Bibliotherapy: features and benefits

The most relevant characteristic of bibliotherapy is the use of books, reading materials and teaching tools as therapeutic resources to help patients in the emotional and psychological sphere to know their disease better, which helps their improvement.

In a world dominated by the audiovisual, in which children, young and not so young are continuously bombarded by these means, It is not surprising that disorders of the mental and emotional sphere are becoming more frequent.

The audiovisual does not require our understanding. They give us the whole scene from the beginning to the end and the intervention of our conscience is minimal, and in many cases void. Conversely, reading needs understanding and reflection, and its messages have a much greater depth and depth.

The implementation of bibliotherapy as a therapeutic resource involves mental health and primary care professionals, librarians, associations and the patients themselves. Its great challenge is the selection of texts by age groups and pathologies.

History of bibliotherapy

Although it sounds very current and novel, Bibliotherapy was already known in ancient Greece, where libraries were defined as "places of healing for the soul". Likewise, soldiers wounded in World War II were advised to read while recovering.

Bibliotherapy was implanted in the United States in the 1930s with titles as suggestive as «The prescription of Literature». During the following decades more and more books referred to this specialty appeared.

At first, it was used as teaching material so that the patient could have a knowledge more thorough Of his sickness. From the 90s, with the emergence of Evidence-Based Medicine and Psychology, it began to be used for therapeutic purposes.

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The United Kingdom is the world reference in the prescription of books through the health and library system, which currently continues to develop new initiatives.

In Spain, although they are still few, initiatives appear in several autonomous communities. We highlight «Literapy» of the Hospital de Santiago de Compostela, a project in which reading and volunteer groups are integrated.

It is worth mentioning a very popular book by Lou Marinoff «More Plato and less Prozac», which in 2000 recommended the use of philosophy for the understanding of our inner world.

Characteristics of book therapy

  • It has proven its usefulness in the treatment of diseases of the emotional or psychological sphere.
  • It can be used in mild cases as the only treatment, with the corresponding supervision, or as a complement to medications and psychotherapy in other processes.
  • Its realization It can be carried out in hospitals, day centers and other health spaces, or seek the support of public libraries and educational centers.
  • The texts and materials must be carefully selected and related to the different pathologies and ages.

  • Many of the existing materials are aimed at reducing the stress rate and his responsibility in anxiety and depression.
  • Use emotional factors with positive messages to help the patient resolve their conflicts and recover well-being.
  • It aims to contribute positive thinking to the day by day patient affected by disorders of the mental or emotional sphere, in what has been called self-help literature.
  • Pursue that reading becomes a means to change the way of thinking of the patient and contribute to their improvement.

Read also: How to show interest in reading to a child

Benefits of bibliotherapy

  • The reading activates several brain areas, like the areas of Broca and Werniche and the Cíngulo. Brain areas are activated according to the activity that develops in reading. Therefore, some athletes use their imagination to train their muscles.
  • The reading promotes empathy and resilience.
  • Increase vocabulary and improve communication.
  • Stimulates learning and curiosity, increases the cognitive reserve and delays the symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementias and Alzheimer's.
  • Reduce stress levels. It is thought that this is due to the effect of keeping the mind attentive to reading, something like meditating reading.
  • It favors rest and sleep: activates the mechanisms of nighttime sleep in the brain. It is a good remedy for insomnia for many people.
  • Decrease the feeling of loneliness by "hooking" the reader in the argument and interacting with him.
  • Contribute to the reader knowledge, wisdom and freedom of choice, It influences your self-esteem and safety in life.

As that slogan said, «Everything is in the books». In them is knowledge, adventure, travel, intrigue, history, love and, in addition, the possibility of healing diseases of the mental and emotional sphere. Good reading!