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Bibliotherapy: reading for therapeutic purposes

Find out more about the role books can play in improving your health

Written by Emily Garber and posted in health

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Many young adults and adults alike do not prefer to openly seek help with their social and mental stressors and disorders through counseling or therapy, but with Bibliotherapy all you have to do is read a book to get the same results.

Bibliotherapy is the use of books for therapeutic purposes, providing psychological therapy for people experiencing emotional and physical difficulties.

The effectiveness of Bibliotherapy has been well established in clinical trials. Bibliotherapy has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) UK as a useful start in treating mild and moderate depression, anxiety and panic and some other mental health problems. 

In a position paper on mental health and primary care in the UK the Royal College of General Practitioners said: “Personal choice and autonomy are critical in maintaining mental health. Often people want to help themselves, approaching the family and peer group before coming into contact with primary care. When asked, people repeatedly say that they want to learn how to manage their own problems for themselves as well as draw upon resources in the community." 

Power of Words in the North Inner City

In March 2007, the North Inner City Partnership in Primary Care (Dublin) and Dublin City Public Libraries started the first book prescription scheme in Ireland, led by Elaine Martin, HSE Senior Psychologist. The objective of the North Inner City Book Prescription Scheme is to give GPs, mental health professionals and patients alternatives in the treatment approach to some mild and moderate mental health difficulties. The scheme provided GPs and other professionals with a list of high quality self-help books to recommend to their patients if they felt necessary. The books were stocked by local libraries and therefore readily accessible. 

Over 2,500 books were issued from six inner city libraries in the first year of the scheme. Since that time similar local initiatives have sprung up throughout the country.

Here are some recommended books for various mental and social issues among young people by the Library Council of Ireland, the HSE and the Irish College of General Practitioners.

Addiction: 7 Tools to Beat Addiction by Shanton Peele, Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading, and Threatening by Robert Meyers & Brenda Wolfe

Alcohol:  An Introduction to Sensible Drinking by Marcantonio Spada

Anger: Overcoming Anger and Irritability by William Davies

Anxiety: An Introduction to Coping With Anxiety by Brenda Hogan & Lee Brosnan, Things Might Go Terribly Horribly Wrong: A Guide to Life Liberated From Anxiety by Kelly Wilson & Tony DuFrene

Childhood Sexual Abuse: An Introduction to Overcoming Childhood Trauma by Helen Kennerly, Breaking Free: Help for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse by Carolyn Ainscough & Kay Toon

Depression: Coming Through Depression by Tony Bates, An Introduction to Coping with Depression by Lee Brosnan & Brenda Hogan

Eating Problems: An Introduction to Coping with Eating Problems by Gillian Todd, Overcoming Bulimia Nervosa & Binge-Eating by Peter Cooper, Anorexia Nervosa: A Survival Guide for Families, Friends and Sufferers by Janet Treasure

Obsessive Compulsive Problems: An Introduction to Coping with OCD by Lee Brosnan

Relationships: Hold Me Tight: Seven Conservations for a Lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson

Self- Esteem: An Introduction to Improving Your Self-Esteem by Melanie Fennell with Lee Brosnan, The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris


Follow this link to see the full list of books on the HSE website.

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Published March 15th, 2017
Tags books reading bibliotherapy
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