“Bibliotherapy” is based in part on research by the Welsh psychiatrist, Dr. Neil Frude, who noticed that some of his patients had begun reading about their mental health conditions while awaiting treatment – and some of the self-help books appeared to help.
British doctors are prescribing such titles as “Overcoming Depression,” “Mind Over Mood” and “The Feeling Good Handbook” for patients diagnosed with depression, and they’re prescribing other books for patients with such conditions as obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, anxiety and eating disorders.
The term bibliotherapy was first coined in 1916 by the American clergyman Samuel Crothers, who noticed that books could influence a person’s mood, and physicians and social workers have been recommending books to help others with their problems.
But researchers have found that some self-help books read under a therapist’s supervision are about as effective for treating depression as individual or group therapy.
Another study found that books could effectively treat anxiety, even without a therapist’s guidance, although the effects have been shown to be relatively short-term.
But as budgets for mental health treatment are slashed in the U.S. and Britain, physicians have found that books are, quite literally, better than nothing.
Even if recommended titles do nothing more than crowd out misinformation found in print or online, doctors say bibliotherapy justifies the cost of the book.
The Reading Agency has also suggested some fiction and poetry titles for patients with specific mental health conditions, although the group cautions that its recommendations are nominated by reading groups and not tested by scientists.
“I don’t think we could claim that they are therapy or a substitute for therapy,” said Judith Shipman, who oversees the group’s Mood-Boosting Books program. “But for those who don’t quite need therapy, Mood-Boosting Books could be a nice little lift.”
Raw Story is a progressive news site that focuses on stories often ignored in the mainstream media. While giving coverage to the big stories of the day, we also bring our readers' attention to policy, politics, legal and human rights stories that get ignored in an infotainment culture driven solely by pageviews.
Founded in 2004, Raw Story reaches 9 million unique readers per month and serves more than 30 million pageviews.