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”).

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