Bibliotherapy and libraries

There are strong links between bibliotherapy and libraries. The concept of bibliotherapy dates back to 300 BC, when ancient civilisations placed inscriptions over library entrances stating that within the building was healing for the soul. The early connection to libraries is even traced to William Shakespeare’s tragedy Titus Andronicus, in which Titus says ‘Come and take choice of all my library, And so beguile they sorrow…’


Bibliotherapy in INCITE March 2015, volume 36, issue 3, pp. 24-25.

2014 AHI Creative Ideas Convention

Words That Heal was in Sydney to present, be inspired and have fun at the 2014 Arts Health Institute Creative Ideas Convention, held at Luna Park Sydney 24-25 November. What an inspiring two days about engaging and connecting through creative arts. Thank you Arts Health Institute for the opportunity to present on creative bibliotherapy.

There was even free rides at lunch time for some additional Wild Mouse roller coaster pulse-pounding therapy!

Here is a great video from the convention, talking about the importance of creativity, connection and imagination in healing

Luna Park SydneyoWild Mouse

NSW Public Libraries conference Mudgee November 2014

NSW PL conference 2014

Me in the middle with Debbie Hicks from the UK’s Reading Agency (R) and Jan Richards Manager Central West Libraries  (L).

Thank you NSW PL conference committee for the opportunity to speak on ‘Books, Community and Wellbeing’

Conference highlight – meeting Debbie Hicks

NSW Public Libraries Conference 2014: Libraries & Community Wellbeing. Two full days of fabulous speakers and interesting presentations, including:

Debbie Hicks on Books on Prescription in the UK. Amazing work – over 7000 prescribing partners.

Bernard Salt on literacy and population

Jens Nordentoft with the four room model of public libraries in Denmark

Social media and community engagement by Mylee Joseph

Michael Caulfield – Australians at War – documenting personal stories

Tony Coggins asking can money buy happiness?

and another highlight – the Mudgee red wine …

Healing Words – From a General Practitioner


Jacinta Halloran is a Melbourne GP, she has written for The Sunday Age and Inside Story. Her short stories have been published in New Australian Stories 2 and The Pen and the Stethoscope. Her first novel, Dissection, was published in 2008 followed by Pilgrimage  in 2012. Her third novel The Science of Appearances was published in 2016.

Dissection was shortlisted for the 2007 Victorian Premier’s Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. Pilgrimage was shortlisted for the 2014 Barbara Jefferis Award.  The Science of Appearances will be launched at the 2016 Melbourne Writers’ Festival.

Halloran’s novels explore moral and philosophical issues as her characters transition through common human experiences: birth and miscarriage, raising children, marital breakdown, illness and death of a family member. Halloran’s fiction is character-based, and she writes in such a way that the reader understand her characters’ actions from a deeply interior point of view. Readers are able to see inside the mind of another, to discover ways of thinking and being, as Halloran explores her characters’ doubts, grief and regrets.

As a GP, Halloran prescribes fiction and creative non-fiction (usually memoir) to her patients to provide an opportunity for them to empathise with characters, put words to their own feelings, and explore themes as a way of providing a new perspective on a problem.

Halloran – as both a GP interested in supporting good mental health, and an author – works with words in all areas of her life for the therapeutic benefits they bring both to her patients and her readers.

Words That Heal at the Melbourne Writers Festival

MWF photo (2)At the 2014 Melbourne Writers Festival I was a guest speaker in the session ‘Words that Heal’ on bibliotherapy (the use of literature to help people deal with psychological, social and emotional problems). Writer and journalist Jane Sullivan chaired the 60-minute conversation between myself and writer/general practitioner Jacinta Halloran. I spoke on the background and uses of bibliotherapy including a psycho-social rehabilitation unit within the criminal justice area and with homeless and at risk people. I also spoke about a wellbeing focused bibliotherapy program I have developed in collaboration with a psychologist and general practitioner.

The session attracted much interest with 400 bookings and received some pleasing feedback.

Congratulations on your session at the Writers Festival. I really enjoyed your session on Friday morning, it was such an unexpected surprise – I had no idea that the session was on bibliotherapy & your amazing work. Every year I go to the festival & come across surprise gems – and your session was certainly that for me – so refreshing to hear and learn how you are using literature to work in transformative ways.

The possibilities of bibliotherapy resonate with so many, as people search for more meaningful ways to connect.