• What is bibliotherapy?

    Some people have different views but my understanding is that the word and concept of bibliotherapy is like an umbrella concept– that covers a range of meanings. In psychology it is used for cognitive behavioural therapy using self-help books and discussion with a therapist. The Latin roots of biblio- book or text- and therapy – well, therapy, are quite broad.

    Many librarians in health and public libraries are adding to the existing service of self-help or books on prescription services, by giving book chats or reading group services, like Wee read offers.

    In my research I learned the various models of bibliotherapy from Debbie Hicks, I took her idea of creative bibliotherapy and ran with it. Reading from imaginative literature, fiction and poetry are the basis. I write as well as read and that makes it all the better, I think.Research in this area continues apace, here is a link to work at Oxford Brookes University

    Librarians are very keen on creative bibliotherapy, and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has done a lot to support it. Here, in a blog by Julie Walker of Kirklees libraries, a common use of the term bibliotherapy is explained, using fiction and poetry for wellbeing or therapeutic purposes. here description of this group work with public libraries is very informative and she recommends using a  toolkit- so the Lapidus and NHS Education Words Work Well bibliotherapy toolkit is definitely a useful resource.

    The Network is a group for library and other workers aiming to tackle social exclusion. Creative bibliotherapy in groups is one way of doing this- inviting folk in to a wee read, for a chat about whatever poems or stories are appropriate that day. I have been known to say, I can do bibliotherapy with a bus ticket! Well, there’s a story there about a journey, link to memories of others’ journeys- there’s a book chat for you!






  • The power of story to heal- NHS Education for Scotland in Glasgow on19th March


    At this workshop on person-centred care we heard Jamie Andrew tell his story of tragedy, amputation, recovery and hope. Jamie told us how he endured five days perched in a storm on a tiny ridge in the Alps. Tragically, the friend with him had died. Both of Jamie’s feet and hands were totally frostbitten.
    He was in a bad way when he got to hospital and the amputations had to be done.

    His moment of truth in a  hospital in France was when he wondered “would I be better off dead?”. What made  him decide  to live? For people like myself who have faced suicidal thoughts in their everyday life I wanted to ask him, was there one thing that made him decide to live? He told me it was not just the one thing. No-one offered any counselling in his darkest times. He had talked about his girlfriend and his friend who had died and these people made him choose to recover.
    There was also one person – an occupational therapist, who asked him the most important question : “What Would you like?” and he said, “To feed myself”.
    The person got a bit of Velcro to make a strap for his arm, stuck a spoon in it and he was off.
    He was able to do Something for himself. He went on to  walk and eventually climbed the same mountain again.
    We all felt inspired to listen to him and he made me reflect on how mental health has a lot to do with our physical health.
    The quote that sticks with me is “Every challenge is a mental challenge”.
    The lesson I take is that we humans are so powerful when we allow ourselves to be the best we can be. Like the Mandela quote that says :

    ” our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. our deepest fear is that we are  powerful beyond measure.”