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  • Isara Moriya

Mindfull X Shield - Books and Therapy (Bibliotherapy)

Book therapy, also called bibliotherapy, is a form of therapeutic support that provides information, support, and guidance through stories. Writing and reading have been a part of human culture for centuries. Words and language are among the most important social tools people use. Not only did people need books, they used books for leisure time. The art of writing and the joy of reading stand the test of time, with new books being published daily. Therefore, it’s a shame that social media and electronics have taken the world by storm. Reading books is now sadly associated with schoolwork and being “boring”. However, this is often not the case. Rather, books can create a magical experience of transporting yourself outside of your world. It can also have calming and therapeutic properties depending on the type of book.

With bibliotherapy, there are four different types: 

  1. Creative bibliotherapy: read stories, poems, and fiction and often discuss with a group

  2. Developmental bibliotherapy: use books for educational purposes, often used by parents to talk about adolescent issues like puberty

  3. Prescriptive bibliotherapy: use self-help books to modify and identify thought patterns, feelings, and actions

  4. Therapeutic bibliotherapy: combines other types of therapy to manage issues

In real-world applications, Sam Gladding, PhD, explains the use of books in therapy. It is a “dynamic three-way interaction involving the use of a book, a counselor, and a client.” The counselor would assign a book to the client for them to read. The story or protagonist of the book must relate directly to the client’s sufferings. When the client finishes the book, they and the counselor will discuss the different coping strategies the protagonist used and their applicability to the client’s situation. Chad Perman, a licensed marriage and family therapist, speaks about other benefits of books in therapy. Perman may assign a book to his client to read outside of sessions to engage empathy, self-growth, intentions, and conversation. 

Reading, in general, has enormous benefits. Not only does it engross us in a new world, but it also enhances our sense of well-being. It can help readers make sense of their world. A study using neuroimaging found that “participants who read more narrative fiction had greater activation of parts of the prefrontal cortex involved in perspective-taking when reading text containing social context.” This activation may be one factor in the correlation between lifetime reading and understanding other people’s thought processes. Additionally, some research results show that the benefits of reading last for months, even years, after reading a book. It can reduce depression symptoms and increase the lifespan of readers. 

With bibliotherapy, these positive effects are more specified. For example, issues with anger management, shyness, social behavior, racism, grief, and many more can be addressed through book therapy. Participants may gain further insight into the personal challenges they face, improving self-awareness and formulating strategies to deal with those challenges. While there is a positive trajectory in research results, bibliotherapy’s efficacy still needs further research and investigation. 

Bibliotherapy is used in support of other therapy styles and is appropriate for all ages and numbers of people. It is a rather low-cost therapy, and it may provide you with extra years to live. Whether you’re picking up a good book for pleasure, or you have been assigned a book to read and reflect on, both will bring about positive outcomes and will nurture your mind and soul. So why don’t you pick up that book that’s been sitting on the shelf for months? It’s about time. 

Writer: Isara Moriya 




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