Book Therapy: Literature and Mental Health.

 by Megan Hanna

Books have much more power then we subconsciously realise, most importantly they have the power to heal. In the last two decades, the use of book therapy has taken off as a form of therapy in the UK and subsequently the research and accessibility into the subject has increased. 

Book therapy, or more technically ‘bibliotherapy’, is a creative arts therapy that involves reading specific texts with the purpose of healing. Reading for this purpose is a way of understanding and exploring what is happening in your mind and body through a different perspective to your own, this can be highly beneficial for some and a crucial step in the healing journey. With this in mind there are four types of bibliotherapy: creative, developmental, prescriptive and therapeutic. Each of these are used in different settings and with different purposes. For example creative bibliotherapy is used in group settings and used for group based discussion, whereas developmental bibliotherapy is used in educational settings with the purpose of helping the exploration and development of emotions and behaviours in young children. 

All types of bibliotherapy have the intent of helping people along the journey of healing. Whether it is for a person's mental health or for societal problems, using books in therapy is highly effective. In recent studies it has been proven effective in long-term treatment for adults with mild depression. Additionally, it is highly successful in helping children, aged 5-16, with internalising behaviours (like anxiety) and externalising behaviours (like aggression. Bibliotherapy is also believed to be the most cost effective and versatile option for the treatment of many mental health issues. 

Moreover, there are many books on this topic and the impacts it has on lives. Highly recommended is the book ‘The Novel Cure’ by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin. The novel gives advice on how to tackle reading ailments like giving up halfway through and being overwhelmed by the number of books you have to read. It also recommends a book for every feeling, emotion and pivotal moment in your life.