Bibliotherapy is a technique for book enthusiasts to use the power of words to heal.
Open the mysterious portal that books provide and we can explore our inner-most selves.
If you haven’t already I recommend checking out my broader article on the topic for more background.
In this article, we’ll examine how bibliotherapy is used in practice.
Here are some examples.
1. Self-directed Bibliotherapy
Anyone who’s ever read any books is already engaging in a form of the technique.
Reading as an activity has been shown to strengthen the connections within the brain and thus provide various health benefits.
Whenever you pick up a book you’re getting the same effects.
Whether that’s a work of fiction purely for relaxation purposes or nonfiction for concrete knowledge.
In the case of fiction, we might be subconsciously drawn to books that provide insight into our own lives through the story arc of the character.
If they’re experiencing challenging and obstacles we empathize and hold the fictional account up as a mirror, helping us to place our own reality into perspective.
In the case of nonfiction, we often explore topics related to the struggles we’re experiencing.
Just consult the best books section on this site for evidence of the plethora of psychological woes people face.
For example, self-help books have exploded in popularity as we seek direction in life.
More intentional bibliotherapy might involve seeking out specific works or using reader’s advisory services to find titles, authors and subjects that can address a particular issue such as grief, anxiety, or low self-esteem.
Usually, this is the first step in self-management and can provide the impetus required to seek professional help.
2. Clinical Bibliotherapy
Another example of books being used as a therapeutic modality is in a clinical setting.
In this approach, a qualified psychotherapist or counselor will supplement their sessions by prescribing homework to the clients, in the form of reading.
Most of the research up to now has focused on the use of nonfiction to provide study subjects with psychological tools and techniques to supplement their in-person therapy.
And the results have been extremely positive.
Cognitive behavioral therapy involves looking at the evidence behind our beliefs, and letting the theory provide a supportive framework for achieving this in reality.
Maximizing our understanding of how the brain and mind work is imperative to make the most of professional help.
For example, one of the highest ROI books I read in my own bibliotherapy was about meditation.
When I finally grasped that my thoughts were routinely spiraling out of control and how to use my attention to step back and observe them impartially, I was able to gain the psychological distance needed to calm my frantic mind.
3. Developmental Bibliotherapy
The young adult genre in literature has exploded in recent years as authors and publishers acknowledge that there’s a growing demand from this demographic.
Adolescence brings with it a range of challenges, including discovering one’s identity and navigating relationships; books can provide a comforting and relatable outlet for these struggles.
Bibliotherapy is not a replacement or substitute for professional help, but a tool to be utilized alongside therapy or in the case of self-directed bibliotherapy, as a form of self-care and exploration.
Children are sponges, absorbing information from the world around them to integrate and forge their emerging personalities.
Bibliotherapy, used in such a transformative time, can be highly effective.
Allowing children to express themselves through open dialogue reduces any stigma surrounding their feelings and their inevitable cocktail of emotions.
Teaching life lessons through the medium of fictional stories on nonfiction role models provides them with the emotional tools they need to thrive.
For example, my own love of adventure books when I was young directly impacted my future travels.
They inspired me to eventually seek out foreign lands and when I encountered the usual obstacles, to treat such challenges as stories to tell the grandkids.
I directly attribute this mental resilience to the literature I enjoyed growing up.
These three primary bibliotherapy examples give you an idea of the transformative power of literature.
Aside from the instructional elements of the practice, there’s the simple fact that reading is an inherently pleasurable activity.
In fact, ask most bibliophiles what they would like, and the answer usually involves curling up with a good book.
But I think this activity can also be taken a step further, where we really investigate the literature for its personal significance, a step best achieved through writing therapy.
This is where we use stories as a way to explore and make sense of our lives, using writing as a springboard for self-discovery.
Writing Therapy and Bibliotherapy
- Choose a book that resonates with you on a personal level
- Reflect on the characters, plot and themes in relation to your own life
- Write about any personal connections or insights that arise
- Use prompts and exercises from the book, writing guides or creative writing classes
- Share with a therapist or trusted friend/family member for further processing and reflection
Writing therapy can be particularly helpful if we feel stuck in a rut or at a crossroads in our lives.
The act of putting pen to paper allows us to externalize our thoughts and emotions, leading to a release of pent-up energy and potential solutions to our problems.
Combined with the guidance and inspiration of literature, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and how to move forward in a positive direction.
So next time you resonate with a book, think about how it could potentially be used as a tool for self-exploration and growth.
Overall, books have the power to heal us, no matter how they’re used.
Whether we pick them up intentionally or stumble upon them, they can be a powerful tool for self-development.
So next time you’re looking for some personal or professional development, don’t forget to browse the available literature.
And if you’d like specific reading recommendations, consult our bibliotherapy service page for more information.