Do you ever feel like a book was written solely for you?
Perhaps you resonate with the protagonist in a work of fiction or feel like a self-help author is writing the definitive clinical case study of you.
If literature strikes the proverbial chord, you may use books as a refuge from a dark cruel world, seeking solace in words.
Join the glorious club. If you use bibliotherapy in such a way, you might be curious about the types of book therapy on offer.
Well, here they are.
Bibliotherapy, also known as “book therapy,” is the use of literature to aid in emotional healing and personal growth.
This practice can take many forms, including guided reading with a therapist or self-guided exploration of literature on one’s own.
Types of Bibliotherapy
Here are some common types of bibliotherapy:
1. Prescriptive bibliotherapy
This approach uses literature to help individuals challenge and change their thought patterns and behaviors.
This approach has the most research supporting its use in a clinical context, and is often employed by qualified therapists as an adjunct to traditional forms of treatment, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.
As such, it might sometimes be termed therapeutic bibliotherapy.
You can see in the very books section on this site, that there’s no shortage of personal development literature.
Even since ancient Greece, humans have been obsessed with figuring out how to live a good life.
And our approach to that question has become ever more scientific, with research-based psychology books emerging every year to challenge long-held assumptions about the human brain.
The plethora of titles on every topic means that whether you’re suffering from depression or simply want to develop your leadership skills, there’s something for you.
Additionally, if you prefer a more scientific approach to the topic of emotional regulation, then using non-fiction books to understand the theory behind your behavior can be a valuable tool.
Interestingly, according to research, the most important element of the treatment is the selection of the content rather than an individual’s interactions with a therapist.
Accordingly, the most important factors in its application seem to be the empirical strength of the research presented in the literature, the reputation of the author, and a comparative review of other material on the subject.
- A plethora of books on every conceivable topic
- These non-fiction self-help titles are often supported by cutting-edge research
- This type of literature is extremely actionable
Books on Prescription
This type of bibliotherapy is a scheme that uses literature prescribed by a therapist or healthcare professional, and as such might be considered an extension of the above.
As discussed, these books are often chosen based on their effectiveness in treating specific mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.
Book prescriptions may accompany traditional therapy sessions, and can also be accessed through healthcare systems in some countries (such as the UK’s Books on Prescription program).
2. Creative bibliotherapy
This method encourages individuals to find meaning and personal growth through exploring the stories and experiences of characters in literature.
Let’s face it – it’s easy to put up resistance to advice and suggestions, especially when you’re struggling with mental health issues.
Consuming normal non-fiction with eye-numbing research and statistics can make some readers fall asleep from boredom.
However, put the same problems before them in a narrative format and it can light the self-help fire.
Why do you think storytelling is so prevalent in marketing?
Because those savvy shiny-shoes and suit-wearing folks in their glass offices know that stories tap into that atavistic parts of ourselves, bypassing our well-worked bullshit filters.
If we follow a character through the hero’s journey as they encounter the same trials and tribulations we face in our lives, we resonate on a primal level, and in so doing, learn how to overcome the challenges we face.
- Can read stories, poems and fiction in a group
- When we read about events, the brain imagines we are the ones experiencing those events
- Powerful to develop empathy and self-observation
- Undermines skepticism associated with normal self-help literature
3. Developmental Bibliotherapy
Children are like sponges, and reading has been shown to be one of the most important developmental activities they can undertake.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that bibliotherapy can also be effective on early learners.
As well as providing likable characters that impart vital life lessons on how to overcome daily challenges and obstacles, literature provides the language needed for children to express themselves, including difficult thoughts and feelings.
When the books are discussed with an adult, these techniques become even more powerful, fostering an open dialogue and teaching children that it’s safe to vocalize such topics.
As such, this type of bibliotherapy involves using literature to help children learn coping skills, understand and process difficult emotions, and develop a positive self-image.
- Children are very receptive to this intervention
- Reading has hugely positive developmental effects on the human brain
- Children can engage in an enjoyable activity, while learning to express themselves in a safe space
No matter the type of bibliotherapy used, this approach can be a valuable tool either for personal growth or in the therapy arsenal.
It allows for the exploration of emotions and personal growth through storytelling, providing a non-threatening way for individuals to gain insight and understanding through the exploration of literature.
It can also be a helpful method for personal growth outside of therapy settings.
If you are interested in incorporating bibliotherapy into your own therapeutic journey or self-exploration, consider seeking out specific reading groups online or in your area.
Please note: Bibliotherapy should not be used as a replacement for traditional therapy or medical treatment. It is meant to supplement these approaches, not replace them. If you are experiencing mental health concerns, please seek professional help from a therapist or healthcare provider.