Psychotherapy and counseling is just one of many ways that people can heal and get better. We can improve our emotional health and wellbeing without having to see a specialist. Talking therapies do not work for all. Some people get better by gardening, others by traveling solo and some get better by tidying up and cleaning.
Books as therapy
Book therapy or bibliotherapy refers to the use of literature to help people change, grow and heal from mental health challenges.
Bibliotherapy is not new. Even in ancient Greece books were seen as a source for healing. In Persian culture, readings of poetry such as Hafiz is used to heal and gain perspective during challenging or hopeless times.
Book therapy can be used in conjunction with traditional psychological therapy where the client can discuss their reading with a therapist or in a group setting. Facilitators are not always therapists, they can be librarians, social workers or teachers. Bibliotherapy can also be a standalone treatment modality where the client is prescribed a reading list they work through on their own.
Why can reading books help?
We do not yet know exactly why reading books can help. Both reading the text itself can be helpful as can be discussing the text with others. It is likely that for each individual there are somewhat different processes that happen.
When we connect and identify with the main character(s) in the book and follow their story until its final resolution, we get to experience their emotional journey from a distance. The character is not us, their challenges and pains are not ours. Going through the story is safe and yet, cathartic. The insights gained from the story can help us find meaning and perspective in our own lives.
Reading books that resonate with our life experiences help us also realize that we are not alone. This process is called universalization. Knowing that others have experienced similar challenges helps us understand that our suffering does not reflect our value as a human being.
Aurelia Psychology’s Book Clinic
This month at Aurelia Psychology we will answer common questions by offering you books to learn from, help you heal and grow stronger and develop into the person you want to be. As book lovers, we are very excited to share with our readers some of our favorite helping books.
Read, learn, and reflect on what resonates with you. Share your experience with us and ask us any questions you have about the readings. And if you’re not a reader, consider audio books! You can contact us here.
This article features the advice of a licensed expert, but it is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment from a trained professional. In an emergency, please seek help from your local medical or law enforcement services.