In the High Peaks

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thumbs Up for Bibliotherapy

Literary Blog Hop
This week's Literary Blog Hop topic (sponsored by The Blue Bookcase) involves bibliotherapy. Do you believe that books can be a viable sort of therapy?

I believe to the depths of my soul that books can be and are therapeutic; that is, they can improve a person's sense of well-bringing, can ease the pain of minor ailments, can distract a sufferer from the pain arising from more serious, chronic problems, and can lift a person's mood.

I think that books can be a therapeutic adjunct to psychotherapy, when one reads books or poetry with a licensed, skilled psychotherapist. I don't believe that the reading of books by themselves can cure mental illnesses. Books, however, can alleviate the pain that comes from any disorder, however.

I have received enormous psychological support from the reading of memoirs, particularly from those in which the memoirist describes his or her experiences enduring and recovering from a life crisis. Memoirs of grief and recovery from illnesses or other dire circumstances are excellent examples of the types of memoirs I'm thinking of. I receive strength from the experiences of memoirists conquering or coming to terms with their own life situations. The best memoir in this category that I have ever read was Lucky by Alice Sebold. It's a transcendent work of literature of the memoir genre, and yes, it helped me.

For stress-induced ailments and to combat stress in general, I have been helped by books. When I'm totally stressed out, I turn to simple, some might say "formulaic" novels, such as those written by Phyllis Whitney or a mystery from a series I've found soothing. Just as long as I don't have to think too hard. Based on my reading in 2011, the next time I'm stress out, I'll read more novels in the Kate Shugak series of Alaskan mysteries by Dana Stabenow and more from Julia Spencer-Fleming.

Is literary fiction more therapeutic than other, more popular genres?
I believe that each life-long reader knows the genres and the books that "work" for them. For those that haven't used books as remedies, I would suggest that they experiment and discover the genres and authors until they find what's helpful.

One universal caveat: Most people are soothed by the books that were their all-time favorites as children. Rediscovering these books can be a potent salve to any injury or illness.

What are your thoughts? I'd love to read them!


  1. I'm a great believer in comfort reads as a way of taking your mind off problems--it's been my own particular therapy as life has been stressful lately. I have certain dependable go-to authors who I pick up when I need a little diversion. They won't help solve any problems or change my life, but they certainly offer some appreciated relief--and there is much to be said for that!

  2. I agree with Danielle. There are times when you just have to take yourself off to a better place via books. It can make such a difference to your life!