Have you ever wondered why reading books or writing down your thoughts seem to put you at ease after a stressful day?
Bibliotherapy, simply put, is the use of literature to uplift one’s mental health. Aside from reading books, it also includes storytelling and creative writing within therapeutical contexts to help us nurture our sense of well-being.
Among its benefits reported by Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, Ed.D. and Paula McMillen, Ph.D. through the American Counseling Association is its effectiveness in promoting problem-solving, increasing compassion, developing empathetic understanding and enhancing self-awareness.
Historically, literature has been used as a healing method as far back as the ancient Greek period when Grecian libraries were viewed as sacred places with curative powers. Physicians like Benjamin Rush and Minson Galt II also used it in the early nineteenth century as an intervention technique for mental health treatment and rehabilitation. Returning soldiers during the two world wars were also advised to use bibliotherapy as a way of dealing with their physical and emotional concerns.
In terms of professional practice, the therapeutical use of literature is approached in two ways. Utilized by mental health practitioners, clinical bibliotherapy addresses emotional-behavioral problems and conditions including abuse, behavioral issues, chemical dependency and self-destructive behaviors. Meanwhile, developmental bibliotherapy is employed by educators, librarians and healthcare workers as a way of facilitating normal growth and development, especially for children.
There are many methods and frameworks for bibliotherapy since it depends on what issues need to be addressed. Among these is creative bibliotherapy, which uses literature that encourages one’s imagination to run like novels, short stories, poetry, plays and biographies, in order to improve psychological well-being.
Best seen in works of fiction, this method entails one to identify with a character and experience an emotional catharsis, which results in gaining insight about their own situation. This connection helps in the healing process and maintaining everyday well-being as well, especially in situations where you’re unable to directly or physically encounter the experiences that these pieces of literature present.
So, go ahead and pick up that book on your shelf when you’re feeling down—that might just be the therapeutical fix that you need.
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Writer: YANN MAGCAMIT