I've had depression for over ten years, flirting with suicide for most of them, before finally seeking help. So I know what it's like at the bottom, trust me. Meds can make you a LOT better... but they're only a kick-start to taking care of the problems addressed in this book. This book can make you ALL better by taking care of the main symptom of depression - negative thoughts - and thus preventing deeper depression and relapse.
"Ten Days to Self-Esteem" includes checklist tests to chart your progress, simple homework assignments, and daily exercises to train yourself to think more positively. In other words, if you're willing to put in the work, and let Dr. Burns show you where to start, it WILL help you, step-by-step.
So why all the negative reviews? I have to put in my two cents, here.
There are three major themes running through the brains of those with depression:
1. "I have a very special case of depression. Other people may have gotten better, but I'm different. I'll never be cured."
2. Life's details are tainted with bad-ness. ("That's nice, but...")
3. If it's not perfect, it's not good enough. ("There's a typo on my resume, so I won't bother applying for the job.")
All of these combined will invariably lead to negative reviews of this book. The depressed patient will find one or two things they don't agree with (whether rational or not), and since they have an all-or-nothing philosophy, they decide this book is worthless and can't help them, so they don't read it or do the exercises (or do them half-heartedly), and this book gets one star.
Now, I'm NOT picking on any certain reviewer here; I haven't read the complaints in that much detail. I'm just trying to help explain to the non-depressed people why there are such a bafflingly wide range of opinions about this book. Well, that's the way depressed people think - negatively. (In fact, depressed people even answer "No" to questions significantly more often than non-depressed people.)
With that said, I'll admit that I had EXACTLY the same reaction. The book was too _______, I didn't have enough time for the exercises, it wasn't helping fast enough, blah blah blah. (I have a high IQ - so sometimes my negative thoughts are downright artistic in their warped-ness.) I managed to do the exercises up until Day 3, at which point I did what most other depressed people will probably do with this book -- I put it aside to collect dust, and procrastinated, until I conveniently forgot about the exercises I was supposed to be doing.
A month or two later, I noticed that I was happier. My head was clearer. I had fewer doubts and paid less attention to that snide play-by-play announcer in my head. ("But what will they think? You can't do it, you'll screw up, stupid...") And I realized that it was this book, "Ten Days to Self-Esteem," that had taught me the methods.
I'm currently eager and happy to be ordering a new copy. Exactly what I need. Yes, after rejecting it, now I'm coming back to it, because I *know* now how good it was for me.
Yes, some of the ideas Dr. Burns presents are "common sense" -- but not ALL of them. Your thoughts control your emotions. But -- controlling your thoughts! -- THAT idea takes a while to really sink in. Do you commonly stop in the middle of a hands-on project or trip to the store, etc., to say to yourself, "I don't like these thoughts... I'll think of something happier now"? No! We just let them run on auto-pilot, dictated by outside circumstances or internal dialogue. It takes real effort to step in and say, "STOP. You're wrong. And I'll prove it - right now."
Seriously, I know this all seems simple now. But I guarantee you, in a few months you'll look back at this book and realize you only THOUGHT you got it, at first. (I'd already read several books on these topics, but THIS one was the one that actually drastically helped my depression.) Reading this book is a valuable investment in your future.
Curing yourself of depression is like climbing out of a sinkhole - lots of resistance at first, more and more ground gained as you go, becoming faster and easier. It's natural to have negative thoughts about this book at first. And I don't expect you to believe me about the "faster and easier" part until you get there, heh. But you will.
Still have doubts about buying the book? Well, I'll say it here, so you can see how irrational it sounds outside of your own head: "I don't want to read this book if it will only help me a little. I'd rather be totally sick until I get a shot at being instantly cured."
In other words, I'm begging you: Buy it. Give it a chance. Make sure you memorize the Distortions list; that alone can save your life. This book WILL help you.
Other books that have helped me tremendously with overcoming depression: "Learned Optimism" by Martin Seligman ; "Living Fearlessly" by Rhonda Britten. Check those out, too. Good luck!