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How Bibliotherapy Can Help Deal With Depression

Bibliotherapy Can Help Deal With Depression

Bibliotherapy for depression is one of the most effective tools out there, and even though a lot of people might not know about this creative and expressive practice, its benefits are immense. So the questions now are how bibliotherapy helps depression, what are the benefits of bibliotherapy, and what is bibliotherapy in mental health? Let’s take a look.

Key Points

  • Bibliotherapy is a creative expressive art that offers research based benefits.
  • Engaging in bibliotherapy brings on emotional and cognitive shifts.
  • Bibliotherapy can help reduce symptoms in subclinical and mild depression.

Bibliotherapy is a creative arts therapy, where the reading of books can help a child or an adult move through emotional experiences. From fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or pictures books – a good dose of literature can provide support, education, and greater well-being.

Plugin to a good read.
Bibliotherapy for depression

Historically, bibliotherapy first appeared as a term and a book reading experience in the Atlantic Monthly in 1916. Later, in the 1930s, librarians began compiling lists of books and other written materials that could help individuals with trauma, thoughts, feelings, or behaviors for therapeutic purposes.

The key premise of bibliotherapy is that readers begin to identify with a particular character in the book, deepen their understanding of symptoms of depression, or learn more about the science behind mental health.

Related: Music Therapy: How Binaural Beats Music Can Help Reduce Depression

Types of Bibliotherapy

There are 5 types of bibliotherapy.

1. Creative bibliotherapy

A group experience, where fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or other forms of literature are pre-read and discussed by the group. Think book club.

2. Developmental bibliotherapy

An educational experience, used at schools or in homes, where fiction or nonfiction is used to help explain human development. Think birds-and-the-bees teaching moments.

3. Prescriptive bibliotherapy

A clinical experience, where books are used to help teach, modify, shift or acquire newly learned skills. Think Dialectical Behavior Therapy, etc.

Related: How Dark Chocolate Can Help You Fight Depression

4. Therapeutic bibliography

Where fiction, poetry, or nonfiction books are recommended as additional reading alongside traditional psychotherapy. Think reading “Wishful Drinking” while addressing one’s own addiction in therapy sessions.

5. Informal bibliotherapy

Where you, the reader, choose a book that speaks to you and what you’re dealing with in life.

Benefits of Bibliotherapy

Engaging in bibliotherapy brings on emotional and cognitive shifts. Studies report many positive outcomes, including reduction of negative emotions, deepening insight, increased empathy and compassion, greater social connection, heightened awareness, more successful problem solving, just to name a few.

Even during COVID, bibliotherapy was shown to help children and adults feel more grounded emotionally and physically about the pandemic.

When it comes to depression, research reports that bibliotherapy can ease subclinical or mild depressive symptoms. It is not solely recommended as a therapy for individuals who have moderate or severe symptoms of depression. While you can use bibliotherapy in creative, developmental, prescriptive, and therapeutic ways, you can also find success reading informally.

Reading can reduce stress.
bibliotherapy for depression

Tips for Using Informal Bibliotherapy

1. Do a “need” inventory. 

What is it that you’d like to know about your depression? Diagnosis? Traditional treatments? Experimental treatments? Maybe you want to read a fictional story about someone living with depression. Or might a memoir or biography be of interest? Zero in on the issue so you can streamline your bibliotherapy search.

Related: 5 Things To Do When You Feel Sad All The Time Even When Life Is Good

2) Librarian or Google. 

Now that you know what theme you’re looking for, consider going to your local library and finding a librarian who can guide you to the best books. Or, if you prefer a less social approach, do an online search for books on the subject.

A library is a hospital for the mind.
bibliotherapy for depression
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Deborah Serani

As a young girl, Deborah Serani descended into a debilitating depression - and at age 19, became suicidal. The fallout from this major depressive episode required her to take a medical leave from college in order to recover. Crediting psychotherapy as life-saving, she directed her focus to the field of psychology. Now in practice for 30 years in New York, Dr. Serani uses her personal experiences with depression to inform her professional work as a clinician, author, and professor. Dr. Serani is a go-to expert for psychological issues, with interviews in Newsday, The Chicago Tribune, Women's Health and Fitness, The New York Times, Scientific American Mind, and affiliate radio programs at CBS and NPR, just to name a few. Dr. Serani has also worked as a technical advisor for the NBC television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.View Author posts