Bibliotherapy is a form of therapy which uses books and stories as a medium through which a patient can express psychological issues. Bibliotherapy is also a pedagogical tool used by teachers and librarians to increase the academic capabilities of their students. The ancient Greeks recognized the healing power of books for the mentally unwell. The term bibliotherapy was first used in ...
Bibliotherapy is a form of therapy which uses books and stories as a medium through which a patient can express psychological issues. Bibliotherapy is also a pedagogical tool used by teachers and librarians to increase the academic capabilities of their students. The ancient Greeks recognized the healing power of books for the mentally unwell. The term bibliotherapy was first used in 1916 regarding providing books for medical patients who needed help identifying their problems. The therapy first became popular in the 1930s, when G.O. Ireland classified bibliotherapy as a legitimate therapy wherein a person could organize his/her thoughts through external means.
Some people use books as a personal therapy, keeping their revelations private. Bibliotherapy is considered most effective when used as a group activity, wherein guided discussions are the key to reaching critical realizations. Clinical bibliotherapy is the type of therapy used by therapists or psychologists to treat a patient with emotional or behavioral issues. Schools may use developmental bibliotherapy to identify the general needs and concerns of the student body. Educators can address and prevent relevant issues before they become serious problems and thereby provide a guide for future educators.
In his book Bibliotherapy: An Innovative Approach for Helping Children, J.T. Pardeck identified potential goals for bibliotherapy, which included providing insight and alternative solutions to specific situations, stimulating discussion and analysis and helping children realize they are not alone in their problems. The formula for success requires three essential steps: identification, catharsis and insight. Identification is the cognitive step wherein a person will recognize similarities he or she shares with the literary character, whereas catharsis is the emotional leap wherein the person can experience the feelings of the character. Only then can the person apply those thoughts and emotions to his or her own personal situation via insight or epiphany.
Bibliotherapy is implemented early in a person's life, whether through school programs or a parent reading a bedtime story to a child. The journal article entitled "Bibliotherapy" discusses how the therapy is most impressionable on young students: "Through instructional techniques such as bibliotherapy, students may be more inclined to share in the understanding or reflection of their behaviors through a third person or the safe distance of a literature character, cartoon, or animal."
The article "Bibliotherapy in the Classroom: Using Literature to Promote the Development of Emotional Intelligence," delves into the specifics of bibliotherapy: "Bibliotherapy currently is being used to help children who are experiencing a variety of emotional and developmental difficulties. These difficulties include controlling aggression, managing stress, and initiating and maintaining social relationships." Emotional intelligence is commonly linked with social adjustment. A child who lacks emotional intelligence will often misinterpret his or her own emotions and those of others and will thereby be unable to manage said emotions. Any child exhibiting a deficiency in social skills can go through the catharsis of bibliotherapy to become more empathetic and socially aware. Bibliotherapy offers a subtle medium through which a child can reach self-realization without external intervention.
Not all children will easily express their perception of the reading material in a classroom discussion. Art, including drawing and drama, can also be effective forms of expression. The main goal regarding expression is for the child to transfer the situation from the book into real life. Some relevant topics illustrated in children's books involve abuse and neglect, anger, differences and families.
Teachers will choose the reading material depending on the reading level of the children and the cultural backgrounds. The teacher must first read the material to make sure it is appropriate and relevant. Guided reading is when the teacher reads the book out loud to the children and then allows some time for the children to reflect on what they've just heard. The teacher will then initiate a post-reading discussion and ask probing questions to help the children analyze the story and identify with the main character. The last stage is the problem-solving stage, wherein the student can apply the lessons learned from the story to multiple situations. The children will define the problem in the story, examine all the ways the character tries to solve the problem and offer their own suggestions on what the character should do. The children will then determine which solution works best and offers the least amount of obstacles. The teacher may or may not want to include a reinforcement activity so that the children can apply what they've learned to hypothetical or real situations.