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Chapter 1 - Self-help: What is it?Chapter 2 - Understanding the Nature of your ProblemChapter 3 - Overview of Bio-Psycho-Social TheoriesChapter 4 - Meeting Basic NeedsChapter 5 - Changing Behavior and ThoughtChapter 6 - Changing Your MoodChapter 7 - Changing Your KnowledgeChapter 8 - Changing Your RelationshipsChapter 9 - Changing Your Identity and MotivationChapter 10 - Your Unique Self-Help PlanChapter 11 - Dependency
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Taking Action is Key

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 22nd 2016

Because you usually cannot solve troubling issues just by thinking about them, taking action is key to getting any sort of help. This is especially the case with regard to self-help. Just thinking about things that trouble you, but not taking action to change them is likely to be quite ineffective. Even though it is ineffective, the tendency to just think about things that trouble you and avoid taking action to address them is so common that multiple names have been developed to describe it, including "intellectualization", "rumination", and "procrastination", to name but a few. Avoiding taking action on problems is not an effective or useful strategy for self-help because nothing happens when you do this except that your thoughts go round and round. Worry and rumination without action lack a vital ingredient necessary for forward motion and positive change. A car cannot go forward without a transmission, no matter how powerful its engine may be. Like a car without a transmission, avoidance and worry in the absence of an action plan cannot get you where you want to go.

The topic of self-help covers a lot of ground. There are many different ways of helping yourself overcome problems, and not all of them will appear at first glance to be therapeutic. Doing your own taxes, fixing your own car or even serving yourself at a buffet lunch are all legitimate and useful self-help activities that can make your feel better about yourself. These are rather simple, narrow and specific activities, however, when compared with mental health and life-improvement oriented self-help efforts which are usually more complex in nature, requiring multiple actions and efforts to be coordinated before a benefit can be obtained. A typical mental health self-help effort requires you to pay attention, make an emotional investment in change, perform one or more self-assessments, educate yourself about your problem(s), consider multiple alternative possible actions for addressing your problem(s), decide on a specific plan of action (selected from the alternatives available) which seems most likely to be helpful, and then finally commit and dedicate yourself to executing that self-help plan. All of this must be done before you will see any significant relief or results. These multiple components of a sound mental health self-help plan probably sound very complicated, but please rest easy; self-help isn't really that hard to do or to understand. There is a method to the madness and that method is largely based on common sense. This will hopefully become apparent as we consider the follow example showing how one man named Bob builds himself a self-help plan to help himself solve a difficult relationship issue.

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WEIGH YOUR OPTIONS AND SHUT YOUR MOUTH !!!!!! - Tina - May 16th 2009

Please no offense but that is the truth and the best advise I can give you.  I was a child of both physical and sexual abuse, and went into the SYSTEM at age 8. I had two brothers and one sister.... seems okay, right? WRONG!!The first misconception is that social services is there to protect the family. This is the furthest from the truth.

I am now on my third marriage with four children now battling social services myself. I am a good mom. Just had a bad day. That is the day I lost all my children. I thought they must know what they are doing and will look out for the best interest of my children. After all, we are in America and we have a fair trialed justice system. That was misconception 2. Guilty and they will not allow evidence to prove your innocense. I have two others friends that are christian and they are going thru the same thing.

Your cituation is unhealthy and does need changes.  However, if you go to a counsolor, they will report all you say to social services. If you go to school counsolor, they will report, if you go to the dr. they will report it. Social service in came in when i was little and offered no help to mom. only took us away and to this day i do not have a relationship with my family memebers. we are all spread apart on the map.  there are a total of seven of us. What good did they do? none. My advise to you, is to have your parents sign up for an anger management class and go to a local pastor.  They listen but do not tell.  They are exempt from the government. Get it? You want to find someone that will help. Not hurt the cituation.  Yanking you from your family does not help the cituation. It only adds to the problems and stress. 

Also I want to say, keep your chin up.... God heals all things if you let him.  Even if they dont let it, you will overcome. Just the fact that you are reading this assertiveness website means you will overcome. write me if you want at

How do I take action? - - Apr 26th 2009

I am suffering for my own actions for some time. I feel I have ruined my life. I want to find a way to make my social interactions with others better. Taking action is key but how do I do that? I feel that my prayers will be ansered if I can only find a way to eithe get help or help myself. As a Christian I believe that God is with me, which is why each time I fail I get back up again and keep on going. I, however, still seem to have a lot of thrust but no vector. I hope to find some vector here and by the grace of all mighty Jesus successfully cope with my mental issues. 

