If you’re like me, you want to know more. . .

Whether you like using your local library, or you’d like to click a link here, these are books I recommend. We can get overwhelmed with choices and voices. That’s why I want to make it easy for you. Many of the books here are what I’ve referenced in counseling sessions or mentioned in my book, Beyond Messy Relationships.

Many of these are great supplements to counseling sessions. But don’t listen too much, or I might lose my job as a counselor! If you’ve come across other helpful resources that I need to add here, let me know!


“Getting the Love You Want” was the seed of my becoming an Imago Relationship Therapist. I had the privilege of interviewing Harville and Helen on my podcast. See Episode #10 of Better Relationships, Better Life. This modality has shaped many of my personal relationships and has been foundational for positive changes for couples I’ve counseled. You’ll see how Imago therapy is integrated into the story of Beyond Messy Relationships. It’s why some readers have told me, “Judy, I feel like I’m getting therapy from you just by reading your book.”

Any book by Harriet Lerner is worthy of reading. And this one is especially insightful about helping us turn empty apologies into heart-felt apologies that can bring genuine & deep connections. She and Brene Brown teamed up to present a Continuing Education class on this topic of which I gained even more clarity. To see how this compliments what I wrote on “Intentional Forgiveness,” just go to chapter 13 of Beyond Messy Relationships. In the meantime, you’ll want to absorb “Why Won’t You Apologize.”     

This is the best book I’ve read on validation; an absolute necessary ingredient for growing and resilient relationships. Michael Sorenson, who is not a therapist, gives us clarity about what validation is. Not only that, the author gives us a step-by-step formula that can transform your interactions. It’s a quick read with easy to understand and valuable concepts that will enhance connection. Even if you think your spouse is a “narcissist,” allow I Hear You to give you clarity and hope. More than one client brought my attention to this book. It’s a great follow-up and “how-to” book after reading Beyond Messy Relationships.

Just Listen is a book you’ll want to read more than once. Author, Mark Goulston gives us powerful techniques to use in the most difficult of relationships. Whether it’s a spouse, co-worker, or challenging relative, you’ll gain valuable wisdom, perspectives and methods to get unstuck. If you have read Beyond Messy Relationships, and are ready for the Awareness and Intentionality stage, this book is the next one you’ll want to read.

You might think of Crucial Conversations as a book for corporations and businesses. But, I believe it’s extremely valuable in intimate relationships. In order to grow into your resilient and authentic self after reading, Beyond Messy Relationships this is a great next step. Concepts of this book will flesh out our formula of AIR: Awareness, Intentionality, and Risk. There is a lot in this book, so don’t get overwhelmed. Many organizations use it for multi-day workshops. It’s worth learning and practicing the communication tools when stakes are high.

Emotional & Spiritual Abuse

If you’re a faithful Christian wife, but have struggled with a confusing marriage, this book is for you. Natalie Hoffman’s courageous writing is opening up the “me too” movement in the church. I was on her podcast called “Flying Free,” episode # 34. Make sure you listen to “Breaking Destructive Relationship Patterns.” Her book and podcast guests have helped many clients begin their journey of “Flying Free.” Because they’ve asked themselves many times, “Is it Me?”

Leslie Vernick’s books have been a staple in my counseling office for years. I’m thankful that she is an endorser of my book, Beyond Messy Relationships. She writes for Christians and includes plenty of Scripture references. This book is a must read for every evangelical pastor. Leslie has influenced me and my clients not only with this book, but also The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. She also provides online support. Her website is:

Warning to men before reading this book. I’ve made more than one angry for suggesting this read. And for men who are ready to see covert emotional abuse as a systemic issue and do their part, it can be transformational. The issue is so ingrained and catches many marriage therapists unaware. And that can be a disaster for those coming in for couples counseling. Author, Lundy Bandcroft is my hero and advocate for women. I mention his book in chapter 16 of “Beyond Messy Relationships.” Other books of his include: Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?, Should I Stay or Should I Go? and When Dad Hurts Mom.

