Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bibliotherapy II – Other Types of Books

What I want to talk about here is how bibliotherapy can be used by examining personal identification with a book or character, in a similar fashion as art therapy looks at a picture.

Looking at why a particular book or character is a favourite may aid in understanding the self more clearly. In novels where a character encounters a similar problem as the reader, there is opportunity to examine how each person dealt with the issue and what other possible solutions might be. Novels can be prescribed for such learning, examining how a character in a similar situation responds differently.

Reading itself can help with cognitive and memory problems; when you encounter a word you are not absolutely sure of, look it up in a dictionary; memorise a poem (preferably a positive one or one you can recite and work through in therapy). Also, of course, you are learning stuff along the way.

Books can widen your frame of mind and increase your empathy and creativity by showing you different cultures and ideas.

The more you learn from reading, the more your self-confidence will increase.

Reading can also be used in conjunction with CBT exercises such as pleasure and mastery skills and in distress tolerance.

Reading can be used to develop your social network, and cognition, through book clubs. It can help you develop social skills by going to a bookstore and asking for help. Libraries have regular literary events where you can meet new people. It can also be used as a way to bond with your child or partner.

I also review regular books here as well, so I’m not going to provide a list of recommended reading. What I do recommend though is to keep a variety of books on hand so if you find yourself in the mood for clinical literature instead of fiction, you have it there. You may find you enjoy reading different types of books at different times of the day. And don’t be afraid to read more than one book at a time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bibliotherapy I – Self-Help Books

Bibliotherapy is when a person is either prescribed a self-help book from a therapist or decides to work through one on their own. The amount of therapist involvement can vary greatly, though generally I advise people to have some supervision. Bibliotherapy may prove helpful in most psychiatric disorders, although it is less effective for thought disorders or psychoses.

In one study, bibliotherapy was one of 4 self-help treatments all of which showed a decrease in alcohol consumption, even at 1 year follow up.

A meta-analytic study, looking at self-help books, concluded, “…bibliotherapy may be moderately effective…” but had inadequate information on whom the therapy might work best for.

Another study found bibliotherapy to be effective in depressed older adults.

A 1994 study demonstrating the effectiveness of bibliotherapy in panic disorder to be similar to group therapy.

Another meta-analytic study found “…that bibliotherapy is an effective treatment for unipolar depression. Bibliotherapy is as effective as individual or group therapy.”

This is a newer study, meta-analysis again, which I am citing because it highlights an important point. The authors concluded there was insufficient evidence for the efficacy of bibliotherapy in a group aged 14 – 18 years. However, only one self-help book was used and there could be large variation in how an individual responds to a particular book. There is also the issue of how relevant the content of a book is to a particular age group (and this could be extended to groups of people with different types of disorders).

This is an interesting paper looking at the definitions of bibliotherapy and how to use it more effectively (it is targeted towards librarians working with children, but can easily be generalised).

There are many more studies in this area.

I have reviewed a couple of self-help books and will continue to do more. David Burns' The Feeling Good Handbook is very popular. I, however, found the content to be a little bit threatening. I suppose since it is so popular, I should review it in more detail…

Choosing a self-help book can be a very personal thing. You may find working with more than one to be helpful.

I have begun some revisions on typical CBT and DBT homework since I find most of the exercises dwell too much on the negative (search under label – “worksheets”).

Friday, January 8, 2010


...In the Lower Mainland.

Covenant House: 575 Drake Street, Vancouver , BC. 604-685-7474 or toll free at 1-877-685-7474.

“Covenant House has developed three core services (Community Support Services, CSS, which provides street outreach and a daily, non-residential, drop-in program; a 54 bed-, 24-hour crisis shelter; and Rights of Passage, ROP, a 6- 24 months transitional living program). These core services are supported by several in-house programs (drug and alcohol and mental health counselling, life-skills training etc.) designed to provide each young person with a "one-stop shop" approach to leaving the streets and achieving independence.”

Mood Disorders Association of BC: 202-2250 Commercial Drive,
Vancouver, BC. 604-873-0103.
The MDA website has a list of support groups all over BC as well as other educational events. has oodles of brochures.

British Columbia Schizophrenia Society:
BCSS has quite a few different programs. 604-270-784. 1-888-888-0029.

Early Psychosis Intervention Program:

The Force Society for Kids Mental Health:

Other sites: