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Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

How exactly does one go about drawing upon scientific and professional knowledge to supplement their own for purposes of self-help? It's a good question to consider. Science is composed of many individual fields, only some of which are relevant to know about with regard to self-help. Even so, there are thousands of new research papers published each year just in fields related to counseling and mental health alone. The published reports are written by scientists for the benefit of other scientists in a dense technical language that can be difficult to make sense of. All too frequently, any given report presents a fairly trivial new finding that has little relevance for regular people trying to help themselves. What is a non-scientist to do?

Rather than attempting to make sense of actual published scientific research directly, interested lay-people (non-scientists) are often better off studying the various important theories that inspire individual research programs and which are also informed by them. Scientific theories are ways of arranging observations and facts so that they help you to both understand the fundamental processes underlying a given process or thing, and also help you predict what that process or thing will do when subjected to different conditions. Maxwell's theory and equations describing how electricity and magnetism work are a good example of a scientific theory with strong predictive and explanatory powers. Pure physics doesn't have much bearing on self-help and solving life's problems, however, so we must look to a different set of scientifically and professionally informed theories to learn ways we can help ourselves grow and change.