The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme with a prompt featuring a book related question. The hop begins on a Friday and ends on a Thursday and should hopefully give people the opportunity to learn something new about the blogger.
The Book Blogger Hop can be found on Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer and obviously my answers can be found here!
My first thought when I saw this weeks question was, “Oooh!”
My second was, “I best get researching!”
Until this popped up onto my hop list I’d never heard of Bibliotherapy. Now, I’m a (semi) intelligent woman so gathered the following:-
- Biblio – book
- Therapy – um, well…. therapy
But I believe in order to express my opinion about something I should know, to the best of my ability, what that something is. So while I gathered that Bibliotherapy was utilizing books for therapeutic activity I didn’t really know what was involved.
I’m going to strip this back a bit and break this post into chunks. As we all know what books are I’m going to do a summary on therapy.
First Disclaimer: I am not an expert in therapy at all, my credentials are pretty summed up as:-
- Likes to research things
- Has BSc Psychology degree (I guess that’s somewhat useful)
Second Disclaimer: If you don’t know what books are you may want to strip this post back even further than this section but alas, I can’t help you. Frankly, no one can help you.
Here we go.
Just like there are a variety of options for everything in this world, there isn’t one ‘type’ of therapy. There are multiple approaches and therapists can focus on several models or choose a specialist area or therapeutic technique.
I could list a whole ton of therapies but as Wikipedia has already done this, I don’t have to.
Let’s get on metaphorical for a second: If therapeutic approaches are branches growing from a ‘therapy tree’ than the roots start from Psychology.
In a nutshell, Psychology is the study of human behaviour and the human mind but there are many fields of Psychology that focus on different areas. Just to name two examples:-
- Social Psychology – looks at how and why people think and behave in conjunction with others
- Evolutionary Psychology – looks at how and why people think and behave as a result of being a living organism that has adapted to survive and thrive in their environment
Believe me – there are plenty more.
Therapists look at the related area of Psychology in order to underpin their chosen treatment. First comes love and then comes marriage. Or alternatively, first comes theory and then comes practice.
Just like there isn’t one ‘type’ of therapy, there isn’t one ‘type’ of person.
This means that if person A finds a particular approach works for them but person B doesn’t, it doesn’t mean that the approach doesn’t work – it just didn’t work for person B.
Sometimes it’s not even the approach. It can be the right approach but wrong therapist.
A key component in therapy is the therapist.
As there is a significant interpersonal relationship between therapist and patient the qualities that the therapist should bring to the session are those that the individual would find inherent in any positive human relationship that affects their thoughts and feelings.
Key word: positive.
If this isn’t the case then it doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong type of therapy, it could mean that you have the wrong therapist for you.
I also believe that everything that has an impact on you should have an end goal; whether that’s a meeting, presentation or a therapy session. You need to know what you want to get out of an interaction before you go into said interaction.
That way you get to adjust it accordingly.
In Gerry’s technical terms – you need to know the thing you want to get out of the thing which is why you’re doing the thing. That thing is different for everybody and different things work for different people.
Clear as mud? Absolutely. See my first disclaimer, I have no credentials.
So now we’ve got my summaries as to what therapy and individual differences are out of the way I can move onto the specific therapy which the question is asking about: Bibliotherapy.
What is the point of Bibliotherapy?
That comes down to those individual differences and what the individual wants to get out of their therapeutic experience. It would be the same if that individual decided to try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Music Therapy.
What then, is Bibliotherapy?
Before I did The Research, I thought it was either:-
- Reading self-help books
- Reading books that are about certain topics to act as a catharsis
- Reading books for enjoyment and the fact that you are enjoying them acts as a stress reliever
Bibliotherapy aims to provide help to someone via exploring their relationship with books and to guide them towards books that help them focus on certain feelings or new perspectives.
Self help books may actually form part of the ‘prescription’ (NB: practitioners don’t call it a ‘reading list’) but they aren’t a prerequisite. The books recommended may have nothing to do with self-help or mental health and can be fiction, non-fiction, scripts or poetry.
The reading list or ‘prescription’ that are recommended can include books designed to enhance positive moods or can involve books that may have shared or related experiences to what the individual is going through. These may not be considered ‘positive’ as such but cathartic.
Although I think that Bibliotherapy is potentially intriguing to those who naturally enjoy reading, it is this potential cathartic approach which could mean that Bibliotherapy isn’t always a journey into relaxation that a patient may be expecting.
Apparently there are three stages of the Bibliotherapy process:-
- The individual needs to connect with the text or characters within the text
- The text needs to be able to help the individual connect with their emotion
- Insight needs to be able to be provided into the individual’s own situation and the individual needs to be allowed to consolidate their feelings
Instead of just giving someone a list of books, a Bibliotherapist would try to understand their patient including their concerns and what they’re aiming to achieve. There would also be discussions afterwards as to how the patient is feeling.
Sometimes a recommended text may make you feel worse before you feel better. Mental health therapy isn’t necessarily meant to be fun in the same way physiotherapy wouldn’t necessarily be fun for someone re-learning how to walk.
If you think Bibliotherapy is a new concept that think again, Ladies and Gents. Ancient Greeks used poetry as a way of therapy and in the 5th Century a Greek tragedian called Aeschylus said that ‘words are the physician of the mind diseased’ which seems like a slightly offensive way of saying that some of us find comfort and healing with words.
When I read ‘A Monster Calls’ I cried so hard it hurt. Luckily I’d finished reading the book in the privacy of my own living room rather than the train which is where I almost finished reading it.
I’m talking snot, actual streaming Blair Witch style snot.
The book is about a young boy’s mum who is dying of terminal cancer. You as the reader know she’s going to die as it’s the inevitable ending to a sad story and so you’re just waiting for the protagonist to acknowledge the truth of what he’s been denying.
It’s a sad story that plays on the heartstrings but it hit me particularly hard – not because this has played out the same way with my mum but because when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, death and suffering before that death became a rather realistic fear of mine.
I enjoyed A Monster Calls but I enjoyed it in part because of the cathartic factor it brought to me. Was it a fun read? No. Did I enjoy sobbing into my sofa? No. Did the cat have a great time while I chased after her just so I had something cute and small and soft to hug? No, no she did not.
If reading is someone’s hobby than there’s a chance that they’re going to find it therapeutic on some level because of all those lovely endorphins. But something that’s therapeutic doesn’t mean it’s considered to be therapy.
Book clubs and book blogging may make us feel lovely but quite often we aren’t opening up our issues and then discussing them. Apart from me in that example above. Ahem.
If Bibliotherapy works for someone I think it’s because of what books allow us to do, namely we fill in the blanks and when we fill in those blanks we tend to fill them with thoughts of ourselves. That also includes those who extend out from ourselves.
My opinion on Bibliotherapy is the same as my opinion on all therapy approaches. Just because I happen to be a book lover doesn’t mean this approach would automatically work for me and it’s not an approach that I would assume could be applied to everyone.
There is always a complicated relationship between the therapy approach, the therapist administering the approach and the person receiving the therapy. Not all the stars will align and neither will those factors.
You can’t compare outcomes from one person to another but my opinion on Bibliotherapy could really be summed up as, ‘if it works for someone and helps them feel good about themselves, their life and their world then that’s a wonderful thing.’
Hopefully this wasn’t too intense a blog post for you this week? As usual I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below and if anyone has ever tried Bibliotherapy I would love to know your thoughts on it!
Next week’s post is a somewhat lighter topic where I answer what are some of the most memorable books that I’ve read as a child and what made them memorable. If I can remember…
See you next time!