FAQ about bibliotherapy

Who will benefit from creative bibliotherapy sessions?

At different times, we all may find ourselves at different points between extremes of ‘high’ and ‘low’ on a scale of wellbeing, or extremes of ‘absent’ to ‘present’ on a scale of mental ill health. Creative bibliotherapy promotes good mental health, and thus supporting wellbeing for everyone.  Creative bibliotherapy is particularly beneficial for:

  • People who can attest to the power of good literature to improve mental wellbeing.
  • People who are experiencing stress due to work, divorce, mid-life crisis, but who may not be clinically depressed.
  • People who are experiencing difficulties through the various transitions in relationships and family and individual life cycles.
  • People dealing with illnesses and disabilities.
  • People dealing with psychological and emotional issues such as depression, stress and anxiety.
  • People who are interested in non-drug treatments to help them deal with life’s difficulties.
  • People who are interested in being part of a group without the expectations to do anything.

What does a bibliotherapy facilitator do?

Through creative bibliotherapy the facilitator is offering support, guidance and access to literature and it is the choice of the group member to respond to that or not. Literature can help people realise emotions, and the result can be that emotions deep inside are then able to be expressed and shared. The facilitator specifically selects a text to provide the main structure and focus for the group discussion. Group members are encouraged share stories relevant to themes discussed.

How does creative bibliotherapy link to wellbeing?

Wellbeing is broadly considered to mean the ‘level’ of life quality. Wellbeing has been recently defined as a ‘positive state of mind and body, feeling safe and able to cope, with a sense of connection with people, communities and the wider environment.’ There is a strong suggestion on the term ‘social’ in relation to connection and wellbeing. For someone experiencing social isolation there is not a choice about being withdrawn; this is why facilitation is necessary in offering the experience to participate in something. Creative bibliotherapy provides an opportunity to be with people without the pressure of the expectation of having to interact.

How did the Books on Prescription scheme start?

Early in the twenty-first century an interesting development between health professionals and librarians transpired in the UK when a Cardiff doctor, Dr. Neil Frude, developed a recommended reading list and piloted a partnership with Cardiff Libraries. In 2003, this became national policy in Wales. Books on Prescription schemes have since been adopted in Ireland, London and western New South Wales.

Is reading is good for you?

Research conducted by cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis in 2009 offers evidence that reading is good for you. In fact, the research showed reading works better and faster than other relaxation methods to reduce stress levels. Reading silently for six minutes reduced stress by 68 percent. This was higher than listening to music at 61 percent, having a ‘cuppa’ at 54 percent or going for a walk at 42 percent.

Psychologists attribute reading being good for you because the mind has to concentrate on reading so it becomes distracted and eases the tensions and round the heart and muscles. However, this is more than a distraction; it is an active engaging of the imagination which causes you to enter what is psychologists describe as an altered state of consciousness. Studies by Professors Keith Oatley and Dan Johnson are beginning to show a link to a correlation between reading fiction and developing empathy.

Is there much research on bibliotherapy?

There is a vast amount of publications in peer-reviewed journals that provides evidence of the efficacy of self-help bibliotherapy in providing treatment for an extensive range of psychological issues for both children and adults. More recent studies involving creative bibliotherapy have collected strong anecdotal evidence to show it has been successful to help individuals to deal with a wide range of psychological, emotional and social problems. Further endeavours to establish strong evidence bases around newer innovative applications will strengthen the theoretical base for the concept of using imaginative literature to maintain good mental health and support wellbeing.

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