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If Only . . . Finding Freedom from Regret
Robert L. Leahy, PhD
The Guilford Press / Softcover / Jul 2022
9781462547821 (ISBN-10: 1462547826)
Cognitive Therapy Approaches in Self Help
price: $23.95
246 pages
In Stock (Ships within one business day)

It’s hard to envision a life without some regrets.You imagine what might have been if you had taken a different path at some key juncture, whether about a past relationship, a missed job opportunity, or choosing where to live. Regret can be immobilizing, filling us with disappointment and shame—but it also can be a powerful tool for self-knowledge and change. In this uplifting guide, renowned psychologist Robert Leahy demonstrates how to make regret work to your advantage. Using cutting-edge skills based on cognitive-behavioral therapy, Dr. Leahy shows how to get unstuck from regret and make decisions with more clarity and confidence. Downloadable practical tools help you implement the strategies in the book. You are the author of your life, so go out and write the next chapter—and then live it.


“Our culture tells us to idolize those who live with no regrets, but we might as well celebrate those who put their fingers in their ears! We cannot learn from the past without facing our mistakes. This wise and well-written book will help you do exactly that—without getting tangled up in 'woulda, coulda, shoulda.'”

—Steven C. Hayes, PhD, author of A Liberated Mind

“Regret can defeat us—or it can be a platform for increasing courage, wisdom, and self-acceptance. In this easy-to-understand book, one of the world’s leading cognitive therapists skillfully guides us to come to terms with the setbacks and disappointments of life. Dr. Leahy combines his vast clinical experience with many clarifying examples. You won't regret reading this book!”

—Paul Gilbert, PhD, FBPsS, OBE, author of The Compassionate Mind

“Dr. Leahy has done it again! This superb book provides answers to important questions. How do we deal with past decisions that come back to haunt us? When does regret hold us back and how can it help us move forward? I highly recommend this book. It just might change your life.”

—Stefan G. Hofmann, PhD, author of The Anxiety Skills Workbook

“All too often, regret leads us down a negative spiral of thoughts and emotions. In this inviting book, Dr. Leahy presents strategies to use regret as a force for problem solving and change, rather than letting it disrupt your life.”

—Patricia A. Resick, PhD, ABPP, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University

“It is easy to oversimplify regret as a problem that only dampens our happiness. This highly readable book maps out a broader story. We can’t avoid regret entirely, but we can change the way we think about it. Dr. Leahy illuminates how regret comes about, how we can gain some control over it, and even how to harness it as a tool for learning and growth. Everybody has regrets—and everybody will find something useful in this book.”

—George A. Bonanno, PhD, author of The End of Trauma

“Internationally acclaimed psychologist Robert Leahy unravels the mysteries of one of the most common—yet least understood—emotions. This book is uniquely innovative, insightful, clearheaded, and comprehensible. It is packed with examples and practical guidance that can transform regret from a debilitating state to a productive way of living.”

—David A. Clark, PhD, coauthor of The Anxiety and Worry Workbook

“We all find ourselves, at one time or another, experiencing regret. Too often, regret traps us in destructive self-loathing and cycles of rumination about 'what might have been.' Grounded in science, this brilliant book guides us on how regret can be a valuable tool for personal growth. Dr. Leahy, a psychologist and renowned author, weaves his extensive clinical experience with the science to gently and skillfully guide us through how we get stuck in regret and how to unstick ourselves. This wonderful guide, rich with real-life examples, is an invaluable resource for us all.”

—Allison G. Harvey, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley

“Dr. Leahy took me on a sensitive and detailed exploration of my own regrets, hesitations, and difficulties with making decisions and evaluating risks. He shows how to liberate yourself from negativity and turn it into energy for growth. A thoroughly enjoyable book, laced with humor and very useful. I will refer back to it often.”

—David F., Dover-Foxcroft, Maine

“This book is for you if you are haunted by regrets that keep you awake at night. Dr. Leahy helps you stop beating yourself up. Instead, he encourages you to make amends in the present and act differently in the future. I have found this book so helpful!”

—Martin S., Oakland, California

“Dr. Leahy is a master clinician, and it shows. His writing on this timeless topic is both illuminating and useful. This book is not only a practical go-to for those struggling with regret, it is also a sage guide to life's problems in general.”

—Thomas E. Joiner, PhD, The Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Florida State University

Table of Contents:


Step 1. Understand Regret

1. What Is Regret? [ pdf sample chapter ]

2. How Regret Works

Step 2. Learn to Make Good Decisions

3. What Assumptions Drive Your Decisions and Feed Your Regret?

4. How Do You Perceive Risk?

5. Does Anticipating Regret Lead You to Action or Inaction?

6. Making a Choice

Step 3. Make Regret Work for You

7. Coping Effectively with Disappointing Outcomes

8. Stepping Away from Rumination

9. Learning from Guilt

10. Using Productive Regret

A Final Word. Looking Back While Looking Ahead




About the Author:

Robert L. Leahy, PhD, is Director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York City and Clinical Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Leahy is Associate Editor of the International Journal of Cognitive Therapy and is past president of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, the International Association for Cognitive Psychotherapy, and the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies. He is a recipient of the Aaron T. Beck Award from the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies. Dr. Leahy is author or editor of 29 books for mental health professionals and the general public, including If Only and The Worry Cure. His books have been translated into 21 languages.

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