Patients and health purchasers are demanding the provision of effective and accessible mental health treatments. Psychotherapeutic approaches are popular with patients, but access to specialist psychotherapy services is often limited. Other ways of offering treatment within the time and resources available to most practitioners need to be considered. One possible solution is the use of structured self-help materials that address common mental disorders such as depression. Self-help treatments are available in a variety of formats such as books, CD-ROMS, audio and videotapes. Evidence exists for their effectiveness; however, a relatively neglected area has been a discussion of the educational aspects of such materials. Self-help materials aim to improve patient knowledge and skills in self-management. They require very clear educational goals and a content and structure that is appropriate for those who use them. Such work will enhance the credibility, take-up, and effectiveness of self-help materials within clinical settings.