By Oliver DeMille

Sigmund-Freud-9302400-1-402Another parent asked me for recommended readings in psychology this week. This happens a lot.

A student, usually one in scholar phase, is interested in studying psychology, and the parent wants to help but hopes for a good psychology text that won’t attack religion or lead the student astray.

First, there are a lot of books emphasizing religious views on psychology, but so far I’ve never found one that I really liked or wanted to use in a class.

Here’s what I do when I want to teach psychology to scholar or depth phase students.

1-Use a regular psychology textbook, like Psychology by David Myers. Get a copy for the student and the parent/teacher, and as the parent or teacher read the whole book yourself.

Then assign the parts you want your student to study.

If your student is already an adult, go ahead and have him read the books at the same time you do. If he is younger, read it beforehand or at least read ahead.

This book can be pricy, but a used copy is just as good as a new one in most cases.

In fact, if it has a prior reader’s writing in it or highlighted sections, it might be even easier to learn from it.

2-At the same time, before you make any assignments to the younger student, read Integral Psychology by Ken Wilber.

Again, make assignments after you have read it.

3-While you are reading these first two books, have the student read The Fourth Turning by Strauss and Howe and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

Then have long talks with them about everything they read.

Focus on what interests them, and be sure to discuss the different viewpoints of the four major generations as well as the differences between the 5 love languages.

4-When you are ready, have the students read from Myers and Wilber, and spend time discussing what they’ve learned with them.

Myers and Wilber are not Christian-focused psychology books at all, but they are excellent introductions to the topic and can help you learn and discuss effectively.

Add your own views as you discuss—including things you agree with and other ideas you think the authors got wrong or that disagree with your religious views.

Since the student is a young adult or an adult, a discussion of what is accurate and what isn’t is a good conversation to have.

It is important at this stage of the young person’s development to be sure he/she knows how to read things that disagree with his/her beliefs without being swayed in inappropriate ways. (If they’re not ready for this, they’re not fully ready for Scholar phase; attend to Core and Love of Learning for remediation.)

This is a vital skill, and the most effective way to teach it is one-on-one.

Read and discuss with them, and help them learn and master this skill.

This approach is much more effective than simply finding a book that matches your worldview.

That’s a good basic way to launch into a student’s interest for psychology. If you want to go a step further, do 1-4 and then add the following:

5-Study the chapter on “Mind” in the Syntopicon (volume 3 of the Great Books of the Western World set).  There are a lot of themes here, and they are very interesting.

6-Get a copy of Psychology Today at your local bookstore (a number of Walmarts carry it as well), or look it up on line, and read a bunch of articles.

7-Go to a university that it is close to your home, preferably a bigger school with a large psychology department.

Go to the bookstore and find where the textbooks are sold for each class.

Then peruse the books on the shelf for beginning, intermediate and advanced courses—and skim through the tables of contents.

Find books that interest you and your student. You can either buy them there, or you can often find them at a library or get them at reduced prices online.

While you’re at the university, go to their library and look through the books in their psychology section. Again, note which books interest you and your student and either check some of them out from the library or find the same title elsewhere.

These 7 steps can help you learn a great deal about this topic, and it can be personalized for your student’s interests at every step.

8-If you reach a point where you have done all 7 steps and your student, or you, still wants more, look up “peer-reviewed journals” in psychology (online or at the university library) and read all the articles that interest you.

Additional classics on the topic can be found in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Dante, William James, C.G. Jung, David Hume, Tolstoy, Bunyon and C.S. Lewis.

Freud has some very interesting ideas as well, but parents should read them along with the youth and take the time to discuss them (the good and the bad) together in detail.

Perhaps one of the best ways to discuss psychology is to read stories from scripture and Shakespeare and discuss the psychology of the characters and their struggles, decisions and choices.

I’ve probably provided more of an answer here than most people were looking for, but just in case…here it is.

The most important thing in all of this is to have fun with it so you and your student keep learning.

After steps 1-4, it’s okay if you read different books than he does. Both of you can take notes and share what you learn with each other.

Or, if you lose interest after steps 1-4, your student can keep studying and just share with you during mentor meetings.

I’ll conclude with a few thoughts:


“Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.”

–Viktor Frankl


“An intelligent person can rationalize anything, a wise person doesn’t try.”

–Jen Knox


“For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?”

–George Orwell


“We know what we are but not what we may be.”

–Ophelia in Hamlet


Image Oliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd. He is the NY Times Bestselling co-author of LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through Leadership Education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.