Mandated Treatment - Deborah - Jul 4th 2008

I could be wrong but I suspect this family is terrified of "big brother".  My parents were extremely abusive.  To the point I could have been "accidentally" killed during one of thier rages.  My best friend's father, and later a guidance counselor, confronted my father.  I was afraid to talk to them.  I did not want my father to go to jail.  I knew I was abused but I still did not want to lose my family. 

I don't know the law.  I do know if you can somehow establish an "everything you say is off the record" policy you may gain their trust.  Had someone said to me, we won't prosecute your father, we won't take you away, I may have talked.   

I was offered a place to go.  My best friend's father said I could go live with them and they would fight for me.  I chose not to go. I stayed in an abusive home.   I knew my family was horribly dysfunctional but I felt I could not "abandon" them.

I hope you can break through their barriers.  I do feel the only way they will get the help they need is if they can put all their cards on the table without the fear the government will step in and tear their family apart. 








to help someone who needs it but doesnt want it - Mike - Jun 11th 2008

i have been given an assignment from my boss to find a way to help a juvenile and his family with case managment services but they seem to not want it. They are mandated to recieve our services and already on the phone sounding like they dont want us in their lives. How do you go about helping someone who is mandated to see you but doesnt want anything to do with u?????

Desire to Change and Guidance - John Paul - Dec 30th 2007

A lot of people are aware of the need to improve one's life, and to take action . However, the problem lies in the fact that we do not know what direction we will take. I feel that you are giving us the help needed to take steps, even if they are baby steps, one at a time, towards self-improvement. Your articles give me, and a lot of people, a sense of confidence and guidance which are very helpful. Thank you.

Transformation from oneself is key to LEADERSHIP - Sreekumar - Sep 2nd 2007

As a professionally qualified HR Manager, and have had over 3 decades of hard core exposure at shop floor as at sub-Board level working in Electronics and Manufacturing, and who have had the opportunity to 'peep' people working at varios levels and in different industrial verticals in local, national and Asia-Pacific companies, I vouch the contents of the article "Action is the Key". Leadership at managerial levels, when observed, understood and 'audited' with a lens, and attempted to correlate with reflections from case studies, theories, Best Practices etc., I have an obeservation. It is Leadership, Strategy, Execution, and the core/ base is >>> INDIVIDUAL. It is at this jucture, Action is the Key at indivdual level is apt and contextual.

M.S.Sreekumar, General Manager(HR), Binani Zinc Limited, Cochin, India



- - Apr 26th 2007
As a mother of an African-American male and a licensed clinical social worker I would like to address the concerns of the young man who stated as an (supposedly - can never tell via internet) African-American male that he was not comfortable being with people who looked like him.  First, it would seem helful to 1) learn more about Africa and African American (i.e. scholarly books, movies, documentaries) so that the generalizations could be eliminated, 2) assess where you are with your ethnic identity or lack of it 3) figure out some ways increase, eliminate or alter the self assessments based on reality and 4) do something to get involved with your realistic assessments.  I mean really could all the African American males that you encounter be aggressive.

Cultural powerlessness - - Apr 24th 2007

I am an african american male. My entire life I've struggled with confidence issues. I have always avoided being around groups of african americans.  A certain segment of the african american population tend to be particularly vocal and disrespectful towards each other. It makes me sick. I have not learned to assimilate into this group of people. It's hard not to be aggressive around this particular segment because they seem so aggressive. I don't want to totally give up but I hate being around them. Part of the reason is that they are so aggressive. Disespecting each other seems to be the price you pay to "gain access" to their clique. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with aggressive young urban african american males who's sole purpose in life seems to be to project an aggressive "I'm tough leave me alone attitude?

thanks - cenkara mawnikya prabhoo - Dec 27th 2006
you are doing a selfless service which of immense help to many people who need advice and suggestions to get through real life problems thanks once again

comment - sara - Nov 19th 2006
i love reading and learning new things- especially when it comes to improvement. my main comment is there always is a way, but some of us just do not have a will! some people already have motivation installed inside them. peace, sara ogden, ut. 23

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