Bibliotherapy: reading for your mental health


Books have long been used for learning and relaxation purposes, but did you know that they also have the power to soothe minds?

Reading proves not only beneficial for your education but also your mental health. We know what you might be thinking: what do books have to do with psychology? Well, a lot! The concept has been studied for years, being popular ever since ancient times; hence scientists discovered the incredible power of words on your health. Thus, if you are dealing with difficult emotions, anxiety, or depression symptoms, therapists might recommend this method to make sense of what is happening in your mind and overcome mental well-being challenges.

Therefore, let us find out what bibliotherapy is all about!

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What is bibliotherapy?

Bibliotherapy, also known as therapeutic storytelling or poetry therapy, is a psychodynamic model that encourages cognitive change. In other words, it is the use of books as a treatment for various medical conditions, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction, and grief. It has entered into the medical vocabulary as the process of using literature to improve your life and solve personal challenges. Books are, obviously, the main components of bibliotherapy literature, but there are also formats like quotes, magazines, and blogs that are used successfully in this kind of therapy.

Depending on your specific situation, specialists in the field will recommend books that best suit your needs. Thus, bibliotherapy is not about reading everything on the shelf but about finding books that resonate with you at a profound level and at that very moment. It has become a common strategy in many treatment approaches, being used either as a stand-alone treatment or an adjunct part of the treatment process. Patients dealing with depression or PTSD may also follow medication treatment or other therapeutic methods. And if you somehow have doubts about bibliotherapy’s effectiveness, learn that there are science-backed facts that support its efficacy in treating various medical conditions, from anxiety and PTSD to depression. The European Journal of Public Health has studied the effects of bibliotherapy on treating depression and found that the results of this treatment are often long-lasting.

It might be similar to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) since both address a common issue; anyway, the difference is that bibliotherapy is mainly used to support other forms of treatment, not as a stand-alone therapy.

Types of bibliotherapy

Different types of bibliotherapy can be used based on your mental well-being issues. These include:

Developmental bibliotherapy

As its name also suggests, developmental bibliotherapy is used for educational purposes. Parents or teachers frequently use it to help teenagers and children deal with the physical and psychological changes during a natural life transition – puberty. If you have a teenager in your life, it would be a nice idea to give them such a self-improvement book as a gift. Maybe they will never recognize it, but they might be dealing with a developmental crisis or low self-esteem, so you would help them a lot if you gave them a book to help them cope with these challenging emotions. To make the situation more, let us say, colorful, consider wrapping the book with tape and, for an extra effect, use a tulle ribbon – teenagers are in love with colors and glitter.

Creative bibliotherapy

This type of therapy implies stories, poems, and fiction that help individuals understand better what they are going through. These books address similar problems and scenarios that the patient may deal with in real life and take the reader through three stages: identification, catharsis, and insight. The identification stage, for example, refers to the process in which the client identifies with one of the characters in the book, which helps them understand that they are not alone in this fight and gives them hope that they can overcome their challenges.

Therapeutic bibliotherapy

It is the clinical therapy that helps patients cope with mental issues like depression and addiction, often as an addition to other types of treatment. It can be provided by a certified poetry therapist (CPT), certified applied poetry facilitator (CAPF), or a registered poetry therapist (PTR). The idea is that a professional in the field will handle your case, so you do not have to worry that you fall into the wrong hands.

Prescriptive bibliotherapy

Therapists often employ this therapy to prescribe patients different reading materials to treat issues like anger, anxiety, or empty nest syndrome. This treatment is not limited only to self-improvement books; it may also include self-help workbooks with techniques and exercises specially made to ease emotional pain.

Benefits of bibliotherapy

Some of the most recognized benefits of book therapy include:

  • helps normalize experiences: as we already mentioned, identifying with a particular character in a book makes you see beyond what you once thought was a fighting-alone battle. Normalizing your experiences will make things easier to handle and give you the necessary motivation to talk about them and free yourself from emotional burden.
  • provides practical coping skills: reading a book you resonate with may not only relax your mind, but it can also provide practical advice on how to deal with everyday problems. One of your biggest fears is not knowing how to act in a particular situation, but if you learn how various characters handle their issues, you will follow their lead.
  • increases the capacity to mentalize: mentalization is something that most people thrive to achieve, but learn that it is not that hard “to be aware of being aware”: books can help you understand both your mind and the mind of others. This is due to the fact that you read having the narrative voice of another in mind, which means you will see everything in perspective.
  • both a hobby and an intervention: what is great about bibliotherapy is that it can be used as both a hobby and treatment. If you are a bibliophile, you will surely enjoy every page read, and even if not so, you are likely to be moved by something you read.


Did you enjoy our insights into the famous concept of bibliotherapy? Well, maybe you will use it sometimes. Until then, continue your self-discovery through books – you are on the right path.

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