I read more than my fair share of published self help books. For me, this is an exercise in professional curiosity more than it is a cry for help. The underlying trend I see in these writings is the aspect of surrender. One is called upon to surrender to the treatment, the program or to the higher power. In my personal experience with addictions, a crossing swim against the current toward the shore is generally more productive than attempting to fight the current head on.
What concerns me in regard of self help is to the degree in which we surrender and what we are surrendering ourselves to. When we turn to self help books to assist with our issues it is prudent to follow some guidelines.
Our health should be our primary concern with self help in regard to weight loss. Any weight loss program we consider should be under the direct supervision of a physician. Fad diets, 30 day plans and self help publications on weight loss may not be safe or healthy for every individual. Many factors, including preexisting conditions can make some self help avenues potentially dangerous.
Personal dignity is also something one would not want to surrender when considering self help. Treatment and therapy typically stress the importance of autonomy and self reliance in the clinical setting. This pertains to self help in the regard to issues such as narcissism and assertiveness. These are relationship based and my caution would be that one should seek counseling rather than rely upon a book. Not all relationship issues are your fault and surrendering yourself will not help.
In regard to self help with grief the concern is the surrender of responsibility. When we are subject to traumatic events or personal tragedy, we tend to blame ourselves. This can become all consuming, especially in regard to the loss of a loved one. Again, not to sound like a broken record, long term grief that one cannot overcome requires professional counseling. Most self help in this subject stresses coming to terms and self growth. While this may seem like good advice on the surface, it would not always apply to every situation.
This is not to suggest that the genre of self help is not helpful. One only needs to be cautious of anything that suggests surrendering personal autonomy to outside influences. If this is the proper course of action, it should be upon the advice of a physician.