he calls the downward spiral.
Fortunately for us, Korb has the added gifts of developing and presenting a practical approach for reversing the course of depression. This is the evidence-based approach he shares in The Upward Spiral Workbook, the companion text to his original book on depression. The workbook offers concrete, actionable exercises and techniques that research has shown can significantly decrease symptoms of clinical depression. If you’re looking for a daily action plan to combat depression, this is likely the book for you.
The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) integrates cognitive-behavioral techniques with practices of mindfulness and contemplative meditation. The aim of this approach is to help people regulate difficult emotions more adaptively. In other words, to handle life’s big emotions, including periods of depression, without losing control.
The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook does not focus solely on depression, but the skills it teaches have been shown to be effective at improving depression. Consistent with DBT, the workbook emphasizes the importance of four general skill areas: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.
Like the CBT workbook mentioned above, this workbook would be a good choice if you’re looking for a practical, step-by-step guidebook for navigating depression and other emotional challenges.
Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation: Skills Training for Patients and Therapists
Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation is another workbook that’s not geared toward depression specifically. However, if I had to choose just one book from this list, it’d probably be this one. My only gripe with the book is its title; it just sounds so pathological and stigmatizing. But if you can look past this, as many of my therapy clients have, this workbook can be a valuable resource for coping with depression, especially if your depression stems from childhood trauma or other attachment injuries.
In a nutshell, the workbook introduces the idea that, following experiences of trauma, we develop trauma-related “selves,” different parts of our personalities almost everyone can relate to—fight, flight, freeze, submit and attach. The workbook not only helps you gain awareness of these protective parts; it also presents a range of strategies and exercises for managing them in your everyday life. It also covers practical strategies for improving your sleep, diet, and overall self-care routine.
Are you struggling with depression and tired of feeling crappy most of the time? Contact us at Modern Era Counseling today. Our counselors can help guide you through your depression so you can get back to living life with joy and purpose.