Books and Mental Health

Chris is a young patient of mine who is an avid reader and budding writer.

He loves reading novelist Andy Mcnab, an ex-psychopath. Later, he read Scriptures and found the apostle Paul.

In our sessions, Chris always refers to his books as his "therapy." His writing as well.

He'd always say that he'll more likely end up in the mental hospital if not for his books. They're his friends and guardians.

Most importantly, the books prevented him from killing his father at home!

Bibliotherapy is the use of books to heal mental illness. Or, directly and indirectly, address life's wounds and difficulties.

The word "bibliotherapy" was first coined by Samuel Crothers in 1916.

But historians say that the use of books to change behavior and heal distress has a long history. Even dating back to the Middle Ages, with hospitals taking the lead.

From the psychotherapist's vantage point, bibliotherapy is applied through the use of fictional or nonfictional books and materials.

The books are used in-session for the process of catharsis, identification, and insight. The releasing of emotional tension brings hope and behavioral change.

I'm reminded of another patient who hated being lectured to by her mother. What worked for her was a "story" we used together in understanding her impulsive rage.

After hearing the "story" from a book, she smiled. She began to see and process an alternative reality to her recurring anger outbursts.

Rather than being lectured to or directly addressed about her rage issue, she found insight through a more effective healing medium.

It's a book "story" that allows her to embark on an imaginative journey. And, it clicked!

Author Eric Walters writes, "I'm a big believer in bibliotherapy. Books have the power to change lives: what we think and what we do."