Natural Health: The Power of Prose

What is bibliotherapy and how can it support my health? I contributed to an article in this issue of Natural Health and you can find out more about how books have the power to heal. Below are some of the highlights from the article.

What is bibliotherapy?

Bibliotherapy is when you use literature – fiction, poetry and even non-fiction – to support mental health and wellbeing. The process of using bibliotherapy to heal isn’t just about the act of reading but it’s also the dialogue and reflections about your response to the text that can lead to a whole new dimension of insight.

Bibliotherapy can be used clinically alongside therapy, and can be practiced in either individual or group therapy sessions, or without the guidance of a therapist at all.

With bibliotherapy, it’s important to select the right material – the text needs to speak to both your interests and needs.

If you’re working with a bibliotherapy facilitator, the group leader needs to be a skilled listener and will need to make accurate and empathetic interpretations of the participants responses. Through literature and dialogue, the facilitator will draw out a deeper self-understanding, which can lead to healing and resolution.

What are the benefits of it?

Bibliotherapy often involves working out memories. It can help individuals in a meaningful way to deal with powerful issues and feelings that arise.

Meeting in a group can add to the healing as there’s a huge amount of potential with working with peers with this type of work.

Bibliotherapy can also lead to integration of self, it encourages more self-compassion, a boost to self-esteem and morale. It’s also a way to discover new insights, which often come into focus or awareness during the process.

Simply put, bibliotherapy offers another way in. A way to develop yourself and to deal more creatively with those things that can’t always be changed. Plus, it’s extremely cathartic – it’s a self-empowering tool that you can use throughout your life.

How can we use it in everyday life?

Other people might find it helpful to work with a writing for wellbeing facilitator, where the right creative writing materials, texts, exercises and approaches will be on hand.

However, it’s possible to still reap the benefits from bibliotherapy working independently. It’s important to hit upon the right piece of writing, book, poem or text that will give you the cathartic benefits suited to your specific needs.

A good starting point would be to write a list of all the areas in your life where you are looking for clarification, focus or healing. Say for example you struggle with putting your needs first, research books that explore this in some shape or form. For example, there’s a great book called Untamed by Glennon Doyle, which explores the joy and peace we discover when we stop striving to meet the expectations of the world, and instead dare to listen to and trust in the voice deep inside us.

The most important factor is finding a book that covers the themes, which are important to your healing process. You might also like to set yourself a loose goal to your bibliotherapy pursuits e.g. I am using bibliotherapy as a way to explore and overcome my divorce, low mood or despondency in my career.

Once you’ve hit on the right poetry collection, self-help book or novel, the rest is simple. You might like to try some journaling alongside your reading to document your reflections and observations, and feelings that come up for you. An important part of the process is reflecting and integrating the experience with your own experience.

Leah Larwood

Hypnotherapist, freelance writer and published poet with an MA in Creative Writing. Leah offers writing for wellbeing workshops online and is currently training with the International Federation of Biblio-Poetry Therapy under the supervision of world leading Poetry Therapist, psychologist and author, Dr Geri Chavis.

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