Okay, I admit it, I’m a reader and a writer and to make matters worse, I’m married to a psychiatrist, but I’d never heard of bibliotherapy until today. Listening to an episode of To the Best of My Knowledge while walking my dog on this glorious spring afternoon, I learned of the practice of using books to help people deal with their mental illnesses.
According to Wikipedia (okay, not the best source, but. . .) “Bibliotherapy is an expressive therapy that uses an individual’s relationship to the content of books and poetry and other written words as therapy.” Even though Wikipedia isn’t the best source, that sounded like a very good definition.
The two bibliotherapists on the radio program were Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin, writers of The Novel Cure. They began using books to help each other overcome stresses while in college. The books they recommend to patients and the rationale behind those books is fascinating. For example, they mention how Hemingway’s, The Old Man in The Sea is a great book for people suffering from anxiety. Apparently the rhythm of the writing has a certain metronomic pace that calms. How interesting.
As a writer I like to create a place that readers can go to experience new things. I like to create characters that readers can relate to–new people for them to meet. I never realized that writing might also provide a therapeutic release.
How many of you out there had heard of bibliotherapy? For me learning about this will make me a much more tuned in reader. Yep, you learn something new every day!
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