Though the term self-help can refer to any case whereby an individual or a group betters themselves economically, intellectually or emotionally, the connotations of the phrase have come to apply particularly to psychological or psychotherapeutic nostrums, often purveyed through the popular genre of the "self-help" book. Sometimes writers refer to a "self-help movement", though exactly what this is taken to be is not clear.

Self-help marketplace, and criticisms
Group and corporate aid for the "seeker" has also moved into the "self-help" marketplace, with LGATs and therapy systems ready with more or less pre-packaged solutions to instruct folk seeking their own individual betterment.


1.Landmark Education
3.Silva Method

Though remaining popular, self-help books and programs have been criticized as offering "easy answers" to difficult personal problems. According to this view, the reader or participant receives the equivalent of a placebo while the writer and publisher collect the profits. The book God is My Broker asserts, "The only way to get rich from a self-help book is to write one."


The first "self-help" book was - indeed - titled "Self-Help". It was written by Samuel Smiles (1812-1904) and was published in 1859. Its opening sentence is: "Heaven helps those who help themselves", which is often quoted but rarely referenced. The author was of a progressive political bent.

Other examples since are

In 1950, L. Ron Hubbard wrote Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.Despite a lot of controversy, over the years Dianetics has been adopted by many as a workable self-help book, with more than 21 million copies sold over the years.

In 1967, Thomas Anthony Harris published I'm OK, You're OK, which is also seen as one of the most successful selling self-help books, with over 15 million copies sold to date.

Other definitions

In law and the anthropology of law, self-help refers to legal remedies that can be initiated by the aggrieved person alone without filing a lawsuit or obtaining an order from a judge. The creditor who sends out a "repo man" to repossess a vehicle driven by a defaulting debtor is using a self-help remedy in enforcing his lien.

While some measure of self-help is inevitable and necessary, by definition self-help remedies are available without a great deal of due process, and the current tendency of the law is to discourage their use. The problem with self-help is that it can easily escalate into violence, an inherently inefficient form of dispute resolution.