Patricia Evans – The Verbally Abusive Relationship

Safe People

The Gifts of Imperfection

Surrender to Love

Falling Upward

The Divine Dance

Enneagram – Spiritual Rhythms

Driven to Distraction

Self Awareness & Growth

This likely will be a stretch for those who are ultra conservative in their faith tradition. But I want to invite you to think of curiosity and challenge as a pathway for physical, mental and relational wellness as well as spiritual growth.
For years, my neuropathways have been influenced by my own conservative denomination. Throughout my journey along with living up-close and personal in relationship with the fixated thinking of a loved one with severe mental illness, I’m convinced that God is conspiring for us for loving and living abundantly.
This book will be a breath of fresh A.I.R. for you. Remember the acronym? Awareness, Intentionality, and Risks of growth.  Take in what Christel can give you now. Leave what you’re not ready for. But for sure, let’s not “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” 


This posthumous new release (Nov. 2021) by Rachel Held Evans touches my heart on so many levels. Her writings have impacted me deeply having shared many of the same influences of our alma mater. Even now, Rachel gives us permission to doubt, evolve, and grow into our God-given faith journey. I referenced ideas about biblical marriage from her previous book. Check out “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” in chapter 20 of my book,“Beyond Messy Relationships.” 
“Wholehearted Faith” will inspire you and give you many things to ponder. And could be transformational as you accept your humanity and embrace your belovedness. Thank you to all who made this book possible. 

New Normal

Relationship Awareness & Growth

This is THE BEST book I’ve read so far when it comes to forming good habits. This author helps you associate good feelings with habits. It’s filled with practical graphs and how-to methods to make positive habits doable.

I just now started this book (8.10.21) and already asking myself this wonder question. “How can I spend the majority of my time doing what I most love to do, while also making my greatest contribution to the world?” The author and his wife are also listed on this page with their book called, Conscious Loving. 

Author, Michael Hyatt has been my “virtual mentor” for several years. And I met both authors in Nashville, the evening this book was released. I highlighted and re-read it recently while editing my original “life plan” I crafted in 2016. Since my own book, Beyond Messy Relationships is now published, I have perspective that I didn’t have in 2016. This is a worthwhile endeavor at a 30,000 foot view of your life. This is a great method for being purposeful and intentional in life. Use my formula of breathing in fresh AIR: Awareness, Intentionality, and Risk as you delve into putting this book into practice.

I’m revisiting this one again from my virtual mentor, Michael Hyatt. After four years of using this system, I wonder if my book, Beyond Messy Relationships would be out in the world today! BYE is a practical system to putting your Life plan in place.

For those of us who struggle with lots of ideas and distractions, this book is a must. It’s become a reference for me with lots of resources to help me get focused. If I had more time in the day, I would offer a “Free to Focus” accountability in my office. It’s a great treatment plan if you have symptoms of ADHD. You can read more about my journey and how it affects our lives in Beyond Messy Relationships.

Wired for Dating

Conscious Loving: The Journey to Co-commitment

How to Act Right – Vernick

Confessions of a Terrible Husband


The Path Between Us

Receiving Love

Relationships & Mental Health

Mark Lukach touched a deep place in mine and my former husband’s marriage while in recovery. Mark’s courage, along with his courageous wife, modeled a rare resilience among us. Especially, those of us in messy marriages with mental illness. With a superb memoir-writing style, Mark’s book has helped my clients. You can’t help but develop empathy that wouldn’t have otherwise happened. I’m honored that this international best-selling author endorsed my book, Beyond Messy Relationships. His website is: marklukach.com

I listened to Dr. Amador’s book twice in the midst of my 2nd husband’s psychotic episode. By the way, I listen to a lot of audio books. The author tunes us into the reality of recovery, symptoms, and aftermath of psychosis. Anosognosia is a condition in the brain’s prefrontal cortex that prevents insights and accurate self-perceptions. It affects a percentage people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. What we judge as resistance or stubbornness may instead be a physiological impossibility. The author’s personal story was the catalyst for his book. I mention his resources in my book, chapter 24 entitled The Dance of Mental Illness of Beyond Messy Relationships.

Author, Sherri Campbell gives us insight and courage to make bold decisions. Toxic family patterns can keep us stuck and living a small life. But It’s Your Family exposes many scenarios of stories I’ve heard in the counseling office. Whether your situation is “not that bad” or even more intense, you’ll learn from Sherri’s experiences and expertise. What’s most important is that you become your own advocate. And make sure you surround yourself with supportive relationships and people who affirm your worthiness, dignity, and respect.

On a personal level, with a diagnosis of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), I’ve become aware of how it has affected marriages in my counseling office. Author, Melissa Orlov helps us understand symptoms of the diagnosis and how common messes emerge between spouses when one or both have ADHD. You’ll become more aware of how if affects your marriage. I mention this resource in chapter 21 entitled Risk of Bipolar in Beyond Messy Relationships. Similar symptoms of ADHD show up in those who are diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.

Separation & Divorce

Divorce and Remarriage in the church

Conscious Uncoupling

Necessary Endings

Hope for the Separated

(As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small percentage if you buy from the links on this page.)