In continuing this regular series, please ask any questions below -- about psychiatry, mental health, or whatever (it does say anything in the title).
Until other users add Qs here, I'll continue to add some that are frequently asked to me.
Q: Why can't I just read a self-help book to fix my problems?
A: There are many reasons. Though I don't want to discount self-help books, as I think they can be immensely helpful.
The first reason is that we all have blind spots. Whether we like it or not, there are things that we do that we aren't even aware of, but that observant others see plain as day. Those things might not just be out of our awareness -- they may be shocking to us to learn, but once we look we can see it too and see that it's a big part of our problems. I know that's a little abstract. As an example, I may think that I'm aware of my anxiety and have it totally under control, yet others can see how impairing it is and that it's much worse than I realize. It may even impact others around me in ways I don't notice.
A second reason is that many problems come from relationships, and to some degree require a relationship to solve them. Psychology for a long time got caught up in the idea of a one-person psychology -- the idea that we all exist in a bubble and that our problems are all in our heads. In a small way that is true, but it often ends up stigmatizing and isolating people further. Problems have context -- parents, families, work situations, etc. Our perspective on them needs to be opened with the help of another person.
And most importantly, in the same vein as relationships, we often re-create (not really a hyphenated word) our problems in new relationships. This happens often in group therapy situations, but often anywhere. I might have had overbearing parents and learned I need to keep myself very small, and feel like I have a handle on it. When I talk with other people, I might constantly be walking on eggshells. That's fine for co-workers, but to ever transcend that, I need the help of someone whose job it is to help me get better. My therapist doesn't want me to walk on eggshells around them. They want me to realize that not everyone is my parent, they are not my parent, and thus don't need to be tiptoed around. And there's something healing in that experience.
The last and final reason, is that while books are great for ideas, many of our problems in life are locked up emotionally. We need another person to help us access that. Ideas don't usually cut it.