Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Can Fiction Really Be Good for What Ails You?

My Best Friend sent me a link to a fascinating article on a fascinating site…


Image Courtesy of Adam Ciesielski ~

First the site—Book Riot:

*We create.
* We always prefer the book to the movie.
* We riot as a team.
*We geek out on books, embarrassingly so.
*We’re leaders.
*We practice charity—we give two percent of gross revenue…to organizations whose efforts promote social justice in the areas of literacy, health, gender or educational equity.
*We miss our subway stop cause the book is that good.
*We are non-traditional.
*We believe in family (bookshelves and cats count).

And, the article—I Went to a Bibliotherapist and This Is What Happened.

A few excerpts:

“From Stephen Fry’s thoughts on literature and living with bipolar disorder to “fixing your life” with Virginia Woolf, people are seeing the tangible personal benefits of reading.”

It’s about time :-)

“You wouldn’t have a hard time convincing an avid reader that books are tools for life (not just escapist entertainment or exercises in abstract thought). However, there remains some speculation as to what bibliotherapy actually is.”

My New Oxford American Dictionary says “the use of books as therapy in the treatment of mental or psychological disorders” but do go read what the article says, since different folks apparently think differently about it

“One of the great things about bibliotherapy is its openness. The basic principle – that reading books helps you to ‘read’ your life, and so allows you to better understand it and to live it more fully – can be brought to many situations. But one of the downsides to this openness is that the practice is not highly standardized. You don’t really know what you’re in for if you consult a bibliotherapist.”

The author goes on to relate her experience with a bibliotherapist at La Bibliothèque Apothicaire, which is fascinating; but; I got to wondering how to apply whatever principles there are in Bibliotherapy to and by myself

So, anyway, the author reveals her issue to the bibliotherapist—“Well, I am finding motherhood un peu difficile.” (my poor translation—“a bit difficult”) and the bibliotherapist immediately starts reading to her from Women Who Run with the Wolves : Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman.

By the way, I Totally recommend that book—especially for men

Potent excerpt from the article:

“Most of us don’t realize that it has been decades since we’ve been read to. Unless you regularly hear sermons on a Sunday morning, you can go the entirety of your adolescent and adult life without anyone reading you a story, which is actually a terrible shame because it is lovely.”


“So as a follow-up exercise, I was asked to close my eyes and imagine a mother holding her infant….she got me to tell a story by asking questions: What are the they doing? Is there someone else in the room? What kind of furniture is there?”


“Here’s what I found so unique about Katy’s approach. I heard a story, and then I told a story, and then we talked about how the two stories were related, and not once did I have to talk about my feelings. Not once. At times it felt less like a therapy session and more like a discussion from my undergrad lit courses….Yet those seemingly disconnected fictional characters can tell you so much about your experience of the nonfictional world.”

So, I do hope you’ll go read the whole article—really, truly worth it—but, for those who don’t have time, here’s the clincher:

“When I say I didn’t have to talk about my feelings, that doesn’t mean that the experience lacked emotional depth. Actually, it was quite moving. But that’s the thing about reading. Fiction has the benefit of allowing you to momentarily bypass the overwhelming burden of the self. It’s not about you. And yet it is. Bibliotherapy rests on the principle that the story will always be what you bring to it.”

At that point my wondering about the principles and techniques of bibliotherapy came clear—I’ve been doing it by myself for most of my life

Finally, I’m compelled to guide you to the About Page of the site of the article’s author, Bronwyn Averett, who is a Book Doctor
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For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

2 responses to “Can Fiction Really Be Good for What Ails You?

  1. Pingback: #Books and Your #MentalHealth | Notes from An Alien

  2. Pingback: So, Really, What Is Bibliotherapy? | Notes from An Alien

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