Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

So, Really, What Is Bibliotherapy?


I’ve published two previous articles about bibliotherapy:

#Books and Your #MentalHealth

and

Can Fiction Really Be Good for What Ails You?

My Oxford dictionary defines “bibliotherapy” as:

“the use of books as therapy in the treatment of mental or psychological disorders.”

The other day, I discovered this article on the site, The MillionsBooks Should Send Us Into Therapy: On The Paradox of Bibliotherapy by James McWilliams, writer and historian.

This particular excerpt jumped right out at me:

“If we concede that books can be therapeutic, then it seems appropriate to explore the potential pitfalls of asking literature to serve that cause. Of initial concern is the inherent presumptuousness of the endeavor.”

Yet, a bit earlier, when introducing a few links to influential articles about bibliotherapy, James said:

“The concept of bibliotherapy — a word coined in 1916 — long teetered on the edge of trendiness. But lately it has tilted toward truth.”

And, a bit later, he has this to say about novels as therapy:

“They aren’t narrative prescriptions. Even when done badly, novels are artistic expressions necessarily unmoored from reality, expressions that ultimately depend on idiosyncratic characters who act, think, and feel, thereby becoming emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, and even physically embodied — quite differently — in every reader’s mind.”

Then follows commentary on a few of the previously offered links and a brief exploration of how bibliotherapy can veer into self-help…

Then, James deals with the “darkness” of literature and how bibliotherapy can’t really deal with it…

Mr. McWilliams begins his summary with:

“The good news for bibliotherapy is that there are too many hardcore fiction readers who know all too well that concerted reading enhances the quality of their lives. A single book might destabilize, tottering you into emotional turmoil. But books — collectively consumed through the steady focus of serious reading — undoubtedly have for many readers a comforting, even therapeutic, effect.”

This is, imho, an excellent article.

I hope you’ll go read it and, perhaps, come back and leave a comment :-)
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