Book Review: 'Self-Coaching: The Powerful Program to Beat Anxiety and Depression'

“You don’t contract anxiety and depression, you generate it.” This is the assertion Dr. Joseph Luciani makes in Self-Coaching: The Powerful Program to Beat Anxiety and Depression. Luciani’s cognitive therapy approach to treating anxiety and depression is an alternative to traditional therapies. His underlying premise is that insecurity and feelings of vulnerability, particularly in those predisposed to anxiety and depression, are the roots of these mood disorders. He challenges readers to view anxiety and depression not as diseases, but as habits developed over years as ways to cope with self-doubt and fear. Habits can be broken.

Trying to control the uncontrollable feeds the beast

Luciani’s program is based on his theory that insecurity drives people to try to control uncontrollable factors in their lives. It is normal to want to control your life, but lacking in self-trust - a belief in your ability to deal with what life throws in your path - makes the desire to control become obsessive. Unceasing rumination over what could happen; chronic worrying, perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive disorder are manifestations of insecurity, an attempt to control the future by planning for every conceivable possibility because you don’t trust you will be able to handle it as it comes. The failure to gain this control exasperates the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Starve the beast by banishing that negative voice in your head

Luciani leads his readers through self-talk exercises that, when performed consistently over several months, work to replace negative thinking with positive, encouraging thoughts. Allowing negative thoughts to float unchecked feeds self-doubt. “Whether you know it or not,” writes Luciani, “it’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to fan the flames of insecurity.”

Replace passive introspection with action

He faults traditional psychoanalysis with being too complicated with its concern for repressed libidos and Oedipal complexes. With traditional therapies, the therapist takes a passive roll, merely listening, reflecting and analyzing. Luciani’s approach is to take on an active, coaching role with his patients. His therepy sessions are really training sessions in which his patients learn to change their perceptions about themselves and their world, replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. In his book, Luciani gives his readers tools to coach themselves.

A workout for your though processes

Self-Coaching: The Powerful Program to Beat Anxiety and Depression is filled with self-tests and exercises. He identifies five general personality types — worrywarts, hedgehogs, turtles, chameleons and perfectionists — and offers specific training plans tailored for each. Users may approach the book as a training plan, working through exercises and recording their progress in the training log included in the book’s appendix.

 Luciani places the onus for healing on the patient, a tall order for one suffering depression. He does acknowledge that there are physiological causes for mood disorders and urges those suffering from anxiety and depression to seek a professional evaluation. He also recognizes the role medications take in treatment, although he believes patients that successfully overcome their lack of self-trust and propensity to dwell on negative thoughts may be able to eliminate the need for drugs. Luciani’s program may be useful as a stand-alone program from those suffering mild to moderate depression or it may be used in conjunction with traditional therapies.