The self-help or self-improvement industry is serious business. Consider:

1O Billions

In 2014, the self-help market in the US alone was worth nearly $10 billion.


Americans spent about $1.24 billion on self-improvement books and audiobooks in 2014.

Motivational Speakers

There are about 5000 motivational speakers in the US, who took in $5 billion in 2014.


70% of self-help consumers are women.

Holistic Institute

About 156,000 people visited a holistic institute in 2014.

Personal coaches

There are about 15,800 personal coaches in the US.

Gurus offering new tools

The industry is shifting: more gurus are holding webinars, creating apps, and offering other tools to reach consumers via the Internet.

But still, it is an industry with no licensing body, professional board, trade magazine, etc. It is full of self-proclaimed “professionals” whose training and skills may not match the services they’re offering. Despite the numbers, it is very much a “buyer beware” situation. *Numbers are based on MarketData Enterprise’s 2015 report, “The Market for Self-improvement Products and Services.” A public summary of key findings is here.

Self-help is a regular theme on TV shows, a huge section in every book store, and an enduring concept in popular culture. It’s not “fringe”; it’s all around us.

  • Dr. Phil, the self-improvement talk show, has been airing successfully since 2002, after his regular appearances on Oprah. He has also written a number of best-selling books and does other speaking engagements.
  • Popular self-improvement guru Tony Robbins had a talk show on NBC, Breakthrough With Tony Robbins, which aired in 2010
  • On the sitcom Friends, Chandler Bing listens to a self-hypnosis tape to quit smoking
  • On the comedy-drama Gilmore Girls, Luke Danes listens to a self-help CD to deal with depression.
  • On the reality show Mythbusters, cast members Grant Imahara, Tory Belleci, and Kari Byron tested the effectiveness of self-help CDs by attempting to cure Grant’s motion sickness and Adam Savage’s fear of bees, and to alter Kari’s eye color. All three tests proved unsuccessful, thus busting the myth.
  • On the drama Dexter, character Jordan Chase is a self help guru with a personality cult and the motto, “Take it!”
  • In the movie, Sex and the City (2008), Samantha is seen reading The Secret.
  • Jennifer Aniston’s character’s love interest in the 2009 movie, Love Happens, is a self-help guru who leads a “firewalking” challenge at his events
  • In the Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the title character had been taken in by a particularly persuasive guru played by Jon Hamm.
  • The messaging of celebrity weight loss gurus, such as Jillian Michaels, often slides into the broader self-improvement landscape in the further suite of products they offer.
  • Oprah has built a huge empire promoting self-help titles. She tours with a number of her favored authors and promotes other self-improvement “gurus” such as Deepak Chopra on her many platforms.
  • Real estate wealth building seminars often feature known self-help gurus such as Tony Robbins.